Book Review: ‘Chinese Street Food’


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Author Frank Kasell traveled to 32 of China’s 33 provinces (Tibet was closed to foreigners during his research trip) in search of culinary treasures loved by the masses and the few. The book is broken into sections by province. Each item is written with its Chinese characters and Mandarin pinyin, accompanied by a photo. Kasell tries everything he can find and writes about it with honest descriptions and an open mind. Having spent a year in China’s Sichuan province, I scoured that section first and was happily reminded of snacks eaten street-side — some of the flavors and textures brought vividly back to my memory with Kasell’s accurate descriptions. Scanning through the rest of the book confirms China’s reputation for eating perhaps the widest variety of ingredients globally. Noodles, dumplings, stews, skewers, wraps, and fried dough are topped, filled, and cooked with a huge array of enticing spices and flavors. Some items require an extra adventurous spirit, however — deep-fried silkworm pupae, starfish legs, fermented camel’s milk, sheep’s hooves, donkey meat sandwiches, and eggs cooked in the urine of 10-year-old boys (thought to prevent joint pain). Whatever your food adventure level, this book is sure to stretch it in delicious and (likely) daunting directions.

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