- Hardcover: 395 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st American Ed edition (June 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393051773
- ISBN-13: 978-0393051773
- Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 129 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #210,427 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking Hardcover – June, 2003
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Elizabeth David had it easy. All she had to do was eat her way through France and Italy and translate the essence of the encountered cuisines for a ravenous, literate, English-speaking public. Fuschia Dunlop, on the other hand, went to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan in China, where she ended up the first foreign student enrolled at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine. That was nearly 10 years ago. After annual return visits and endless research she has produced, in English, a magnificent introduction to the food and foodways of Sichuan. She is in every way the dharma inheritor of Elizabeth David.
You too may start to salivate halfway through the introduction to Dunlop's magnificent Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking. Perhaps it begins when she explains xian, "one of the most beautiful words in the Chinese culinary language." It describes an entire range of flavor and sensation, "the indefinable, delicious taste of fresh meat, poultry, and seafood, the scrumptious flavors of a pure chicken soup..." Before you know it you are running headlong into a world of 23 distinct flavors and 56 cooking methods (they are all listed at the end of the book). Sichuan is the place where "barbarian peppers" met up with a natural cornucopia and a literary cooking tradition stretching back to the fifth century A.D. Innovation with cooking technique and new and challenging ingredients remains a hallmark of Sichuan. After describing basic cutting skills and cooking techniques, Dunlop presents her recipes in chapters that include "Noodles, Dumplings, and Other Street Treats"; "Appetizers"; "Meat"; "Poultry"; "Fish"; "Vegetables and Bean Curd"; "Stocks and Soup"; "Sweet Dishes"; and "Hotpot." Yes, you will find Gong Bao (Kung Pao) Chicken with Peanuts--Gong Bao Ji Ding. It's named after a late 19th-century governor of Sichuan, Ding Baozhen, which brought on the wrath of the Cultural Revolution for its imperial associations. Until rehabilitation, the dish was called "fast-fried chicken cubes" or "chicken cubes with seared chilies."
Land of Plenty is literary food writing at its best, as well as a marvelous invitation to new skills and flavors for the home cook. Read it. Cook it. Eat it. And take pleasure in the emerging career of Fuschia Dunlop, a big new voice in the world of food. --Schuyler Ingle
From Publishers Weekly
Sichuan cuisine, renowned for its spicy notes and hot flavors, is famous in Chinese history and lore for its variety and richness of tastes and layers. Dunlop, who writes about Chinese food and culture for the Economist, has produced a volume that is sure to take its place among the classics of Chinese cuisine. Drawing on her experience as a student at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine in Chengdu, China and on many Chinese sources, she conveys the history and geography that make this cuisine so different from the other regions and so varied-the region boasts 5,000 different dishes. After discussing the tastes and textures that form Chinese cuisine in general, Dunlop describes cooking methods, equipment and the pantry before diving into the recipes. From such traditional dishes as Strange-Flavor Chicken (aka Bang Bang Chicken) to Hot-and-Sour Soup that have made the region famous, to the simple Zucchini Slivers with Garlic to the appealing Spicy Cucumber Salad, she engagingly describes dishes and their context, much in the style of Elizabeth David and Claudia Roden. Ending with sections entitled "The 23 Flavors of Sichuan" and "The 56 Cooking Methods of Sichuan," the book is a pleasure-both to cook from and to read.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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Fuchsia's commitment to tradition and authenticity is evident and her instructions are clear and concise. Even more challenging recipes such as tea-smoked duck are remarkably simple if you plan ahead accordingly.
My family immigrated to the United States when I was young, but my parents, both having lived in Chengdu their whole lives until immigrating, were nostalgic for our native cuisine. My family used to drive many hours to buy ingredients or to try new Sichuan restaurants (which are few and far between in the Midwest), and my mother cooked traditional Sichuan dinners every night. She eventually opened her own restaurant, and she and my father are currently owners of another popular Sichuan restaurant. The food is unlike the Cantonese-inspired dishes served in your run of the mill American-Chinese restaurant.
That being said, I know my Sichuan food. Having never learned to cook while growing up, when I left home and moved many hours away, I was constantly nostalgic for the dishes I grew up on. I purchased this book almost 7 years ago, and it was my first step in learning to cook properly. Since I am unable to read Chinese, this book is the closest thing I've found to an authentic Sichuan cookbook.
The recipes are fairly accurate, and the book includes sections describing the more exotic ingredients, as well as suggestions for easier-to-find substitutes. Additionally, the recipes are formatted well and logically grouped into sections. The writing is enjoyable to read, peppered with bits of trivia about the dishes and anecdotal accounts from the authors time in Chengdu. The binding and the thick glossy paper are of high quality, with richly saturated images. It has held up very well over time.
I cannot recommend this book enough. This was one of the few things I brought with me when I moved across the country 5 years ago, and it still sits on my shelf today. While I don't use it often (I've since become very adept at cooking Sichuan food intuitively without recipes, since I cook these things every day), I do sometimes reference it when looking for ingredient substitutions. Most of the Sichuan dishes I know how to make have evolved from the recipes in this book.
Another note: authentic versions of classic Sichuan recipes are difficult to find on the internet. More often than not, googling a well-know Sichuan dish turns up some Americanized, Taiwanese, or other interpretation of these famous dishes, and they *do not* taste like the real thing. The versions in this book are pretty much spot on for what I've eaten growing up and on visits to Chengdu.
I was born in China, grew up eating delicious home cooked dishes my mom made, who learned her cooking skills from my grandma. However, I was never very good about learning from my mom how to cook, and it wasn't until we are living far apart when I got sick of the same old things I made and decided to venture further. And that's when Land of Plenty and Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook came in.
Firstly, I no longer remember how to read Chinese, so Fuschia Dunlop's version is fantastic. Secondly, she provides easy substitute suggestions for those of us living in the western world. Because despite my easy access to abundant Chinese grocery stores, there are some things that hard to find. And last but not least, the dishes made from this book are simple and authentic. I've made dishes from this book for exchange students from Chengdu who remarked that they feel like they are back home with the meal. And whether bad or good, I've become pickier about what we eat in Chinese restaurants BECAUSE I know I can make so many of the dishes, and do it well. Still, it's a testament to how good this book is.
The book itself is sturdy and now has much crinkles and some splatter, marks of a well-used book. The one con about this book would be the lack of pictures. For me at least, I love using the pictures as a guide of what I want to make, and sometimes as a guide of what my food should look like at the end. And sometimes, recipes get looked over because there is no picture. Still, this should not be a deterrent from getting the book because there are just SO much wonderful recipes here.
Happy cooking and eating!
The author could have included more colored pictures for recipes. The colored pictures are bundled up together so you have to go back and forth for the recipes and pictures. Hopefully in the next edition this is rectified.
I love to cook Chinese food at home and this book is a great expansion to my knowledge and experience in the Sichuan Food arena.