on 27 February 2007
I visited Chengdu last year on a work trip, and absolutely loved the food. It's nothing like the Hong Kong style Chinese food that dominates in the UK. It's spicy, and has a wonderful array of subtle flavours.
After the trip I was thrilled to find this book by Fuchsia Dunlop, and discover that the recipes are mostly easy to follow, and use ingredients that are not too difficult to get hold of. Above all, though, the results are fabulous, and every Sichuan meal I have made so far has reminded me of the exciting and tasty food experience I had in Chengdu.
Ms Dunlop writes with dizzying enthusiasm, and the book is a great read in its own right.
An unreserved five star book. Adventurous cooks must try it. Food enthusiasts will enjoy the mouthwatering descriptions.
on 6 February 2014
The main problem of this book is its relative unacessibility. Many people need photos for each recipe to make them wanna cook. Instead, Sichuan Cookery gives you a couple of color sections at each third of the book. So you don't get pictures next to the recipes, hence it took me a couple of months before I decided to try some anyway. It's also quite hard to find some ingredients such as pickled or cured vegetables, a couple of tricky spices or vegetables (young leeks and garlic shoots are not found everywhere for example). Luckily, the introduction in the recipe usually has a section telling you what you can substitute.
And for the most part once you've got chili bean sauce, dried chiles, light and dark soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil and sichuan pepper, you can do a lot of the recipes. And then it's heaven : you really get hooked to that spicy kick, and it's dead easy to do. For the more ambitious readers, you also get complicated recipes such as peking duck or hot pot. You discover new things too : I had no idea that cold dishes were such an important part of sichuan cooking. You basically cook something, and it's supposed to be eaten cold (including duck, rabbit, chicken etc...), not as leftovers.
Speaking of leftovers, it's the main problem of this type of cooking : it's a one shot. Heating it up the next day is definitely not as good. There is no big meal that you can eat for 3 days, unlike European cooking. This also means vegetable dishes are separate : stews or stir-fries aren't supposed to be eaten alone. But the vegetables dishes are great too. The spicy long beans, the matchstick potatoes, etc... Expect a very oily type of cooking though : it's not for everyone, especially the fish dishes that are bathing in oil.
on 3 July 2013
This is, hands down, one of the best cookbooks I have ever used. Before using it I had barely tasted good Sichaunese food; now cooking it comes quite naturally. It is full of tasty, interesting recipes, but it also really instructs you in why and how they work. Dunlop loves food passionately, and that comes across on every page.
If you haven't tried Sichunaese food before, it's a real revelation. These dishes aren't much like the Cantonese food in most Chinese restaurants in the UK. They're colourful, varied, richly flavoured and often fiery.
Somehow this book treads a fine line between the complexity of Sichuanese food (one of the world's great cusines) and the simplicity needed in an introduction for those who aren't Chinese.
The food is really delicious, and really genuine. She does seem to have skipped a number Sichuanese recipes that are so fiery and so sour that nearly anyone in the UK would struggle to eat them (nothing on cooking goose intestines) but it's still pretty representative.
I often tone down some of the recipes - a bit less Chilli, and less of the sour flavours of tianjin preserved vegetable - but the recipes still seem to work well when they are messed around. I've never needed to be too careful about quantities - everything still comes out good! I've also managed to cook many of these successfully both with and without a wok.
The book contains a large number of recipes - lots of variety - and they range from ten-minute stir fries to duck that has been steamed, deep-fried, dried, and fried again - over several days. A few, like that, are real set-piece dishes that few will tackle. A number - e.g. twice-cooked pork - are also too complex to do regularly, but which I might tackle for a special dinner. I'd have liked a few more quick stir-fries for variety, and even more vegetable dishes, but it's a pretty well-rounded book. You could read her other books for that extra variety.
You will need to buy some specialist ingredients to make this work, and some are only easily available at Chinese grocery stores. There aren't too many of these, though, and she errs on the generous side in suggesting what you need. After stocking up initially on Sichuan peppercorns, chilli bean paste, sesame oil, and Shaoxing rice wine, you can cook a large proportion of the dishes. All of these also keep for a long time. Where fresh Chinese ingredients are needed - for example vegetable dishes - she often (not always) gives some UK alternatives.
What's remarkable is how much understanding you gain from the recipes. She is teaching you, not just giving recipes. That gives the freedom to improvise in a totally foreign cuisine.
This book was, for me, a revelation - a complete lesson in cooking an entirely new cuisine. It has had me discovering not just new flavours, but beginning to explore aspects of texture and taste that I had never thought about before. If you have any interest in Chinese food, buy this!
on 7 February 2010
This is the second copy of this book I have bought. It is the result of one intelligent woman's obsession with the cuisine of Sichuan and gives an account of the culture and cooking of this most chilli-infused of Chinese regions. Fuchsia Dunlop spent a long time there and was taught to cook professionally. The recipes are elaborate and authentic and always worth preparing; the results are mouth-tinglingly delicious. She has written two other books that I own, a cookery book on Hunan, and a memoir, both of which are fascinating .
on 29 June 2001
For me, this book works on so many levels. Firstly, there's the subject matter, Sichuan cookery, which has rarely been written about in the West. Then there's the passion with which the title has been written. Fuchsia Dunlop's love of Sichuan food shines throughout, along with her great affection for the people she's met during frequent visits to China. Vivid stories introduce most, if not all, of the recipes, but this is not simply an accessible collection of recipes with anecdotes. "Sichuan Cookery" is also a work to be considered seriously by academics - it really is the definitive guide to Sichuan cooking and I cannot imagine it ever being surpassed. A cookbook classic.
on 25 October 2006
I bought this book after being taken to a Sichuan restaurant in north London by my partner (who is originally from Chengdu). Having had this book for around a year now, and having been to Sichuan in the meantime, I can honestly say this is the best damn cookery book I ever bought... With a huge range of recipies, from the mild but delicious Twice Cooked Pork to the fiery Sichuan Hotpot, to a dish they are extremely authentic, well described and easy to follow.
To be recommended to everyone, whether or not you have tried Sichuan cookery before, I promise you won't regret it...
on 31 March 2010
This book is amazing! There is a really good selection of recipes, and the dishes in this book are REAL dishes from Sichuan. So far I have tried the tea smoked duck, dry-fried beans, fish-fragrant aubergines and some cold dishes; the flavours and textures turned out to be exactly what I'd expect from a Sichuan restaurant in China. I love the introduction to the different cooking and cutting techniques and ingredients in the book. Also the Chinese characters of the dishes and ingredients on the side is so useful. The ingredients used in the book are really what you'd get in a standard Chinese kitchen (I am Chinese and my mother is a very good cook, and the stuff in the book is exactly what she has in her kitchen, so I think that makes recipes pretty authentic). This book is for people who are very weary of the pseudo-Chinese recipes from TV chefs and want to gain knowledge of genuine Chinese cooking in China.
on 10 August 2011
The book has easy to follow recipes with ingredients that we have managed to get from our local Chinese supermarket. The results taste very authentic. The book is a real find and it is great to have Chinese food that isn't sweet and full of sodium glutamate! The addresses in the book for ingredients were not particularly helpful - not everyone who likes Chinese food lives in London!!
on 14 November 2009
This is a truly excellent book: the writer has a thorough knowledge of Sichuan food and her recipes are clear, for the most part simple, and always absolutely delicious. She provides a lot of cultural information too, and useful suggestions on where to find these ingredients in specialized shops. I experienced this book as if it were a trip to Sichuan: hot, and very exciting!
on 21 June 2009
In my opinion, a good cookery book tells an interesting story, educates and, naturally, has excellent recipes. This book more than fits the bill.
Fuchsia Dunlop is an impressive writer, and this is an amazing book and a valuable resource to all of us wanting to know more about Chinese regional cooking. I have nothing but high praise for it.