Since we're on the subject of recently published books, let me point out that "Urbanatomy: Shanghai 2008", a new guidebook to Shanghai was published on February 24th in Shanghai. It weighs in at 600 pages (the typical Shanghai guidebook runs less than 300 pages), but a couple of those pages, presenting an overview of Shanghai's small eats (xiao chi), will be dear to my heart because I was recruited to write them. I have yet to see the book (which can be ordered from Amazon but is not yet available here in the U.S.) so I don't know what edits may have been made, but you can read my deathless prose in the eatingchinese forums.
I just received "The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food" by Jennifer 8. Lee from Amazon.com. It won't even be officially published until March 3, but I ordered it the minute Amazon alerted me to its existence. I've yet to have time to do more than skim it, but it appears to be a great addition to the eatingchinese.org library, somewhere between the J.A.G. Roberts' scholarly "China to Chinatown: Chinese Food in the West" and John Krich's breezy "Won Ton Lust: Adventures in Search of the World's Best Chinese Restaurant".
Since I lifted the cover image, I'd better include a link to Amazon where you can order it. That links goes through Jennifer's website, so she gets an additonal commission if you order it there. Jennifer 8. Lee is a metro reporter for the New York Times, and yes, her middle name is really "8." Maybe her parents were inspired by George Constanza -- honk if you get the joke.
In all of the discussions I've seen, heard, and participated in about Chinese New Year dining traditions, I've never heard it suggested that eating the animal the upcoming year was named for would be an appropriate tribute to the new year. But why not devour the namesake creature of the spent year? I'll be doing just that come Tuesday night, in fact, because we are leaving the year of the pig behind.
The coming year is the year of the Rat and it occurred to me that I somehow have collected a photo essay on preparing and cooking rats (see above), and I recall a National Geographic photo of a deli in Guangzhou showing barbecued rats hanging alonside the ducks and and bbq pork. USDA Choice rat might be hard to come by in the US, but in New York, at least, one can score guinea pig (a rodent relative) at Ecuadorean delis, and there's probably some other edible rodent around that I'm not recalling at the moment.
Is it possible, I wonder, to eat one's way around the whole Chinese zodiac? Well, let's see. Starting withe easy stuff, we also have chicken (Rooster), which everone who is not a vegetarian has eaten. Almost as many people have eaten Ox (that's cow to you and me). Boar/pig? Starting with our breakfast bacon. Sheep is mighty tasty, especially on a skewer. That gets us to Horse, which is widely available in French Canada, even in tartare form, which I've had at a fast-food frites chain. (Disclaimer: I downed a coule of beers first.) Snake? I've had that, too, in Shanghai, in a soup. A little clam chowdery, it was. Dog? I've yet to have the opportunity, though many have eaten man's best friend. The eating of Monkey in China has been documented, though the horror stories about eating it raw from the freshly cracked scull of a live monkey have never been proven to be anything but urban myths. I have no idea what a Tiger steak would taste like, but I'm sure at least some part of a Tiger has been eaten in Asia, though I won't speculate publicly on which part.
After the above-mentioned Rat, that brings us to Dragon. Hmm, isn't that on the endangered species list?
Gary Soup is a blogger, tweeter and sometimes poster to foodie web sites, usually blathering about Chinese food. He is a retired transport planner with an abiding interest in all aspects of Asian and other ethnic foods and their place in the world. He has twice been married to Shanghainese women who happened to be good cooks and consequently is well-grounded in Shanghainese "jia chang" cuisine. He is based in San Francisco, but spends as much time as he can in Shanghai and New York and can sometimes be seen prowling the streets of Montreal. He is the author of two articles on food in the guidebook "Urbanatomy: Shanghai" and has been a guest blogger for the Asian Art Museum on the food of Shanghai. He currently maintains two Blogger blogs, and posts a lot to flickr. Some earlier online efforts of Mr. Soup drift about the World Wide Web as cyberspace junk.