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Kitchen Chinese: A Novel About Food, Family, and Finding Yourself Paperback – Bargain Price, February 9, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After her magazine career craters, Isabelle Lee, the narrator of Mah's super sharp debut, leaves New York to reconnect with her family roots in China. Her familiarity with the language and culture limited to kitchen Chinese, Isabelle lands a job at a magazine for the expatriate community in Beijing and finds a circle of friends. However, her relationship with her big-shot attorney sister, Claire, who's lived in China for a while, gets off to a rocky start, with the two not knowing quite what to make of each other. Isabelle's Beijing immersion, coupled with her chick lit arc, provides a refreshing and fun narrative, helped along by a fantastic heroine whose insights into modern China and the expatriate experience will intrigue readers. It's a great start for a writer with much promise. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

After getting fired from her job and being dumped by her boyfriend, Chinese American Isabelle Lee decides to leave New York for Beijing in the hope of reigniting her stalled journalism career. She moves in with her older sister, Claire, a studious lawyer turned glamorous expat dating a powerful, married man. After failing to score a job at one of the high-profile foreign bureaus, Isabelle settles for a job as a food critic at an expat magazine called Beijing NOW. As she settles into her new job, Isabelle draws the attention of two men: a dashing Chinese pop star named Jeff and her charming neighbor Charlie, who works at the American Embassy. Though she’s taken with both, Jeff’s attentions threaten to cost her an important story for the magazine. The vibrant depiction of Beijing, lush descriptions of sumptuous Chinese meals, and Isabelle’s struggle with how others perceive her distinguish Mah’s first novel. --Kristine Huntley

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 339 pages
  • Publisher: Avon; 1 edition (February 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061771279
  • ASIN: B004IK9EQO
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,485,894 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ann Mah is a food and travel writer and author of a food memoir, Mastering the Art of French Eating (Viking Penguin) and a novel, Kitchen Chinese (HarperCollins). Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, the International Herald Tribune, South China Morning Post, Fodor's guides, and other publications. Born in Orange County, California, Ann began her career in book publishing after graduating from UCLA. In 2005, she was awarded a James Beard Foundation culinary scholarship to study in Bologna, Italy. She currently divides her time between Paris -- where she has lived since 2008 -- and New York City. Visit www.annmah.net.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book just shot up to be one of my favorites. As someone who has worked in China and is a big fan of all its many types of food, I can definitely say this work is a perfect mix of great reading, interesting facts, and with a story that keeps you up all night just to see what happens next.

I think the book fills a real void in something that I'm always interested in hearing about: what is it like for someone coming from another country to experience the "real China?" Too many books focus on China's history, politics, foreign relations, etc. This work, however, allows the reader to really "feel" what it is like to live as someone who has just landed, unprepared, and is thrown into the wild new world of emerging Beijing.

Mah has an excellent knack for pulling in the reader. This books is one of those reads that makes me pass up on heading out of my house just so I can read another chapter. The author's descriptions of sights, smells, and people is spot on. You can't get a better understanding of what's it's like in Beijing!

The recipes leave your mouth watering and the story as a whole is fun. The main character is hilarious and her experiences as a transplanted New Yorker are fantastic. I think this should be required reading for anyone heading to China or anyone who wants to know what it's like to live overseas.
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By Toffee on February 23, 2010
Format: Paperback
It's been a while where a book captured my attention and stuck with me like this one did. I picked it up on a new release table and tossed it into my bag to read during an air flight. Well, I didn't want to stop reading even after my flight landed. Her voice reminds me some of Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones and perhaps, I could really relate to her as I am Chinese American also. The descriptions are intriguing and the characters are often funny and flawed. Some parts could have flowed a bit better transition wise, but overall the story was captivating. Her depiction of the expat life of her glamorous sister and pals was well done as well as the lives of her free spirited and fun loving colleagues from work. Hope Ms Mah writes more books...I am a fan!
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Format: Paperback
I agree with one of the previous reviews that Kitchen Chinese has some similarities with Bridget Jones' diary. For example, they both feature witty, self-deprecating protagonists who have dating mishaps, career ups and downs and sometimes find themselves in ridiculous situations. It makes for a fun, quick read (I just finished reading it for a second time). But I think that Kitchen Chinese has a lot more depth and deals with issues that the Bridget Jones genre normally doesn't. Some of the issues that are prominent in the book include being the child of an immigrant - and the cultural norms and expectations that can go along with that - and finding one's own identity in a foreign country that also happens to be the birthplace of a parent. On top of that, the food writing is amazing. Makes me want to pack up my bags and move to China!

I really liked this book and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about food, travel, being a first generation American, and young people trying to find their way in their career and love life.
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Format: Paperback
An overall enjoyable read... Having spent a year in China, I recalled many of my own experiences and impressions as Ann Mah's characters navigate the joys and challenges of living there. While the country's diverse cuisine is a reoccurring theme throughout the novel, the main character's cultural awakening and self-discovery is what fuels this page-turner. This book is largely about the search identity and the author presents this through a convincing multi-layered journey that exposes the reader to the enthralling complexity of life in modern China.

While the use of food helps to enliven the storyline, it offers outstanding insight into an aspect of Chinese culture that is as diverse and complex as Mah's characters. The descriptions of the various dishes are presented like an endless buffet, taking the reader on a culinary journey throughout the various regions of the country. I was impressed to see several personal, yet lesser known, favorites mentioned like jianbing and Yunnan cheese. BE WARNED: If you've ever experienced Chinese cuisine in China, reading the descriptions in this book will probably convince you to return sooner than anticipated.

The author's modest inclusion of pinyin (phonetic Chinese) will certainly serve as a refresher for anyone who has tried using it, but is not overused in a way that would seem threatening to someone who hasn't. While the novel is written from a female perspective, it remains approachable to all readers and is actually quite insightful. There is a gentle humor throughout the book that helps carry the flow of the story and humanize the characters. While there were a few aspects of the plot that stretched the imagination, this never distracted from the overall reading enjoyment.

I look forward to seeing where Ann Mah's promising literary career takes her. Perhaps her next novel could be based at "See Ahnse Po"...
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Format: Paperback
Isabelle Lee, Iz, has just been fired from her job as a fact checker for a magazine. Encouraged by her friends she decides she needs an adventure and moves from Manhattan to Beijing, where her older sister Claire, a high-powered attorney, lives. Iz is determined to have an adventure but not to find her Chinese roots as if she were in "an Amy Tan novel". Iz considers herself American at heart, not Chinese. Claire gets her a job at a magazine for expats, Beijing NOW, where she ends up as the food critic. Her Mandarin is limited and she is unfamiliar with a lot of Chinese culture but she has lots of help from her new friends. Claire, the older, successful, introverted sister is a new person in Beijing, but Iz doesn't think she is really happy and is determined to be there for her sister.

my review:
First things first. Don't read on an empty stomach. This book made me so hungry as Iz made the rounds of restaurants that I think I gained 5 lbs just reading this book. Okay, not from reading, but from getting a snack to keep me from drooling all over the book. If I was reading this on my Kindle, I would have shorted it out.
This is a pretty light-hearted, Bridget Jones in China type book; very fun and clever. Isabelle was very likable as were most of the characters. She bumbles around town while trying to get the hang of things.
The only thing I didn't like was the obligatory romance part. I felt like shoving Iz off of a cliff during some parts and the ending was just too pat. Must there be romance or can't there just be fun and dating? No matter what happens to girls in these books, the author always needs them to find Mr Right by the end.
Does this speak to the readers or is this the only way to market these books?
Read more ›
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