17 April 2008

Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China

Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China by Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford has just been released and my copy arrived yesterday. It focuses on the non-Han areas of China like Xinjiang, Tibet, Yunnan, and Inner Mongolia. And it's excellent. I haven't tried any recipes yet, since we haven't eaten dinner yet, but I've high hope since these authors have never let me down before.

This book is a little different from their other cookbooks (HomeBaking, Seductions of Rice, Hot Sour Salty Sweet, Flatbreads and Flavors, and Mangoes and Curry Leaves)- it's a touch more personal, and rather more political. They also mark whom the essays are by. In previous books, you didn't know if Duguid or Alford wrote them. As in their more recent books, the recipes are organized by type of food instead of by country or region. The index seems to be pretty good though, so you can find all the Kazakh recipes, for example, by looking there.

And the essays are a pleasure to read. Duguid's meeting with Ella Maillart is priceless, they write about the various ethnic groups of China, good books are recommended (like Life along the Silk Road) and people are described (I thought the essay about Jenny did a nice job of showing how much China has changed). There are also some pictures to explain techniques, like making Kazkah noodles. As usual, there are not pictures of every dish which I know bothers some people, but I'd much rather have photos of people and places instead of just food.

Flatbreads and Flavors will probably always be my favorite (it feels a little more like recipes gathered while traveling, instead of recipes gathered for a cookbook, even though there's not much difference), but I think Beyond the Great Wall will rate as on of the best of the bunch. Highly recommended.

And a note about preordering from Amazon. I'd preordered this back in January I think, and it was scheduled to arrive in May. But since it was released earlier than Amazon's original date and the preorder date wasn't changed, I cancelled the preorder and just ordered the book again. I don't know if this is common with preorders since I'd never tried it before, but it doesn't make me want to try it again.

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