Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China



It was written by a British girl, Fuchsia, who traveled to Chengdu in the 1990s and instead of studying the treatment of minorities in China (which got her the scholarship after her graduation from Oxford), she instead indulged in local food and decided to study culinary instead.  It was a fun read for me to look at a foreigner’s life in Chengdu. e.g. I finally realized why there are so many foreigners sitting in the fancy-looking bistros in the old French district in Shanghai. It’s not because the place look fancy. It’s because they miss the cheese!


The book took an unexpected twist midway thorough. As Fuchsia becomes more famous, China also transformed under Deng after adopting capitalism. Fuchsia was sad to see that all those street food she was familiar with no longer exists. All the historical buildings were replaced by skyscrapers — which the locals were actually happy about because they can finally enjoy a healthy economic growth. That comes with a sacrifice and Fuchsia found herself increasingly had to make a moral choice between being a good cook and foodie and try everything, and the fact that the local officials who dined with her are often corrupt and the animals they eat were illegally hunted. This is not just a cookbook. It’s a reflection of what the author experienced as a foreigner living in China, a student of a new language and a new cuisine, an “ambassador” for the western culture when she lived in Chinese countryside, and a female in a male-dominated culinary industry.  


Would highly recommend if you are interested in food or Chinese culture. The reason I took off one star is because I realize I am biased due to my Chinese origin.