Skip to content

Review: Szechuan Cooking

By I-Chow Chen

1984: Hilit Publishing Co. Ltd.  ISBN:0-914929-75-5

This book is part of the ‘Chinese Regional Cuisine Series’ published out of Taiwan. I purchased two others in the series, “Cantonese Cooking’ and ‘Peking Cooking’, nearly twenty years ago and they are the first cookery books I ever owned that were printed in both Chinese and English. When I came across a second hand copy of this particular volume at Amazon a while ago I snapped it up, as the series is really pretty decent… 

Content and Organization

There are 55 recipes in the book organized chiefly by main ingredient, but there are additional sections covering soups and cold plates and a rather unusual grouping of deserts and snacks. There is a short introduction to the history and cuisine of Sichuan and all of the recipes are attractively illustrated with even a few being accompanied by additional ‘step-by-step’ photographs.

Critique

The variety of recipes is pretty good and there are some unusual ones you won’t easily find elsewhere. Unfortunately, it is clear that many of them are very much Taiwanese interpretations of Sichuan dishes rather than traditional native versions. The Kung Pao Chicken recipe, for example, looks like it might actually be quite tasty if you make it as the authors suggest but the procedure is quite a bit different from more standard recipes and would not produce the ‘proper’ scorched chili taste that most Sichuan diners would demand. Likewise, the recipe for Ma-La Dumplings includes Chili oil but doesn’t call for Sichuan Peppercorns (or the derived oil) which is a curious omission indeed given that the ‘ma’, or ‘numbing’ taste, is specifically produced by this ingredient.

Readers should also be warned that some of the recipes have been a bit hastily written and possibly not properly tested. The Hot and Sour Soup recipe, for instance, calls for only three cups of stock but then suggests you add two ounces of ground pepper. Many people like a good, fiery Hot and sour soup from time to time but this amount seems a little excessive, to say the least.

The introduction, while containing some interesting factual information and some nice pictures, would really have been improved by offering a bit more information about the various ingredients used in the book. There is actually a recipe for making Bean Curd included, which you don’t often see, but the authors direct you to add ‘plaster’ as a coagulant but don’t further identify what they mean. Similarly, quite a few recipes call for peppercorns but do not identify whether they mean the Sichuan or the more common western variety. One would assume the former but given some of the very non-Sichuanese interpretations of certain recipes it is difficult to be sure.

Overall

This is not a great book, by any means, and it isn’t even the best of its series. That being said though, it does present some interesting takes on a number of common dishes and several recipes, while not strictly Sichuanese, are well worth trying. It is not easy to find copies of this book anymore but if you happen across one at a decent price I would definitely recommend picking it up

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. I love finding older cook books. Great review.

    Chinese cuisine (and all of its sub-categories) is something I definitely need to learn more about.

    May 18, 2012
    • Thanx … I used to love scoring 2nd hand bookstores but nowadays Amazon has a lot of third party sellers listing lots of interesting things

      May 18, 2012
  2. My mom had these cookbooks and I have been looking for them for years but could only remember what the cover looked like and not the name of the series.

    Thank you!

    You have a great find!

    May 20, 2012
  3. Keith #

    I have this book, and have been making a few recipes from it. I’m pleasantly surprised to discover how easy some of them are, although I admit that I won’t be trying Ma Po Pork Brain any time soon, as easy as it looks. I know exactly what you about how some of the recipes don’t appear to have been tested. I can’t help but wonder if there’s something lost in translation. I’m still trying to figure out how to make “sugar color”.

    I see that you’ve reviewed a number of cook books. By any chance, do you have a recommendation for one cookbook that’s readily available for Hunan cooking? While we’re at it, a Sichuan cookbook that’s more authentic than this one would be nice as well.

    Thanks.

    January 14, 2013
    • Fuchsia Dunlop is the best for both Sichuan and Hunan cookery books. See my other cookbook reviews for links to her ‘Land of Plenty’ (Sichuan) and ‘The Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook’ (Hunan)…. They are absolutely top-notch.

      January 16, 2013

Comments, thoughts or suggestions most welcome...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Meet & Eats

The food that I've had the pleasure of meeting and eating.

Uncle Grumpy's Playroom

Current events, humor, science, religion, satire

Food Travel Lover

走过的地方 尝过的美食 留下的回忆

The Odd Pantry

Essays on food

Reputable Sources

Organizing ferments since 2013

that Other Cooking Blog

. food . photo . sous vide .

REMCooks

My Virtual Cookbook to Share My Love and Joy of Food and Cooking One Recipe at a Time

lola rugula

my journey of cooking, gardening, preserving and more

Yummy Lummy

I cook, photograph and eat food with the occasional restaurant review!

Eye Of the Beholder

A pair of eternally curious eyes and a camera...Life is beautiful.

gluten free zen

Taking The Stress Out Of Gluten-Free Grain-Free & Dairy-Free Living

Clayton's Kitchen

Big flavors and fun cooking from a cubbyhole kitchen

Bunny Eats Design

Happy things, tasty food and good design

DENTIST CHEF

Dentist chef, just a dentistry student who practice the dentist's cooking recipes in a dentist's kitchen

Mad Dog TV Dinners

Guess what's coming to dinner?

Chefsopinion

Real Food & Real Opinions

Bento Days

Making bentos for kids

Garden to Wok

Fresh and tasty!

Bam's Kitchen

Healthy World Cuisine

Trang Quynh

everyone is special in their own way :)

Farm to Table Asian Secrets

Full-Flavored Recipes for Every Season

HolyPrettyApple

If people say that life is too short to drink bad wine, it means also that life is too short to eat crappy food!

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

The Unorthodox Epicure

Confessions of an Aspiring Food Snob

The 好吃 Challenge

1 girl, 273 days, 100 recipes

Rabbitcancook

a recipe sharing and bento blog

benleeirene

Just another WordPress.com site

The Food Nazi

Never try to eat more than you can lift

Expat Chef in Barcelona

From my kitchen to yours

Keeping Up With the Holsbys

a journey into my head and my pantry

Nurul's Culinary Adventures

I Love Food, the Universe and Everything!!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

home-cooking recipes, restaurant reviews, International cuisine ,

Naked Vegan Cooking

Body-positive Vegan Goodness

Bites of Food History

Sharing my Experimental Archaeology of Food

Stefan's Gourmet Blog

Cooking, food, wine

FOODTRAIL

A Journey About Food, Recipes And Destinations

bcfoodieblogger

Fresh, exciting and adventurous food journey

One Man's Meat

Multi-award winning food blog, written in Dublin, Ireland.

%d bloggers like this: