Author Carolyn Phillips describes All Under Heaven: Recipes From the 35 Cuisines of China as a "comprehensive, contemporary portrait of China's culinary landscape." At over 400 pages and at least 10 pounds, it is hard to imagine what material Phillips may have left out, other than additional recipes. The book is divided into five geographical sections and one fundamentals section.
Each geographical section starts out with background narrative that gives readers a sense of the past and present food culture in the region. The recipes include detailed instructions as well as short vignettes that might include details about the specific recipe's history, cooking or serving suggestions, or personal facts about the author. There are also helpful instructions sprinkled throughout, such as the “Wrapping a Spring Roll” steps on page 169.
The fundamentals section covers a variety of topics as well as a glossary and buying guide, and suggested menus. One topic covered is basic recipes, which are as Phillips deems them, the “delectable foundation for many of the dishes” in the book. There is also a portion of the section devoted to a variety of techniques (from chopping hard vegetables to tossing ingredients in a wok), and the step-by-step instructions really help to take the guesswork out of possibly unfamiliar prep work and cooking steps.
As a devourer of cookbooks, it’s a little hard to be critical of something this informative and painstakingly put-together. However, it was a bit disappointing that there weren't any photos of the dishes in this book. The hand-drawn illustrations of ingredients, some of the dishes, and other select features were nice enough but not quite the same. It's understandable that, with a book of this size, photos would have added to the expense of producing the final product; however, a small selection for each region would have elevated this compilation.
In addition, some of the ingredients are not readily accessible at local grocery stores. To be able to make certain recipes, you will have to visit specialty Chinese groceries or order the ingredients online.
Overall, whether you know a lot or very little about the distinct cultural regions of China, you will certainly walk away with a better-rounded grasp of the cuisine after reading through and/or cooking through this cookbook. York County Library owns a copy of this work, and if you’re interested in any way about learning more about the food culture and cuisine of China’s distinct regions, this is definitely a title not to miss. Students studying the history and culture of China may benefit from this book just as much as cooking enthusiasts. To find out more about China's cuisine, visit our online catalog to find titles for all ages and interests.
FTC Disclaimer: As a librarian, our reviewer received a copy of this book from the Blogging for Books site in exchange for a fair and honest review.