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on February 13, 2010
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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on February 23, 2010
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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on June 24, 2010
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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on July 6, 2010
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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VINE VOICEon April 27, 2010
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? This is why these are considered chick-lit and lose some credibility from otherwise enjoyable novels and Kitchen Chinese suffers the same fate. And we have a decent read instead of a really good one. Mildly disappointed once again! Except for the food. Yummy!

my rating 3.75/5
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on February 12, 2010
Isabelle Lee grew up on Chinese-American cuisine though she never cooked any as her mom was the family chef. However, she can talks a good game as she grew up listening to her mom discuss food. However, her career in New York tanks so she heads to Beijing where her sister Claire practices law.

She and Claire are not bosom sisters. However, Isabelle feels good about seeking her roots when she obtains work writing about Kitchen Chinese cuisine to the western expatriate population. Still the transition is not smooth as she struggles with adjustment since the cultures in New York and Beijing are a zillion light years apart and she begins to learn Claire's secret. However after considering going back to the States, the siblings warm up to one another and soon Isabelle finds she likes life in Beijing.

This is a terrific contemporary tale starring a fascinating lead character who feels like a fresh water fish in the ocean. Roots aside, Isabelle realizes her racial classification is backwards as American comes way before Chinese. Even the language she speaks is 99% English and a few Kitchen (and bathroom) Chinese words. As she struggles to adapt in order to connect with her sister and her heritage, fans who take the journey with Isabelle will appreciate the trip.

Harriet Klausner
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on March 9, 2013
“My first meal in Beijing is roasted duck, or kaoya as it’s called in Chinese. Glossy and brown, with crisp skin and meltingly moist flesh, the bird is cut into over one hundred pieces, in the traditional way.”

Ann Mah’s novel is definitely a winner. The first words left me salivating and, as I delved into Isabel Lee’s new life in Beijing, I found myself laughing and captivated. The story begins with a twenty-something wannabe journalist, who gets herself fired from a New York fashion magazine. With a sister already in Beijing, and enough of the Chinese language to get by, this American born Chinese girl gets talked into taking the great leap of faith and moving overseas. Mah gives us a wonderful look into the life of a girl who struggles to navigate a very different culture than the one she was raised in, while at the same time establishing herself as a journalist and flirting with a romance or two.

This was an enjoyable read; I savored every minute of it!
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on February 25, 2010
I really enjoyed this book. I couldn't put it down, and when it was over, I wanted more. It's a fun story about a young Chinese American New Yorker, who, upon getting sacked from the dog-eat-dog world of fashion magazine publishing and dumped by her on-and-off boyfriend, decides to take off and go stay with her sister in Beijing. Adventure, romance and hilariousness ensue, horizons are broadened, and meaning is found. Although everyone would enjoy this book--it's got a bit of everything and reads a bit like a movie (in a good way)--as a Chinese American woman about the same age as the protagonist, I sunk comfortably into the familiarity of her experience and existence, imagining myself in her shoes, laughing and almost crying as she deftly described the challenges of 2nd generation Chinese Americanhood.

Read this book! You won't regret it!
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on September 6, 2013
I love everything that had anything to do with this book. I bought my copy at the Strand bookstore in Manhattan. I read it while sitting in the late summer Umbrian sunshine, beside the pool of a dear friend and best of all, this story both transported me to an unfamiliar geographical place while at the same time shared experiences and characters I feel like I know.

Ann Mah nails the expat experience and complicated family relationships. Her descriptions of what Isabelle ate in China has me craving every spice and crunch and swallow.

Kitchen Chinese was the perfect end of summer read.
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on April 9, 2015
I knew that I would enjoy this book before I even started because I always enjoy reading about other cultures, but I didn't know that I would enjoy it as much as I did. To say that this is an awesome book is an understatement. It takes you through a journey that makes you feel like you are actually in China......from the food to the people to the street's great. I look forward to reading more from this author and highly recommend Kitchen Chinese to anyone who enjoys reading about other cultures and food.
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