on 28 May 2006
I lived in China for a few years and it always niggles at the back of my mind when I am in restaraunts or using Chinese cook books that the recipes are not quite like the Chinese really cook them. This is a pity as I loved Sichuan food, and Sichuan in your Chinese restaraunt is unlikely to taste any thing like the reality. The reason I give this book five stars is it simply allows me to cook almost exactly those same flavours and tastes that I remember. Hui guo ruo, shui zhu niu ruo, hong shao qie zi. All present and correct. Fantastic!
on 7 July 2012
As a Mandarin Chinese speaker who has worked in China and travelled there regularly, and spent time in Chengdu and Sichuan Province, I had eaten pretty much all of the dishes in this cookbook. Since buying it, I have cooked pretty much all of the recipes too. This is a wonderful cookbook. The recipes are straightforward and when followed closely, produce dishes that taste very much like the meals you get in good Sichuan restaurants in China itself. The acid test for me was mapo doufu, which is rarely done well in the UK, and yet is one of the signature dishes of Sichuan cooking (best eaten at the three Chen Mapo Doufu restaurants in Chengdu). Fuchsia Dunlop's recipe delivers the end product, tasting the same as you would get in those restaurants. The dumplings taste like those you get in Longshaochou, a wonderful 'small eats' restaurant in the middle of Chengdu, and even the hotpot takes me back to places in that city and Chongqing (if you are travelling or living there, I recommend huangcheng laoma in southern Chengdu on the second ringroad, both for the food and the decor). Indeed, each recipe delivers real Sichuan cooking, with clear instructions. My only, very minor, gripe is that with some the quantities are on the previous page, so you flick backwards and forwards when cooking quickly with a very hot wok. For a future edition, I would recommend the whole recipe on a single opened out spread rather than across pages.
So, to sum up: recipes that produce food you would get in China as authentic Sichuan food, clearly and well written with precise guidance that delivers outstanding results each time. Buy it and cook EVERY recipe - you won't regret it.
on 22 August 2005
I loved this witty, down-to-earth cookery book - it inspired me to hot-foot it down to my local Chinese supermarket and equip myself with all sorts of new ingredients. The recipes use similar core ingredients, so one thorough shopping expedition should do the trick. Not having ever cooked Chinese food before, I am now looking forward to providing a banquet for some friends! Even if you don't ever cook, this is still a great book to dip into and get your taste buds tingling...
on 5 July 2005
As a long time China afficionado, I have long lamented the fact that real Chinese food is so rare in the UK, as well as regretting the fact I never learnt to cook Chinese food when I was there. This book sets all that right.
The recipes are a little daunting at first - I put off using the book when I was given it for ages because I didn't have all the ingredients and never seemed to find time to get them. But all it needs is a thorough shop in Chinatown or at your local Chinese supermarket and you're on your way. What's really helpful is the explanations of the ingredients and the advice about the best brands to buy and where to buy them.
But once you get started there'll be no stopping you (well, if you love Sichuan food anyway!). The ma po doufu is fantastic, as is the fish fragrant aubergine, as is the gong bao chicken... The great thing is that Chinese food is more a case of efficient preparation rather than great culinary skill, so even a novice can make this authentic Chinese food. Be brave and turn that wok flame up high for the best results!
on 18 October 2006
I live in China and had this book sent to me by my parents (after much nagging).
After I cooked them a few dishes, all my Chinese friends want it translated into Chinese!
Can't say better than that! A wonderful book.
on 17 March 2010
this is a kind and effective cookbook, written with deep expertise.
it contains no strange or unknown ingredients, just the things you can find in the asian supermarket or even the big ordinary western supermarket anywhere. the recipes are also easy to perform.
i read many other chinese cookbooks, especially sichuan and hunan, but i always return to these recipes for what we really want to eat.
**DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK TOGETHER WITH "LAND OF PLENTY" BY THE SAME AUTHOR. THE TEXTS ARE IDENTICAL**
on 17 November 2007
I love this book. My Dad is one of the few authentic chefs from Szechuan in the UK(Szechuan Restaurant, Edinburgh) and frustratingly, having been born and bred in the UK, we get a little lost in translation. Fuchsia Dunlop has done a marvellous job of reporting authentic chinese cooking. I doubt there's a more definitive Szechuanese/Regionial Chinese Cuisine cookbook around. I lost my first copy and am now buying this again. That's how much I like this book
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 6 September 2001
As a frequent traveller to China, and great admirer of their food, and an amateur cook, this book is a tremendous find, offering a very wide range of authentic recipes in a manner that a Westerner can follow easily (assuming you have access to good Asian groceries). A must have!
on 22 April 2002
I first saw this cookbook in the kitchen of a friend who is not only an authority on classical Chinese poetry but the best cook I know, so it came with a fairly strong recommendation. Having put it to the test I have to say that this is on a par with Elizabeth David in terms of entertainment, clarity of explanation and the enormous breadth of knowledge that clearly forms the background to what she writes. It's worth reading in itself, whether or not you then choose to cook any of the recipes. Some are a little complicated, and some of the ingredients are hard to source outside London, but Ms Dunlop (fab name too, Fuschia, btw) has addressed this too with online retailer details. And if you haven't tried the shallow fried green beans then life must be drab indeed....