The authors of The Food of China (2001) acknowledge the common threads that are essential to traditional Chinese cuisine , even though they may take different forms in the various regions of the country. Beijing-born, Oxford-educated Deh-Ta Hsiung has written numerous cookbooks, focusing primarily on Chinese cuisine. American food writer Nina Simonds lived in Taiwan in the 1970s, where she learned how to cook Chinese cuisine. In the introduction to The Food of China , they write, “Chinese meals always have as their basis a staple, or fan , such as rice, wheat, maize or millet. Rice, always white and polished, is the food most associated with China and is usually steamed, while wheat grows well in the harsh climate of the north, and is made into breads and noodles. In poorer areas, millet is more common, eaten as porridge. “The staple is accompanied by secondary dishes, or cai , of meat, seafood or vegetables, pickles and condiments. Snacks, from dumplings to spicy bowls of noodles, are eaten all day long, both as sustenance and to satisfy the taste buds.” They go on to write that important to all the regions are freshness with the judicious addition of preserved/dried ingredients; balance of flavours; the variety of cooking styles; the medicinal aspect of food; and the differences between everyday eating and banquet food. The regional cuisines are divided between broad categories: north, south, east and west. The recipes range from easy to difficult-but-doable. In the former category are dishes of braised chicken wings, tea eggs, Cantonese corn soup, soft bean curd with chilli and spring onion, Cantonese-style steamed fish and scallops with black bean sauce. The more difficult dishes include Peking duck (a modified version that doesn’t require pumping air between the flesh and skin, then air-drying it so the skin gets crisp when baked), har gow (shrimp dumplings), smoked fish, stir-fried squid flowers with peppers (as with a lot of Chinese dishes, it’s not the cooking that’s difficult, but the fine knife work), stir-fried squab in lettuce leaves, salt-baked chicken, crispy noodles with beef and mangetout, sweet and sour whole fish and chilli crab.