In this inventive and intensely personal cookbook, the blogger behind the award-winning ladyandpups.com reveals how she cooked her way out of an untenable living situation, with more than eighty delicious Asian-inspired dishes with influences from around the world.
For Mandy Lee, moving from New York to Beijing for her husband’s work wasn’t an exotic adventure—it was an ordeal. Growing increasingly exasperated with China’s stifling political climate, its infuriating bureaucracy, and its choking pollution, she began “an unapologetically angry food blog,” LadyandPups.com, to keep herself from going mad.
Mandy cooked because it channeled her focus, helping her cope with the difficult circumstances of her new life. She filled her kitchen with warming spices and sticky sauces while she shared recipes and observations about life, food, and cooking in her blog posts. Born in Taiwan and raised in Vancouver, she came of age food-wise in New York City and now lives in Hong Kong; her food reflects the many places she’s lived. This entertaining and unusual cookbook is the story of how “escapism cooking”—using the kitchen as a refuge and ultimately creating delicious and satisfying meals—helped her crawl out of her expat limbo.
Illustrated with her own gorgeous photography, The Art of Escapism Cooking provides that comforting feeling a good meal provides. Here are dozens of innovative and often Asian-influenced recipes, divided into categories by mood and occasion, such as:
For Getting Out of Bed
Poached Eggs with Miso-Browned Butter Hollandaise
Crackling Pancake with Caramel-Clustered Blueberries and Balsamic Honey
Buffalo Fried Chicken Ramen
Crab Bisque Tsukemen
For a Crowd
Cumin Lamb Rib Burger
Italian Meatballs in Taiwanese Rouzao Sauce
Wontons with Shrimp and Chili Coconut Oil and Herbed Yogurt
Spicy Chickpea Poppers
Mochi with Peanut Brown Sugar and Ice Cream
Recycled Nuts and Caramel Apple Cake
Every dish is sublimely delicious and worth the time and attention required. Mandy also demystifies unfamiliar ingredients and where to find them, shares her favorite tools, and provides instructions for essential condiments for the pantry and fridge, such as Ramen Seasoning, Fried Chili Verde Sauce, Caramelized Onion Powder Paste, and her Ultimate Sichuan Chile Oil.
Lee, who vents about living abroad in her Lady and Pups blog, fuels this stunning cookbook with the ferocity of Sichuan peppercorns and chili oil. Lee, who moved to Beijing when her husband relocated for work, despised her six and a half years there. Only her dogs and her cooking beat back encroaching depression. What could have been a slog is instead an energetic confessional, for Lee is as gifted a writer as she is a cook. Breakfast is too jovial a concept for her, tasting like "denial buttered up with overcompensating enthusiasm," so the opening chapter is instead entitled For Getting Out of Bed and includes clams over oatmeal with pickled chilies and grated ginger. Declaring that ramen is a "judgement-free zone," Lee proves the point with truffle lard-infused ramen with fennel pork belly and sauerkraut. "Good food can be remembered badly if shared with the wrong people" is the warning that prefaces a chapter of crowd-friendly dishes including cumin lamb rib burgers. Lee concludes her innovative work not with cocktails but with treats for her beloved dogs, including a birthday meatcake. Desperation breeds contempt, but also confit, in this unique and deeply felt debut.