The Vegan Chinese Kitchen (Cookbook by Hannah Che)

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Some cookbooks are personal, with both recipes and stories reflecting the experience and creativity of the author, and some are professional, meaning they are highly researched and reported, often from the perspective of a trained chef. Our favorite cookbooks are the ones that pull off both approaches, and The Vegan Chinese Kitchen is a stellar contribution to that group. What's more, it's the only one of its kind in English devoted solely to plant-based dishes and the history of vegetarian eating in China. 

The subtitle, Recipes and Modern Stories From a Thousand-Year-Old Tradition, tells you how serious Hannah Che took her mission. It all started when she decided to become vegan during college, to her Chinese family's bewilderment. But it grew from there to include training in Guangzhou at China's only professional vegetarian culinary school, a stint in Taiwan for up-close exposure to Buddhist vegetarian cooking, and a deep dive into how vegetarian eating evolved in Chinese culture from early Taoism, through Buddhist teachings and temple cuisine, to the current, secular "second-wave vegetarianism" that resembles that of the West. 

There is a rich tradition to draw from, and this book does it justice. The recipes are exciting even to committed omnivores—see the second photo for the recipes I tagged to make on my first read-through. Though I have totally enjoyed meals with elaborate mock meats at a Buddhist temple's restaurant in Chengdu, I probably won't start there (but you can, because they are here!). 

Anyone can start here: stir-fried corn and pine nuts; spicy dry-fried potatoes; soft tofu with black bean sauce; stir-fried cucumber with beech mushrooms; stir-fried water spinach with fermented tofu; braised tofu skins in doubanjiang; plus dumplings with an array of different non-pork fillings.

This book uses almost every pantry item in The Mala Market:

  • Build an instant primo Chinese pantry with one click here.
  • Add on the must-have ingredients for Sichuan and other spicy dishes with one click here
        Publisher: Clarkson Potter, 2022
        Format: Hardback, 319 pages
        Price: MSRP $35; $30 when purchased with ingredients