Some time ago, a scholar entered a his favorite bookstore. The owner asked if he could help find what the scholar was looking for. "I want your best book on Chinese cuisine. I also need a Chinese cookbook, and readable books about both ancient and modern Chinese culture. I need a Chinese language book, a book of Chinese folk tales, and one on the history of China. Oh, and throw in a novel so engaging that I won't be able to put it down. And finally I would like to learn a little Chinese, at least so I can read menus, without doing any work!" The bookstore owner placed an unassuming volume in the scholar's hand, saying "Here it is. Swallowing Clouds."
Amazingly all of these things are to be found in this book. Well, it is not a real cookbook, but its "few recipes" are augmented by descriptions of ingredients and cooking methods for specific dishes, entrancingly woven throughout the narrative. You will not look at Chinese characters on a menu, or Chinese restaurants and food, in the same way after being enlightened by this wonderful book.