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Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey Through China Paperback – May 22, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Serve the People is light fare, a delicately crafted steamed dumpling of a book. It's peppered with delicious descriptions, authentic recipes, humorous anecdotes and all the goodness of a young woman who finds her way in life, and even falls in love."--International Herald Tribune
"A mouthwatering tale of the thriving culinary scene in today's China--top rated by Zagat."--Nina and Tim Zagat, co-Founders and co-Chairs of Zagat Survey
Top Customer Reviews
Enrolling in a Beijing vocational cooking school teaches her just how alien and American she is. The other students are male, they question nothing in class and do the minimum to get by. She, in contrast, seems loud, pushy and rich.
Humorous and energetic, her account of getting through school (with much help and great difficulty) and then apprenticing first at a noodle stall and later, in Shanghai, at a fancy restaurant, illuminates much about everyday life in China's cities. Staffed by migrants from China's rural provinces, restaurants offer diverse cuisines and backbreaking labor, perfectionalism and cut corners.
Lin-Liu learns stories about the Cultural Revolution while cooking, finds a long history of hardship in "exotic" ingredients like eyeballs and jellyfish, discovers China's cultural diversity in its many cuisines, and Chinese provincialism in tourists' unwillingness to eat anything but their own foods.
Her enthusiastic culinary tour of the culture is peppered with recipes for dumpling fillings, noodles and traditional favorites like Drunken Chicken and Fish Fragrant Pork Shreds as well as the (mostly difficult) stories of the individuals she meets.
Entertaining and eye-opening, Lin-Liu's portrait of modern China reflects its changing trends and attitudes and its timeless cuisine.
Jen's personal search to learn Chinese cooking (and to practice it) is inspiring...telling about her travels and travails through a China in a tug of war between its culinary past and its current rush towards modernization.
I could tell just by looking at them that the dozen or 20 recipes, relating to each chapter of Jen's journey, would be delicious and the few I've tried so far more than live up to their promise.
The title of the book comes from the socialist slogan coined by Mao Zedong and popularized by the communist party: 为人民服务 weì rénmín fúwù, which literally means "for people serve." When I first arrived in China in the early eighties you could find lapel pins all over the place with this slogan. Though it is used less these days, you still hear it once in awhile, probably more in official settings.
This book is divided into four parts, 1) Cooking School, 2) Noodle Intern, 3) Fine Dining, and 4) Hutong Cooking. In the first part Lin-Liu describes her experience as a student in the Hualian Cooking School in Beijing, a three month course, Monday through Friday for two hours a day. In the second part of the book, Lin-Liu apprentices with a noodle chef from Shanxi Province. In Part Three she moves to Shanghai and works in a high end Shanhaiese restaurant on the Bund called The Whampoa Club. The book ends with a rather short section on Hutong cooking. A 胡同 hútòng is an alley or lane and is used to identify many of the old Beijing neighborhoods characterized by courtyard houses and mazes of narrow lanes.
I really enjoyed this book. Lin-Liu did an excellent job drawing the reader into the world of Chinese food and eating.Read more ›
There are a number of things to admire in this text as well and as a few things that might turn the average American reader's stomach; Lin-Liu is induced to try a number if unappetizing things including dog meat and animal genitalia. If you can get beyond the "ick" factor of these brief encounters, this book has a great deal to offer in terms of its unique insight. The only time if fell short for me was near the very end when Lin-Liu falls in love and her writing moves from descriptive to mushy (a different type of "ick" factor). In my mind it took away from an otherwise polished story of self discovery set against the backdrop of cultural exploration.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Sights into culture of china, a very good read about food. Have yet to try recipes.Published 10 months ago by Jen555
Starts out well, but goes down hill after that until you are skimming the middle an last part of the book to get it over with.Published 15 months ago by Peter K.
This was a very interesting trip through China. I learned a lot and learned how to make the food too.Published on May 6, 2014 by Judy Nies
this was a really fun read. we got back from 3.5 months in china, and this book captured the food, the people, the places we saw. Read morePublished on February 23, 2014 by Sam
I thought I would just skim this book for the recipes but I started reading it and enjoyed it so much I read every word! Read morePublished on August 1, 2013 by La Boheme
Not a bad read and with some interesting recipes. I thought it would be more updated than it was. The restaurant in China (Black Sesame Kitchen) where the author works is... Read morePublished on July 27, 2013 by Tickled Pink
It gives the reader a glimpse of the new China, in depth view of some of the restaurants and its staff .... eye opener, to say the least. Would definitely recommend it to friends.Published on January 22, 2013 by EAT PRAY TRAVEL
I found this to be a whiny and tedious book about the adventures of a rather pampered young girl. This is because I finished Fuchsia Dunlop's similar account in a similar book... Read morePublished on September 22, 2011 by Ivan Ng
I enjoyed the human interest stories as well as excellent recipes and the author's capturing a slice of life during China's transition to a modern restaurant environment. Read morePublished on May 27, 2011 by cybercitizen