By Lee Hwa Lin
2000: Wei-Chuan Publishing ISBN-13: 978-0941676793
I own all five volumes of the ‘Regional Chinese Cuisine’ series from Wei-Chuan Publishing. This is not my favorite – I like the Sichuan and Taiwanese publications better – but this one is still a very good book and well worth the purchase…
Content and Organization
For a short book of only 90 pages, this volume contains a pretty generous 135 recipes. The first section of the book includes some basic preparation methods, including an explanation of how to properly soak and clean the sea cucumbers that get called for in a number of different recipes later in the text. Each dish is accompanied by at least one photograph and the text, like most Wei-Chuan books, is printed in both Chinese and English.
The recipes are all fairly clearly written and use a nicely effective style that is very common amongst recipes written in Chinese. In this format, the ingredients are organized into numbered groups and those groups are then dealt with according to number in the body of the method instructions. The only problem with some of the instructions is that they are sometimes brief to the point of being terse and in the case of a few dishes, notably the ‘Beijing Duck’, readers may have some difficulty understanding exactly what is being required.
The range of recipes is very eclectic and reflects the fact that Beijing was the Imperial capital through a long series of dynasties and enjoyed culinary influences from across the whole country and beyond. There are some very simple and subtle dishes like ‘Fresh Scallops with Greens’ and ‘Garlic Fried Fish’ and some more complex preparations such as ‘Crispy Duck Pie’ and, of course, the ‘Beijing Duck’. Most ingredients will be familiar and readily accessible to most readers but there are also some more exotic foodstuffs required for a number of dishes as well a few, notably Intestines and Kidneys, that many westerners may approach with a little trepidation. The illustrations are all excellent and make up for the few cases where the instructions are a little too brief.
Although I prefer the Sichuan and Taiwanese publications in the series, this book is still very good indeed. There is a lot to hold the interest of any student of Chinese cuisine and plenty to keep one busy in the kitchen. I recommend it highly.