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A Land of Fish and Rice

by: Fuchsia Dunlop

New York City NY: Norton and Company 2016, $35.00, Hardbound
ISBN: 393-25438-9

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Summer Volume: 2017 Issue: 24(2) page(s): 22

With one hundred and sixty-four detailed recipes, each preceded by a detailed column before them, almost every one about food of the Lower Yangtze the Chinese call Jiangnan. These foods of the country’s south, provides ingredients listed with western and metric measures, preparation written in detailed paragraphs; and many variations and things to go with them, too.

Most recipes have full-page full-color photographs taken by Yuki Sugiura in this volume sub-titled: Recipes From the Culinary Heart of China. They are in chapters titled: Appetizers; Meat; Poultry and Eggs; Fish ad Seafood; Vegetables; Soups; Rice; Noodles; Dumplings and Snacks; Sweet Dishes; Basic recipes. Those in this last chapter have no photographs nor information before them. Each chapter begins with two pages of text, almost every recipe has a full column of this, a few even more.

Before the recipes, half of the twenty-four pages of text detail the gastronomy and geography of what Dunlop calls: The Beautiful South. The Chinese call it simply: Jiangnan. After them, twelve pages explain more than a hundred ingredients, another is about planning a meal, two others discuss seven equipment items, and there is an eleven page three-column cross-referenced Index.

Monk Wensi ’s Tofu Thread Soup

3 dried wood-er mushrooms
10 ounces silken tofu
3/4 ounces Chinese cured ham, steamed briefly
3 scallions, green parts only
1 quart clear stock
3 Tablespoons potato starch mixed with six Tablespoons cold water salt and ground white pepper, to taste


1. Cover mushrooms in boiling water and set aside for at east half an hour.
2. Turn tofu out on a chopping board, with a cleaver or broad knife, cut a perpendicular edge and discard it, then with chopping motion, cut tofu into the thinnest slices you can, and when one-third is cut, turn the slices on their side in overlapping layers, and cut them into the thinnest strips. Using the cleaver gently scoop them up and put them into a bowl of cold water and repeat until all is cut into thin slices. Repeat until all are cut a thinly as possible.
3. Drain wood-ear mushrooms, trim off any knobby pieces and cut them into the thinnest slivers possible; and cut ham and green scallion parts, likewise.
4 Bring stock to the boil, skim if necessary, and season with salt and pepper. Then drain the very thin tofu strips and gently transfer them into the stock, add mushroom slivers, and bring stock back to the boil, re-stir the starch mixture and add it to the stock stirring it gently with the back of a ladle until it thickens so as not to break the tofu slivers. Then transfer to a pre-heated serving bowl. Now, sprinkle ham and scallion slivers on soup and serve.

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