Books: Cooking by Cuisine -> Cooking Chinese
Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking
W. W. Norton and Company
Published: June, 2003
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Elizabeth David had it easy. All she had to do was eat her way through France and Italy and translate the essence of the encountered cuisines for a ravenous, literate, English-speaking public. Fuschia Dunlop, on the other hand, went to
Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan in China, where she ended up the first foreign student enrolled at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine. That was nearly 10 years ago. After annual return visits and endless research she has produced, in English, a
magnificent introduction to the food and foodways of Sichuan. She is in every way the dharma inheritor of Elizabeth David.
You too may start to salivate halfway through the introduction to Dunlop's magnificent Land of Plenty: A Treasury of
Authentic Sichuan Cooking. Perhaps it begins when she explains xian, "one of the most beautiful words in the Chinese culinary language." It describes an entire range of flavor and sensation, "the indefinable, delicious taste of fresh meat, poultry, and
seafood, the scrumptious flavors of a pure chicken soup..." Before you know it you are running headlong into a world of 23 distinct flavors and 56 cooking methods (they are all listed at the end of the book). Sichuan is the place where "barbarian
peppers" met up with a natural cornucopia and a literary cooking tradition stretching back to the fifth century A.D. Innovation with cooking technique and new and challenging ingredients remains a hallmark of Sichuan. After describing basic cutting
skills and cooking techniques, Dunlop presents her recipes in chapters that include "Noodles, Dumplings, and Other Street Treats"; "Appetizers"; "Meat"; "Poultry"; "Fish"; "Vegetables and Bean Curd"; "Stocks and Soup"; "Sweet Dishes"; and "Hotpot." Yes,
you will find Gong Bao (Kung Pao) Chicken with Peanuts--Gong Bao Ji Ding. It's named after a late 19th-century governor of Sichuan, Ding Baozhen, which brought on the wrath of the Cultural Revolution for its imperial associations. Until rehabilitation,
the dish was called "fast-fried chicken cubes" or "chicken cubes with seared chilies."
Land of Plenty is literary food writing at its best, as well as a marvelous invitation to new skills and flavors for the home cook. Read it. Cook it. Eat it.
And take pleasure in the emerging career of Fuschia Dunlop, a big new voice in the world of food. --Schuyler Ingle
The Chinese call the province of Sichuan in southwest China "the land of plenty" and "the place for flavor."
Although it is mostly known in the West for its hot-and-spicy dishes, the Chinese love Sichuan food for its inventive use of seasonings and its many styles of preparation. Fuchsia Dunlop immersed herself in Sichuanese cooking and culture for two years,
gathering from regional chefs and home cooks a full range of recipes from soups to desserts. She provides glossaries of Sichuan's ingredients and cooking methods, and Chinese characters for and definitions of the twenty-three flavors at the heart of the
Sichuanese culinary canon. Equally valuable for novices and experts, Land of Plenty teaches everything from how to wield a cleaver to how to make delicious Kung Pao chicken, offering a unique user-friendly introduction to one of China's richest cuisines.
16 pages of color photographs.
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