Kitchen Chinese: A Novel about Food, Family, and Finding Yourself
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Kitchen Chinese: A Novel about Food, Family, and Finding Yourself

4.7 8
by Ann Mah
     
 

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Isabelle Lee thinks she knows everything about Chinese cuisine. After all, during her Chinese-American childhood, she ate it every day. Isabelle may speak only "kitchen Chinese"—the familial chatter learned at her mother's knee—but she understands the language of food. Now, in the wake of a career-ending catastrophe, she's ready for a change—so

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Overview

Isabelle Lee thinks she knows everything about Chinese cuisine. After all, during her Chinese-American childhood, she ate it every day. Isabelle may speak only "kitchen Chinese"—the familial chatter learned at her mother's knee—but she understands the language of food. Now, in the wake of a career-ending catastrophe, she's ready for a change—so she takes off for Beijing to stay with her older sister, Claire, whom she's never really known, and finds a job writing restaurant reviews for an expat magazine. In the midst of her extreme culture shock, and the more she comes to learn about her sister's own secrets, Isabelle can't help but wonder whether coming to China was a mistake . . . or an extraordinary chance to find out who she really is.

Editorial Reviews

Romantic Times
“Splendid....Warm and humorous.”
Booklist
“The vibrant depiction of Beijing, lush descriptions of sumptuous Chinese meals, and Isabelle’s struggle with how others perceive her distinguish Mah’s first novel.”
Booklist on Kitchen Chinese
“The vibrant depiction of Beijing, lush descriptions of sumptuous Chinese meals, and Isabelle’s struggle with how others perceive her distinguish Mah’s first novel.”
Claire Cook
“Ann Mah’s Kitchen Chinese is a delicious debut novel, seasoned with just the right balance of humor and heart, and sprinkled with fascinating cultural tidbits. Read thoroughly. Share with friends.”
Rachel DeWoskin
“A story of how we find and nourish ourselves in unexpected ways and places, so delicious that I took breaks from reading only to dash to the phone and order Chinese.”
Irina Reyn
“Suffused with humor, genuine warmth, and mouth-watering culinary descriptions, Kitchen Chinese is, first and foremost, about the adventure of self-discovery.”
Jen Lin-Liu
“With a light, self-deprecating touch, Ann Mah portrays the quirks, pleasures, and surprises of life as a young Chinese-American woman finding her way in an alien motherland.”
Patricia Wells
“Ann Mah’s richly detailed Kitchen Chinese is humorous enough to make you laugh out loud, and so delicious you are sure to begin craving Peking duck and dim sum. A true tale of reinventing oneself in a new and foreign world.”
Publishers Weekly
After her magazine career craters, Isabelle Lee, the narrator of Mah’s super sharp debut, leaves New York to reconnect with her family roots in China. Her familiarity with the language and culture limited to “kitchen Chinese,” Isabelle lands a job at a magazine for the expatriate community in Beijing and finds a circle of friends. However, her relationship with her big-shot attorney sister, Claire, who’s lived in China for a while, gets off to a rocky start, with the two not knowing quite what to make of each other. Isabelle’s Beijing immersion, coupled with her chick lit arc, provides a refreshing and fun narrative, helped along by a fantastic heroine whose insights into modern China and the expatriate experience will intrigue readers. It’s a great start for a writer with much promise. (Feb.)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061771279
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
02/09/2010
Pages:
339
Sales rank:
802,992
Product dimensions:
5.42(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.89(d)

What People are saying about this

Irina Reyn
“Suffused with humor, genuine warmth, and mouth-watering culinary descriptions, Kitchen Chinese is, first and foremost, about the adventure of self-discovery.”
Claire Cook
“Ann Mah’s Kitchen Chinese is a delicious debut novel, seasoned with just the right balance of humor and heart, and sprinkled with fascinating cultural tidbits. Read thoroughly. Share with friends.”
Jen Lin-Liu
“With a light, self-deprecating touch, Ann Mah portrays the quirks, pleasures, and surprises of life as a young Chinese-American woman finding her way in an alien motherland.”
Patricia Wells
“Ann Mah’s richly detailed Kitchen Chinese is humorous enough to make you laugh out loud, and so delicious you are sure to begin craving Peking duck and dim sum. A true tale of reinventing oneself in a new and foreign world.”
Rachel DeWoskin
“A story of how we find and nourish ourselves in unexpected ways and places, so delicious that I took breaks from reading only to dash to the phone and order Chinese.”

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Meet the Author

Ann Mah was born in Orange County, California, and lived in Beijing for four years, where she was the dining editor for a monthly English-language magazine. She writes regularly for the South China Morning Post, Condé Nast Traveler, the International Herald Tribune, and on her blog, www.annmah.net. Ann was awarded a James Beard Culinary Scholarship in 2005 and now lives in Paris.

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Kitchen Chinese: A Novel about Food, Family, and Finding Yourself 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Isabelle Lee grew up on Chinese-American cuisine though she never cooked any as her mom was the family chef. However, she can talks a good game as she grew up listening to her mom discuss food. However, her career in New York tanks so she heads to Beijing where her sister Claire practices law. She and Claire are not bosom sisters. However, Isabelle feels good about seeking her roots when she obtains work writing about Kitchen Chinese cuisine to the western expatriate population. Still the transition is not smooth as she struggles with adjustment since the cultures in New York and Beijing are a zillion light years apart and she begins to learn Claire's secret. However after considering going back to the States, the siblings warm up to one another and soon Isabelle finds she likes life in Beijing. This is a terrific contemporary tale starring a fascinating lead character who feels like a fresh water fish in the ocean. Roots aside, Isabelle realizes her racial classification is backwards as American comes way before Chinese. Even the language she speaks is 99% English and a few Kitchen (and bathroom) Chinese words. As she struggles to adapt in order to connect with her sister and her heritage, fans who take the journey with Isabelle will appreciate the trip. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful tale of a young woman reclaiming her life with food, travel, and love!
debbook More than 1 year ago
Isabelle Lee, Iz, has just been fired from her job as a fact checker for a magazine. Encouraged by her friends she decides she needs an adventure and moves from Manhattan to Beijing, where her older sister Claire, a high-powered attorney, lives. Iz is determined to have an adventure but not to find her Chinese roots as if she were in "an Amy Tan novel". Iz considers herself American at heart, not Chinese. Claire gets her a job at a magazine for expats, Beijing NOW, where she ends up as the food critic. Her Mandarin is limited and she is unfamiliar with a lot of Chinese culture but she has lots of help from her new friends. Claire, the older, successful, introverted sister is a new person in Beijing, but Iz doesn't think she is really happy and is determined to be there for her sister. my review: First things first. Don't read on an empty stomach. This book made me so hungry as Iz made the rounds of restaurants that I think I gained 5 lbs just reading this book. Okay, not from reading, but from getting a snack to keep me from drooling all over the book. If I was reading this on my Kindle, I would have shorted it out. This is a pretty light-hearted, Bridget Jones in China type book; very fun and clever. Isabelle was very likable as were most of the characters. She bumbles around town while trying to get the hang of things. The only thing I didn't like was the obligatory romance part. I felt like shoving Iz off of a cliff during some parts and the ending was just too pat. Must there be romance or can't there just be fun and dating? No matter what happens to girls in these books, the author always needs them to find Mr Right by the end. Does this speak to the readers or is this the only way to market these books? This is why these are considered chick-lit and lose some credibility from otherwise enjoyable novels and Kitchen Chinese suffers the same fate. And we have a decent read instead of a really good one. Mildly disappointed once again! Except for the food. Yummy! my rating 3.75/5
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
couldnt have asked for a better book! was very sad when it was over because now i have to find a new one
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
made me obsessed with Chinese food. I am still obsessed. I have some in front of me right now- spicy tofu....yummmm. Obsession aside, I really did enjoy this book- it was truly an enjoyable read. Ann set the atmosphere so well that you felt you were right there with the main character. An interesting peek into modern Chinese life from a Chinese-American's perspective. I think I read the book in 2 nights.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ClaireCookbooks More than 1 year ago
As an author, I receive lots of requests to write quotes for books. This one jumped to the front of the pack. Ann writes beautifully and has a sharp eye and a fresh perspective. She also has a great blog at http://annmah.net. Here's my quote: "Ann Mah's Kitchen Chines is a delicious debut novel, seasoned with just the right balance of humor and heart, and sprinkled with fascinating cultural tidbits. Read thoroughly. Share with friends."