When Fuchsia Dunlop first published “Land of Plenty,” it was like an oasis in a desert of Chinese cookbooks: a meticulously researched, carefully glossed, normal-size Chinese cookbook that concentrated on one thing —
Sichuan cooking, in this case — and did it very, very well. It was a guide for shopping, cooking, and eating, and if that wasn’t enough, it was a good read too. Two years later came a Hunan follow-up, “Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook,” which was, if anything, even better.
I kind of hoped that every few years, Dunlop would somehow develop a lifetime’s mastery of each of the great eight Chinese cuisines and release another regional masterpiece onto the market. Instead, she wrote “Every Grain of Rice,” a workhorse of a book for everyday Chinese cooking (like Grace Young’s stir-fry books, it can hold its own on a weeknight). And with a few exceptions (dan dan noodles, for example, which are essential repertoire in two of Dunlop’s books), there’s very little overlap with her previous publications.