Friday, July 18, 2008

Serving the (Chinese food obsessed) people

This book caught my eye yesterday (and how could it not?) and I knew it had to be in my library. I know of no other "insider" look at Chinese restaurants in China (unless you count Nicole Mones' novel, The Last Chinese Chef). At first look, it appears to be a Chinese Kitchen Confidential without the posturing or braggadocio. Jen Lin-Liu is a prolific young Beijing-based free-lance journalist and food writer (Time Out Beijing, Frommers', Zagat, etc.) and also happens to be an aspiring cook.

Here's a description of Serve the People from the book's official blurb:

"As a freelance journalist and food writer living in Beijing, Jen Lin-Liu already had a ringside seat for China’s exploding food scene. When she decided to enroll in a local cooking school – held in an unheated classroom with nary a measuring cup in sight – she jumped into the ring herself. In Serve the People, Lin-Liu gives a memorable and mouthwatering cook’s tour of today’s China as she progresses from cooking student to noodle-stall and dumpling-house apprentice to intern at a chic Shanghai restaurant. The characters she meets along the way include poor young men and women streaming in from the countryside in search of a “rice bowl” (living wage), a burgeoning urban middle class hungry for luxury after decades of turmoil and privation, and the mentors who take her in hand in the kitchen and beyond."

The "chic Shanghai restaurant" referred to is Jereme Leung's Whampoa Club, where Jen spent much of her time wrapping xiaolong bao. Remind me to invite her to my home!