Well, here I am flying in for Cook the Books Club at the very last second! I’ve had the book read for ages, but just didn’t have the time or motivation to make a recipe.
Why was I so unmotivated?
Well, you can read my GoodReads review of Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuchsia Dunlop (also if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – anytime a title is *that* long, the book is certain to be pretentious)
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This was ok for a memoir I enjoyed learning about Chinese culture and how very different not only the food but also the people and culture are in different regions.
At times, the book was overly self-congratulatory. At other times, the foods describes were gag-worthy and I thought I'd scream if I read the words "offal" and "stench" and "tang of urine" describing foods anymore.
Ok, I just changed my rating from a 3 to a 2 - ick.
By the end, I was skimming to get through it. The book should have ended 4 chapters earlier. The book became depressing and boring as the author felt the need to wax on about endangered species, pollution, and climate change. While all of these topics are real issues in modern day China, the way in which they were presented was pretentious and boring.
The final chapter tried to lighten the mood but only mildly succeeded.
And the epilogue went right back to self-congratulatory pretentiousness.
Is this worth reading?
Sure, but I skip around to the good parts
View all my reviews
I wasn’t making offal (*hurk*) or pretty much any of the recipes included in the text – they were either vile or included such difficult to obtain ingredients (remember I’m in the sparsely populated great plains region) that I couldn’t do it.
I thought of just making a stir fry. But since all of my stir fries are basically the same teriyaki-ish base it felt like a cop out.
However, I kept going back to the end of the book – the depressing bit. After becoming disenchanted with China, Dunlop goes to the Xinjiang region and is revitalized. I was surprised to see Nan listed as a very popular bread in this area. I had to look at a map to see exactly the blending of cultures that must have brought nan to China – and ultimately that it what I decided to make.
The nan was a hit with the family (even though both boys said, “What kind of pizza is that?” Haha!)
I may have rolled by nan a bit thin (or over baked it), as it ended up almost like a lavosh (though lavosh is not typically a yeast bread).
In the end, I can’t be too terribly frustrated with the book, since I was inspired to try this recipe (and I am sure to make it again – the onion topping was amazing!)
Plus, there’s always looking forward to the next book!
Uyghur Nan Bread
Adapted from Edibly Asian Recipes
1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1 ¼ cups warm water (about 115 degrees F)
Pinch of sugar
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons yellow onion, minced
Place the water, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Allow to set until foamy, 3-5 minutes.
Add the salt and flour and mix on low until the dough comes together, switching to the dough hook as it becomes necessary. Continue kneading with the dough hook for another 5 minutes or so, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Place in a warm area to rest for 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Place a pizza stone into the oven to preheat.
Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll the dough into 10-inch rounds. Use a small biscuit cutter and/or a fork to create a design on the dough, leaving a ½-inch edge.
Brush the dough lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with onions.
Use a pizza peel to slide the dough onto the pizza stone. Bake for 10 minutes or until browned. Remove from oven and serve warm.