This is one of the best food books I have ever read--authoritative and densely packed with facts, but extremely readable and delightful. It is more of a food ethnography of Taiwan than a food history of Taipei, but all the better for that. One very good detail is that the linguistic transcriptions are excellent and sophisticated, not only from Mandarin (in standard Pinyin) but also from Hokkien, the usual spoken language of Taiwan. Hokkien is a most unappreciated language--beautiful, flexible, adaptable, creative, with an incredible oral literature, and I am glad to see it get some love for once (it is slowly dying out as China pushes Mandarin on everybody). There are also some words from Hakka and Cantonese, and from Austronesian languages. This book is a linguists' and ethnobiologists' delight.
Particularly unique and interesting is the material on the Austronesian-speaking Aboriginal peoples of Taiwan, a diverse and fascinating group almost unknown in the English-language literature. They have a range of unique crops, including a species of quinoa, independently domesticated from the South American one--a striking case of parallelism. They also eat wild boars and various wild leaves. This book brings back memories of Taiwan 50 years ago. The best mapo toufu I ever had was in a tiny, rough shack, with an old Sichuanese (presumably ex-soldier) cooking; the dish was about equal parts bean curd, minced (not ground) pork, chiles, garlic, and hot bean paste, with plenty of Sichuan brown pepper. Taipei street food used to be wonderful--mostly fairly simple, but good. I got yelled at by one Mainlander vender for making the mistake of addressing him in Taiwanese (Hokkien).
A tiny problem is occasional careless translation. Water spinach is translated two different ways on p. 102, and "mei" (East Asian apricot) is mistranslated "plum" on p. 105. Otherwise, this is an exceptionally carefully done book, in marked contrast to too many books on Chinese food.
If you are at all interested in Asian food, you need this book.
- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield (8 October 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1538101378
- ISBN-13: 978-1538101377
- Product Dimensions:: 16 x 2 x 25 cm
- Shipping Weight: 476 g
- Customer reviews: 2 customer ratings