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I first came across Kylie Kwong's "China China: Stories and Recipes from My Homeland" in my local Waterstones around a year ago.
This is a beautiful hardback recipe book. It's over 496 pages long. A big solid book that weighs easily 1 kg, and it about the size of an A4 piece of paper, but 5cm thick.
I was instantly drawn to this recipe book because of the beautiful colour pictures of China - of both food, countryside and people - and thought this book would be a great addition to my growing collection of cookbooks, but also as a "coffee table" book because of the colour photos of China and Chinese food - another way of remembering the wonderful times and food I experienced whilst travelling round China.
However my purchase of this book was to be delayed, as it was retailing in Waterstones at the time for £19.99. And although I wanted this book, £19.99 for a book that I wanted mainly for the pictures, was a bit too much.
So I added Kylie Kwong's "My China: Stories and Recipes from My Homeland" to my Amazon "wishlist" (such a handy function of Amazon - one day I'll write a review about it) and watched and waited till the price dropped.
Finally, after almost a year (didn't really need the book that desperately), the price fell to a reasonable £9.00 (much better than the initial £19.99 or the current £25.50) and I was able to purchase it from Amazon.
Having travelled round China quite extensively what you come to realise is that the food differs region to region and this is what makes Kylie Kwong's recipe book so different from other Chinese recipe books. Kylie focuses on the following regions in China all of which differ in location, culture and style:
Yangshao & the Li River,
Chengdu & the Le Shan Buddha,
Lhasa; Momos & Monasteries,
Xian and the Terracotta Army,
Beijing and the Great Wall, Shanghai,
Hangzhou & Wuzhen, and
Hong Kong & Lamma Island.
And each region has different recipes, ingredients and speciality dishes.
In addition to recipes from each of these regions, Kylie also writes about the history of the area and her experiences travelling in the region - complete with pictures and details about restaurants she visited.
But enough about the beauty of the book and on to the recipes!! The recipes are clearly laid out, listing the ingredients you'll need, how to cook and how many it serves. It also has picture - to entice you to create or to show you how yours should look! Kylie has thoughtfully added an ingredients section at the end which is really a definition of the ingredients - really helpful!
Here are some of my favourite ones so far:
From Yangshao & the Li River - Beer-braised Whole Fish. Not as good as the one I had in China, but that's probably more the fault of the Chef (me).
From Hangzhou & Wuzhen - Chinese Coleslaw. A change from mayonnaise based ones, and nice and refreshing in this hot weather.
From Xian and the Terracotta Army - Pumpkin Fritters. Yummy!!!
From Chengdu & the Le Shan Buddha - Kung Po Chicken. A favourite for everyone!
Don't be scared off of "Salad of Poached 'Urinating Shrimp'" (no that's not a typo) or the "Dry-fried 'Urinating Shrimp'", both from the Hong Kong & Lamma Island section. As Kylie explains "urinating shrimp" are "actually small crayfish dry-fried with garlic, chilli, ginger, salt, pepper and coriander." When the shrimp are wok fried their juice spurt out... hence the term!
There are many many more recipes that I can tempt you with... but that's a little unfair - isn't it?
It's published by Collins with the recommended retail price of £30.00, but as mentioned earlier is currently on Amazon for £25.50 including free postage. The ISBN is 0007271042.
As I've said many times, this is a beautiful book and my justification for buying this was for a keepsake of China, and to see if I could create some of these dishes I ate. This is probably not the best cookbook if you want to learn how to cook Chinese or to whip up a quick meal. Its current price is also a large deterrent to buying it!
I'm giving it 4 stars as I really like it, and it brings back great memories of "My China".