Parents' Guide to

Chinese Menu: The History, Myths, and Legends Behind Your Favorite Foods

By JK Sooja, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 9+

Detailed, fascinating collection of Chinese food origins.

Book Grace Lin Folklore 2023
Chinese Menu: The History, Myths, and Legends Behind Your Favorite Foods book cover: Color pencil drawings of Chinese blue dragons, Chinese dishes, Chinese take-out boxes, and clouds on left and right flank Chinese American girl holding a bowl of steaming soup on red background

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This bold, colorful book is a detailed, fascinating, educational, and beautiful adventure through Chinese American food history. Wonderful traditional art, paintings, pictures of food, maps, and personal anecdotes accompany the stories and myths in Chinese Menu: The History, Myths, and Legends Behind Your Favorite Foods. Author Grace Lin (When the Sea Turned to Silver) provides the myths, histories, and stories behind culinary creations. Some are fantastical -- involving dragons, emperors, and spirits -- while others are historically based -- like whether a Japanese chef in San Francisco or a Chinese chef in Los Angeles first created the fortune cookie. Lin weaves in her own experiences growing up with Chinese American cuisine, adding a lovely autobiographical touch.

With a helpful bibliography for each entry, readers can dig deeper, look up dishes and foods specifically using the index, and flip through to different sections altogether for larger scale looks at "dessert" or "side orders." There are maps of the different regions of China, an overall timeline that covers the different historical periods and dynasties of China, and helpful guides about tea etiquette, how to use chopsticks properly (and what not to do with them, like drop them on the floor or stick them up in a bowl of rice), and why Chinese food doesn't naturally have a dessert course. Altogether, this is a robust and wonderful resource for any food lover, historian, or lover of Chinese mythology.

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