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Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China    by Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid order for
Beyond the Great Wall
by Jeffrey Alford
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This magnificent coffee-table sized volume - Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid - is an unusual blend of cookbook and travel literature. In their Introduction, the authors - fellow travelers who met in Lhasa - tell us that three-fifths of modern China 'is historically the home of people who are not ethnically Chinese'.

The book focuses on these outlying regions, their people, their cultural survival, and their food, both through travel essays and magnificent photographs. After introducing Land, People and Food, the authors get into the meat of the matter - their recipes, interspersed with accounts of travels in these regions - presented in chronological order, to give a sense of the 'fast and furious' changes that 'have the potential to completely overwhelm local culture' - flip though the images and you can see that evolution through time. Recipes are presented under: Condiments, Soups, Salads, Mostly Vegetables, Noodles and Dumplings, Rice and Grains, Breads, Fish, Chicken and Eggs, Lamb and Beef, Pork, and Drinks and Sweet Treats.

The Condiments (chutneys, pastes, salsas and oils, often with chile or ginger) will spice up many a dish. The Tsampa Soup photo made me salivate. In Salads, I'll try Pressed Tofu with Scallions and Ginger. Several Vegetable options entice me, from tomato-eggplant Tibetan Ratatouille to Hui Vegetable Hot Pot and Silk Road Chickpea Carrot Fritters (yumm!) I loved food stand dumplings in China, and there are many recipes - including Steamed Tibetan Momos - here. There are instructions to make - and eat - Sticky Rice, and for a variety of Breads (flatbreads, yeast-based and crepes), many with savory fillings. There are just too many recipes to do justice to them here, but the Mongolian Hot Pot is a must, as is Lisu Spice-Rubbed Roast Pork (with grated nutmeg and pepper).

Ending on a sweet note, try Green Tea Shortbread with Poppy Seeds or Tibetan Rice Pudding. In their Afterword the authors encourage readers to travel beyond the Great Wall, to experience the 'extraordinary cultures' and 'dramatic landscapes' for themselves - and suggest different ways to do so, with itineraries. If you enjoy travel commentary with your cookbook, or descriptions of succulent meals in your travel literature, you will gobble up Beyond the Great Wall.

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