Halal foods of Beijing 北京清真菜谱

During the 1980s China’s booming publishing industry rediscovered the cookbook.

A lot of new books were put out by restaurant kitchens. These often included instructions for restaurant-sized tasks like making 5 gallons of vegetable stock, or used ingredients that were only available in the Friendship Stores–the kind you needed a passport to enter.

1984’s Halal Foods of Beijing 北京清真菜谱 is one of those books. It comes from Beijing’s Youyishun 又一顺 Restaurant, and specifically from head chef Yang Yonghe 杨永和. Yang inherited Beijing’s distinct tradition of Muslim cuisine, but also mixed it with Western techniques and dishes. The book is directed to restaurant cooks. There’s no talk of cooking for the family. This is all from one professional to another.

The book itself was published after Yang’s death, and consists of Yang’s recipes recorded and compiled by Ma Jinghai 马景海, one of Yang’s disciples, as well as a few creative dishes of Ma’s own. Because it’s an oral history, it uses the language of the kitchen, which can make it hard to follow. Bamboo shoots are called “yulanpian” 玉兰片. Water chestnuts are “southern alyssium” 南荠.

The recipes are a mix of traditional Muslim dishes, typically heavy on beef and mutton, and others that have a distinctly “1980s foreign hotel” to them. The latter include dishes like walnut crusted steak, and breaded chicken rolls with butter (otherwise known as Kievan chicken), and new dishes like “Mandarin duck fish rolls” 鸳鸯鱼卷 that were made to grace a banquet table. I especially like the Soviet aesthetic to the small number of color photos at the beginning of the book.

One especially unique feature is that a lot of these recipes use dairy, both butter and milk. There is even a dish of cubed chicken breast that is stir fried in a milk sauce. I’m making that one first.

Any idea for what to make next?

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