Cooking like the Chinese can be extremely rewarding, fast and easy on the pocket; even if only a couple of times a week! Armed with a cleaver, a chopping block and a wok you are ready to go. But where do you learn to cook Chinese food in Dalian? Unfortunately there are no schools or catering colleges for foreigners.

This is where getting your hands on a few good Chinese cookbooks comes in handy, but with over 2,400 on Amazon which ones are good?

Food writer Ken Hom’s books are a wonderful introduction to Chinese food, the recipes veer slightly towards restaurant food, but his step-by-step pictures compensate.

Yan-kit So’s “Classic Chinese Cookbook” is timeless with great photography and both sophisticated and simple recipes. This book introduced Chinese food as haute cuisine to the West. Use it to impress your friends.

If you are a visual person with an interest in food history the tv series “A Bite of China” on CCTV is simply breathtaking.

My most used Chinese cookbook “Chinese Cooking Made Easy” by Shyh-Pwu Tien, was given to me by a friend from Singapore. It was written for Taiwanese and Chinese students struggling to cook Chinese food in the US in the late 90’s. This book has made many a trip to Chinese grocery stores. There is nothing in this book that you can’t cook.

But if I had to choose only one book it would be Fuschia Dunlop’s “Every Grain of Rice”. She has previously written well-researched books on Hunanese and Sichuanese cuisine and is probably the West’s foremost expert on Chinese food. She really shines in her latest book, which fills a gap on the shelves of Chinese cookbooks by dealing exclusively with home-cooked food (like scrambled eggs with tomatoes). The recipes are easy, well written and her sections on ingredients are instructive and inspiring.

Smoked Tofu

This recipe is inspired by her book.

Smoked tofu, red pepper and crunchy soybean stir-fry

  • 3 tbsp of peanut oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • a dash of soy sauce
  • 1 red or green peppers, sliced
  • 1 bunch of Chinese chives, trimmed and cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 packet of smoked tofu, sliced
  • ¼ tsp five spice powder
  • 1 handful of toasted soybeans

Add the oil to the wok and heat. Add the garlic, stir-fry briefly and add the soy sauce. Add the peppers and chives and stir-fry. Add the tofu and five spice powder. Serve in a bowl and sprinkle toasted soybeans.