A few years back I was browsing through the overstacked shelves of a used bookstore in the Montreal (somewhere around Ave. Mont-Royal). It was a quaint and messy place, and despite the sheer quantity of books in it, I could not find anything particularly interesting out of its mass of predominantly old French novels and yellowing art books. I was about to turn and leave, when unexpectedly from the corner of my eyes spotted a string Chinese characters.
Wedged unceremoniously between some gargantuan art books on Kandinsky was a soft cover copy of “The Cookbook on 100 Double-Steamed Foods” (燉品食譜100種). Although printed in 1978 half way around the world, it was in surprisingly good shape and its charming cover with 70s-era puke coloured food photos beckoned. I quickly flipped through this book and by page four I knew I had to buy it.
While many of the recipes are relatively common, then as now, some of them, especially those from its chapter on “Treasures from the mountain and flavours from the wild” (山珍野味) absolutely blew my mind. The recipes read like a veritable zoo: rabbit, dog, bear paw, deep penis, partridge, civet, pangolin, soft shell turtle…etc. I’ve always thought that most of these recipes were lost in history after the end of the Qing dynasty, but to be able to read about it in a book published so recently was very surprising, if not a bit shocking.
Given how incredible and research resource this is, I think I’m going to translate and post some of the recipes from the cook book. Just reading through the book now, I know it’s going to be very interesting.