The Joy of Flour
By Li Meixian


This slim, bilingual volume is packed with information on traditional Chinese steamed, baked and fried dumplings, noodles and pastries. Divided into chapters covering cold water doughs, hot water doughs, crispy pastries, leavened doughs and batters, each recipe has pictures that, while stylistically speaking leave a lot to be desired, are useful at showing the stages of preparation, plus what the finished product should look like.

Some of the translations aren't as clear as they could be: for instance, many of the recipes call for "glutinous flour", which, although I had my doubts, I assumed meant glutinous rice flour. After one failed attempt, I realised I should have used plain wheat flour. The instructions can be quite sketchy so the book is not for the novice.

Recipes include pork and beef pies, shao beng (a layered pan-fried or baked pastry) with sesame paste, steamed buns with XO hot sauce, turnip pastries and egg custard tarts. There's also a rather random selection of non-Chinese recipes, such as Boston cream pie, oatmeal cookies, pizza and spaghetti with minced beef and canned mushrooms.