Chinese Food, Liu Junru, Cambridge University Press, £12.99
Do you know when to eat a mooncake? Dragon-whisker noodles? And that if you show up unexpectedly at the door of a Mongolian tent they will prepare a feast with a whole lamb to welcome you? As millions across the world recently welcomed the year of the Dragon, and China’s clout and soft power are reaching today far beyond the former Chinese empire, Liu Junru’s book is a mustread for anyone seeking to understand China and its culinary culture and traditions. On a first trip to China, the neophyte will quickly realize how food bears an importance out of the ordinary in Chinese people’s daily lives. In a country where the first question people ask each other when they meet is not “how are you?” but rather “have you had your meal already?” in-depth knowledge of China’s eating and drinking habits is mandatory for businessmen and travelers alike. Liu Junru’s book is a true gem; the author navigates comfortably through the vast array of Chinese culinary traditions; the author’s writing style is clear, concise and unassuming, in a leisurely way unveiling the secrets of Chinese cuisine, history and cooking techniques, the intricacies of table etiquette, and new trends in eating habits. Liu Junru explores the main eight Chinese culinary traditions and ventures to explain eating habits, taboos and cooking customs of Chinese national minorities. The reader quickly learns the basics in the fine art of mixing the “five flavors” and skillfully combining food colors to please the eye, and how to guarantee health benefits from the food we eat. Crisp and captivating, this book makes a comprehensive and pleasant read; the perfect travel companion on a long-haul, China-bound flight.