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Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-sour Memoir of Eating in China [Hardcover]

Fuchsia Dunlop
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Mar 2008
Award-winning food writer Fuchsia Dunlop went to live in China in 1994, and from the very beginning vowed to eat everything she was offered, no matter how alien and bizarre it seemed to her as a Westerner. In this extraordinary memoir, Fuchsia recalls her evolving relationship with China and its food, from her first rapturous encounter with the delicious cuisine of Sichuan Province, to brushes with corruption, environmental degradation and greed. In the course of this fascinating journey, Fuchsia undergoes an apprenticeship at the Sichuan cooking school, where she is the only foreign student in a class of nearly fifty young Chinese men; she attempts, hilariously, to persuade Chinese people that 'Western food' is neither 'simple' nor 'bland'; and samples a multitude of exotic ingredients, including dogmeat, civet cats, scorpions, rabbit heads and the ovarian fat of the snow frog.But is it possible for a Westerner to become a true convert to the Chinese way of eating? In an encounter with a caterpillar in an Oxfordshire kitchen, Fuchsia is forced to put this to the test. From the vibrant markets of Sichuan to the bleached landscape of northern Gansu Province, from the desert oases of Xinjiang to the enchanting old city of Yangzhou, this is a unique and evocative account of a culture and cuisine that is a world away from most Westerners' experiences.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Press (6 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091918308
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091918309
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.4 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 44,382 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Fuchsia Dunlop is a cook and food-writer specialising in Chinese cuisine. She was the first Westerner to train as a chef at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine, and has spent much of the last two decades exploring China and its food. Her first book, 'Sichuan Cookery' (published in the US as 'Land of Plenty') won the Jeremy Round Award for best first book, and was listed in the top ten of the Observer's '50 Best Cookbooks of All Time'. 'Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province' was shortlisted for two major awards, while 'Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China' won the IACP Jane Grigson Award and the Kate Whiteman Award for writing on food and travel. Her latest book, 'Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking', was published in 2012.

Fuchsia's articles on Chinese cuisine and food culture have appeared in many publications, including The Financial Times, The New Yorker, Gourmet, Saveur, and The Observer.

Fuchsia's favourite Chinese recipe is Fish-Fragrant Aubergines (yu xiang qie zi).

For more information, visit Fuchsia's website, www.fuchsiadunlop.com

Product Description

Review

Destined, I think, to become a classic of travel writing
-- Paul Levy, The Observer

Book Description

This is the story of an English girl who went to China to learn the language, but whose love of food led her down a very different path... --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful insight into eating in China 7 May 2008
By Judy R
Format:Hardcover
This is not just a Chinese cookery book - though it does include several recipes. Nor is it just another Chinese travel book - though it does provide an excellent insight into Szechuan (Sichuan) and other Chinese regions; nor is it simply an autobiographical account of living and eating in China. It is all of these things and more.

In "Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper" Fuchsia Dunlop provides a factual but fascinating and entertaining insight into experiences that most of us lack the linguistic and culinary skills and courage to contemplate undertaking first-hand - for example as the only non-Chinese person and almost the only woman on a Sichuan cookery course.

Fuchsia Dunlop writes beautiful prose. Her style of writing, skill with words, content and structure, combined with her enthusiasm for Chinese cookery, create that rare commodity, an un-put-downable non-fiction work. She writes in a compelling way, enabling the reader to see the people and places she visits and taste the dishes she describes.

No one who has read the book could accuse the author of eating anything and everything without a qualm. She absorbs herself in and embraces the regional language, culture and cuisine of different parts of China and describes these sympathetically but not uncritically. She looks at her own eating behaviour dispassionately but critically, seeing herself through both Chinese and Western eyes.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever eaten a meal with Chinese people or who is planning a visit to China.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deliciously fascinating 23 April 2009
Format:Hardcover
The account of how a young middle-class English girl became obsessed with Sichuan cooking, her upbringing, her ruses and her commitment to the hottest cooking in the world in its chinese fastness: student living, uncompromising training, insights into an alien culture - the completely gripping true story of an insane love.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chinese regional food 29 Nov 2011
Format:Paperback
Do I agree with the eleven people who gave it five stars or the person who gave it one star. Actually neither, it is a four star book for me. I picked it up after I had read Serve the People by Jean Lin-Liu. I wanted to read something similar and this sounded like the book. Things I enjoyed included the way the author didn't just stay in one city or region and assert that she knew Chinese food - a mistake that lots of food writers make. She travelled well off the beaten track in search of unusual, yet real culinary experiences. I enjoyed her descriptions of the food she eats along the way. I like that she shared a recipe in each chapter and I am looking forward to making some of them as I am certain she knows her stuff. I particularly enjoyed her tales of travels in Western China where the food was more Middle East than Far East. Late on in the book I enjoyed the way she describes how she almost tired of Chinese food and how she came to realise that the way the Chinese are eating is not sustainable. This book is well worth a read if you want to know more about the food of China.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delight 22 Mar 2008
Format:Hardcover
A fabulous book - I loved every single page and wished I'd been there trying the food. It's obvious what this book is about - if you don't like this kind of thing don't buy it or read it. Stick to lentils.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I have finally got round to reading this book having bought it when it was first published - I read it over 3 days as I found it compulsive reading. This is pure gastro porn without the pictures - Fuschia Dunlop writes with a passion and eloquence that is lacking in many other books about food. Her writing about places and food are so lucid and vivid that you can smell and almost taste the food. Her description of eating crab is pure unadulterated oral sex. This is a fantastic travelogue combined with a fantastic expose of Chinese culinary skills and explains honestly and without embellishment or self-justification why the Chinese are so obsessed with food including eating animals that are taboo in Western culture...Fuschia, I love you, please write some more books like this - maybe about France or Italy - actually marry me and I will gladly eat everything you that cook!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book was a delight from start to finish. Having travelled a little in China myself, i empathised with some of the difficulties Fuchsia had, but also resonated with the many great experiences too. The level of detail she goes into both historically and culturally with regard to Chinese food is remarkable. I will be buying her Sichuanese Cook book in the near future as I feel priveledged to have access to such a western talent on Sichuanese cuisine. Well done Fuchsia!!
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer magic - impossible to put down! 6 Jun 2008
By Jasmine
Format:Hardcover
I loved reading this book so much that I found myself avoiding colleagues on the train in the morning just so I could keep reading. And then continuing to read in every snatched moment during the week. And when can you last remember feeling that way about a non-fiction book? Fuchsia Dunlop's book is a thoughtful and informed evocation of a nation's relationship with its food. It is also an absorbing but never self-indulgent journey through Fuchsia's own relationship with China and its people. It is written in unassuming, delicious, elegant prose and manages to also be, occasionally, laugh-out loud funny. Genuinely marvellous!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
Travel and food together - it's a wonderful combination. Written with knowledge and passion, this is a tale of her journey through the food of China. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Tess Baxter
4.0 out of 5 stars Authentic experience of Chinese food
I bought this on the recommendation of a friend who had been to china and it is a fascinating read and an insight into Chinese culture. Not for the sensitive vegetarian.
Published 7 months ago by jomutheone
4.0 out of 5 stars Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper by Fuchsia Dunlop
read by others who like it, am now reading it myself, like the style and the detail from the author
Published 14 months ago by buzz
5.0 out of 5 stars You can almost feel the slimy crunch of the goose intestines...
This is a fabulous memoir of a time spent in China. While Fuschia Dunlop focuses on the food experience, it also gives a very good feel for life as a young westerner in Chengdu... Read more
Published 14 months ago by E Bennett
5.0 out of 5 stars High expectations fulfilled!
After being introduced to Fuscia Dunlop by my brother, I was interested to read this book and get more insight into China and its cuisine. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Sarah
5.0 out of 5 stars Fuchsia Dunlop is eXpAt-tAcULar
Food writer Fuchsia Dunlop has written a savory, stir-fried memoir about her career as a professional chef in China. Food meets travel - a delicious recipe for reading.
Published on 8 Jun 2011 by Xiamen Expat
5.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful book
fuchsia dunlop has written one of the best cookbooks ever and this new travel story shows that she is also an excellent author. Read more
Published on 25 Dec 2010 by GF
5.0 out of 5 stars Unmissable
I found this book unputdownable. A beautifully written, endlessly fascinating and very honest memoir from someone who is passionate about Chinese food. Read more
Published on 31 Mar 2010 by Linda
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic book, really inspiring, and tried all the recipes
A great book for foodies. Written really well - it gives you a real appreciation of Chinese cooking. The receipe for Dan Dan noodles is great.
Published on 28 Aug 2009 by jewelff
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