The Year of the Rabbit

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Chinese New Year began last week with parades and parties, and a long list of traditions intended to bring good fortune in the months ahead.  In this Year of the Rabbit, it is suggested to wear the color red often as it is considered a lucky color. Decorate your home with plants and flowers which are symbolic of rebirth and ushering in a bright future.  And find some great recipes in this groundbreaking cookbook.

The cookbook focuses on recipes from the Hunan Province, with its tradition of hearty peasant cooking, warmth and hospitality, and vibrancy of the people.  Hunan is a region of hot and spicy flavors, but also soothing soups and stir-fries.  Hunanese food is as bold and colorful as its people.  A typical dinner would be set with rice bowls and chopsticks, a cool coriander salad with a hot sour dressing, a dark, thick pork stew, smoky bacon, fermented black beans, a stir-fry of hot peppers and bamboo shoots, and of course, the happy chatter of families.  There is a reason why hot peppers are an integral part of the Hunanese cuisine.  Winters are damp and cool, summers insufferably hot, and Chinese medicine advises that drying and heating foods like the chiles will drive out the sweat and restore harmony to the body. 
Not only will you enjoy these authentic and inspiring recipes, but the book is filled with a fascinating history of the food and people of China and the Hunan region.  There is a chapter on how to stock a Hunanese pantry, and a glossary of Chinese characters.  There is an explanation of every recipe with interesting trivia.  This is definitely one of those cookbooks that will be hard to put down once you begin reading, but you will want to do so at some point because you will want to start cooking.  There is one section titled “The Strange Tale of General Tso’s Chicken” that tells the story of the most famous of Hunanese dishes, even though it is actually not an “authentic” Chinese dish, but beloved by many Americans.  
Most Chinese people insist that the Hunanese have the hottest tastes in the country.  As the old joke goes:
“The Sichuanese are not afraid of chili heat;
No degree of hotness will affright the people of Guizhou;
But those Hunanese are terrified of food that isn’t hot.”


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