All Under Heaven - Carolyn Phillips

All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China by Carolyn Phillips is one of my picks for top cookbook of 2016 and has found its well-deserved way to many best books list. 

Carolyn is the talented voice behind the blog, Madame Huang's Kitchen. All 400 of her blog recipes are indexed on Eat Your Books (and you can add them to your bookshelf with one click, how easy is that? - I hope Ina hasn't trademark that phrase)

The research necessary to write All Under Heaven resulted from the author's study of ancient culinary texts, meeting with restaurant owners in China to glean their family recipes along with her own extensive background of working, eating and cooking in China. There are no photographs in the book - it is packed with narrative, recipes and the gifted author's own illustrations.

Organized by regions, beginning with a background of that area, Phillips' narrative comes from her heart. The title is perfectly laid out with stark white pages, easy to follow instructions with maps and drawings that speak to her story. Extra information for each recipe is highlighed in red font to ensure that we are able to perfect each dish. It is as if she is in the kitchen with us - working beside us to make sure we achieve the best results. All I want for Christmas is time to make every recipe in this book. 

The recipes are not overly complicated although some do require some attention to detail. All Under Heaven is not one of those books that will sit on a shelf - neglected with a layer of dust that we can doodle on. It will be used, stained and falling apart in a decade as all good cookbooks are. 

I have made three recipes from All Under Heaven - the Chicken with Walnuts and Lotus Root that we are sharing below, Crispy Vegetable Rice (I made it once with rice and once with orzo - not as crispy using the orzo but was a nice way to use up leftovers), the Spicy and Numbing Cold Noodles and I have the wings in the fridge drying out for frying tomorrow. (Update: the wings are the best wings I have ever had. Make them.) The results were delicious - although I had to omit the lotus root out of the first recipe - several trips to various stores and I gave up. I do have an Asian market in the next town over that I will visit to make this recipe properly.

My friend, Marc, a culinary school graduate, world traveler and habitual taker of cooking classes including those in China - is my go to resource for all things Asian - shares his thoughts on this book on his blog along with many photographs of the dishes they prepared.  His cookbook club made multiple recipes from this title - all with spectacular results. Marc was kind enough to share his photo of the wings for this post as my photos of the first three dishes were lost when my phone decided it was time to say goodbye (and truthfully they were rushed photos and wouldn't do Carolyn's recipes justice). 

Thanks to the author and Ten Speed Press, we are sharing two recipes for you to try now. Be sure to head over to our contest to enter for a chance to win a copy of this must-have book. 


Jiàngbào táorén jīdīng醬爆桃仁雞丁
Chicken with Walnuts and Lotus Root
The Northwest• Serves 4 to 6

This dish combines chicken, crisp lotus root, chilies, and crunchy walnuts in a sauce seasoned with sweet wheat paste. Walnuts are probably more popular in the vast Northwest than anywhere else in China. Although originally from the Middle East, traders traveling along the Silk Road brought them here long ago, and they're featured in many local recipes, like Rose-Scented Lotus Patties. Fresh chilies are traditionally used in this dish, but I've come to prefer the more subtle heat provided by dried Thai ones. These dried chilies seem to sidle up especially well to the toasted walnuts, echoing and amplifying their flavor.


1 pound boneless chicken, with or without skin, bones removed
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons mild rice wine
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon cornstarch

The rest

1 cup walnuts, in large pieces
Boiling water, as needed
1 lotus root (4 to 6 ounces)
1 teaspoon pale rice vinegar
10 or so dried Thai chilies
¼ cup peanut or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 green onions, trimmed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons sweet wheat paste
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1. Cut the chicken into 3/4-inch cubes, place in a small work bowl, and toss with the salt, rice wine, egg white, and cornstarch. Allow the chicken to marinate while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

2. Pick over the walnuts to make sure there are no shells, then place them in a small work bowl. Cover the wal­nuts with boiling water for at least 10 minutes to remove any bitterness. While the walnuts are soaking, peel the lotus root, wash it carefully inside and out, and drain. Cut the lotus root into 3/4-inch cubes, place in a small work bowl, cover with water, and add the vinegar to keep the flesh white. Break the chilies in half, shake out the seeds, discard the caps, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces. Drain the walnuts, rinse in a col­ander, and pat dry.

3. Place a wok over medium-high heat and add the oil. Fry the walnuts in the oil, tossing the whole time, until they are toasted and smell wonderful. Remove the fried walnuts to a clean medium work bowl, but keep the oil in the wok. Fry the chilies in the hot oil until they are dark red and then transfer them to the work bowl with the walnuts. Drain the lotus root cubes, rinse them under tap water, shake them as dry as you can, and add the lotus root to the wok. Stir-fry the lotus root for a minute or so to barely cook it through, then remove it to the work bowl. Add the chicken and mari­nade to the wok and stir-fry the chicken until it barely starts to brown, then remove it to the work bowl. Pour any oil in the work bowl back into the wok.

4. Heat the wok over high heat and add the ginger, green onions, and garlic. Stir-fry these for a few sec­onds to release their fragrance, then add the sweet wheat paste and about ¼ cup boiling water. When the liquid comes to a boil again, return everything in the work bowl to the wok and quickly toss over high heat until the water has evaporated. Sprinkle on the sesame oil, toss again, adjust the seasoning, and serve hot.

Gānpēng jīchì乾烹雞翅 _
Dry-Fried Chicken Wings
Sichuan • Serves about 4

Most fried chicken has a thick coating, but these wings, simply dusted with cornstarch, offer a nice, light crunch. When making the sauce, be sure to car­amelize the sugar properly: as soon as the vinegar has boiled down and large bubbles start to form, watch the sauce carefully and swirl it around so that it heats evenly. The sugar can burn easily, so this part of the process requires close attention. Once the sauce is done, it should be sticky and syrupy.

Middle sections from 12 chicken wings (see Tips), or 6 whole chicken wings
¼ cup cornstarch
2 cups (or so) peanut or vegetable oil for frying
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 green onions, trimmed and finely chopped
10 dried Thai chilies, or to taste, broken in half and seeds discarded, and/or smoked paprika
¾ cup pale rice vinegar
6 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
1 teaspoon toasted Sichuan peppercorn salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons regular soy sauce

1. Start this recipe at least 6 hours before you want to serve it. If you are using whole wings, cut off the tips and use them for stock, and then cut the wings between the first and second joints so that you have 12 pieces. Place the wing pieces in a work bowl and sprinkle the cornstarch over them. Toss the wings in the bowl until each piece is thoroughly coated.

2. Place a cake rack on a large plate or small baking sheet, then arrange the wings, not touching, on the pan. Refrigerate uncovered so the cool air slightly dries out the wings. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 1 day.

3. Pour the oil into a wok and heat over high heat until a wooden chopstick inserted in the oil is imme­diately covered with bubbles. Hold a spatter screen in one hand while using the other hand to carefully add half of the wing pieces to the hot oil. Cover with the screen to reduce the possibility of burns and mess. As soon as the wings are golden on one side, turn them over, adjusting the heat as necessary. Remove the wings to a large work bowl once they are nicely browned and cooked through (see Tips). Repeat with the other half of the wings.

4. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the wok (or put 1 tablespoon of the oil in a saucepan), place it over medium-high heat, and add the garlic, ginger, onions, and chilies. (Smoked paprika can be used instead of, or in addition to, the chilies.) Toss them in the hot oil to release their fragrance, and then add the rest of the ingredients. Turn the heat to high and quickly boil down the sauce. Just before it turns syrupy and starts to caramelize, taste and adjust the seasoning. Once it is the consistency of maple syrup, remove from the heat. Toss the wings in the sauce to coat them com­pletely. Arrange the wings on a serving platter and eat while hot.

My preference here is for the middle section of the wings, which offers a nice ratio of crispy skin to juicy chicken.

Chicken wings will generally take 10 to 15 minutes to cook through. The wings will be done when they are a lovely golden brown all over. Blood will seep out of the core if they are not completely cooked, so check them in the work bowl before you toss them with the sauce.

Thank you Mission Street Food for this dandy way to coat wings.

Photograph of the wings in this post by Jenny Hartin. Photograph of the wings on the home page by Marc Schermerhorn.

Photograph of the lovely Carolyn Phillips - credit Karen Christensen, 2016.



1 Comment

  • Marcia1206  on  12/11/2016 at 7:18 PM

    Jenny you make everything sound so good!

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