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A Tradition of Soup: Flavors from China's Pearl River Delta Paperback – April 28, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


“For soup enthusiasts like me, this book is simply invaluable.”
—From the foreword by Martin Yan, bestselling author and host of Yan Can Cook

“[Teresa Chen’s] new book, A Tradition of Soup: Flavors from China’s Pearl River Delta, a collection of 144 recipes from southern China, is the result of years invested in health education…The recipes, intermingled with information about southern Chinese culture, traditional medicine, and immigration history, are grouped by seasons and health concerns, including gaining and losing weight, getting rid of acne, and preventing wrinkles.”
Harvard Magazine

“Chen lays out the basics of nearly the whole of Chinese gastronomy…[she] has made it safe for me to walk into any Chinese pharmacopeia and conduct myself well.”
—Olivia Wu, The Art of Eating Magazine

“I've often wondered why our family had so humble a name: Hong (meaning soup). Thanks to Teresa Chen, I now understand that soup has as long and powerful a tradition as tea. Soup is a healing medicine, and soup sustains and extends life. Soup has its myths and stories. And soup made its way from China to America, from the Pearl River Delta to the San Joaquin Delta, in the cookery of immigrants such as my mother.”
—Maxine Hong Kingston, author of the award-winning The Woman Warrior and recipient of the 2008 National Books Awards’ Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters

“While there are dozens of superb cookbooks that translate Cantonese cooking for Americans, none take Teresa Chen’s expansive medicinal approach to food. I recommend this book not only to those interested in health, but also to those who want to discover a whole new and thoroughly fascinating branch of Chinese cuisine.”
—Ken Albala, professor of history at University of the Pacific and award-winning author of Beans: A History

A Tradition of Soup is a treasure chest of Cantonese soup recipes generously garnished with cultural gems, ancient wisdom, beautiful pictures, and lucid prose.”
—Brian Chee C. Loh, OMD, LAc, president of the American Institute of Chinese Medicine and the Association of World Traditional Medicine

“Unlike many Asian cookbooks, [Chen] doesn't include easily-found substitutes available in all grocery stores. Rather, arguing that traditional ingredients are now relatively easy to find or order through a website, she presents classic recipes using traditional ingredients.”
—Lindsay McSweeney,

A Tradition of Soup focuses on the place of soup in Cantonese cuisine, specifically around the rich and fertile Pearl River Delta in China, and what might be called its sister culture in Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in California, where so many Chinese immigrants ended up after fleeing war, repression or famine in their own country.”

“Much more than a cookbook, A Tradition of Soup introduces us to TCM nutritional theory, the historical connections between the Pearl River Delta and the San Joaquin Delta, and the stories of the Cantonese immigrants who brought the culinary treasures from their homeland to the United States. … A Tradition of Soup presents the idea that soup, and food in general, are key components of building wellness and preventing disease. … In looking through the mouthwatering [recipe chapter], one cannot help but wonder when we can start cooking!”
American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Campus Forum
“If you love soups, the recipes [in A Tradition of Soup] are a treasure trove. … The book has classic cultural gems and great valuable and usable information. … Do not know how we managed without it, but we do know that we recommend it without hesitation.”
Flavor & Fortune

About the Author

Teresa M. Chen, PhD, and her husband, Yi-Po Anthony Wu, MD, founded Pacific Complementary Medicine Center in Stockton, California, in 1993. Dr. Chen oversees community outreach and health education, organizes seminars, conferences and workshops, leads breathing and Liu Tong exercise classes, lectures to college extension and community groups, and contributes articles about food, nutrition, exercise, and complementary medicine to publications such as APA (Asian Pacific American) News and Review and Connections, an alternative newspaper published by the Peace and Justice Network.

Named the Chinese Cultural Society of Stockton's 2007 Citizen of the Year, Dr. Chen has also served on the board of the United Way of San Joaquin and of Jene Wah, Inc., a Chinese multi-service and senior citizen center. She has developed and secured funding from San Joaquin County for an Asian Nutrition Lunch program and an acupuncture-based chemical-dependency treatment program. Raised in Hong Kong, Dr. Chen graduated from Radcliffe College and received her PhD in Linguistics from the University of Hawaii. Before settling in Stockton, she was a researcher at the University of California at Berkeley and taught at San Francisco State University.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: North Atlantic Books (April 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155643765X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556437656
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #117,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Nancy Mulvany on July 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
The first thing I noticed about A Tradition of Soup is that is a beautiful book. It is a feast for the eyes. The North Atlantic Books production team deserves many kudos. The pages are oversized, printed on heavy coated paper. The photographs are excellent, most in full color and abundant.

In her Preface, Teresa Chan writes, "This cookbook is written to promote Chinese food and culture, and to promote health. It pays tribute to my kindred Cantonese people from the Pearl River Delta and to our soup tradition that explicitly links food to health and healing." The book is divided into four parts that indeed cover Chinese culture, healing traditions, history, and of course, food.

Part One introduces readers to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the tradition of soup, and the history of Cantonese people in two deltas: the Pearl River Delta in China and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in California. The Cantonese people have a rich history in the California Delta region. As a co-founder of the Pacific Complementary Medicine Center and as a member of the Board of Directors of Jen Wah, Inc. both in Stockton, CA, Chen was able to draw on the accumulated wisdom of Chinese elders for the recipes and techniques in this book. In Appendix B the soup contributors are profiled.

Part Two focuses on the basics of Cantonese soups, techniques, and equipment. Of particular interest to me is the section about reconstituting dry ingredients. Since many recipes require dry ingredients, this is a critical step in the process. Also here is where I find a great marinade recipe and the discussion for preparing soup stock including "Top Stock," the all-purpose stock.

Perhaps the most fascinating section of the book is Part Three: Ingredients.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Rinaldi Wibowo on May 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
I got this book hot off the press (American one at that) and was amazed at the in depth description of the ingredients. If you want to find out about holistic healing through soups, this is your book. The book is written to bring the english reader a better understanding of how to eat and what to eat to benefit one's health. It starts off with some basics of traditional chinese medicine (TCM), the five elements, and understanding of the internal organs before proceeding to describe what the ingredients for each soup are. With full on color plates, the author carefully described what each ingredient: how they are cultivated and how they benefit the organs. Each soup highlighted is then captured in simple to follow instructions. What was also of interest was how each soup was championed by individuals who have had a history with the recipe and brings authenticity and tradition to each soup dish. This is not a talk-down cookbook where the master chef is at play while the rest of us just wish we could do the same; this is a book for you and each recipe is styled so that the chef-at-home can realistically achieve the same result. At the end of the book, short snippets of life stories of the soup champions are then introduced. After reading the book, I found out that the book was written to honor those elders at a senior center, and to commemorate those who have come before us while introducing the long tradition of healthy and tasty eating in China to the English speaking masses who are open to this holistic notion of healing through eating.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By H. Ng on September 25, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is just the kind of soup book I've been waiting so long for in English. I am cantonese and I grew up drinking what the author calls "louhfo tong" or slow cooking soups from my mom. I recognize many of the recipes in the book and am so happy that I can make them for my own family now. I was particularly happy to see the recipe for savoury rice dumpling soup which is served during the winter solstice. The majority of the recipes were collected from the residents living at a chinese seniors center in CA so they are very authentic. If you grew up drinking "louhfo tong" don't miss this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael Andrew Streib on February 14, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My wife loves this book. She is Chinese-American, and grew up drinking her mom's homemade soup. But because her mom didn't know English names for many of the ingredients, she could never duplicate her mom's soup. This book explains things very well, and includes great pictures. There is no more guessing on the ingredients, as there is an encyclopedia section explaining each ingredient with pictures.

The recipes are very traditional, so be prepared for a lot of roots, tree bark, and Chinese herbs, but the end result is well-explained recipes for a variety of soups the Chinese believe promote health and happiness.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By dar-cey on December 4, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I cook a lot of Chinese food, especially soups. After reviewing this book through the library's copy, I decided to purchase it for myself. The book is written well with great pictures. Recipes are very authentic and not intimidating.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By MDCPA on September 9, 2013
Format: Paperback
I got this book as a Christmas present. As a native Cantonese and a soup nut, I have quite the taste bud for soups claiming to be authentic Cantonese style. The recipes in this book brings back great childhood memories and are 100% authentic. The results of the recipes are exactly what my grandma used to make every night for dinner. I'm so glad to have received this book because it not only reminded me of fond memories of family members, good laughs at dinner with my relatives but also reminded me the long tradition that is unique to my heritage. I highly recommend this book to everyone.
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