If you had to pick three words to describe Chinese cooking, what would they be? Would they be "frugal," "healthy," and "delicious"? If not, they will be after spending some time with Fuchsia Dunlop's new book. Every Grain of Rice is about the kinds of fresh and simple vegetable-based dishes that make up everyday Chinese home cooking. These recipes take us far from the restaurant fare with which most of us are familiar, and trust me, it's a journey you'll be thankful to take.
• Who wrote it: Fuchsia Dunlop
• Who published it: W.W. Norton & Company
• Number of recipes: Over 150
• Recipes for right now: Silken Tofu with Avocado, Sichuanese Numbing-and-Hot Beef, Slippery Wood Ear Salad with Cilantro, Vegetarian Ma Po Tofu, Sour-and-Hot Silken Tofu, Red-Braised Beef with Tofu "Bamboo", Braised Chicken with Dried Shiitake Mushrooms, Spinach with Chilli and Fermented Tofu, Twice-Cooked Swiss Chard, Soupy Rice with Pork and Greens
• Other highlights: One of the biggest challenges in trying a new cuisine, I think, is stocking the pantry. It often feels like I have to buy a whole new set of ingredients just to try one recipe. I love that Fuchsia Dunlop sets us up with just a handful of essential ingredients — most of which are nonperishable and will keep in the cupboard for future cooking experiments. Should you fall head over heels for Chinese cooking, she includes a separate glossary at the back of the book with more ingredients to set up a full Chinese larder.
As Dunlop explains in her introduction, most of these recipes are made up primarily of vegetables with just a little meat to add deeper flavors and textures, like a few chopped slices of bacon or tablespoons of dried shrimp. This makes the dishes that are meat-centric, like slow-cooked ribs and whole braised fish, feel special and celebratory by comparison — which, as we are hearing more and more these days, is really as it should be. I find myself most drawn to the recipes that use familiar ingredients in unfamiliar ways, like stir-frying cucumbers with wood ear mushrooms and pickled chilis, or making twice-cooked swiss chard with fermented black beans.
With its stunning photos and simply-written recipes, this book makes Chinese home cooking feel completely approachable, whether you are new to the cuisine or a veteren of the wok. More than that, it makes me want to jump into the kitchen and get cooking! My own wok has been sadly neglected and this book is a great excuse to give it some attention.
• Who would enjoy this book? Cooks looking for a good "starter" Chinese cookbook, vegetarians (most recipes are vegetarian or vegetarian-adaptable)
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop
• Visit the author's website: Fuchsia Dunlop
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Images: Emma Christensen)