Book Review by Vivian, a Thinking in English Listener!

Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuchsia Dunlop 

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Although Fuchsia Dunlop originally wrote Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper in English, I read it in Chinese. Several times I found myself laughing in tears. As an excellent observer as well as a serious researcher, Dunlop was more than capable of explaining things in great detail by revealing fun historical facts that many Chinese people don’t even know. It certainly offered the readers a deeper look into the culture behind the cuisine.

A bonus part of the book is that, at the end of every chapter, there is a fantastic recipe. Reading this book is like having a fun adventure. I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.

I was impressed by her command of the Sichuanese dialect, which is as perfect as a local. In order to take Chinese cooking classes, she learnt how to write Chinese. In fact, I think she knows more Chinese characters than I do!

Some of the words involved in cooking are so complicated that you can’t possibly learn to write at the first attempt. For example, to write “biang” (look at the picture below), people have to think of a tongue twister to help memorize it.

The Chinese Character "Biang"
The Chinese Character “Biang”

She also appeared in episode 3 of Once Upon a Bite, a documentary about culinary arts, introducing Sichuan cuisine. The director of the documentary commented that Fuxia (her Chinese name) is perhaps the only westerner he knows of who understands Chinese cooking. Besides that, she is a very charismatic person who has published other four books too!

If you’d like to read Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper by Fuchsia Dunlop, the Amazon links are on this page! And if you’d like to practice writing and review a book for Thinking in English, send me an email through the contact page (I will correct grammar for free)!


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Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper
Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper

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By Tom Wilkinson

Host and founder of Thinking in English, Tom is committed to providing quality and interesting content to all English learners. Previously a research student at a top Japanese university and with a background in English teaching, political research, and Asian languages, Tom is now working fulltime on bettering Thinking in English!

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