Most of us will have fond memories of having Friday night Chinese takeaways as children – luminescent pink sweet and sour pork, super crispy wontons and the ubiquitous lemon chicken. While this style still has its place as the occasional treat, The Dumpling Sisters invite us into their family to experience and learn some of the less westernised aspects of Chinese cooking.
I first came across The Dumpling Sisters while living in London. Jamie Oliver raved about them after they entered his FoodTube competition. They share the story of their upbringing in Christchurch and selling their traditional food every Saturday morning at the local Riccarton market, and the pivotal role that food and cooking has to their family.
Knowing that these are all recipes made by a regular Chinese family in a New Zealand kitchen makes them a whole lot more approachable to your average Kiwi cook. The book is laid out in several sections, from Yum Cha to Banquet. And my personal favourite – Chineasy. This particular chapter has super easy recipes that make one or two portions and all from ingredients likely to already be in your fridge and pantry. Likewise throughout the rest of the book, I was impressed at the number of recipes that didn’t have extensive ingredient lists of items that would languish in my refrigerator forever more!
The recipes follow very simple step by step instructions, and often come with a little back story about how the recipe came to be part of their family’s repertoire. Aside from the recipes themselves, there are several helpful sections to help gain a better understanding of Chinese cooking and eating – Know Your Mouth Feels was just fascinating and really cements the fact that cooking and eating is such an integral part of the Chinese cultural and family life. The girls also share some great tips they’ve learnt from their parents and that can be used in many of the recipes, such as marinating meat in baking soda. A wonderful picture glossary of ingredients is also included at the back of the book to make that visit to the Chinese supermarket a little less overwhelming.
The Dumpling Sisters have captured their personal style in this book, and it flows through into the easy to read recipes and the appetizing pictures. This book has something for everyone, whether you have 30 minutes to throw together a quick dinner after work, or you want to impress friends for Sunday Yum Cha. A delightful introduction to Chinese cooking and I hope we see more of the Dumpling Sisters in New Zealand soon.
Reviewed by Annette Franklin
The Dumpling Sisters Cookbook
by Amy and Julie Zhang
Published by Weidenfield & Nicolson