When I first started this blog 3 and a half years ago, I had an inkling that maybe I would someday write a book. I had just arrived in Beijing, after a couple years in New York attending culinary school, working in a pastry kitchen, and writing freelance food and travel articles. I had a lot of interests, mostly centered around food. But where would I start?
The road from blog to book always seemed to be a fuzzy path. There were a lot of blogs in the news whose writers found agents and publishers seemingly overnight, and others I enjoy reading whose writers segued into other media opportunities, which led to the books. But at that time I didn't know where to begin. So I just concentrated on eating.
Getting acquainted with Beijing was a really eye-opening experience, and I just started photographing and sampling street food and restaurant meals wherever I went. I experimented with making Sichuan dishes from favorite restaurants at home, and when I wanted a break from spicy food, started cooking Cantonese dishes that my parents had taught me. Pretty soon the comments started coming, and questions about how to use this spice or that vegetable. That was encouragement enough to continue, despite the long hours.
Soon I started teaching Chinese cooking at a nice little school located in one of Beijing's disappearing hutongs. And continued blogging, throughout my stay in Beijing, living in Shanghai, traveling through Southeast Asia, working in San Francisco, and finally after moving back to New York. At first I thought that having a blog primarily focused on Chinese food might be a little limiting, that I would run out of topics after a while. Luckily, so far that hasn't been the case.
What I want to continue writing about could fill a whole book, at least. So I decided last June that this would be the summer I devoted to drafting a really good book proposal, even if the work meant losing sleep and quality time with the sun. It would be a cookbook, I decided, but it also had to incorporate a ton of history and stories behind the food. Fortunately, after months of writing and rewriting, I was able to find an amazing agent and publisher as excited about the idea as I was.
So I'm happy to share with all of you my current big project, my first cookbook, for Random House/Ballantine that is due out Fall 2012, if all goes well. It's a collection of Chinese take-out favorites and classic Chinatown dishes to make in your own kitchen. And because I'm so obsessed with culinary culture, the book will also explore the history and influence of Chinese food in the US. The cookbook will be, in short, a celebration of the Chinese comfort food favorites that America has helped shape.
So I want to ask all of you who have been such loyal visitors, both long-time readers and anyone who has just stumbled upon the site (I hope you'll stay for a while!): What are some of your favorite Chinese take-out dishes, ones that you want to learn and see in the cookbook? Or what are some Chinese dishes you fondly remember eating as a kid, or dishes your parents or grandparents still reminisce about, from the times when Chinese food was considered "exotic"?