Fuschia Dunlop, the London based author with frequent cooking trips to China, published two cookbooks on Sichuan cooking in 2003; this paperback for the British world, "Sichuan Cookery", and also the similar, yet newer and quite expanded hardcovered "Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking", for the North American world.
I do not have the latter book for comparison, however the weights and measures for both will be different and appropriate for the audience. The cookbooks differ by over 100 pages, (more in the American version) so do your homework before buying one or the other.
This is an extremely well written book, with careful instructions for making classic Sichuan dishes. Much restaurant and cookbook Chinese cookery of Britain and the USA is Cantonese, with some Peking style and Shanghai variations. The "Szechuan" or "Sichuan" style in most restaurants, without an authentic Sichuanese trained chef, is "watered down" Sichuan or a "hot" Cantonese variant, turning people off to a cuisine they have truly never tried.
My Chinese chef-friend from Chengdu has looked this book over, cooked several dishes from it for us, and proclaimed it "very very good". I've eaten in Chengdu, and also greatly appreciate the taste of native Sichuan cookery.
For example, "Pork slices with black cloud fungus", a fairly quick and simple stir fry, was the real thing, just as my friend had back in Chengdu. Rehydrate the dried fungus to be moist and still be a touch crunchy, and do not overcook it, or it loses this necessary mild crunchy texture. Feeling a little peckish? Try also Sweet and sour pork, Boiled beef slices in a fiery sauce, Pock marked(Old woman's) Mother Chen's beancurd, hotpot broth (for dipping varied foods), and spicy braised fish with whole garlic. Yum!
Need to learn what true cooking should taste like before cooking on your own? Compare your cookery with kitchens such as Bar Shu, the Sichuan restaurant in London under Miss Dunlop's supervision; some other Sichuan places in England are London's Sichuan Restaurant, and Red Chilli in Manchester.
My friend and my only small complaint/suggestion is that as good as the color photos are, there is a great need to have photos of much more of the dishes in a next edition. (Photos of eight or more dishes can fit on one side of a page, to save costs, and increase variety.) Note, pictures of some dishes can sometimes be found by Googling.
Sichuan peppercorn has been available again in the USA since 2005 at several internet pepper suppliers... it's a truly necessary ingredient for the "numbing" spice's contibution to quite a few authentic dishes. They are dark red, with the inner gritty black seeds removed. Chew one, if it doesn't have a tingling and somewhat numbing sensation on your tongue and lips within a minute, then get a fresher batch elsewhere! Supplies for the other staples can be found at Chinese/Asian suppply stores in larger cities, or from internet suppliers.
Note: Fuchsia Dunlop's next cookbook, "Revolutionary
Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province", will be out in Britain fall 2006, and in 2007 in USA, check it out on Amazon.