The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking

It took Barbara Tropp over five years to write, “The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking,” the vision of a woman who is both a cook, scholar, and devoted teacher. Yet the book is very enjoyable to read since it includes a multitude of interesting stories with her personal observations.

The book is exceptional in explaining the underlying philosophy of this sophisticated cuisine. She explores the yin and yang, the harmony of opposites underlying all aspects of Chinese life. Barbara shows how seasoning with both chiles and sugar gives a dish fullness of flavor that is more than just hot and sweet.

She provides amazing attention to detail and authenticity. She not only teaches how to prepare a recipe, but also provides the background information on the regions where they originated, when and how they are served, and what changes were made to the original dish.

It explains in fascinating detail — the tools, techniques and ingredients used in Chinese cooking — this is an in-depth manual as well a recipe book.

The book sparkles with her creativity, sense of humor, and passion for authentic tastes and textures even when it requires unorthodox substitutions. Her clear, detailed instructions make it easy to both do the right things, as well as to understand what makes them right.


“Barbara Tropp’s Chinese cookbook deserves the most wonderful compliments anyone could give a cookbook — superb!” — Maida Heatter

“This is one of the most massive and authoritative books on the art of Chinese cookery that I have ever had in m kitchen. It is a devoted testament to a cook who — other than a restaurant professional — is as conversant as anyone I know in the uses of the wok and Chinese flavors.” — Craig Claiborne

“Barbara Tropp’s volume on Chinese cooking is a unique achievement. Her intelligent and thorough explanations are detailed and truly great. The choice of recipes is exciting. This is a magnum opus for any cooking addict.” — James Beard

Book Review by Florence Fabricant, New York Times; January 26, 1983

In some respects, Barbara Tropp's “The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking” is just as innovative as the Senderens book. The first chapters carefully detailing the technical aspects of Chinese cooking (equipment, cutting, stir-frying, deep frying, steaming) provide an extremely sound and thorough introduction. While there are many traditional recipes, others have been crafted with Miss Tropp's highly personal touches.

This is not the last word on the cooking of China, and some critics might take her to task for not being authentic. But when she substitutes Dijon mustard for Chinese, prefers corn oil to peanut oil, recommends jicama instead of canned water chestnuts or includes what might seem to be a disproportionate number of salads, her reasons are sound.

Often, having tasted versions of the same dish prepared by people from different parts of China, she will come up with an interpretation that reflects them all. She does not start out with the rooted regional palate of the native-born but contributes her own scholarship and sense of taste and balance.

The recipes are lengthy, leaving nothing to chance, and they are complicated by the many groups of ingredients and separate steps necessary in Chinese cooking.
Menu suggestions for each recipe, a section about using the food processor, a chapter on wines for Chinese meals contributed by Gerald Asher and a glossary of ingredients are also included in this literate, entertaining and instructive cookbook.