Review of Chinese Menu: The History, Myths, and Legends Behind Your Favorite Foods

Chinese Menu: The History, Myths, and Legends Behind Your Favorite Foods Chinese Menu: The History, Myths, and Legends Behind Your Favorite Foods
by Grace Lin; illus. by the author
Intermediate    Little, Brown    288 pp.
9/23    9780316486002    $24.99
e-book ed.  9780316486392    $13.99

Food, folklore, and history combine for a mouthwatering and enlightening read in Lin’s collection of stories about more than twenty dishes, drinks, and staples of Chinese and Chinese American cuisine. The table of contents is organized like an American-style Chinese restaurant menu, with appetizers, soups, “chef’s specials,” and desserts; chapters on tea and chopsticks (along with origin stories) are also included. Lin opens each section with a brief introduction, sharing her own food memories and culinary or symbolistic details. While most of the tales involve mythical creatures or magical events, a few historical figures make appearances, including Ming Dynasty explorer Zheng He, Italian explorer Marco Polo, and Emperor Kublai Khan. Lin’s vivid illustrations round out the experience with digitally colored drawings in the style of traditional ink paintings for the folktales, and realistic renderings in gouache of the actual dishes. An illustrated timeline and map of China are included in the introduction. An author’s note, extensive end notes, a bibliography, and a scallion pancake recipe are appended.

From the September/October 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Michelle Lee

Michelle Lee is a young adult librarian for the New York Public Library.

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