This is a cook book.
This is a luscious coffee table art book, with such extravagant pictures, paper, and ink that it actually SMELLS like a good book.
This is an exciting travelogue.
This is "My China: A Feast for All the Senses" by Kylie Kwong, and it is really one of my favorite books of all time. Five stars.
This post was written as part of Weekend Cooking, a weekly meme hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads
Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to head over to Beth Fish Reads, grab the button, and link up anytime over the weekend. (The button is on your right...)
In the introduction there is a (beautiful, of course) map of China. The places that we are going to visit are marked on the map with evocative pictures. When you first lay eyes on the map, you cannot wait to visit all of these exotic places with Kylie, and pick up some Chinese cooking tips along the way!
The first chapter is called, "Guangdong: Going Home." Guangdong is where our tour of China begins, because this is where Kylie's ancestors are from...she is visiting the old home and meeting relatives for the first time. (She was born and raised in Australia.) And, of course she shops and cooks with all of her newly discovered cousins. Actually, she shops and cooks her way across China in places like Shanghai, Lhasa, and Tiger Leaping Gorge!
There really is too much going on in this over the top book to fit into this post, so I will hit a few of my favorite spots. First, the terracotta army. Are you familiar with this? It is an active archaeological expedition featuring hundreds of horses, warriors and weapons (see the picture) that are believed to be guarding the grave of the first emperor of the united China.
And, of course, when she is in Xi'an to see the terra cotta army Kylie hits the food destinations! She visits the Xi'an main mosque in the Muslim quarter - and we get a recipe for lamb skewers. She visits the kitchen of a small restaurant, and gets us a recipe for Stir-fried Green Chilies and Garlic.
Although it is hard to choose, I would have to say that my second favorite locale that Kylie introduces us to is the Naxi village of Dayan. The Naxi are an ethnic group and Dayan is their old, old village...it is like an Asian Venice with lovely canals spanned by carved stone bridges. Thre are plants and red paper lanterns everywhere! Kylie gets us a recipe called "Naxi-Style Chicken with Chilies, Green Pepper and Peanuts. This is one of the recipes that I made, and it got the seal of approval from my kids - no small feat.
Actually, I learned the basics of Chinese cooking from this book, and now I can "free-style" with whatever vegetables and meats that I have on hand. I learned to heat the peanut oil in the wok "until it shimmers." I learned to add a little sugar to savory dishes. Kylie is a relaxed and enthusiastic Chinese cook, and it is contagious! This book has really enhanced my life because now I can confidently turn out quick, beautiful Chinese dishes!