Book Review: All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China, by Carolyn Phillips

All Under HeavenAll Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China by Carolyn Phillips is the most comprehensive cookbook of Chinese cuisine I’ve ever seen, and I’ve looked through many in both the US and China. There are certainly others that go into greater detail on a specific type of cuisine (e.g., I have one just for dumplings), but this is the first that covers such a broad range of local cuisines with such depth and intentionality. If you only have one Chinese cookbook, this is indeed the one to have.

Phillips divides the cuisines into five regions with several subcategories:

  1. The North & Manchurian Northeast
    1. Shandong
    2. Beijing
    3. Tianjin
    4. Hebei
    5. The Northeast
  2. The Yangtze River & Its Environs
    1. Huai Yang
    2. Jiangsu
    3. Shangjai
    4. Zhejiang
    5. Northern Fujian
    6. Anhui
    7. Henan
    8. Jiangxi
  3. The Coastal Southeast
    1. The Kakka
    2. Chaozhou
    3. Southern Fujian
    4. Taiwan
    5. Taiwan’s Military Families
    6. Hainan
    7. Guangdon and Southern Guangxi
    8. Pearl River Delta
    9. Macau
    10. Hong Kong
  4. The Central Highlands
    1. Sichuan
    2. Hunan
    3. Yunnan
    4. Guizhou
    5. Northern Guangxi
  5. The Arid Lands
    1. Shaanxi
    2. Shanxi
    3. Gansu
    4. The Northwest
    5. Inner Mongolia
    6. Tibet

Each section begins with a couple pages about the region and a short paragraph or two on each subcategory, followed by a plethora of recipes organized by appetizers & small plates, soups, entrées, side dishes, starches & street food, sweets, and beverages. Therefore, the recipes are not organized according to subcategories, though each recipe is labeled accordingly. Over 300 recipes are provided, and I can personally vouch for the authenticity of many. This is a rather large tome (514 pages and 8.3 x 1.9 x 10.2 inches!), and there are, of course, decisions to be made as to the inclusion and exclusion of certain regional dishes. Given the wide variety found herein, including both simple and complex, as well as the aforementioned street food, it is obvious that this is not merely a set of recipes of fine Chinese restaurants. So, I am not quite sure why Phillips would leave out something as nationally recognized as Yangzhou fried rice or the Tibetan dietary staple of barley with yak milk, but the recipes that are provided are indeed authentic to their regions. Perhaps “fried rice is fried rice is fried rice” to some, so a simpler recipe found in the book would perceivably suffice, and it is not likely that many will find yak milk at their local grocers nor online; thus the recipes may have been chosen based on both authenticity and accessibility, for which I have no complaints. Again, it is a treasure as is!

The last 120 pages (The Fundamentals) include basic recipes and techniques for things found throughout the book, especially for those who wish to make rather than purchase certain ingredients and/or specific preparations thereof. A glossary and buying guide is organized alphabetically according it English name or transliteration with both their Chinese character and pinyin translations—both helpful and important when shopping in ethnic stores, as one should! Finally, included are recommended menus for each region according to mealtime and number of people served.

The book itself is beautifully and simply designed with black and red text (very Chinese) and hand-sketched pictures indicative of traditional art and cookbooks—none of the gorgeous photography of cookbooks I normally review, but beautiful all the same. Those who can read Chinese may find an intentional comedic moment or two therein.

I highly recommend this book to those looking for a wide variety of China’s distinct and authentic cuisines, as well as those who only eat at Chinese-American fast food restaurants and don’t know what they’re missing by buying cookbooks that cater to those tastes! I imagine this will quickly become a staple work in culinary endeavors.


*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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