Review: All Under Heaven & Cumin Lamb Burgers

11 January 2017
Carolyn Phillips (also known as Madame Huang), the accomplished food scholar and author of All Under Heaven, happens to be in a relationship which bears resemblance to mine: she’s white and her husband is Chinese.  She’s lived 8 years in Taiwan and is well-traveled and known throughout China, where she’s had the opportunity to learn from local chefs.  She’s even resorted to begging for old family recipes.  I like her already!

All Under Heaven: The many cuisines of China

I bought this book after searching for a resource for Northeastern Chinese cuisine.  In a country as large as China with climates that vary wildly, the cuisine of the Chinese is far from homogenous.  All Under Heaven is the only cookbook I found which included this oft-overlooked region of Chinese cuisine.  In fact, it purports to have recipes from all 35 cuisines of China.  Obviously, this is an ambitious project and I am not qualified to speak to how close she comes to properly addressing these cuisines.  However, I can say that the husband and my in-laws agree it’s probably the best they’ve seen.

Going through the recipes, my husband repeatedly would stop me, excited to see some dish he remembers (names of the dishes are in both English and Mandarin).

All Under Heaven: Russian Soup

Harbin, where my husband spent a chunk of his childhood, is nearly on the border of Russia and was once owned by the Russians. The architecture and cuisine both reflect this. Phillips shows this with the inclusion of one of my husband’s childhood dishes.

All Under Heaven: Structure of the Book

Phillips divides her book into 5 regions of China.  She also includes a section on Fundamentals, where she gives in-depth coverage to basic recipes, techniques, and suggested menus.  Any novice to Chinese cooking should start in this section, which is near the end of the book.

She introduces each recipe with a helpful description and, where applicable, background on the dish.  She introduces each region in the same way, pointing out where history and climate have influenced the local cuisine.

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Concluding thoughts

The title of this book reminds its reader of the vastness of China.  The Chinese phrase 天下 or tianxia, is translated literally as “Under Heaven” and once referred to the lands, space, and area believed to be divinely appointed to the Emperor by universal and well-defined principles of order.  The phrase also refers to the entire geographical world.  It’s easy to see how in Ancient China, China could have been seen as the “world” considering how massive the country is.

As I mentioned before, this work is massive at a little over 500 pages.  Ambitious, indeed, the only other focused study of a cultural cuisine I’ve seen that compares is Claudia Roden’s 668-page work The Book of Jewish Food.

If you love Chinese food, history, and culture in general, I absolutely recommend All Under Heaven.  You can get it from Amazon for around $27 at the time of this writing.

Cumin Lamb Burger

This recipe doesn’t come from Phillips’ book but is inspired by one of the husband’s favorite dishes from China.  We’ve given the stir-fry a fusion makeover and turned it into a burger.  The blasphemy, I know, I know.  But it’s delicious and that’s all that matters.

Print Recipe
Chinese Cumin Lamb Burger with Sautéed Onions
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine Chinese
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
burgers
Ingredients
Burger Patties
For Assembling Burgers
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Chinese
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
burgers
Ingredients
Burger Patties
For Assembling Burgers
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Add to Shopping List
This recipe is in your Shopping List
Instructions
Burger Patties
  1. In a large bowl, mix lamb, cumin, Sichuan pepper, soy sauce, rice wine, garlic (if using), and scallions. Let sit for 30 minutes.
  2. Form lamb into four burger patties.
  3. Heat oil in a deep pan over medium-high heat. Fry burgers until a brown crust forms.
Sautéed Onions
  1. While the pan is heating, slice the onion. Add slices in a bowl with cumin, Sichuan pepper, and oil, mix well.
  2. Heat a medium sautée pan over medium heat. Add onion and sautée until translucent.
  3. Assemble into burgers using desired toppings. Keep it simple (especially with condiments--we didn't use any), so it doesn't conflict with the heavy cumin.

-晚星 (aka, Chava Mazal)

What ethnic cuisine do you love?  Do you have a favorite cookbook? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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4 Comments

  • Reply Home Cooked Menus 11 January 2017 at 8:43 am

    This sounds absolutely delicious! And this is another cookbook that is going on my wishlist. I love in depth studies of cultural cuisine. It is a wonderful way to get to learn a new culture. Thanks for the review!

    • Reply Chava 11 January 2017 at 3:49 pm

      I think if you were to get one book on the cuisine of China, this would be it. There’s no photos to speak of in the book, however, so if that is something you rely on that would be my one caution against it. That said, as a cultural study it’s really great.

  • Reply Marvellina 12 January 2017 at 6:56 pm

    This is absolutely tempting Chava! And I love love your photographs as well! Keep up a fabulous work !! That cookbook….now I’m tempted to check it out too.

    • Reply Chava 23 January 2017 at 10:44 am

      Thank you!

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