I enjoyed this, especially the comics portion. I can definitely relate to the 'monkey / panda' bit.
We'll see how many of the recipes I actually make.I enjoyed this, especially the comics portion. I can definitely relate to the 'monkey / panda' bit.
We'll see how many of the recipes I actually make. Like a lot of cookbooks based on restaurant food, some of the recipes, while not difficult in terms of technique, involve a lot of components and are quite prep-intensive. But there are a few interesting ideas and techniques I want to try out....more
I've been recommending this book even since before it came out, and overall, it's really good. The illustrations and glossary are great (some really aI've been recommending this book even since before it came out, and overall, it's really good. The illustrations and glossary are great (some really appetizing photos!), and she includes lots of handy reference pictures, which should really help people who are trying to find the right ingredients, or who want a reference of how certain cuts should look.
As a vegetarian, I love how vegetarian friendly the book is, and also the fact that she includes so many home cooking style recipes where meat is part of the dish, but not necessarily an essential part - I think it will be helpful to people who are trying to eat less meat, or just use it as an accent.
I definitely see lots of familiar Chinese home cooking dishes - the kinds of cold appetizers, side dishes, etc. that you might not order at a restaurant often, but that you would find on the table of Chinese friends or family members. The recipes for things like tomato and eggs (yes, she knows you need to add a pinch of sugar), potato strips, garlic stems or jiucai (garlic chives) with dry tofu or bacon, etc. are things I could imagine, or have seen, on my in-laws' dinner table.
For the most part, she keeps slight variations together, instead of making separate recipes, but there are a few exceptions (the section with (garlic chives of various types, and fresh garlic stem) paired with (eggs / smoked meat / dry tofu) really could have just said "take one from column A, and one from column B"), but there are a few recipes where you really wonder if they needed to be a recipe (green soy beans, served in the pod, is basically what the name says, though she does have you boil the frozen soybeans with a piece of ginger and some Sichuan peppercorn).
There is quite a bit of overlap with her other two cookbooks, but not in a bad way, and she does make some slight changes (for example, 'bear's claw' tofu instead of regular home-style tofu (the difference is mostly in the shape). While it hews mostly towards traditional recipes, there are some recipes featuring (western style) radish, western broccoli, and other (relatively) "new" ingredients. It's definitely clear that she's aiming for a broader audience with this one, but I think die-hard fans of her earlier books will still find a lot of new stuff to play with.
If you're interested in making Chinese food at home (no matter your level of experience), or if you're interested in what kind of food Chinese people eat at home, or how a Chinese meal should be put together, this book is a really good place to start.
[I never know when to mark a cookbook as "currently-reading" or "read", since you rarely read a cookbook cover to cover]...more
This book is interesting, and some of the recipes seem promising, though there seem to be mistakes in some of the recipes. There are also some factualThis book is interesting, and some of the recipes seem promising, though there seem to be mistakes in some of the recipes. There are also some factual statements which I'm pretty sure are wrong....more
Overall, I enjoyed this book quite a bit. If there were a 3.5 rating, I'd give it the extra half a star. First off, I think it does a great job of expOverall, I enjoyed this book quite a bit. If there were a 3.5 rating, I'd give it the extra half a star. First off, I think it does a great job of explaining some things about Chinese food that are not immediately obvious to many Westerners. Secondly, while the book reads very similarly to some other "foreigner in China in the 90s" memoirs (in both good and bad ways), I found that my eye-rolling at certain bits stopped fairly quickly as I got more engaged in parts of the story. Also, while she doesn't really reach any conclusions, she does do some interesting exploration of some sensitive political areas, including the legacy of Mao and the situations in some of the outlying autonomous regions.
The author's love of food really comes through, and it goes without saying that this is not a book you should read if you are hungry. It's also not a book you should read if you're easily offended by descriptions of eating various types of offal and various types of critters. As a vegetarian, you'd think I might be bothered by this stuff, but honestly, people who think it's Ok to eat Bessie but not Fido or Bambi bug me way more than unapologetic omnivores who eat anything and everything.
I did think the book suffers from a few problems. The author's love of Sichuan and its cuisine really comes through, but I feel like in some cases, she's maybe a little chauvinistic about other regional cuisines. And in later chapters, she unexpectedly brings up some interesting questions about the increasing industrialization of China (and its effects on food, the environment, and animal husbandry), but doesn't really seem to come to any conclusions.
At times, I think there are some cases where she slightly overuses Chinese words, where in other cases, maybe she should have used them more; also, the translations are sometimes deliberately literal ("small eats" for 小吃, rather than, say, "snack") where other times they are maybe too fanciful. The use of standard Hanyu pinyin (without the tone diacritics) throughout is good, but, while most speakers of Chinese will understand the words from the context, it's not quite as useful without having the tone indicated or using the actual character.
In a more nuts and bolts way, I think the book could have been a little more cohesive -- the first parts of the book, which are mostly a memoir of her early experiences in Chengdu in the 90s are a pretty gripping read, but some of the later chapters don't seem to fit together quite as well....more