A Taste of China is one of Ken Hom’s first books and probably one of the best. It’s now back in print and I would urge anyone who has an interest in China and its food to buy a copy.
This is described as the definitive guide to regional cooking and it is indeed that, but it’s also a very personal and charming journey. Ken visits his family and an ancestral shrine with his mother for the first time, and finds that he is very much at home. It’s Ken’s relationship with the Chinese people that has allowed him to write this unique book.
Ken Hom was one of the first and is still one of the most respected Chinese food writers and was the first to make Chinese food truly accessible to the British home cook. His quiet reserve and his evident passion endeared him to millions. This book reflects just that same passion and pride.
Some of the dishes will be quite familiar to lovers of Chinese food and they are classics. Ken has included a number of family recipes and that adds so much to the quality of this volume. Every single recipe has a history or anecdote to give some background to the dish and to fire the imagination. This is a book to read before you even consider putting a hand on a wok, and could almost be part of an autobiography.
There is not much here for which you would need a trip to Chinatown. All the ingredients are now quite common in any average UK high street with an Asian supermarket. It’s the combinations of flavours that make these dishes something special. There is nothing taxing about the cooking methods but all these recipes are authentic, diverse and delicious. There are examples of street food, health-reviving recipes, restaurant dishes, and city and country cooking.
One of my favourite dishes for a quick meal is Dan Dan Mian (Spicy Sichuan Noodles). It’s flavourful, fragrant and if you try it once I promise you will make it often. It represents a typical spicy dish of the region of Sichuan but it’s also typical of Ken’s recipes, being simple to make but giving delicious results.
This is one of those “must have” cookbooks. It has already stood the test of time and seems as fresh and absorbing as it did when first published. It’s a fascinating story of a chef’s homecoming and a wonderful introduction to the rich tapestry of Chinese food.
A Taste of China
Author: Ken Hom
Published by: Pavilion Books
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018