Sugar Chicken

I’ve been wanting to say this for a while but things have been rather busy and it sorta slipped my mind.

If you look at the “Birds” Chapter you’ll see tonnes of Chicken recipes with a fair amount of sugar in them including at least 3 or 4 that actually tells you to top the finished chicken dish with a generous quantity of sugar or rock candy. It seems serving chicken with chunks of sugar, and to a lesser extent making chicken sweet, was a relatively normal thing to do in Chinese cuisine several centuries ago, and even continues today with dishes like soy sauce chicken or sanbeiji. Chinese food in North America has extended this even further such that sugar actually becomes the main seasoning instead of simply a highlight.

Which goes to show, Sugar Chicken is not just some passing joke in Rick and Morty.


That is all.

P.S. Here’s an AUTHENTIC sugar chicken recipe.


  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large spoons of water
  • 3 large spoons of whatever vinegar
  • 2 large spoons of whatever soy sauce
  • 4 large spoons of corn starch mixed with water
  • A bucket of fried chicken bits
  1. Mix sugar, water, vinegar, and soy sauce (add minced garlic for a dish that will surely impress the family connoisseur)
  2. Put oil in the pan and stir-fry sugar mix until all hot and molten.
  3. Add the corn starch mixture to the hot molten sugar and stir until thick, hot, and molten
  4. Throw fried chicken into thick hot molten sugar sauce and mix
  5. Serve SUGAR CHICKEN in a trough with rice

So… I’m Publishing a Book

To longtime readers of this blog, you will likely have noticed since last year the pace of translations here slowing to a crawl. Family and other real-life responsibilities aside, the posts have been this slow because I’ve been going forwards with completing the translation of the entire Suiyuan Shidan. Now it’s all finished up and I’m am publishing everything as a book.

That’s right, I have finished translating the entire 18th century Chinese gastronomic manual. All that’s left to do is go through the draft and pick out residual errors. Believe it or not, what started as a frazzle of text is now, amazingly, in publishable shape.

The fantastic book, which you will inexplicably wish to acquire in multitudes, is called “Recipes from the Garden of Contentment: Yuan Mei’s Manual of Gastronomy” and will be published by the Berkshire Publishing Group. On top of being completely reworked, error-checked, packed with improved footnotes, glossaries, and relevant biographies, I have completely re-transcribed the book’s Chinese text faithfully from the original 1792 edition of the Suiyuan Shidan and retranslated everything based on it. This is something I don’ think any publication had done in the longest while, Chinese or otherwise. So if you’re a Chinese cuisine purist nerd, this should float your boat.


Many thanks to Karen Christensen and Marjolijn Kaiser of Berkshire Publishing, who have guided this project through. It’s a lot to do: putting up with my blah writing, my slowness, and the unending stream of inane comments spouting from my cranium. The translation and notes were edited with help from two esteemed scholars: the author of the classic seminal work “The Food of China”, Prof. E. N. “Gene” Anderson, and serial star of multiple BBC Chinese history docs, Prof. Jeffrey Riegel. Needless to say, both of them have been tremendously helpful and provided much insight in the translation process. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with them, and even now I’m still glowing from getting their thumbs-up.

That’s all for now. The posts will continue, but there will be more news of the book to come!

P.S. All that said, the translations on this blog are already quite good, if I may say so myself, and I’ll continue posting all the chapters for everybody. But in all earnestness, the amount of effort put into refining and polishing the text made it truly shine. Think of it like this: While I do enjoy eating raw sauerkraut piled high on streetmeat like everyone else in this city, it is nothing compared to a expertly prepared plate of choucroute garnie at La Strasbourgeoise.

Anne Mendelson Cited Me

Just today I was reading my copy of Chow Chop Suey that I bought several weeks back at the AAS Conference. A third of the way through the book, Anne mentioned the Suiyuan Shidan.

When I turned to the Reference section at the back to see what sources she referenced, I saw it. There.  Right smack dab there among the hundreds of other cited works was my name and the URL of this site.


Yes, it’s just a tiny citation, and yes she also cited Gene Anderson and Beilei Pu, but just let me bask in the glory for a bit. When I started this project more than 3 years ago near the end of my Doctorate I didn’t think that anyone would read this, much less cite it. But since then a good stream of people interesting in the Suiyuan Shidan and its translation has come here and used it as a research resource. Then quite recently Gene Anderson told me that he thought my translation was quite good, and then now the Anne Mendelson cites it? I am elated.

It’s good to know that you’re not a complete phony.

Anyways, back to Chow Chop Suey. It’s superbly researched, it reads like a joy, and it’s arguably better than any book written on the subject for either lay or academic readers. If the history of Chinese cuisine in North America is your thing, then this is your book.

Actually, you know what? If you’re reading stuff from this site, you should probably be buying one for yourself anyways. And just for completeness, get a copy for everyone your family 🙂