Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese home cooking
by Fuchsia Dunlop
Publisher: Bloomsbury, Country: UK
ISBN: 9781408802526, Year: 2012
Link to publisher’s page or site
This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.

Review

Fuchsia Dunlop, one of the best contemporary writers about Chinese cookery, has delivered an outstanding work of “simple Chinese home cooking”. Accompanied by delicious photography by Chris Terry, it is hard to imagine anyone wanting to leave this book unused in the kitchen.

Fuchsia Dunlop, one of the best contemporary writers about Chinese cookery, has delivered an outstanding work of “simple Chinese home cooking”. Accompanied by delicious photography by Chris Terry, it is hard to imagine anyone wanting to leave this book unused in the kitchen.

Dunlop is well known for her writing on Sichuan and Hunanese cuisine in particular (Sichuan Food, Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook), opening the eyes of her (especially British) audience to a range of flavours outside of the predominantly Cantonese restaurant menu most people are familiar with.

Every Grain of Rice presents the structure of typical Chinese home meals and the dishes that might form part of such a meal. It introduces a range of techniques, equipment and ingredients, proposes a few menus, and then serves up approximately 150 recipes, some of which have appeared in Dunlop’s previous books. At the back of the book is a glossary of ingredients, including names in Chinese characters, and representative photos. Although all recipes show the Chinese name in pinyin (Roman letters) and traditional Chinese Characters, the index does not list the Chinese recipe names.

The recipe chapters cover 16 categories: Cold Dishes, Tofu, Meat, Chicken & Eggs, Fish & Seafood, Beans & Peas, Leafy Greens, Garlic & Chives; Aubergines, Peppers & Squashes; Root Vegetables, Mushrooms, Soups, Rice, Noodles, Dumplings; Stocks, Preserves & Other Essentials.

Every recipe is accompanied by a sidebar containing background to the dish, the author’s experience of it, or perhaps some tips. The anecdotes can feel a little trite, as is often the case in other cookbooks too, but at least the substance of this book is unquestionably good. The introductions to each chapter and the information about dining conventions and history are helpful background and quite informative, but surprisingly unillustrated for a modern cookbook. A few pictures and diagrams here might have widened the book’s audience.

Most recipes are presented with a photograph on the facing page. For this reviewer, photos of dishes aren’t essential, but I’ll happily admit that the natural colours and unfussy styling were a seductive match to the recipes.

The only real disappointment with Every Grain of Rice is Dunlop’s geographical bias: she admits in the introduction that the book reflects her preference for and experience with the cuisines of southern China, but that honesty notwithstanding, it’s a pity that there wasn’t a bit more for other less well-known regions (to Westerners), such as some more dishes from northern China.

Every Grain of Rice is a welcome reminder of the ease with which Chinese cooks achieve delicious meals that often preserve the integrity of flavour of individual elements. Look forward to recipes such as Stir-fried Tofu with Black Bean and Chilli, Blanched Choy Sum with Sizzling Oil, Mangetout with Wind-Dried Sausage, or Sour and Hot Mushroom Soup. From these examples you can guess that vegetarians are quite well catered for in this cookbook, but there are also a range of simple and more complex meat dishes, such as Braised Trout in Chilli Bean Sauce, Gong Bao Chicken, or Red-Braised Pork.

For cooks wanting to broaden their perspective on Chinese home cooking, this book is an excellent choice.

This is an original review for The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf.
Main rating: 5. Highly recommended
Visual appeal: Attractive
Suitability as a gift: Likely to be strongly appreciated
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Every Grain of Rice, Fuchsia Dunlop | 2012 | UK, 5.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

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