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All Under Heaven

by: Carolyn Phillips

New York City NY: Ten Speed PRess 2016, $40.00, Hardbound
ISBN: 978-1-60774-982-0


Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Summer Volume: 2017 Issue: 24(2) page(s): 21

This most detailed exploration of the largest number of Chinese cuisines ever is not about nine percent of this country’s population, the minority populations hardly mentioned even though she did meticulous research and shares it freely.

This volume should become a classic on your cookbook shelf for the preparations it offers for your wok. It was written for those who love Chinese food and want to learn as much as they can about it. In its more than five hundred pages everyone can read, enjoy, cook, and learn from it. In my home it has had many rereads and there will have many more to come. I will continue to use it often, delve into it pages, and taste it in mind and on my taste buds. It sits in close proximity to my desk and my kitchen, is becoming dog-eared and sticky thanks to the many post-it pages reminding of things I never want to forget.

It is subtitled: ‘Recipes from the 35 cuisines of China,’ one can find them grouped in seven sections, five are geographic, one titled: ‘Basic Items,’ and one the glossary of one hundred eighty-one items followed by twenty suggested menus. Obviously, the cuisines are a condensation of many more including Northwest as one, ‘Northeast another; the fifty-five minorities with very few sentences and these about only one, the Uygur. This review would be remiss if it did not mention chapter subheadings grouped in five sections, five the number the Chinese adore and deem lucky.

Owning this book brings lots of information to your knowledge base and magnificent meals to your table. Simply reading it is a labor of love. Cooking from it increases your repertoire and adds different delicious dishes from this one complex culinary country bringing more different foods than most cuisines provide in a lifetime.

The first chapter lavishes your taste buds with foods from Shandong, Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, and China’s Northeast. Chapter Two includes foods of Huei Yang, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Northern Fujian, Anhui. Henan, Hubei, and Jiangsu. Chapter Three educates with tastes of Hakka, Chaozhhou, Southern Fujian, Taiwan, Taiwan’s Military Families, Hainan, Guangdong, Southern Guangxi, the Pearl River Delta, Macau, and Hong Kong. Chapter Four expands knowledge about Sichuan, Hunan, Yunnan, Guizhou, and Northern Guangxi. And, Chapter Five brings delights from Shaanxi, Shanxi, Gansu, The Northwest, Inner Mongolia, and Tibet.

After them, the most detailed Glossary ever with food names in English, Chinese, and Putonggua. Detailed are their looks, storage, manufacture, use, other names, and more. These are in seventeen pages, three columns each. Three others suggest twenty menus for different numbers of eaters and different places in this vast country. They are by recipe title and page number so they are easy and quick when looking for them.

After a page about the author and many Acknowledgments, the book ends with sixteen threecolumn pages of a detailed cross-referenced Index. Within the book’s pages are hundreds of b/w line drawings, personal narratives, knowledge about China gleaned from her eight plus years living in Taiwan, and traveling extensively throughout China. She was married to a Chinese man who enabled and expanded her social circle and knowledge base.

Fried Bitter Melon
Ingredients:

2 pale-green bitter melons, ten to twelve inches long
1 to 2 Tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil sea salt, to taste

Preparation:

1. Rinse the bitter melons, trim off both ends, cut them cross-wise to half-inch rounds, and do not remove the seeds.
2. Heat wok, add the oil, cover the bottom with the slices, and fry until browned, then shake them loose, turn them over, and fry the other side. Remove to a serving plate, fry the rest until all cooked. Then sprinkle with salt, and serve when hot.

                                                                                                                                                       
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