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liuzhou

Chinese Cookbooks

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A few weeks ago I bought a copy of this cookbook which is a best-selling spin off from the highly successful television series by China Central Television - A Bite of China as discussed on this thread.   .

 

cover.jpg

 

The book was published in August 2013 and is by Chen Zhitian (陈志田 - chén zhì tián). It is only available in Chinese (so far). 

 

There are a number of books related to the television series but this is the only one which seems to be legitimate. It certainly has the high production standards of the television show. Beautifully photographed and with (relatively) clear details in the recipes.

 

Here is a sample page.

 

sample page.jpg

 

Unlike in most western cookbooks, recipes are not listed by main ingredient. They are set out in six vaguely defined chapters. So, if you are looking for a duck dish, for example, you'll have to go through the whole contents list. I've never seen an index in any Chinese book on any subject. 

 

In order to demonstrate the breadth of recipes the book and perhaps to be of interest to forum members who want to know what is in a popular Chinese recipe book, I have sort of translated the contents list - 187 recipes.

 

This is always problematic. Very often Chinese dishes are very cryptically named. This list contains some literal translations. For some dishes I have totally ignored the given name and given a brief description instead. Any Chinese in the list refers to place names. Some dishes I have left with literal translations of their cryptic names, just for amusement value.

 

I am not happy with some of the "translations" and will work on improving them. I am also certain there are errors in there, too.

 

Back in 2008, the Chinese government issued a list of official dish translations for the Beijing Olympics. It is full of weird translations and total errors, too. Interestingly, few of the dishes in the book or on that list.

 

Anyway, for what it is worth, the book's content list is here (Word document) or here (PDF file). If anyone is interested in more information on a dish, please ask. For copyright reasons, I can't reproduce the dishes here exactly, but can certainly describe them.

 

Another problem is that many Chinese recipes are vague in the extreme. I'm not one to slavishly follow instructions, but saying "enough meat" in a recipe is not very helpful. This book gives details (by weight) for the main ingredients, but goes vague on most  condiments.

 

For example, the first dish (Dezhou Braised Chicken), calls for precisely 1500g of chicken, 50g dried mushroom, 20g sliced ginger and 10g of scallion. It then lists cassia bark, caoguo, unspecified herbs, Chinese cardamom, fennel seed, star anise, salt, sodium bicarbonate and cooking wine without suggesting any quantities. It then goes back to ask for 35g of maltose syrup, a soupçon of cloves, and "the correct quantity" of soy sauce.

 

Cooking instructions can be equally vague. "Cook until cooked".

 

A Bite of China - 舌尖上的中国- ISBN 978-7-5113-3940-9 

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Thanks very much for posting about this book. It sounds like a lot of fun, for someone who could read it. I'm enjoying going through your list of dish names. Some of them are interesting and amusing. What on earth could "Buddha Leaps the Wall" be? Or "General Crosses the Bridge"? "Train of Thought Tofu?" What would be the "Best Concubine's Chicken" or "Dragon's Well Shrimp"?

I look forward to reading more about this book. Any descriptions you might care to post of those interestingly-named dishes would be welcome.

"Cook until done", indeed. :-D


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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"Buddha jumps over the wall" I seem to recall was so named because the dish was so deliciously smelling and tasty in the eating that Buddha himself (the archetype of Buddhists, avowed vegetarian) (or at least Buddhist monks, generally speaking) was (were) enticed to jump over the monastery wall so he (they) could get at the dish and eat it.  :-)

 

"Dogs Refuse Them Buns" (狗不理包子) are those Tianjin pork buns popularized by that chain restaurant (e.g. this one, or this one, etc) named after the erstwhile fellow, yes?  Which have become tourist traps of sorts?


Edited by huiray (log)

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Some of them are interesting and amusing. What on earth could "Buddha Leaps the Wall" be? Or "General Crosses the Bridge"? "Train of Thought Tofu?" What would be the "Best Concubine's Chicken" or "Dragon's Well Shrimp"?

 

 

Dragon's Well Shrimp is a simple dish of shrimp stir fried with egg and Dragon's Well Tea Leaf. The tea is one of China's best known green teas and comes from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. 

 

General Crosses the Bridge is a dish of poached snakehead fish with Shanghai cabbage, bamboo shoot, shrimp, mushroom and sausage. I've forgotten the origin of the name. I'll get back to you on that one when I check the book.  I'm not at home right now.

 

The Train of Thought Tofu is a soup made from strips of braised tofu with shredded carrot, bamboo shoot, fresh shiitake mushrooms, laver and lean pork. Some recipes use chicken instead of the pork. The origin of the name is unclear. There is one story that the soup was invented in Yangzhou by a monk named Wen Si. The characters for the name are the same as the characters meaning ‘train of thought’.

 

Highest Ranking Concubine Chicken is chicken wings marinated in soy sauce, Chinese rice wine, sugar, salt and ginger, then fried or grilled. This is named after Yang Guifei (719-756), one of the four ancient Chinese beauties. She was indeed the highest ranking concubine to Emperor Xuanzong. The dish is said to be her favourite.

 

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"Dogs Refuse Them Buns" (狗不理包子) are those Tianjin pork buns popularized by that chain restaurant (e.g. this one, or this one, etc) named after the erstwhile fellow, yes? Which have become tourist traps of sorts?

 

The buns indeed originated in Tianjin, in 1858. The Goubuli brand is one of China's oldest brands.

 

I have no idea who 'the erstwhile fellow" is, but there are certainly many fakes around. 

 

The buns are a type of meat and vegetable baozi. The origin of the name is unclear and there are many competing versions, none of which are particularly convincing.

 

For the 2008 Beijing Olympics, some idiot in government decided to re-translate the Chinese to "Go Believe" (which very roughly sounds like the Chinese, but is utterly meaningless.). The suggestion met with derision and was dropped.

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General Crosses the Bridge. 

 

As mentioned above, the dish features snakehead fish. This is a particularly aggressive predatory fish. These qualities are seen admirable as they demonstrate braveness and heroism* - like that of a great military general. So the fish becomes the general.

 

The bridge refers elliptically to the Huai river which flows near Yangzhou where the dish originated. The whole fish on the plate resembles a bridge (I'm told) carrying the other ingredients (which are piled on top) from one side of the river to the other, possibly to escape to higher ground during one of the frequent floods.

 

I did warn you. Chinese dish names can be extremely fanciful.

 

* The fish is in fact a notorious invasive species causing great ecological damage in many places around the world. It is illegal to possess live snakehead fish in some US states.


Edited by liuzhou (log)

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Thank you for the descriptions!  I have heard of snakehead fish and their predatory behavior.  The other descriptions are also interesting.

 

As for the Highest Ranking Concubine Chicken:  those sound like ingredients as available as they are appealing to this particular westerner.  If you feel you can post proportions, I would be grateful; otherwise, I'll just mess around until I come up with a likely substitute and then rename it.  I promise not to shame you by association.   :laugh:

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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As for the Highest Ranking Concubine Chicken: those sound like ingredients as available as they are appealing to this particular westerner. If you feel you can post proportions, I would be grateful; otherwise, I'll just mess around until I come up with a likely substitute and then rename it. I promise not to shame you by association.  

 

The interweb is full of recipes. However, few of them are close to what is in the book. They seem to be adaptations which include things like red wine which wouldn't be traditionally Chinese. There also recipes which use whole chickens or chicken thighs. The original is definitely chicken wings. Also, many recipes instruct us to de-bone the wings. Chinese chefs would never do that, I'm sure. On the bone is much preferred.

 

This one is close to what the book has (apart from the deboning) and that they simmer the wings in the sauce rather than fry just them. But I'm sure the end result would be very similar. Anyway, it should give you a starting point.

Don't worry about shaming me. I've done that so much by myself, I have moved beyond shame and descended to ignomy. :wacko:

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This morning, I picked up another Bite of China book from the local bookstore. Again all in Chinese.

 

cover 2.jpg

 

This one isn't so glossily beautiful as the first, but is a huge tome running to over 600 pages. The first 313 contain a number of essays on Chinese food history and culture. The second half of the book is a collection of recipes. An astonishing (and ominous) 666 of them!

 

The pictures are a lot smaller, but the ingredients lists are more accurate (i.e. most recipes give quantities for main ingredients and flavourings), as are the instructions, so far as I can see from a quick look through.

 

sample pages 2.jpg

 

I will get around to translating the contents list eventually, but it may take a while. 

 

I hope both books are eventually officially translated.

 

A Bite of China - Chinese Choice Food Complete Canon (舌尖上的中国 - 中国美食全典) by Li Chunmei (李春梅 lǐ chūn méi) and Liu Jia (刘佳 liú jiā). ISBN 978-7-5113-3524-1

 

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The cover art on the new book is beautiful. Thank you for giving us a look into cookbooks many of us could otherwise not understand. Thanks also for the link to Concubine Chicken that's most like the original!


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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The dish names in the second book are generally more prosaic, and the recipes clearer.

 

I'm slowly working my way through it. I have decided to translate and post the contents list one chapter at a time. The book is huge.

 

Chapter 1 (of 9) can be found here (Word file) or here (PDF). 113 recipes.

 

As before, I've translated most of them literally, used explanations rather than translations where the name is highly cryptic, but left a few for amusement value. 


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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This is incredible and fascinating, thanks liuzhou - please keep it coming. Selected recipes adapted by yourself, if you're up for it, would be very welcome as well.

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This is incredible and fascinating, thanks liuzhou - please keep it coming. Selected recipes adapted by yourself, if you're up for it, would be very welcome as well.

 

Thank you, I wasn't sure if people would be interested.

 

I'll get round to a few "adapted" recipes in time. Please send any requests.

 

I still have 7 more chapters of contents to translate, so it might take a little while.

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800px-Tofu2.jpg

A selection of tofu products in my local market. This is only half the woman's stall.

 

 

Chapter 3 is called "The Art of Change" and is nearly all about tofu* or bean-curd and bean sprouts.

 

Contents Lists - 76 recipes

 

Word Document

 

PDF File

 

In Chinese, it is 豆腐 dòu fǔ (doe a deer, then foo as in fighters.) The word 'tofu' came via the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese.

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Chapter 4 is titled "Five Fragrant Cereals" This refers to rice, two kinds of millet, wheat and beans - China's staples.

 

In fact the chapter is dedicated to the everyday foods people eat mainly in simple fast food restaurants, works or school canteens etc. They are mostly not dishes which are often prepared at home.

 

Set dishes served with with rice, fried rice, noodles, rice porridge, pancakes, steamed buns, dumplings  and both sweet and savoury cakes.

 

The chapter also demonstrates the random order dishes are listed. We go past a section on rice porridges and you think you have seen them all, but then another pops up, for no apparent reason, in the middle of a steamed bun section.

 

Word Document

 

PDF File

 

81 recipes


Edited by liuzhou (log)

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I didn't realize how versatile tofu could be. Your photo really brings that point home. Thank you very much for these interesting posts!

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Does Chapter 2 address the preservation techniques in addition to dishes using them, or does it use the salted or otherwise cured food as a starting point?  Specifically, the 功夫黄瓜 "Konfgu" Cucumber /388 and 风味酱黄瓜 Special Sauce Cucumber /389: are those fairly basic dishes, like pickles, or do they start out with already-treated cucumbers?

 

Some of those titles make me want to go get some pork belly, NOW.


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I didn't realize how versatile tofu could be. Your photo really brings that point home. Thank you very much for these interesting posts!

 

There are literally dozens of types of tofu, if not more. I don't mean tofu dishes, just the ingredient. 

 

Glad you find it interesting.

 

There are many different types of tofu (the ingredient, as liuzhou explains) shown on eG in various posts on various threads too.  ;-)  Quite a number.  Don't forget, too, the "preserved tofu" variations. :-)

 

ETA: Smithy, have you ever had tofu as a dessert?  Like "tofu flowers" - 豆腐花 ?  It's QUITE scrumptious, especially when scooped from the wooden bucket from the street stall (for example) into a bowl, still slightly warm, and splashed with gula melaka or a suitable syrup and handed to you...


Edited by huiray (log)

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Does Chapter 2 address the preservation techniques in addition to dishes using them, or does it use the salted or otherwise cured food as a starting point? Specifically, the 功夫黄瓜 "Konfgu" Cucumber /388 and 风味酱黄瓜 Special Sauce Cucumber /389: are those fairly basic dishes, like pickles, or do they start out with already-treated cucumbers?

 

The chapter includes some dishes which are not pre-processed, but the majority are for things you would buy already preserved/cured.

 

The cucumbers are not-pretreated. They are both relatively simple dishes (Most Chinese dishes are - when they are not being extremely complicated!)

 

For Kongfu Cucumber the ingredients are one cucumber, Chinese chives, onion, red chili powder (pure chili pepper), sugar, salted shrimp paste, salt, green onion, garlic,

 

The cucumbers are cut into sections and salted for several hours. When the cucumber is adequately salted, the onions and garlic are chopped and mixed with hot water along with the chili pepper, sugar, and shrimp paste. This is then poured over the cucumbers. 

 

Sorry for the vagueness, but I'm paraphrasing and the recipe is vague to begin with. Welcome to the mysterious world of Chinese cookbooks.

 

For the Special Sauce Cucumber you need 350 grams cucumber, 3g salt, sesame oil, soy sauce, 

 

The cucumber is sliced thinly, briefly blanched in boiling water and drained. The salt, sesame oil and soy sauce are mixed and used to dress the cucumber slices.

 

Simple.

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The chapter includes some dishes which are not pre-processed, but the majority are for things you would buy already preserved/cured.

 

The cucumbers are not-pretreated. They are both relatively simple dishes (Most Chinese dishes are - when they are not being extremely complicated!)

 

For Kongfu Cucumber the ingredients are one cucumber, Chinese chives, onion, red chili powder (pure chili pepper), sugar, salted shrimp paste, salt, green onion, garlic,

 

The cucumbers are cut into sections and salted for several hours. When the cucumber is adequately salted, the onions and garlic are chopped and mixed with hot water along with the chili pepper, sugar, and shrimp paste. This is then poured over the cucumbers. 

 

Sorry for the vagueness, but I'm paraphrasing and the recipe is vague to begin with. Welcome to the mysterious world of Chinese cookbooks.

 

For the Special Sauce Cucumber you need 350 grams cucumber, 3g salt, sesame oil, soy sauce, 

 

The cucumber is sliced thinly, briefly blanched in boiling water and drained. The salt, sesame oil and soy sauce are mixed and used to dress the cucumber slices.

 

Simple.

 

Count me as another fan of this wonderful thread.

 

And I have a couple of cucumber questions.

 

Are they using any special sort of cucumber?  And, assuming they are not a variety of seedless cucumbers, are they most-often seeded? How about peeled?


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Are they using any special sort of cucumber? And, assuming they are not a variety of seedless cucumbers, are they most-often seeded? How about peeled?

 

Cucumber.jpg

 

They are what are regarded as regular cucumbers here and similar to those found in Europe. They are pictured above. (Being from the UK, I have no idea what an "English cucumber" is. Some American invention, I believe.  :smile:  )

 

They are not seedless. I've never seen seedless cucumbers here. 

 

The seeds are not removed (although you could if you wanted to) nor are they skinned.


Edited by liuzhou (log)

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Chapter 5 is "Five Flavours in Harmony"

 

The traditional five flavours in Chinese gastronomy are sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and salty. Balancing these is one of the arts a Chinese cook must master.

 

The chapter includes a lot of dishes you aren't likely to find on many Chinese restaurant menus in the west - unless they are on the fabled secret, Chinese only menus.

 

Offal haters beware.

 

108 recipes

 

Word Document

 

PDF File


Edited by liuzhou (log)

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Are they using any special sort of cucumber?

 

Further to your cucumber question, I picked one up on the way home last night. Here  it is split to let you see the seeds.

 

I don't know if it is the same or similar to what you have, but I doubt it seriously matters for the recipe.

 

Cucumber inside.jpg

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