The inscrutable made easy

A unique recipe book for Oriental cuisine

Upon seeing Chinese Feasts And Festivals: A Cookbook, your first impression might be it does not really look like a cookbook at all. There are no glossy photos of tantalising dishes that look mouthwatering on pages. Some parts of the book even talk about cultural stuff. But after flipping through the pages, you may find that this 144-page volume is probably one of the interesting cookbooks you have ever read. First, instead of having actual photographs showing how each recipe would look like just as in most cooking bibles, all the visuals in this book are presented in the form of impressively delicate and colourful illustrations. Some instructions and ingredients are also accompanied by similar kinds of illustrations.

Chinese Feasts And Festivals: A Cookbook Recipes and illustrations by S.C. Moey 144pp 995 baht ISBN: 978-0-7946-0317-5 Available at Asia Books

Second, Chinese Feasts And Festivals: A Cookbook is not just a cookbook with numerous recipes. It also talks about Chinese history, culture and traditions. The book is divided into two parts, Chinese Feast and Chinese Festivals.

The first part is divided into six sub-sections namely poultry recipes, meat recipes, seafood recipes, vegetable recipes, rice, soups and noodles, and finally dessert recipes.

Forty recipes are offered here with all the needed ingredients as well as step-by-step instructions. Recipes include baked stuffed chicken wings, tea smoked duck, roast pork, spicy Sichuanese lamb, braised oysters with black sea moss, tossed greens in garlic flavoured sauce, shark's fin soup, sago pearls with honeydew melon and so forth.

But do not expect to see photos of the finished dishes here. The end result is open for your wild imagination.

The second part of the book features five Chinese festivals, namely the Dragon Boat Festival, the Hungry Ghost Festival, the Mooncake Festival, the Winter Solstice Festival and, of course, the Chinese New Year. Growing up in a family whose way of life is steeped in Chinese tradition and having been living in a community which takes great pride in the vibrant expression of Chinese culture, the author has assembled culinary facts and fancies and presented them in association with Chinese festivals.

The book talks about the origin of each festival as well as what people do and eat as part of the celebration. So apart from learning about food that Chinese people eat during festivals, we know why they do so as well.

The book ends with a section called Vital Ingredients in which some important ingredients such as bamboo shoots, black Chinese mushrooms, black sea moss, bok choy, Chinese cabbage and so forth are further explained in more details.

This book might make a nice gift for the upcoming Chinese New Year even for people who do not cook because after all, it is a book that offers not just culinary knowledge but also cultural insights on Chinese feasts and festivals.

Chinese New Year cakes.

How to unwrap a rice dumpling in bamboo leaves.

Braised duck with yellow bean paste.

A family gets together and prepares rice flour balls for the Winter Solstice Festival.

A communal party for the wandering hungry ghosts is a time for lavish offerings of food and entertainment.

Four Treasures in a clear sweet soup.

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