Review: Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop

Amazon just sent me Fuchsia Dunlop’s Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook. This cookbook exhaustively covers Hunan cuisine. Literally. I was exhausted from reading the cookbook. The introduction? 43 pages. Four paragraphs on bean curds. Two paragraphs on garlic. It all adds up.

The first recipe is Sweet-and-Sour Spare Ribs. All recipes include the name in Chinese characters (e.g.,糖醋排骨) and in pinyin (tang cu pai gu). The author also includes an interesting historical note of the dish or how she came across the recipe. And, of course, the list of ingredients and the cooking instructions. If I have time, I will test this recipe during the coming weekend.

The largest shortfall in this cookbook is the lack of photos. While the photos of Chairman Mao memorabilia fit well with the theme of the cookbook, the home cook will be better served with a photo of the finished dish. I don’t need a full-page photo for every recipe. I have had enough sweet-and-sour spare ribs to know what that dish should look like. However, for her relatively more obscure dishes, such as Beef Slivers with “Water Bamboo,” I really need a photo. I have no idea what water bamboo (交白 or jiao bai) is. And, after reading her explanation, I still have no clue. A good photo motivates the cook to recreate the dish. I need photos in my cookbooks.

2 comments… add one
  • David Jun 9, 2009 Link

    jiaobai (茭白) won’t be found in the US – it is a banned vegetable, is a form of wild rice, and takes it unique shape from a fungus that puffs up the wild rice until it looks like a bloated green onion.

    the US bans it obviously because it does not want that fungus to infect US rice varieties, including wild rices

    for a photo of what it looks like after harvesting, see: http://www.xgzz.gov.cn/Photo/rwxg/200706/6.html

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