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


Lazy, Hazy Daze of Summer Reading

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

by Fuchsia Dunlop
W.W. Norton & Co.,320 pp., $24.95

Britain's Fuchsia Dunlop is the West's newest Chinese-food authority, and Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper is her follow-up to her two previous definitive titles: Land of Plenty: Authentic Sichuan Recipes Personally Gathered in the Chinese Province of Sichuan and Rev­o­lu­tionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes From Hunan Province. While each chapter of this newest title finishes with a menu, recipe, or food glossary item, Shark's Fin focuses in a different direction for Dunlop: her witty and captivating prose.

This is an autobiographical culinary discovery written by the first foreigner to enroll in the professional chefs' training course at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine, during a time period when China was emerging from the cloud of Communism and rushing headlong into the 21st century. It chronicles her travels throughout China as an accomplished writer, fluent Sinophile, and chef, experiencing hidden food and culture that very few Westerners could have been exposed to. From her first trip in 1992, she vowed to eat anything she was offered, and we get brilliant and often hilarious descriptions of many of those challenging tidbits, but where Dunlop really shines is in her tantalizing insight into the culinary soul and identity of the real China. Shark's Fin is destined to join the ranks of distinguished culinary literature – an engaging memoir that you'll want to finish in one sitting. I recommend you get comfortable, surrounded by car­tons of takeout from Asia Cafe and a six-pack of Tsingtao, and enjoy every intriguing, insightful paragraph, cover to cover.

Sign up for the Chronicle Cooking newsletter

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

If you want to submit a recipe, send it to

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Food Reviews
A Trio of Mediterranean Dining
A Trio of Mediterranean Dining
Just when you thought you couldn't possibly get any shawarma, right?

Wayne Alan Brenner, Sept. 4, 2020

Hot Sauce: Your Lifestyle Is the Target
Hot Sauce: Your Lifestyle Is the Target
What does your favorite condiment reveal about who you are?

Wayne Alan Brenner, Aug. 28, 2020

More by Mick Vann
Guantanamera Cuban Cuisine
Guantanamera Cuban Cuisine
Good things come in small packages

May 8, 2015

On the Cheap: Taquito Aviles
Taquito Aviles
Getting our goat on Braker

Feb. 20, 2015


Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China, china, sichuan, food

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle