The Food Lovers' Cookbook Collection
Chinese Gastronomy by Hsiang Ju Lin and Tsuifeng Lin
'Our lives are not in the lap of the gods, but in the lap of our
This quote from the famous Chinese author is apt, as it is his wife and daughter who are the authors of Chinese Gastronomy. In fact Lin Yutang also pens the introduction to the book.
We really like the fact that the authors of this book have not tried to separate the food from the cultural and historical context. In fact they have put these front and centre.
The book clearly claims that Chinese cuisine is one of the most sophisticated on earth - and with this proposition we cannot argue. We love French food, we are entranced with Thai, Vietnamese and Malaysian food and a close friend, who is a talented Middle Eastern chef has opened our eyes to the delights of Lebanese food. However the sheer depth and sophistication of Chinese cuisines continues to act as a magnet that draws us towards this fascinating country.
There are also some truly beautiful coloured plates showing stunning Chinese art that is vaguely related to food.
And then there is the poetry. There are many poems presented in the book including this snippet by Shih Ching:
"And bamboo sprouts, and tender shoots,
And sauces fine, and fragrant fruits,
With their rich perfume fill the air.
Oh! But it was a banquet rare!"
How we wish that there was more food poetry of this calibre!
Unlike most Western books on cooking, the chapters are divided into topics such as Flavour, Texture, Regional Cooking, Curiosities, Plain Cooking and Classic Cooking.
In the chapter on Flavour the recipes start with a delightful range of recipes for one of the world's great dishes - congee. This boiled rice dishes is one of our favourite comfort foods which is equally appealing late at night or early in the morning as a perfect breakfast dish.
The authors then move on to other favourites such as fish head in casserole (why don't we pay more attention to the head of the fish in the West - it is just so good!), bamboo with pickled mustard greens, and finally an extended setof recipes for the voluptuous 'cream stock' which is a satiny, silky, deeply-flavoured sauce that has no cream, just essence of flavour from the careful handling of a stock derived from duck, chicken and pork.
This is a great book written by sympathetic authors. It is a necessary inclusion in your cooking library.
We are also lucky to have a copy of the earlier book published by the same authors. It was originally published under the title Cooking with Chinese Flavour in 1957 in the United Kingdom and then expanded and re-published by Prentice Hall in 1960 under the title Secrets of Chinese Cooking.