Newest Review: ... very achievable and in most cases very quick. The author has clearly spent a lot of effort thinking about how the dishes can be made in wes... more
A great cookbook set to be a modern day classic
Sichuan Cookery - Fuchsia Dunlop
Member Name: mr_pricky
Sichuan Cookery - Fuchsia Dunlop
Advantages: Well written, most ingredients are easy to come by, recipes are easy and very very good
Disadvantages: Not enough pictures, vegetable section is not really very special
I bought this book due to its inclusion on various prestigious lists of great cookbooks. The first recipe I made from the book was good, really good. The second one was so good, I went ahead and cooked it again just to make sure it wasn't a fluke. Now a few months in, having made most of the recipes in the book that appealed to me I can honestly say that this is one of the best books that I own.
Authentic or not I cannot say, (though it seems likely) however the litmus test is "does it taste good" and the answer is definitely yes. This is not fussy pretentious cooking, making it very achievable and in most cases very quick. The author has clearly spent a lot of effort thinking about how the dishes can be made in western kitchens with ingredients that are relativity easy to get, though you will need access to specilist asian shops (or order off the internet). If you stock up on the "essential ingredients" (given below) that are given in the introduction, you can make many of the dishes in the book. I had no problem tracking them down in asian supermarkets, however I was not able to find genuine "facing heaven" (sichuan) chillis, or sichuan pepper of the quality that is recommended, however I am still very pleased with the results I get using substitutes and substandard ingredients.
Light and dark soy sauce
Sichuan chilli bean paste
whole sichuan pepper
black fermented beans
chinkiang or black chinese vinegar
spices (star anise cinimmon/cassia bark)
fresh ginger,garlic, and spring onions
salt pepper and white sugar
The book is very well written with clear instructions and lots of useful tips and techniques in the intro for the un-initiated. My only criticism is that there are not enough pictures of the dishes. Also I was rather uninspired by the vegetable section, the blandness of the vegetable dishes provides a respite from the strong flavours of the meat dishes, but realistically or not, I was hoping for something more exciting.
Sichuan dishes use a lot of chilli, however it is important to point out that the chilies are dried, de-seeded and so are actually not that hot. Even the ferocious looking chilli chicken, doesn't come any where close to the levels in Thai food. Whats more in most cases the chilies are not to be eaten, with this approach you can actually appreciate the wonderful flavor of chilli without the unbearable pain. Therefore I would say that despite its appearances this is not just a book for chilli lovers, though it certainly helps.
Summary: If you like chili get this book... if you don't like chilli get this book
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