This book sings with Fuchsia Dunlop’s gluttonously joyful descriptions of her love affair with the whole gamut of Chinese food, from street stall to banquet. I delighted at descriptions of shatteringly crisp guokui flatbreads stuffed with slippery-taut strands of jelly, “a stunning mix of crunch and slither, heat and tingle”. It’s one thing to be a deeply respected scholar on a subject, an inveterate traveller who has crossed the country for decades cooking, eating, talking to cooks and researching the history, philosophy and culture of Chinese food. It’s quite another to cram all of this into a highly readable narrative which, within the space of a few pages, dives into a sixth-century agricultural treatise on qu (a fermenting medium), the etiquette of drinking at a modern banquet, tosses in the gem that lacquered sparrows’ wings are the local equivalent of crisps in an English pub, before recounting her first taste of drunken crab. My words can in no way emulate hers, so I’ll leave it to her: “That drunken crab initiation will be impressed on my tongue forever. Ice-cold and vividly slimy, with a scintillating kick of liquor, the flesh and ovaries of the crab made me shiver with pleasure. They were as creamily voluptuous as foie gras, yet simultaneously as brisk and arresting as a raw oyster. Of all the delicious things I have eaten in my life, I would place raw drunken crabs near the peak of gastronomic pleasure.” Fuchsia thoroughly dispels any preconceptions that Chinese food is inferior, ‘just’ stir-fry or cheap takeaways made with shoddy ingredients or questionable body parts, highlighting her knowledge of China’s startling culinary imagination and technical ingenuity. I want to read it more not to improve my cooking skills (it is not a recipe book) but for the pure pleasure of reading a master of her craft, someone who relishes the sheer greedy delight of eating and the wonder and inquisitiveness of exploring an endlessly fascinating topic. TRACY WHITMEY