At the Chinese Table: A Memoir with Recipes

Carolyn Phillips. Norton, $27.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-324-00245-1
In this multifaceted memoir, food writer Phillips (All Under Heaven) vividly recounts her love affair with Chinese cuisine. In 1976, she arrived in Taipei as a student and made her “greatest culinary discovery that first year”: pork ribs “soaked in a spicy marinade... over equally buttery chunks of sweet potato.” She remained in Taiwan for several years after falling in love with her now-husband, J.H., a local who broadened her palette and inspired her to recreate some of his favorite traditional dishes, including pig’s head with stir-fried scapes. Phillips’s reflections are peppered with humor (“My Mandarin... must have sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard”), and she provides ample historical and cultural context, especially when discussing J.H.’s family history. As she remembers cooking alongside her Hakka father-in-law, she explains that the word Hakka is “used to label a people, heritage, and cuisine, rather than a particular locale.” Phillips pairs every chapter with a few recipes­—among them black sesame candy wafers (her father-in-law’s favorite), garlic chile sauce, and Yunnan cold rice noodles—that ambitious home chefs will want to try. The blend of cooking, culture, and romance make this an irresistible treat for food lovers and travelers. (June)
Reviewed on : 04/13/2021
Release date: 06/15/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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