Cookbook review: ‘Dim Sum Field Guide’

Credit: Penguin Random House

Credit: Penguin Random House

Carolyn Phillips’ passion for Chinese cuisine stems from the eight years she lived in Taiwan, dining out and cooking in, using Chinese recipes her husband translated for her. Now Phillips, a self-taught cook, who writes the Madame Huang’s Kitchen blog, has two new books coming out from Ten Speed Press, “All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China” and a handy “Dim Sum Field Guide.”

We caught up with Phillips to ask about her in-depth study of China’s complex cuisine.

“The ‘Dim Sum Guide’ is a fun, fully illustrated guide to many of the savory and sweet snacks offered in Cantonese teahouses,” Phillips says. Each dim sum variety includes a hand-drawn cross-section view, complete with measurements and a key to ingredients inside.

For “All Under Heaven,” Phillips spent 10 years re-creating dishes she discovered while living in Taiwan. At the end of World War II, she says, the wealthy, the educated and people with means went to Taiwan and brought their cooks, who preserved China’s culinary traditions. When Phillips left Taiwan, she couldn’t find that food in mainland China or the United States. “I was stunned by this loss of knowledge,” she says, “and wanted to re-create it.”

The cookbook’s name, “All Under Heaven,” refers to the ancient Chinese idea that everything under heaven was China. “In Chinese, China means middle kingdom, the center of the world,” she says.

Phillips divides China into five main regions with 35 subregions. “These regional areas have common ingredients, climate, culture and language,” she says. The book includes more than 300 recipes from those 35 areas, from steamed rice and sesame noodles to Guangdong-style Steamed Fish — “super simple but absolutely delicious,” she says — and a Crispy Basil Omelet.

Here’s just a taste.



Serves 4

2 tablespoons toasted sesame or chile oil

2 tablespoons toasted sesame paste (recipe below)

2 tablespoons peanut butter

1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced

1 green onion, white and green parts minced separately

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

8 ounces dried wheat noodles

1. In a wok, mix sesame oil, sesame paste, peanut butter, garlic, minced white portion of the green onion whites, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Heat over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until sauce begins to simmer. Adjust seasoning to taste.

2. Bring a 2 quart saucepan filled with water to a boil, add wheat noodles and cook until al dente. Transfer noodles to wok; reserve pasta water. Toss noodle to coat with sauce, adding hot pasta water as needed to prevent clumping. Divide the noodles among the bowls, sprinkle with onion greens and serve.


Makes about 3/4 cup

1 cup toasted sesame seeds

5 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, divided

Sea salt, optional

Use a blender to puree the seeds and a few tablespoons oil, gradually adding more oil until you have a relatively smooth paste. Season with salt, if you wish. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.

— Adapted from Carolyn Phillips’ “All Under Heaven” (Ten Speed Press, $40, 524 pages)