This week, Fuchsia Dunlop's classic had us brushing up on our wok skills to bring Sichuan's famous flavors home.
Hear me out: the ingredients can be tricky to find for those of us who are new to Sichuan food. But — and this is a big but, Fuchsia goes above and beyond describing techniques and offering photos of ingredients that may be less familiar to newcomers.
I'm a big fan of books that offer photo representations wherever possible. This is most important as someone who is new to Sichuan cooking. Not only did Fuchsia make it easy to follow her directions, but the photos she includes for each dish helped me better match my outcome.
95% of the dishes I made were balanced and delightful. The only serious issue we had was with the Hot Pot recipe, but after we skimmed off some of the oil, it was killer.
Fuchsia's passion for Chinese food — Sichuanese in particular — shines through in this book. Between her expert advice for western cooks and the brilliantly detailed anecdotes from her time living in Sichuan, this book is an accessible first step into exploring Chinese cuisine.
Fuchsia will transport you to the Land of Plenty with her anecdotes and experiences living in the Sichuan region. Be prepared to dive in.
I knew I wanted to review a Chinese cookbook this year, and Bryn's been in love with this book for years now (full disclosure: our
I cracked this book open and started reading about Fuchsia’s journey into Sichuanese cuisine. Her passion for the food and culture of the region jumped out of the page and instantly got me hooked.
The next thing I knew I was ordering chile bean paste (
With my pantry stocked, I was ready for Monday, and rolled up my sleeves to fry some pork belly. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the ideal cut (skin-on pork rump) and used one of the backup recommendations (skin-on pork belly) which made the end result similar to the texture of bacon with a tire wrapped around it. Not great.
The hard thing about writing recipes —
The flavors in these recipes are complex, spicy, rich, and inviting. Nearly every dish we made was perfectly balanced between spicy and numbing or sour and sweet. The only recipe that needed a little adjustment was the hot pot: it called for 75 grams of dried chilies and 200 grams of beef tallow (making oil nearly 10% of the contents of the pot).
Again, I think this comes down to inference. We've had Sichuanese hot pot many times, but I've never encountered one with that much oil — and it made consuming the dish quite difficult at first. After doing a little math and introducing some extra broth and skimming about 120g of oil off the top, that hot pot was to die for.
With my first week of Sichuanese cookery under my belt thanks to "The Food of Sichuan", I can honestly say that if you’re interested in getting started with Sichuanese cuisine (or learning about Chinese regional cuisines in general), I highly recommend getting this book for your shelf. Not only does Fuchsia take the time to break down everything from common tools to pantry staples found in traditional Sichuanese cooking, she also includes unique and entertaining anecdotes about each recipe. I highly recommend reading the sidebars before starting to cook. Fuchsia usually peppers in tips and tricks for the recipe that I have found very helpful, but are easily missed.