Esteemed chef, writer and photographer Leanne Kitchen teams up with chef, digital media specialist Antony Suvalko to create the ultimate guide to authentic Chinese cooking. Featuring more than 200 recipes and stretching across China’s eight culinary styles – Shandong, Sichuan, Guangdong (Cantonese), Fujian, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Hunan and Anhui – the book is a treasure trove of stir-fries, clever tofu dishes, meaty braises and left-of-centre salads. There are plenty of seafood recipes too, such as simple steamed oysters or prawns with a hot-sour dressing, alongside soups, snacks and roasts.
While neither author is Chinese-born – Kitchen has traversed the country since 1996, and Suvalko developed his fascination on a prophetic business trip – the pair share a palpable passion for both the food, and the gusto with which it’s prepared and consumed. As noted in the book’s introduction: “Whether dining takes place on the street, in restaurants or in the home, there’s a joy and exuberance around the act of eating that is infectious”.
Far from the Anglicised Cantonese classics many of us grew up with, the book features fresh, fragrant finds, including grilled spatchcock and mint salad, or hand-cut noodles dressed with vinegar and chilli oil. Keeping with Chinese custom, many of these dishes are meant to be shared. Others, like Shanghai fried noodles, however, make ideal stand-alone dinners.
As its name suggests, this tome takes you to the heart of the Chinese kitchen. Sure, pig’s ears and jellyfish pop into the equation, but for the most part, the ingredients are very accessible, the recipes quick and easy to follow, and the flavours harmoniously vibrant.
Transport yourself to the streets of Beijing with the scent of cumin-crusted, stir-fried lamb. Cooked with leeks and coriander, this is one for the weekend, as you’ll need to marinate the meat for two hours before cooking.
Most surprising dish
Dessert isn’t customary in Chinese cuisine, so Kitchen and Suvalko collected a spread of sweet snacks – including fritters, puddings, dumplings and cakes – that make for enticing afters. One fascinating recipe is watermelon in rosewater sauce with peanut ice-cream. Made from roasted nuts, plus the jarred butter variety, the ice-cream recipe is bang on trend with today’s PB craze.
“There’s a saying that the Chinese people ‘regard food as their heaven’. If you take that to mean, as we do, that they adore good food and that the preparing, cooking and enjoying of it are vitally important in their daily lives, you’ll start to build a picture.”
Those wanting to explore the gustatory gamut of regional Chinese cuisine, or relive memories of travelling the large, varied nation.
Cook the book
Images and recipes extracted from The Real Food of China by Leanne Kitchen & Antony Suvalko, published by Hardie Grant Books (RRP $69.95). Available in stores nationally and at the SBS Shop.