Culinaria China: A Celebration of Food and Tradition, written by Katrin Schlotter and Elke Spielmanns-Rome, features the vast regional cuisine of China with a collection spanning over 379 pages. Well-known favorites such as Hot and Sour Soup, Red-Cooked Pork Belly, and Sweet and Sour Pork sit alongside more unique offerings like Huangshan Snails, Roast Pigeons, and Dunhuang-Style Kebab with Flat Bread. I will also be sharing a recipe for Coconut Pudding following the review.
Disclosure: I received this book from H. F. Ullmann Publishing in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Looking for more in the Culinaria series:
Find my reviews here:
- Pumpkin Tarts and Culinaria Greece
- Túrós Pogácsa (Hungarian Quark Pogácsa) and Culinaria Hungary
- Rieslingsabayon (German Riesling Zabaglione) and Culinaria Germany
- Sorbete de la Rioja (Rioja Wine Sorbet) and Culinaria Spain
- Pistou (Provençal Basil Paste) and Culinaria France
- Strascinati con la Mollica (Italian Pasta with Breadcrumbs) and Culinaria Italy
Along with recipes, Culinaria China covers the historical and religious influences behind the food. China is home to one of the most varied cuisines on the planet with an area covering four climates and 3.6 million square miles. Each chapter begins with an introduction of the region and how they differentiate from one another, from the hearty wheat-based dishes of the north to the spicy in the west, and everything in between.
The chapters are divided based on region: Beijing, Shandong, Jiangsu, Shanghai, Anhui, Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong, Hong Kong, Macau, Yunnan, Hunan, Sichuan, Gansu, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and Heilongjiang.
There are also features that take a closer look at specialties such as dumplings, Chinese vegetables, rice vinegar, mushrooms, dim sum, exotic fruit, spices, varieties of cabbage, and more. Cultural traditions and customs are included with sections covering landmarks like The Great Wall, the everday lives of people including a Shanghai worker, festivals and weddings, religions, revolutions, and even drinking games.
The gorgeous photography is provided by Gregor M. Schmid and Lisa Franz. There are hundreds of photos of Chinese scenery, people, and so much more in a variety of sizes. Many of the recipes include an accompanying photo, generally the finished product. Step-by-step photos are also provided for some cooking methods, such as mixed pickles and how to make your own wheat noodles.
Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric. The name of the dish is generally written in English and occasionally in Pinyin (Chinese names converted into the Latin alphabet). I do wish that the original name of the recipe had been provided for more of the dishes. The user-friendly index is organized based on recipe and subject. As a note, some sections have particularly small font.
Macau is much more dessert-oriented compared to the rest of the country. In this region, you will find a variety of cookies, cakes, pastries, and this Coconut Pudding.
The rich, eggy Coconut Pudding is fairly simple to make. The milk and coconut milk base is sweetened with sugar and lightly flavored with lemon peel. Cornmeal and egg yolks are whisked in over low heat until thickened. It can be served at room temperature or covered and refrigerated overnight.
I also made Beef with Leeks, Sweet Steamed Corn Bread, Soybean Sprout Salad, and Pineapple Rice.
Beef with Leeks from Beijing is just that. Cubes of beef are lightly marinated with salt, vinegar, sesame, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, chili, and rice wine. It is stir-fried with shiitake mushrooms and leeks. This was a simple dish perfect for a weeknight meal.
The Sweet Steamed Corn Bread is also from Beijing. This yeast bread has a flour and cornmeal base, but is steamed instead of being placed in the oven. It reminded me of the small sweet yeast rolls popular during the holidays, but simpler with less of a rise time. I am definitely gaining an appreciation for steamed baked goods.
Sichuan Soybean Sprout Salad is a light vegetable salad with soybean sprouts and thinly sliced red bell peppers. They are seasoned with sesame oil, rice vinegar, chili oil, garlic, soy sauce, a little sugar, scallion, and sesame seeds. The salad came together quickly for an easy appetizer or side dish.
Pineapple Rice from Zhejiang is a popular dish during weddings. Soaked rice is mixed with raisins, pieces of pineapple, and a little sugar. It is then transferred to a hollowed-out pineapple and steamed until tender. It is topped with ground almonds. The pineapple adds a stunning presentation for this side.
Culinaria China has a little something for all tastes, from the famously spicy foods of Sichuan and Hunan to vegetarian specialties, dumplings, meats, noodles, and sweets. It is definitely a great choice for those wanting to learn more about the cuisine and its background. Dishes range from the incredibly simple, easy recipes to the more complex dumplings, wraps, and warming soups with homemade noodles.
Having access to a market with Chinese ingredients will be helpful in preparing many of the recipes. Some items that may be more difficult to find include Shaoxing rice wine, lotus seeds, fermented soybeans, hot chili bean paste and other condiments, cellophane noodles, bamboo shoots and other produce, Sichuan pepper, and sea cucumber.
Coconut Pudding Recipe
Adapted from Culinaria China
- 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) milk
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- Large piece unwaxed lemon peel
- 2 tablespoons cornmeal
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) coconut milk
- 4 egg yolks lightly beaten
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the milk and sugar over medium heat. Add the lemon peel and slowly bring to a boil, stirring often. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Discard the lemon peel.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the cornmeal and coconut milk. Beat in the egg yolks until frothy.
- Place the saucepan back over low heat. While continuously whisking, slowly pour the coconut milk egg mixture into the saucepan. Stir constantly until the mixture has thickened.
- Pour into four small bowls and allow to cool to room temperature before serving.