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Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in… (2008)

by Fuchsia Dunlop

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There's a lot I like about this book. Dunlop's sympathetic treatment of the people she encounters, her boundless curiosity, her willingness to take China as it is and not as she wants it to be, are among them. But there's a certain self-centeredness here as well, and a really troubling ability to stick her fingers in her ears and go LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU when it comes to the really troubling aspects of the country; I frankly would've expected a little more skepticism from a BBC journalist. ( )
  cricketbats | Apr 18, 2013 |
Fabulous foodie reading.

This is a memoir of Fuschia Dunlop's life in China. She starts as a curious English girl on a study program, fascinated by some of the food she encounters in Chengdu. She talks her way in to training as a Sichuan chef, and goes on to revisit the country many times and write a couple of cookbooks. And also horrify her parents with how native she's gone in her food tastes...

There's some social history and some recipes, and it's not all cheerfully sanitised. She's aware of her privilege, though not always sure what to do with it.

She can occasionally get a little irritating in her convert zeal to the marvels of sichuan cooking. Yes, my dear, western cuisine *does* in fact have words for those things you say it doesn't. Most of them in french, of course.

Well worth a read. ( )
  cajela | Jan 16, 2011 |
This is one of the best books I have read about China, in my whole life. It is really a memoir about the author's escapades in China's kitchens and restaurants, but it is also so much more. The author, Fuchsia Dunlop, starts with her first visit to China, where she after a few months end up as the first foreigner in the chef's school in Chengdu, Sichuan province. Her fascination with the Chinese foods are truly contagious. Duck, tendon, dumplings, spicy peppers, soy sauce, all is described in exquisite prose and vivid words. It is very personal, but also very easy to relate to. Fuchsia is not afraid of showing her opinions about politics and environmental disasters, and as the author of a 'revolutionary cookbook' and someone that has eaten many endangered species through her time in China, she battles with her guilty conscience as well as local politicians and bureaucracy.

The book is a fantastic introduction to the Chinese culture. Aside from the food, and a few recipes too, she tackles everything from traveling undercover to areas closed to foreigners, the disdain for Western food as well as the love for it by the Chinese people (apple pie is strange, McDonald's is OK), the influence of history and famine on food culture, and the economic boom in the last 15 years and its environmental and food consequences.

Her love of China and Chinese food seeps from the pages, and it makes me want to visit some of the more remote parts. I also want to find a restaurant close to us that make real Chinese food, not the Americanized hodge-podge most serve.

Read more: http://pondpond.blogspot.com/search/label/book%20review#ixzz0iaPe0y2o
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution ( )
  klockrike | Mar 18, 2010 |
Fuchsia lived in China off and on for about ten years. She entered China as a journalist and left intrigued with its cuisine. And what a cuisine? Is there anything they don’t eat in China? I honestly cannot imagine getting all googly-eyed over snapping off and crunching on rabbit heads. Ick. And bladders? Eek. Dunlop’s final confrontation is with a caterpillar crawling on a leaf in her garden at home in England. I hope I’m not giving anything away when I tell you that she plucked the caterpillar off the leaf and popped it in her mouth and regarded the entire affair as a triumph of her new eating sensibilities. Sorry, but I must comment with a final yuck. ( )
  debnance | Jan 29, 2010 |
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The preserved duck eggs were served as an hors d'oeuvre in a fashionable Hong Kong restaurant, sliced in half, with a ginger-and-vinegar dip.
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Chillies are used not in violence, but to awaken and stimulate the palate, to make it alive to the possibilities of other tastes.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393066576, Hardcover)

A new memoir by the most talented and respected British food writer of her generation.

Award-winning food writer Fuchsia Dunlop went to live in China as a student in 1994, and from the very beginning she vowed to eat everything she was offered, no matter how alien and bizarre it seemed. In this extraordinary memoir, Fuchsia recalls her evolving relationship with China and its food, from her first rapturous encounter with the delicious cuisine of Sichuan Province to brushes with corruption, environmental degradation, and greed. In the course of her fascinating journey, Fuchsia undergoes an apprenticeship at China's premier Sichuan cooking school, where she is the only foreign student in a class of nearly fifty young Chinese men; attempts, hilariously, to persuade Chinese people that "Western food" is neither "simple" nor "bland"; and samples a multitude of exotic ingredients, including sea cucumber, civet cat, scorpion, rabbit-heads, and the ovarian fat of the snow frog. But is it possible for a Westerner to become a true convert to the Chinese way of eating? In an encounter with a caterpillar in an Oxford kitchen, Fuchsia is forced to put this to the test.

From the vibrant markets of Sichuan to the bleached landscape of northern Gansu Province, from the desert oases of Xinjiang to the enchanting old city of Yangzhou, this unique and evocative account of Chinese culinary culture is set to become the most talked-about travel narrative of the year.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:38 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

While a student living in China in 1994, Dunlop vowed to eat everything she was offered no matter how alien and bizarre it seemed. But is it possible for a Westerner to become a true convert to the Chinese way of eating?

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W.W. Norton

Two editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393066576, 0393332888

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