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Prolific and Terrific Author: Deh-Ta Hsiung

by Jacqueline M. Newman


Spring Volume: 2002 Issue: 9(1) page(s): 11

This is the first of what promises to be a continuing series about well-known English-language Chinese cookbook authors. For some months, we have agonized about who should be first. Finally, we decided it should be Deh-Ta Hsiung. Others will follow, including Martin Yan and Ken Hom. After them, other men and women who have been both prolific and terrific and advanced the science and art of Chinese cuisine will be featured.

Deh-Ta Hsiung was born into a family of scholars and gourmets in what is now known as Beijing. He, Deh-Ta Hsiung, capitalizes his name as given. He began life tasting fine food. He later wrote about it in dozens of articles and dozens of books, and he collaborated on more than a dozen more. For most of them, he was solo author, and most are about food or wine. The largest number focus on the Chinese culinary. This prolific and terrific chap now lives in London. People who know him say that he is one terrific chef, he makes spectacular banquets, and he is one outstanding culinary talent.

Following in his family’s footsteps, when young, he began his education with years of private tutoring. As any educated gentleman, he learned the Chinese classics, then later attended an American missionary school called the Nanchang Academy. In 1950, this now-famous cookbook author came to England to continue his education spending four years at Magdalen College in Oxford. He went on to study modern languages for two more years at University College in that same city. After that, he moved to London to study painting and sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College. This varied and very sophisticated education shaped him into a versatile perfectionist. He used all of these talents and began his early professional career. He worked on many films, and soon became an Editor or Director of them.

Fortunate for us, Deh-Ta Hsiung refocused his artistic talents and branched into and became a wine and a food consultant. He was also a cooking teacher, chef, and lecturer in many countries. He shared his knowledge at many cooking schools and adult education programs where many students learned about Chinese cooking. He taught, did demonstrations, and spoke to a plethora of consumer groups. He was also heard and seen by thousands on radio and television. As a writer, his energies were directed to food and wine, his articles appearing in ever so many different newspapers and magazines such as: Decanter, Taste and Wine, BBC Good Food, London’s Sunday Times, and dozens of other newspapers and magazines.

As a cookbook author, we are honored to have his first Chinese cookbook in our collection. It is The Home Book of Chinese Cooking, published by Faber and Faber in London in 1978. That small gem was revised in 1987. We recommend owning either edition, if you are lucky enough to locate one of them. His first of many great volumes was followed by Chinese Regional Cooking published by Macdonald Educational in London, in 1979. It is one of many more than a dozen titles he authored alone. We also recommend: Chinese Vegetarian Cooking (Secaucus NJ: Chartwell Books, 1985). Another fine book is Microwave Chinese Cooking (London: Macdonald-Orbis, 1988), The Festive Food of China (London: Kyle Cathie, 1991), Chinese Cookery Secrets (Surry UK: Elliot Right Way Books, 1997). It may have been published a few years earlier, a colleague said, but we can not locate that copy. Then there is The Taste of China, originally published by Acropolis Books in 1993; another item not yet located yet, and one we are told is being redone.

There are also books called Chinese Cantonese Cooking and Chinese Szechuan Cooking both published in London in 1994 by Parragon Books. We should not fail to mention Easy as 1 2 3 Chinese Cooking (New York NY: Doubleday, 1996). In addition to these and others, Hsiung wrote some items in cooperation with Kenneth Lo including The Complete Encyclopedia of Chinese Cooking and The Encyclopedia of Regional Chinese Cooking. Many web sites have these and many others, some in cooperation with different culinary experts, perhaps your library does, too. When searching for his written materials, you may locate A Book of Vietnamese Cooking (Salamander Books, 1997) and the recently revised The Chinese Kitchen.

In all of his writing, history and culture, classics and classic dishes are combined, and ingredients are detailed as is technique. Though some recipes or books have been reused or redone, do not let that not deter you. if you do not already know this prolific author’s publications, you must! You need to seek out his writing. You should read and reread them and enjoy his many culinary talents. You need to try his recipes and learn from him. You will not be disappointed. Certainly consult the review of The Food of China in this issue. It has Deh-Ta Hsiung’s recipes and those of Nina Simonds. The recipes are simple, savory, and classic. They help you prepare Chinese food at its best!

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