Skip to content Skip to Menu KAL Accessibility Statement

OP: The Key to Chinese Cooking

Write a review
| Ask a question
by Irene Kuo

Alfred A. Knopf, 1977. Hardcover. Very Good Minus in Good jacket. First printing.

Although a variety of Chinese books had been appearing in the US since the 1940s, none had serious, conscientious instructional material. Initially proposed in 1971, The Key to Chinese Cooking (1977) took 5 years to complete, editor Judith Jones enforcing exacting standards to get the wording “right” in order to strike the balance between authenticity and accessibility.

Written by Irene Kuo (1919–1993), a well regarded restaurateur and culinary instructor, the resulting 500 page book—supported by Carolyn Moy’s line illustrations—is one of the first truly rigorous Chinese cookbooks published in the US and was highly influential to those published after. 

The book’s lasting strength stems from its unwavering commitment to presenting dishes without the kind of coddling and hand holding that often comes with international cookbooks. Kuo trusts in the intelligence and curiosity of her reader, and she is an extremely effective instructor.

Our copy is a first printing in Very Good Minus condition. The interior is clean and unmarked, though water damage to the top edge has caused stiffening and rippling to the latter quarter of the book block. The scarce jacket is present, though sun faded, shelfworn, and missing a 2” x 1” bit from the rear. Second hand copies are hard to come by and usually well-worn when they can be found—a testament to their treasured status and utility. 

The Key to Chinese Cooking, despite being out of print for many years now, is indispensable for serious collectors and students of Chinese cuisine.

Shopping Cart