- Marty L. Dec 29, 2004 09:14 AM
Over on the D.C. Board, in conjunction with the reappearance of sichuan peppercorns in our area, there are the usual raves for the Fuchsia Dunlop book. Can the many of you who love the book please advise on whether there particular recipes that are especially good and that are not extremely intimidating (i.e., that a sichuan novice could navigate without too much time or trouble)? Thanks in advance.
There are so many recipes that are delicious yet not daunting! I was a complete novice myself and found no problems with anything I've tried so far. The main thing is to get your hands on the basic ingredients (which for us in Seattle isn't hard).
One of the great things about the book is that it is easy to make things taste wonderful by making her sauce recipes, which use a combination of prepared ingredients (soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil, black vinegar, rice wine, etc). It makes you feel like a pro but it takes hardly any time or effort.
Our favourite sauces so far are the hot, garlicky sauce from the cold appetizer section (we use it in a wide variety of ways), and the chili oil sauce for the long dumplings (?)--i made the sauce but put it over cabbage stuffed with pork and cabbage.
Other good bets: The sweet and sour red peppers are simple and tasty. The dry-fried green beans are great, as is the stir-fried cabbage with black vinegar (this is the flavour that stands out to me). The hot and sour soup is also very good. She gives several variations for the recipes so you can use all sorts of different vegetables.
I could go on and on. I've used more recipes from this cookbook than almost any other I own and I'm still excited about trying more!
I don't find too many of her recipes daunting technique-wise, though they might a bit off-putting ingredient-wise. It is very helpful if you are not a Chinese speaker to bring the book with you to the best Asian grocery you can find when you go to buy the sauces that she uses, since you can easily get the wrong kind of hot sauce, soy sauce, etc if you go only by the English terminology she uses.
I should point out that I use the British edition of the book (which came out a good year or more before the US edition) and one issue that I sometimes come across is Britishisms that I practically need a dictionary to sort out. Nevertheless, none of the recipes has been anything less than good, and most have been excellent.
Oh, and a further note, if you are going to try to replicate these recipes I consider it ESSENTIAL that you use a gas stove rather than electric, and vastly superior if you use a good Chinese-made iron wok, rather than a steel one. I bought mine in SF some time ago and it really made a huge difference in the authenticity of my output. Good luck!