We love to eat. And fortunately, my husband loves to cook. Even before we moved to China, he cooked many Chinese dishes at home – really tasty! Now in China, it is even easier than before, with easy access to cheap local ingredients.
We found great authentic Chinese recipes in Fuchsia Dunlop’s cookbooks. He prepared many recipes from her book “Land of Plenty” and “Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook”. My sister cooks from Dunlop’s latest book “Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking” to recreate some authentic Chinese dishes back home after visiting us in Beijing.
Land of Plenty focuses on the cuisine of the province Sichuan. Unfortunately this book doesn’t have many pictures but it gives good background info.
Our favorite dishes from this book include pork slivers with yellow chives, boiled aromatic peanuts, spicy cold noodles with chicken slivers, a typical Sichuan noodle dish called dàn dàn miàn 但但面, , and a tofu dish with Sichuan peppercorn má pó dòu fu 麻婆豆腐. (The last two dishes you often see on restaurant menus, so I included the Chinese name and characters.)
Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook has recipes from China’s Hunan province. This book has more photos than Land of Plenty but not for every dish.
We especially like the Farmhouse stir-fried pork with green peppers nong jia chao rou 农 家炒肉 and the Peng’s home-style bean curd peng jia dou fu 彭家豆腐. The recipe for the water spinach is good, too.
Every Grain of Rice is beautifully designed and includes everyday recipes for typical Chinese dishes.
My sister’s favorite dish is fish-fragrant eggplants called yú xiāng qié zi 鱼香茄子 (despite the name, it has nothing to do with fish, just a really tasty eggplant dish with ground pork).
All recipes from Fuchsia Dunlop we tried so far are well written and easy to follow. Many dishes come with variations, e.g. how to make the same dish with a different vegetable. Just one note of caution – the spice level of many recipes is also quite authentic and often is a bit much, even so we like spicy food. A good rule of thumb is to start with 1/3 or 1/2 of the amount of chilies and chili sauce or paste given in the recipe.
Another good cookbook is The Food of China by Kay Halsey from the “Food of…” series, where I especially like the mu shu pork recipe.
If you don’t live in China or close to a good Asian supermarket, you can still get many of the ingredients online. You can find more info on ingredients and tools in my post on Chinese cooking at home.