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Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-sour Memoir of Eating in China

Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-sour Memoir of Eating in China

Hardback

By (author) Fuchsia Dunlop

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  • Publisher: Ebury Press
  • Format: Hardback | 320 pages
  • Dimensions: 157mm x 240mm x 28mm | 560g
  • Publication date: 6 March 2008
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0091918308
  • ISBN 13: 9780091918309
  • Sales rank: 394,726

Product description

Award-winning food writer Fuchsia Dunlop went to live in China in 1994, and from the very beginning vowed to eat everything she was offered, no matter how alien and bizarre it seemed to her as a Westerner. In this extraordinary memoir, Fuchsia recalls her evolving relationship with China and its food, from her first rapturous encounter with the delicious cuisine of Sichuan Province, to brushes with corruption, environmental degradation and greed. In the course of this fascinating journey, Fuchsia undergoes an apprenticeship at the Sichuan cooking school, where she is the only foreign student in a class of nearly fifty young Chinese men; she attempts, hilariously, to persuade Chinese people that 'Western food' is neither 'simple' nor 'bland'; and samples a multitude of exotic ingredients, including dogmeat, civet cats, scorpions, rabbit heads and the ovarian fat of the snow frog.But is it possible for a Westerner to become a true convert to the Chinese way of eating? In an encounter with a caterpillar in an Oxfordshire kitchen, Fuchsia is forced to put this to the test. From the vibrant markets of Sichuan to the bleached landscape of northern Gansu Province, from the desert oases of Xinjiang to the enchanting old city of Yangzhou, this is a unique and evocative account of a culture and cuisine that is a world away from most Westerners' experiences.

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Author information

Fuchsia Dunlop was the first Westerner to train as a chef at China's leading cooking school, the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine. A fluent Mandarin speaker, she has been researching Chinese culinary culture for more than a decade. She is the author of two acclaimed cookery books, Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province and Sichuan Cookery, which won the Jeremy Round Award for Best First Book in 2002. Fuchsia writes for numerous publications including Gourmet, Saveur, The Financial Times and Time Out Magazine, and appears as a guest chef and Chinese food expert on radio and television. In 2006 she was named 'Food Journalist of the Year' by the British Guild of Food Writers. She currently lives in London, where she is a consultant for the popular Bar Shu Sichuanese restaurant.

Review quote

An insightful, entertaining, scrupulously reported exploration of China s foodways and a swashbuckling memoir. . . . What makes it a distinguished contribution to the literature of gastronomy is its demonstration . . . that food is not a mere reflection of culture but a potent shaper of cultural identity.--Dawn Drzal

Editorial reviews

Freelance scribe, almost-professional chef, restaurant consultant and ardent Sinophile Dunlop ensures that you'll never again look at General Tso or his chicken in the same way.In this, her first non-cookbook, she examines the entire spectrum of Chinese food culture, from the mystery of MSG to the melding of food and politics to Chinese culinary schools. As was the case with Trevor Corson's terrific Japanese food treatise The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi, From Samurai to Supermarket (2007), Dunlop successfully inserts herself into the narrative, discussing her methodology, her feelings and theories about China and, periodically, her love life. She's so slick about it that the technique enhances rather than detracts from her episodic story line. In a clever gimmick, each chapter concludes with a recipe, a menu, a glossary or some other sort of culinary tidbit; the recipe for Mu gua dun ji, chicken and papaya soup, looks particularly tasty. It's become trendy, if not tired, for a food writer or television personality to eat a seemingly repulsive dish, then rave about how shocked they were at its yumminess. Dunlop periodically takes this approach - for example, her encounters with caterpillar and with snake stir-fry - and while she doesn't add anything new to the formula, her enthusiasm and linguistic dexterity keep it engaging. That's the case throughout this charming, informative textbook/memoir/travelogue, one of the more noteworthy recent food studies.Readers definitely won't be hungry an hour after finishing this satisfying history from a witty Chinese food authority. (Kirkus Reviews)