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Serve the People:
A Stir-Fried Journey Through China
By Jen Lin-Liu
ISBN: 0156033747
Publisher: Mariner
Publication date: May 22, 2009
Format: Paperback (Other formats: Hardcover)
List price: $13.95 
Type: Ethnic: Chinese; Journalism
Sample recipe: Real Sweet-and-Sour Pork (Gulao Rou)
Intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
Apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive coffee-table Biblical stature
Competition: outclassed follower in the pack strong challenger likely champ
Variety: too little too much unusual nice mix just right
# of recipes: <50 <100 <200 <300 ≥300
Practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% ≥80%
# of ingredients: ≤4 ≤7 ≤10 ≤12 >12
Ingredient hunt: 7-Eleven airfare required online pantry supermarket
Recipe complexity: too hard simple medium challenging professional
Instructions: inadequate verbose bare-bones full-figured educational
Time conscious: unconscious outright lies white lies realistic honorable
Cooking time: weekend project takes all day takes time ≥30 minutes <30 minutes
Added info: zip overwhelming scant balanced generous
Photos/drawings: none distracting decorative instructive glorious
Recipe results: ≤dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
Nutritional info: none overwhelming hit or miss adequate comprehensive
Format/Ease of Use
Layout: ugh cluttered fine considerate work of art
Legibility: unpleasant challenging tolerable clear brilliant
Production quality: cheesy unremarkable years of service gift quality stunning
Page numbers: non-existent hard-to-find spotty sufficient every page
Table of contents: AWOL frustrating passable useful excellent
Index quality: none tragic adequate good a treasure
Page flipping: upsetting tedious acceptable rare never
Writer: beginner food writer writing cook personality auteur
Cook: unknown self-taught chef teacher celebrity
Fulfills ambitions: falls short almost there satisfactory exceeds home run
Flavor delivered: sad inconsistent tasty delicious exceptional
Overall tone: sterile trying too hard straightforward best friend mom
Value: ouch! a little pricey worth splurging on the money a deal
Overall rating: skip it good very good excellent Ochef Top 100

Comments: Fresh out of journalism school, Chinese-American writer Jen Lin-Liu moves to China to learn about the country her grandparents fled half a century before. In the booming coastal cities and remote inland villages, she discovers a passion for China’s rich cuisine and embarks on a culinary journey to reconnect with her roots.

She attends an official (virtually hands-off) cooking school, initiates her own hands-on lessons with a woman who quickly becomes her mentor, works in a noodle stall in Beijing, works as an apprentice dumpling maker, and serves an internship in a fancy restaurant in Shanghai. She travels all over the country in search of regional specialties and samples all of the foods, including some many of us would not have the courage to eat.

Beyond the food (which is fascinating) the book gives continuous and varied glimpses into evolving Chinese society, which is at least as fascinating. Along the way, there are a couple dozen recipes, which are not all in the mainstream, but certainly are authentic. Access to an Asian market will be enormously helpful in preparing these recipes.


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