When we think about China, we're reminded of the adage about how to eat an elephant (one bite at a time). So we're indebted to Fuchsia Dunlop, who has helped us slice the country's immense food culture into digestible pieces.
Her 2009 memoir, Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper, made us long for a plane ticket and a backpack. With her latest cookbook, Every Grain of Rice ($25), she's penetrated the thick veneer of inaccessibility surrounding cooking Chinese food at home.
Don't have a wok? Don't fret. The recipes are delightfully straightforward and approachable; with the exception of a few basic pantry items, you most likely already have what you need.
But the flavor in dishes like Emergency Late-Night Noodles made with packaged flat Chinese noodles, or Red-Braised Pork, a ubiquitous takeout staple that has been transformed with fresh ingredients, smacks of hours spent in the kitchen.
Another plus: The book is overwhelmingly vegetarian-friendly, so it's the perfect tome for healthful weekday eating.