About me

Hi, I'm Carolyn Phillips, and welcome to my food blog. Here's a little bit about me:

I'm fluent in Chinese, having lived and worked in Taiwan for eight years. My timing couldn't have been better: 

The late Seventies and early Eighties in Taipei was the best possible time and place to learn about both the culture and cuisine of China, since the majority of China's greatest chefs had followed Chiang Kai-shek to Taiwan in 1949.

Now, I'm not taking any credit for this, but it wasn't until I arrived on the scene — which was when the economy started to boom — that these chefs were finally opening up incredible restaurants featuring practically every region of this vast patchwork of cuisines. Not only that, less monied cooks had smaller places of their own which offered authentic home-style dishes, and street hawkers filled in the gaps with cheap, good eats that fed my soul and tantalized my mouth. 

The last five years I was there, I worked as the chief editor and translator for both the National Museum of History and the National Central Library, and the best part of those jobs was that I accompanied the directors and their staff many times a week on forays to Taiwan's dining palaces with foreign dignitaries and official guests, where I would interpret over dinner; since both directors were refined men with a deep appreciation for China's exquisite cuisines, I ate the best there was and came back for seconds. 

What this ended up doing was train my palate while it opened my mind up to flavors and foods I had not before considered possible. I dined on everything from Chinese haute cuisine to street snacks, and these provided me with rare entrée into local society. Gourmands and scholars helped me understand the nuances of China’s varied cuisines and ingredients and teas, and I was even able to discuss food with famous epicures such as the renowned artist Chang Dai-chien. 

I soon learned to cook these dishes on my own, quickly amassing a library of Chinese cookbooks as I pestered proprietors of local restaurants and food stalls into handing over their family recipes and secret techniques.

Following my return to the States in 1985, I became a professional Mandarin interpreter for the state and federal courts, working with attorneys on multimillion-dollar lawsuits and major criminal cases.

During my off hours, though, I continued to ferret out traditional recipes and classic cooking styles. I retired from the courts a while ago to devote myself fully to food writing.

The results can be found in my upcoming illustrated book, ALL UNDER HEAVEN, about all the cuisines of China, which will be published by McSweeney's and Ten Speed Press sometime soon (sorry, but they keep on changing the date), as well as in THE DIM SUM FIELD GUIDE, which should be released by Ten Speed at around the same time. 

One of my stories was selected for THE BEST FOOD WRITING 2015, and my work can also be found in such well-known food writing venues as Lucky PeachGastronomica, AlimentumHuffington Post, and Pork Memoirs. In addition, my "Dim Sum Field Guide" was reprinted in Buzzfeed and featured at the 2013 MAD Symposium in Copenhagen.

If you want to know more about me that seems proper or even possible, check out this interview with me on the wonderful Swallow Daily. You are welcome to follow me on my blog here, as well as on Twitter (@MadameHuang) and Instagram (@TheRealMadameHuang). 

In addition to writing, I'm also a professional artist with a junior black belt in kickboxing, an ersatz ordained minister (Universal Life Church Monastery), and I've killed a couple of rattlesnakes in my yard. 

I live in California with my husband of three decades, that cute guy on the right - the author J. H. Huang - and can be reached at MadameHuang[at]gmail[dot]com.



Books

ALL UNDER HEAVEN: RECIPES FROM THE 35 CUISINES OF CHINA. McSweeney's + Ten Speed, 2016.


THE DIM SUM FIELD GUIDE. Ten Speed Press, 2016.


Awards

"Monkey Eve" included in Best Food Writing 2015, Holly Hughes, ed.

Finalist, 2012 IACP Legacy of Julia Child Award, for “Julia Child's Spy Years: Of Opium, Sharks and an Undying Love for Chinese Food.” 

101 Women Bloggers to Watch for 2011, WE Magazine for Women.


Popular reprints

“Dim Sum Field Guide,” Lucky Peach DIY booklet.

How to Make Perfect Moon Cakes for Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival,” Huffington Post: “The Blog,” Sept. 19, 2013, with 74 Facebook “likes” in 3 days. Originally published as “Moon Cakes, Part 2: Made Flavorful And Fresh At Home,” Zester Daily, Sept. 26, 2012.

“A Beginner’s Field Guide to Dim Sum,” Lucky Peach, Issue 5: Chinatown, Fall 2012. Republished on Buzzfeed, Dec. 29, 2012, with close to 300K hits. This was also featured at the 2013 MAD Symposium held in Copenhagen co-sponsored by Chef David Chang and Lucky Peach.

Knife Skills to Tantalize the Eye,” Zester Daily, July 3, 2012. Republished on the Culinary Institute of America’s “ProChef SmartBrief” website.


Selected articles

Monkey Eve,” Alimentum, July 2014.

The Kitchen God of Chinese Lore,” Gastronomica, Winter 2014.

A Beginner’s Field Guide to Dim Sum,” Lucky Peach, Issue 5: Chinatown, Fall 2012. Republished on Buzzfeed, Dec. 29, 2012, with a shoutout by LAWeekly Food on Jan. 4, 2013. This was also featured at the 2013 MAD Symposium held in Copenhagen co-sponsored by Chef David Chang and Lucky Peach.

Fish heads, Kill Bill, and random thoughts,” Swallow Daily magazine, Nov. 12, 2012.

How to Commit Poetic Justice on a Slab of Pig,” Pork Memoirs, entry 49, Nov. 2011. 


Interviews

The next best thing in books, aka getting tagged in a nice way,” Madame Huang's Kitchen, Mar. 11, 2013. 

A Conversation with McSweeney’s Newest Cookbook Author,” Swallow Daily, Dec. 4, 2012, and also on the Swallow Daily site here



Selected writings on Zester Daily

How The Chinese Bring Out The Best In Custard,” Zester Daily, Sept. 4, 2013. 

Brilliantly Simple: Hakka Salt-Baked Chicken,” Zester Daily, Aug. 2, 2013. 

Chinese Potstickers Like You’ve Never Known Them,” Zester Daily, June 3, 2013. 

A Chinese New Year Treat Wrapped in Mystery,” Zester Daily, Feb. 5, 2013. 

Kindred Spirits: U.S. Soul Food and Chaozhou Cuisine,” Zester Daily, Dec. 12, 2012. 

For Double Ninth Festival, a Cake of Nine Layers,” Zester Daily, Oct. 19, 2012. 

Moon Cakes, Part 2: Made Flavorful and Fresh at Home,” Zester Daily, Sept. 26, 2012. 

Moon Cakes, Part 1: Savor Chinese Autumn Festival," Zester Daily, Sept. 25, 2012. 

Julia Child’s First Culinary Love: Chinese Food,” Zester Daily, August 14, 2012. 

The Decrepit Pork Palace,” Pork Memoirs, entry 76, May 2012. 

Crispy Tofu Nuggets,” Zester Daily, Mar. 29, 2012. 

Wine and Chinese Palates,” Zester Daily, Jan. 25, 2012. 

Pinots and Stir-Fries,” Zester Daily, Jan. 24, 2012.

Black Sesame Rice Cakes,” Zester Daily, Jan. 19, 2012. 

Chinese Radish Cakes,” Zester Daily, Jan. 18, 2012. 

The Un-Brady Desserts,” Zester Daily, Dec. 21, 2011.

The Un-Brady Greens,” Zester Daily, Dec. 20, 2011.

A Very Un-Brady Christmas,” Zester Daily, Dec. 16, 2011.

A Farm Full of Beans,” Zester Daily, Nov. 30, 2011.

Shark Fins and Mercury,” Zester Daily, Oct. 14, 2o11.

The Shark Fin Debate,” Zester Daily, Sept. 15, 2011.

Mock Shark Fin Soup,” Zester Daily, Aug. 17, 2011.

Historic Sichuan Cuisine,” Zester Daily, July 26, 2011.



Videos (some with articles)

Knife Skills to Tantalize the Eye,” Zester Daily, July 3, 2012. Republished on the Culinary Institute of America’s “ProChef SmartBrief.”

Chinese Rice Tamales for Dragon Boat Festival,” Zester Daily, June 21, 2012. 

Chinese Dumpling Party,” Zester Daily, Jan. 17, 2012.

Blackbird Ballet,” blog entry, Dec. 29, 2011.

Dragon Whisker Candy,” Zester Daily and blog entry, Nov. 2011.


The World’s Most Insanely Beautiful Noodles,” Zester Daily and blog entry, Oct. 3, 2010.



Book reviews

"'In the Kitchen with 'Asian Grandmothers,'" Zester Daily, Apr. 24, 2013. 

"'Burma' at a Culinary Crossroads," Zester Daily, Dec. 28, 2012. 

'Hakka Cookbook'  Details China’s Soul Food,” Zester Daily, Oct. 18, 2012. 

Tofu at Its Finest,” Zester Daily, June 7, 2012. 

An Ode to Ingredients,” Zester Daily, Dec. 7, 2011.

Mighty Meatless Cookbook,” Zester Daily, Nov. 29, 2011. 

Staff Meals at ElBulli,” Zester Daily, Nov. 15, 2011. 

Anita Lo’s Fusion,” Zester Daily, Nov. 1, 2011. 


Cites

No Sharks Were Harmed in the Making of This Shark Fin Soup,” The New Yorker, Dec. 28, 2011. First line linked to one of my articles in Zester Daily.

Photo credits:

Top: Carolyn Phillips, (c) 2015, by Jennifer Graham

Bottom: J H Huang, (c) 2015, by Carolyn Phillips

8 comments:

  1. You're enviable! I'm 49 yo, be receiving the golden crown next, wishing to explore the world, but Im nowhere near to starting much less to doing anything! but you!! You've been in the best parts of the world, in the company of the best, in the best places (did you say palaces?!!), doing the best things... Wow! And with a great looking hubby too! Im not real if I dont envy you. Kudos ;-)

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  2. great blog !!
    can't find anywhere else to ask...: "Mrs Huang, is Wonderful world (macau) blog written by you? "

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    1. Nope! I'm based in the San Francisco area. Thanks, Christine!

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  3. Hi Carolyn, I wanted to let you know that "All Under Heaven" was selected as a top cookbook of the year by Mother Jones food writer Tom Philpott. We featured the book on our website, and mentioned it in our podcast, Bite. You can check it out here: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/11/five-best-cookbooks-2016

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  4. What a wonderful surprise! I adore Mother Jones and Bite, so this is a terrific gift, as far as I'm concerned. Thank you, Jennifer, and please relay my gratitude to Tom Philpotts, as well.

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  5. So odd...I purchased "All Under Heaven" about 7 months ago, and I have waded into it now and again. This evening my husband and I were walking about our gardens. We harvested bunches of herbs for drying and some early chiles. we have extensive day lily plantings. I was pondering Chinese cuisine and googled "can I dry my own day lilies for Chinese cuisine". your blog was the result I clicked on. I had just read the story of your MIL in your book(her fleeing as a child, and eating thimble cakes in your apartment) and that blog post was featured and highlighted. I love the sweet coincidences of modern life!

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    1. These kinds of stories make life seem like such a wondrous gift. Thanks! Do you eat your day lily buds? What variety? A friend of mine was talking about that recently, too, and I'm thinking about jamming a few plants into my already overplanted garden.

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