I love eating and exploring local cuisines when I’m traveling abroad but Chinese food is my comfort food at home. And who doesn’t like Chinese food? It’s one of the most celebrated cuisines in the world. But admittedly, I’m clueless to the history, origin, and cultural tradition, behind my favorite food…until I found this book.
I’m currently ‘devouring’ Fuchsia Dunlop’s Invitation to a Banquet, the Story of Chinese Food both on hardcover and Audible. British-born Fuchsia Dunlop who speaks, reads, and writes Chinese, was the first Westerner to train as a chef at the Sichuan Higher Institute of Cuisine, and has been travelling around China, researching and cooking Chinese food for some thirty years. In her latest book, she tells the history, philosophy and techniques of China’s rich and ancient culinary culture told through a banquet of thirty dishes.
Each chapter examines a classic mouth-watering dish, from mapo tofu to Dongpo pork, steamed dumplings, and hairy crabs. It’s a book describing Chinese food history and not a cookbook. Here, let me show you.
“Fittingly, one of China’s most famous pork dishes, Dongpo pork, is named after him. Su Dongpo served as governor of Hangzhou in the late eleventh century, and supervised the dredging of the city’s scenic West Lake. According to the legend, local people were so grateful for his efforts that they sent him gifts of his beloved pork for the Chinese New Year. Touched by their generosity, he instructed a servant to red-braise the pork and send some back to each of the townspeople with a gift of wine. The servant mistakenly thought he’d been told to cook the pork with wine, which is what he did, thus accidentally creating a dish that was so glorious it has never been forgotten.
For Dongpo pork, lavishly fatty belly meat, skin intact, is cut into generous cubes and slow-cooked with plenty of Shaoxing wine and some soy sauce and sugar until it is so tender that it yields to a chopstick’s touch. The pork appears solid but, as they say, melts away as soon as it enters the mouth.”
For all Chinese food lovers and gourmands, this book definitely belongs on your bookshelf. It’s simply irresistible for mind and tummy. Have a Merry Christmas and wish you all good health and happiness in the New Year. Cheers!
Best of health,