Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China

Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China

by Jeffrey Alford, Naomi Duguid


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A bold and eye-opening new cookbook with magnificent photos and unforgettable stories.

In the West, when we think about food in China, what usually comes to mind are the signature dishes of Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai. But beyond the urbanized eastern third of China lie the high open spaces and sacred places of Tibet, the Silk Road oases of Xinjiang, the steppelands of Inner Mongolia, and the steeply terraced hills of Yunnan and Guizhou. The peoples who live in these regions are culturally distinct, with their own history and their own unique culinary traditions. In Beyond the Great Wall, the inimitable duo of Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid—who first met as young travelers in Tibet—bring home the enticing flavors of this other China.

For more than twenty-five years, both separately and together, Duguid and Alford have journeyed all over the outlying regions of China, sampling local home cooking and street food, making friends and taking lustrous photographs. Beyond the Great Wall shares the experience in a rich mosaic of recipes—from Central Asian cumin-scented kebabs and flatbreads to Tibetan stews and Mongolian hot pots—photos, and stories. A must-have for every food lover, and an inspiration for cooks and armchair travelers alike.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781579653019
Publisher: Artisan
Publication date: 05/01/2008
Pages: 376
Sales rank: 602,703
Product dimensions: 10.13(w) x 11.31(h) x 1.25(d)

About the Author

Jeffrey Alford is a writer and photographer based primarily in northeast Thailand and Cambodia. He plants and harvests rice each year; helps raise frogs and several varieties of fish; and happily struggles along in three languages: Central Thai, Lao Isaan, and Northern Khmer. His forthcoming book, to be published in 2014, is tentatively titled How Pea Cooks: Food and Life in a Thai-Khmer Village. His earlier books, all co-written with Naomi Duguid, are Flatbreads and Flavors;HomeBaking; Seductions of Rice; Hot Sour Salty Sweet; Mangoes and Curry Leaves; and Beyond the Great Wall. Jeffrey is currently developing a series of intensive culinary tours through northeastern Thailand and western Cambodia (the Angkor Wat area) under the name of Heritage Food Thailand.

Naomi Duguid is a writer, photographer, teacher, cook, and world traveler. Her most recent cookbook, Burma, brought news of a long-forgotten part of the world and was winner of the 2013 IACP Cookbook Award for Culinary Travel and the Taste Canada Food Writing Award. Her previous award-winning titles, co-authored with Jeffrey Alford, include Flatbreads & Flavors: A Baker’s Atlas, their first book, which won a James Beard Award for Cookbook of the Year; Seductions of Rice; Hot Sour Salty Sweet, also a James Beard Cookbook of the Year; Mangoes & Curry Leaves; and Beyond the Great Wall.

Duguid’s articles and photographs appear regularly in Lucky Peach, Food & Wine, and other publications. She is a frequent guest speaker and presenter at food conferences. She is the host of Toronto’s Food on Film series and has a strong online presence (Twitter and Facebook). Her stock photo agency, Asia Access, is based in Toronto, where she lives when she is not on the road.

Read an Excerpt

Dai Carrot Salad

There is so much good cooking in the small city of Jinghong in southern Yunnan province that it would take a long time to feel well acquainted with all that is there. Restaurant-hopping in the warm tropical evenings of Jinghong is lots of fun, but even better are the morning and afternoon markets, where there is an incredible variety of prepared foods to choose from. This carrot salad is one such dish: colourful and full of flavour.

1 pound large carrots
About 2 tablespoons Pickled Red Chiles (page 34) or store-bought pickled chiles, cut into 1/2-inch slices
3 scallions, smashed and sliced into 1/2-inch lengths
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons coriander leaves, coarsely chopped

Peel the carrots. Using a cleaver or chef's knife, slice them very thin (1/8 inch thick if possible) on a 45-degree angle. You should have 3 cups.

In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Toss in the carrot slices and stir to separate them. Cook just until slightly softened and no longer raw, about 3 minutes. Drain.

Transfer the carrots to a bowl and let cool slightly, then add the chiles and scallion ribbons and toss to mix.

Whisk together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Pour over the salad while the carrots are still warm. Stir or toss gently to distribute the dressing, then turn the salad out onto a serving plate or into a wide shallow bowl.

Serve the salad warm or room temperature. Just before serving, sprinkle on the salt and toss gently, then sprinkle on the coriander and tossagain.

Serves 4 as a salad or appetizer

Green Tea Shortbread with Poppy Seeds

Cookies of various kinds have long been available in China, and packages of cookies find their way to remote corners beyond the Great Wall. Our dear friend Dawn-the-baker, an intrepid cook and traveler, came across shortbread with poppy seeds when she was in Yunnan in the spring of 2000. We asked her to figure out a version of it for this chapter, and here it is, delectable and attractive shortbread, flavoured with ingredients local to southern Yunnan: poppy seeds and green tea.

The recipe calls for butter, but in Yunnan lard is the more available and local shortening; substitute lard for the butter if you wish. Use any green tea you like, and grind it to a powder in a food processor or spice grinder, or using a mortar and pestle. The tea gives the rich sweet shortbread an enticing bitter edge.

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, well softened and cut into small chunks
1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for topping
Generous 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon rice flour
2 tablespoons finely ground green tea (see headnote)
1/4 cup poppy seeds

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325° F.

Using a mixer on medium speed, cream the butter, the 1/2 cup sugar, and the salt until pale and fluffy. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the all-purpose flour, rice flour, tea, and poppy seeds. The dough should start to come together like moist pie pastry and form into clumps. Alternatively, if using a wooden spoon, cream the butter, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the flours, tea, and poppy seeds, beating well after each addition, until the dough is well blended and forming clumps.

Press the dough into a 9-inch square baking pan, removing any air pockets. Prick with a fork, pricking right through to the pan, making rows of marks spaced 1/2 inch apart. Then cut into fingers 1 1/2 inches by 1/2 inch or into 1-inch squares.

Bake until the edges of the shortbread pull away from the sides of the pan and the top is touched with brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

Cut the shortbread again while still in the pan. Sprinkle on the 2 tablespoons sugar, then carefully lift the shortbread out and place on a rack to cool.

Makes about 100 shortbread fingers or about 80 small squares

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"With enticing recipes, engaging stories, and magnificent photographs, Beyond the Great Wall gives us thrilling insight into the fascinating world of the outlying regions of China." - Claudia Roden, author of Arabesque

"This new book is wholly absorbing and wonderful to leaf through, but what brings me back again and again are the recipes, which so successfully marry the uncomplicated with the authentic." - John Thorne, author of Mouth Wide Open and Outlaw Cook

"This beautiful book - a labor of love by two knowledgeable and intrepid food pilgrims—gives a vivid, personable portrait of the cultures and flavors of the vast areas of China inhabited by non-Han minority peoples—Tibetans, Mongolians, and so on." - Robert Thurman, author of Jewel Tree of Tibet and President, Tibet House U.S.

Robert Thurman

"This beautiful book - a labor of love by two knowledgeable and intrepid food pilgrims—gives a vivid, personable portrait of the cultures and flavors of the vast areas of China inhabited by non-Han minority peoples—Tibetans, Mongolians, and so on." - Robert Thurman, author of Jewel Tree of Tibet and President, Tibet House U.S.

Customer Reviews

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Beyond the Great Wall: Recipes and Travels in the Other China 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
punxsygal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another wonderful cookbook/travel book. Beautiful pictures and great recipes.
jontseng on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Six parts cookbook, four parts political tract. The thesis is to highlight the diversity of non-Han Chinese culture through innumerable noodle recipes, and contrast that with the oppression and neglect it suffers. Good noodle recipes.
cardamomaddict on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beyond the Great Wall: recipes and travels in the other China by husband and wife team Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid¿s is one of those books that jumped my review queue. I try not to let that happen: my usual rule review them as they come in but every so often a book beckons to be let in a little early. And since the 2008 Olympic Games are in Beijing, I thought this was the perfect book for August.Alford and Duguid are travelers, cooks, photographers, and writers, and are fascinated in understanding and appreciating home cooking within their cultural context. They¿ve travelled throughout the world, but spend several months each year in Asia. Several of their previous titles are award-winners: Flatbreads and Flavors: A Baker's Atlas was named James Beard Cookbook of the Year and won the Julia Child First Book Award; Seductions of Rice was named Cuisine Canada's English Language Cookbook of the Year, and Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey through Southeast Asia was named James Beard Cookbook of the Year. They guest-teach and lecture about food traditions around the world.As the title suggests, the authors take readers and cooks beyond food fare commonly found in their typical local Chinese restaurants. You won¿t find mushu anything, nor will you find nuclear day-glow red sugary sauces clinging onto deep-fried globules of meat and fat. You will find introductions to the cultures and histories of the various peoples that make up modern China, including Dai, Miao, Taji, and Uighur. It¿s the authors¿ treatment and respect of these cultures, told in a mix of essay and reminiscence that drew me in and kept me reading.Like many of their other titles, Beyond the Great Wall is one of those utterly gorgeous works, filled with intimate and engaging pictures of various foods and the people who cook and eat them. Not all the photos are theirs¿studio photographs are credited to Richard Jung¿but the food photography is not cold and impersonal like so many food porn offerings tend to be. Images of tree ears, a kitchen kit, and deep fried whiting all look as if they were made and served in someone¿s home; the bowls and trays are worn and the light is generally warm. The people who appear are filled with character¿from Tibetan monks and nuns to a man happily slurping from his noodle bowl all illustrate snatched moments from places and lives many of us in the West may never encounter.The problem with an oversized book brimming with full-page images is that it¿s bound to be seen as the equivalent of the conventionally pretty blonde girl with the big doe eyes: not much use for anything but an aesthetic decoration. But guess what¿this pretty girl not only can hold a conversation but also probably write an anthropological dissertation on tribal nomads of the Gobi desert. In other words¿it¿s more than a functional cookbook because it gives the readers cultural and social information about the foods and people who cook them. There is a plethora of foods presented including condiments and seasonings, soups, salads, mostly vegetarian dishes, noodles and dumplings, breads, drinks and a number of different meats.What I really enjoyed was combining simple and tasty ingredients to make hearty and filling dishes. The recipes generally work well but I must say some of the instructions confused and frustrated me. I also noticed an oven temperature (385F) that didn¿t seem to follow standard Fahrenheit or Celsius scales.When choosing my four sample dishes, I looked for different cuisines to try as most of my Chinese-food eating have been labelled as Cantonese, Sichuan, Sinagapore or Canadian-Chinese. Two came from Tibet, while the others were Sichuan and Hui.Beef with Mushrooms and Cellophane Noodles (p 280) Comfort food. Plain and simple. This Tibetan dish of meat and mushrooms in a gingery broth is also known as ping sha (ping meaning cellophane noodles and sha meaning meat). It came together so easily and quickly¿I will probably continue to make variant
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Even since I read and used "Flatbreads and Flavors" I was hooked on these authors. The recipes are easy to follow, but more importantly they connect you with where the recipe came from and show you the people who have been cooking htis way for centuries. Their photographs connect you with other cultures and peoples, who are not really all that different from you and me. Same hopes, fears and day to day living. When I know another of their cookbooks is coming out I can't wait. They are rather "Coffee table" books and rather hard to sit in bed and read but worth every minute ;) .