This is my all-time favorite English-language Chinese cookbook. Written by Fuchsia Dunlop, one of the few (if any other!) non-Chinese people to have attended the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine, it contains gorgeous photographs and a wealth of information, from descriptions of ingredients particular to Hunanese cuisine and tools to cooking methods. Dunlop’s introductions to each section and recipe are occasionally lengthy but almost always informative and interesting and clearly reflect her training as a journalist.
The recipes are without exception delicious and authentic (I’ve eaten some of these dishes in Hunan), although the ingredients are not all readily available unless you have an Asian market nearby, and some are quite labor-intensive (but worth it to achieve the real thing). Some recipes are certainly for special occasions when we ignore calorie count!
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to explore Hunanese cuisine in depth, but also to anyone who wants a useful coffee table book – proof that this is not an oxymoron!