How do we act on our Chinese food obsessions? With hungry gazes and restive bellies? By squabbling over the dinner bill? By squeezing another two inches from our cookbook shelves? All of the above – and also by gift-giving. In our shopping guide for Chinese food gifts by Cleaver friends and collaborators, you’ll find something for everyone on your list – whether they would eat Chinese, cook it, sip it, wear it, read about it, or frame it and stick it on the wall.
Dim Sum Field Guide
The almost-pocket-size dim sum taxonomy, written and illustrated by the incomparable Carolyn Phillips, covers everything from the nesting habits of steamed dumplings (“found in groupings of six or more in a medium-size bamboo steamer basket”) to the texture of blanched goose intestines (“fluttery pieces of edible silk”).
Beijing Breakfast Tee
What’s better than a cup of hot 豆腐脑 doufu nao on a cold morning? That, pronounced in a lazy Beijinger drawl. This Plastered t-shirt garnishes the classic northern slurpable with the capital city’s favorite syllable, 儿, which sounds like talking with a stick between your teeth, and reduces doufu nao to something like “dourroonarrr.”
New England Chinese Gluten-Free Sauces
The ubiquity of wheat-brewed soy sauce poses a challenge to gluten-free Chinese food lovers – a challenge accepted by the siblings behind Mei Mei, the family-owned Boston food truck and restaurant. Mei Mei’s gluten-free specialty sauces blend New England ingredients (apples, cranberries, maple syrup) into hoisin, sweet and sour, and ginger sauces.
Actual England Chinese Gluten-Free Sauces
Meanwhile across the pond, the Manchester-based Sweet Mandarin offers a full line of Chinese-influenced sauces and rubs organized by overlapping categories of exclusion: gluten free, sugar free, nut free, dairy free, and onion-and-garlic free. And hey, these bottles would look great wrapped in a Pinyin Press Tea Towel ...
A. Wong: The Cookbook
In the headnotes for the sous vide tea egg in A. Wong: The Cookbook, Chef Wong notes that guests at his London restaurant “often make the mistake of thinking our food is ‘fusion’ when it’s actually a refinement of classical Chinese cuisine.” Indeed, Wong’s recipes boast the rarefied virtuosity of a Michelin-starred kitchen, ballasted by generations of hard-earned experience.
Peaches of Immortality Cards
Sun Wukong, a powerful monkey spirit and the original locavore, failed upward through the celestial bureaucracy until The Jade Emperor appointed him to a succulent sinecure as the caretaker of the heavenly peach orchard. Christina Chung’s illustration of the gallant Monkey King and his troop enjoying the once-in-nine-thousand-year peach harvest comes in canvas print or greeting card formats.
Hsiang Ju Lin’s culinary sourcebook guides a reader through centuries of previously untranslated texts, pointing out the springs and tributaries that feed the cuisine we call Chinese. The connoisseurship of her sources goes so deep it fairly boggles the mind; this is a book with more than one recipe for boiled water. Lin invests most of her careful prose in the source material, which lends a rare majesty to her occasional authorial verdicts, such as her soliloquy on the preserved egg (皮蛋 pidan), pictured here.
XO is for Lovers Tee
Once upon a time in 1980s Hong Kong, a shnazzy hotel kitchen minced Jinhua ham with dried shrimp and scallops to create a luxurious, umami-rich condiment: XO sauce. The name references the “extra old” designation of aged cognacs, but if you ask us, nothing says hugs and kisses like flying pigs, scallop shells, and a pair of loving crustaceans.
2012 Pu’er Tuo Cha
Don’t sleep on these large-tree Pu’er one hitters by 1001 Plateaus. Individually wrapped at five grams a pop, they’re perfectly sized for single serving brews, or for initiating friends and family into the ever-deepening mysteries of ripe Pu’er.
The Hakka Cookbook
More than a decade in the making, The Hakka Cookbook follows author Linda Lau Anusasanan as she retraces historical migration patterns in an attempt to answer the question of what it means to be Hakka.
photos courtesy of vendors