Lots of great things have been happening with All Under Heaven and the Dim Sum Field Guide these past couple of weeks, so I thought I’d do something slightly different this week and give the usual highlights, as well as the start of a fun conversation I recently did with the online Chinese magazine, The Beijinger. Robynn Tindall asked some wonderful questions, which I’m delighted to share with you below.
First, though, a recap!
All Under Heaven was again featured in the New York Times as one of Fall 2016's best cookbooks, and this time the shout out came from Sam Sifton, so that is totally amazing.
Diana Zheng is writing about the brilliant cuisines of northeastern Guangdong, where the port cities of Teochew (Chaozhou) and Swatow (Shantou) hold sway. She was kind enough to ask my opinion on things, and you can find them here inside of her find article, "Tracing the Teoswa," in The Cleaver Quarterly.
If you haven't heard much about that region's foods, much less reveled in their deeply savory flavors and punchy seasonings, you are definitely missing out. A bunch of Chaozhou recipes can be found in All Under Heaven, but I can't wait for Diana's book Jia! (or, Eat!) sees the light of day.
The "Breakfast Show" on KCRW's Good Food podcast is continuing to receive considerable attention, even though I am in there talking about dim sum. Thanks again to Evan Kleinman for being such a great interviewer!
And now, on to that review...
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I have been following food writer, scholar, and illustrator Carolyn Phillips' excellent blog "Madame Huang's Kitchen" for years so it was with much excitement that I learnt that she was publishing a book, All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China (McSweeney’s + Ten Speed Press, August 2016). A comprehensive look at China's many fascinating regional cuisines, All Under Heaven is as much a personal memoir and academic work as it is a cookbook – those looking for step-by-step recipes and plenty of pictures to flick through may want to look elsewhere (the book is instead illustrated with Phillips' own drawings). However, for a compulsive collector and reader of cookbooks, this is the perfect in-depth work.
Below, Phillips tells us about her culinary journey of discovery and offers some advice for budding food bloggers looking to make the leap from screen to page.
For those of us reading in Beijing, All Under Heaven is available for purchase as a Kindle book from Amazon.com or to order from The Bookworm.
What first brought you to Taiwan/China?
What I told my mom was that I wanted to learn Mandarin, but I think I just wanted to eat and eat. I had learned Mandarin and Japanese in college, and of course was therefore virtually unintelligible in either language. I applied to both Taipei and Tokyo for language classes, found a last minute opening in Taipei, and the rest is history.
How did you become so interested in Chinese cuisine?
My first two years in Taiwan in the late 70s had me dining on all sorts of street foods from every part of China, as well as great home-cooked meals with my host family and lots of friends. My new Chinese husband then introduced me to an even broader variety of great cooking, and then when I worked as the main interpreter at the National History Museum and National Central Library for five years, this meant dining out many times a week at Taipei’s greatest restaurants. I really was in an amazing place at an amazing time, for many of China’s most renowned chefs had moved to Taiwan after 1949, and money started to flow into the island with the tech revolution, and so fabulous dining palaces were springing up all over with outstanding cooks at the helm.
As I ate my way across Taipei, I started to notice the differences between the many cuisines, and as I tried to get a handle on them, I started to read lots of books and even cook some of the foods I had eaten the previous week in an attempt to figure them out. I had always been told that there were eight great cuisines (Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Hunan, and Sichuan), but the more I ate, the more confused I became, because this seemed to be such a limited view of what China had to offer.
When we returned to the States, I continued to try to parse my way through these food traditions, and although I worked as a Mandarin court interpreter during the day, in the evenings I spent more and more time working on this puzzle. I finally quit my day job to focus my attention on the cuisines of China and become serious about writing a cookbook. I started with my blog, and this gradually morphed into All Under Heaven.
(Read more here on The Beijinger.)