Chop Fry Watch Learn by Michelle T. King

May 2024

Take a culinary tour of Asia with these 4 books

With both sweeping and granular detail, three cookbooks and one memoir offer a scrumptious sampling of Asian cuisine.

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Michelle T. King’s relationship with Fu Pei-mei began in childhood, with the constant presence of Pei Mei’s Chinese Cook Book in her parents’ kitchen. She did not realize the extent of Fu’s impact or fame as the host of a beloved, long-running cooking show in Taiwan until years later. In Chop Fry Watch Learn: Fu Pei-mei and the Making of Modern Chinese Food, this personal connection with Fu allows King, a “Chinese American by way of Taiwan” (how King depicts the complexity of her cultural identity), to illuminate the often misunderstood nuances within the relationship between food and “a people like China’s—riven by decades of war, dislocation, upheaval, and migration.” As King states, food is not simply a comforting taste of home, but “a fickle mistress: a poor approximation of a beloved dish may simply remind you of everything you have lost.”

King weaves history lessons, personal anecdotes and firsthand interviews into the thoroughly researched Chop Fry Watch Learn in order to paint the extent of Fu’s legacy. It’s a tremendous undertaking, which King tackles head-on as she cycles through a vast number of subjects, ranging from historical Chinese attitudes towards food and the women cooking, to the complicated relationship between Taiwan and China throughout the 20th century, to the muddiness of diaspora identity, to broader ideas surrounding domestic labor, feminism and globalization. King argues that food binds it all together, and readers are sure to find her diligent biography compelling.

Michelle T. King’s Chop Fry Watch Learn is an engrossing biography of famed cookbook author Fu Pei-mei.
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“You are about to read the story of a culinary revolution,” Koreaworld: A Cookbook proclaims as it launches into a frenetic exploration of Korean and Korean-inspired food spanning from Jeju Island to North Virginia. After focusing on more traditional offerings in its first half, this animated celebration jumps to new interpretations of Korean food, such as banana milk cake and Shin Ramyun with pita chips. Authors Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard provide their own musings on different preparation styles—using 7UP to flavor pickles, for example—while peppering in cultural history and modern context. The authors spotlight chefs throughout Korea and the U.S. and all their various influences, which span a bevy of cuisines, from Jewish to Chinese.

The sheer volume of restaurants and people profiled causes the book to meander in a fashion that sometimes feels scattered, but the abundance of eclectic detail will appeal strongly to diehard Korean food enthusiasts. Hong and Rodbard’s familiar rapport with many of their subjects lends a personal feeling to Koreaworld that is accentuated by Alex Lau’s stylish, energetic photography. Anyone interested in exploring the wild, exciting new frontiers of Korean food will find this book a fresh delight.


Anyone interested in exploring the wild, exciting new frontiers of Korean food will find Koreaworld a fresh delight.
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How complicated can breakfast possibly get? In Zao Fan: Breakfast of China, Michael Zee writes that the enormity of Chinese cuisine is “both terrific and terrifying”—and what is usually the simplest, smallest meal of the day is no exception. Yet Zee demonstrates a knack seldom seen in English-language cookbooks for succinctly yet fully conveying the vastness and complexity of Chinese cuisine throughout the delightful recipes featured in Zao Fan. From fried Kazakh breads to savory tofu puddings, Zee provides in-depth yet accessible insight into a thorough swath of breakfast foods.

Rarely does a writer’s passion for their subject matter leap as vividly as it does from these pages, which are chock-full of recollections of personal visits to restaurants and observations of traditional techniques. Zee accompanies the recipes with his own photos of the dishes in all their gorgeous mouthwatering glory—meat pies sizzling on a griddle, a bowl of Wuhan three-treasure rice, neat rows of Xinjiang-style baked lamb buns—which provide an authentic sense of immersion, as do his portraits of daily life in China. The neat, color-coded organization of the recipes into logical categories such as noodles and breads provides a remarkable sense of cohesion, making Zao Fan an absolute must for cooks across all skill levels.

Zao Fan collects traditional Chinese breakfast recipes in all their mouthwatering glory.
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Often, cookbooks languish on our kitchen shelves, only to be referenced once in a blue moon—but the exuberant illustrations of Noodles, Rice, and Everything Spice: A Thai Comic Book Cookbook will have you turning to its recipes for years to come. In 2020, Thai Belgian cartoonist Christina de Witte sought to further connect with her Thai heritage by taking language lessons, which is how she met Mallika Kauppinen, who started teaching Thai via Zoom after moving to Finland from Thailand. The result is this unique cookbook, in which cartoon versions of de Witte and Kauppinen lead you through the fundamentals of Thai cooking and an array of common recipes whose steps are whimsically drawn out. Tools, ingredients, stirring guidelines, timers, heat levels and more are diagrammed in a manner that provides both joy and exceptional clarity unmatched by most cookbooks.

Short comics offer context—the origin of guay tiaw, or “boat noodles,” for example—or pull you into a slice of Kauppinen’s childhood. Our guides are present throughout, drawn onto photos of their meals—floating in a pool of curry, grabbing fistfuls of rice and engaging in other such hijinks. From the liveliness of its writing to the brightness of its color palette, the vibrancy of every aspect of Noodles, Rice, and Everything Spice captures Thai cuisine in such a way that you can almost taste its bold flavors just through reading.

With its vibrant illustrations, Noodles, Rice, and Everything Spice captures Thai cuisine in such a way that you can almost taste its bold flavors.

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