I’m lucky enough to own a 1956 copy of The Art of Chinese Cooking by The Benedictine Sisters of Peking, one of the best loved Chinese cookbooks of the 20th century. There are many rave reviews of the success of the recipes – it would be a sin not to share them here. Sister M. Francetta and Sister Regia of The Order of Saint Benedict were true recipe boffins of their time.
The Art of Chinese Cooking is available to buy on Amazon, (it’s collectable now, and not cheap!) and all the recipes can be found here (links to all the recipes near the end of this post – enjoy!)
My copy of the book is a rather special one; it’s got a handwritten inscription inside the front cover.
I hope by sharing the recipes here that many people who have long since mislaid their old family copy of The Art of Chinese Cooking will find that special recipe they were searching for, and enjoy cooking it all over again. I hope too that young cooks will find new treasures here in this special recipe collection and enjoy sharing the recipes with friends and families.
The art of Chinese cooking: The Nuns’ story
Sister M. Francetta explains in the foreword to the cookery book just how two American nuns came to be teaching lessons in Chinese cookery in Tokyo.
Incidentally, she had received an M.S. in Home Economics from the University of Minnesota in 1926, and taught Home Economics in high school and college in the United States for 15 years before going to China.
The sisters first left the United States for China in 1930. They worked as missionaries at the Catholic University of Peking and later in Kaifeng in Hanan province. They fell head over heels in love with the flavours and variety of Chinese cuisine, which was fortunate as Western-style dishes generally weren’t on the menu.
They had a chef called Ta Shih Fu. The sisters wrote down his dishes, many of which they went on to use in their cooking school and cookery book.
Within two hours of the attack on Pearl Harbour during World War II, the sisters were rounded up by the Japanese army, who were already in Kaifeng. They were put in a civilian concentration camp and remained there for the rest of the war years.
Communism held sway in this area after the war, with the result that the nuns relocated to Shanghai, and then Formosa.
By 1950 the American consul thought Formosa could become too dangerous and shipped the nuns off to Japan along with another nun called Sister M. Ursuline, who had worked with them in China since 1936.
They arrived in Japan with very little to their name, but with encouragement from the very Reverend Hildebrand Yaiser O.S.B., Hazel Zimmerman, Marie Richards, and Agatha Jones, the nuns decided they can earn some money to support themselves by teaching their friends in Japan what they had learned from their Chinese cook.
By the time the book was published in 1956 they had a cooking school which had grown from 6 students a week to 250 a week.
The recipes they used in the school were selected with availability and mind, which makes them easy to prepare anywhere in the Western world.
Sister M. Franchetta explains that the recipes are chiefly from northern China and the type used in good Chinese homes, not necessarily in restaurants, and finishes up with the words ‘Good luck with them!’
Sister M. Franchetta and her order of nuns are referenced in the recently published book Reference Guide to Christian Missionary Societies in China: From the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Century by R.G. Tiedemann (published by Routledge, 2016). The nuns were called to China by the Chancellor of The Catholic University of Peking to teach the Chinese women.
And here is Sister Franchetta’s story, just before the recipes which follow this video – the references to the recipe book and cooking school start at 29.11 on this video. I watched the video from the beginning, and as I realised the hardships and challenges the nuns faced, it made me appreciate their little recipe book even more.
Chinese Pork Recipes
Chinese Braised Pork Recipe https://www.recipeboffin.com/braised-pork-with-or-without-bean-curd-tofu/
Chinese Chow Mein (pork, chicken, beef or shrimp) https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-chow-mein-recipe/
Chinese Lion’s Head Meatballs https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-lions-head-pork-meatball-recipe/
Lotus Root Sandwich https://www.recipeboffin.com/fried-lotus-root-with-pork/
Pork and Peas https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-pork-and-peas/
Chinese Pork Dumplings https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-pork-dumplings/
Pork, Egg, and Mushrooms https://www.recipeboffin.com/pork-egg-and-mushrooms-chinese-style/
Pork with Celery https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-pork-and-celery-stir-fry/
Pork with Cucumbers https://www.recipeboffin.com/stir-fry-pork-with-cucumber-chinese-style/
Pork with Bamboo Shoots https://www.recipeboffin.com/pork-with-bamboo-shoots-recipe/
Folding and Filling Wontons https://www.recipeboffin.com/pork-wonton-filling-recipe/
Sautéed Sliced Pork (good made with chicken too) https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-style-sliced-pork/
Stuffed Cucumber Halves https://www.recipeboffin.com/stuffed-cucumber-recipe/
Chinese Spring Rolls Recipe https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-spring-rolls-recipe/
Pork with Vegetables https://www.recipeboffin.com/pork-with-vegetables-chinese-style/
Sweet-Sour Pork or Spareribs https://www.recipeboffin.com/sweet-and-sour-pork-and-spareribs-recipe/
Chinese Fowl Recipes
Braised Duck https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-braised-duck/
Chestnut Chicken https://www.recipeboffin.com/chestnut-chicken-chinese-style/
Chicken with Eggplant (aubergine) https://www.recipeboffin.com/chicken-and-aubergine-stir-fry/
Chicken with Vegetables https://www.recipeboffin.com/chicken-with-vegetables-chinese-style/
Chicken Velvet https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-chicken-velvet-recipe/
Chicken and Tomatoes https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-tomato-chicken-recipe/
Loquat Chicken https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-loquat-chicken/
Pineapple Chicken https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-pineapple-chicken-recipe/
Mushroom Chicken https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-chicken-and-mushroom-recipe/
Peppered Chicken https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-chicken-and-peppers-recipe/
Walnut Chicken https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-walnut-chicken-recipe/
Chinese Beef Recipes
Beef and Onions https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-beef-and-onions/
Beef with Cauliflower and Snow Peas https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-beef-with-cauliflower-and-snow-peas/
Beef with Peppers https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-beef-with-peppers/
Beef with Radishes https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-beef-with-radishes/
Sweet and Sour Beef Balls with Pineapple and Peppers https://www.recipeboffin.com/sweet-and-sour-meatballs-with-pineapple-and-peppers/
String Beans and Beef https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-beef-and-string-beans/
Beef with Mushrooms, Onions, and Ginger https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-beef-with-mushrooms-onions-and-ginger/
Chinese Seafood Recipes
Sweet-Sour Fish https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-sweet-and-sour-fish/
Deep Fried Prawn Balls https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-dollar-shrimp-or-shrimp-balls-recipe/
Shrimp Foo Yung https://www.recipeboffin.com/shrimp-egg-foo-young/
Shrimp and Vegetables https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-shrimp-stir-fry-recipe-with-vegetables/
Shrimp with Cucumbers https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-shrimp-with-cucumbers/
Braised Prawns or Shrimp https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-braised-prawns-or-shrimp/
Chinese Vegetable Recipes
Asparagus Peking Style https://www.recipeboffin.com/asparagus-peking-style/
Bamboo Shoots and Mushrooms https://www.recipeboffin.com/bamboo-shoots-and-mushrooms-chinese-style/
Bamboo Shoots and Soy Sauce https://www.recipeboffin.com/bamboo-shoot-recipe-chinese-style/
Cauliflower, Water Chestnuts and Mushrooms https://www.recipeboffin.com/cauliflower-water-chestnuts-and-mushrooms-chinese-style/
Spinach and Mushrooms https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-spinach-and-mushrooms-recipe/
Chinese Soup Recipes
A little foreword to the Chinese desserts section explains:
While Westerners like Chinese food, we have found that they do not care much for most Chinese desserts. So we have concocted some Western-style desserts that go particularly well with Chinese food. You will find them in this section along with purely Chinese desserts.
Coconut Dreams https://www.recipeboffin.com/coconut-dreams-traybake/
Cream Puff Pie https://www.recipeboffin.com/cream-puff-pie-recipe/
Duette Dew Recipe https://www.recipeboffin.com/duette-dew-recipe/
Eight Precious Pudding https://www.recipeboffin.com/eight-precious-chinese-rice-pudding-recipe/
Sour Cream Pudding https://www.recipeboffin.com/sour-cream-pudding-recipe/
Two-Step Cake (Date Slice Recipe) https://www.recipeboffin.com/date-slice-recipe/
Miscellaneous Chinese Recipes
Chinese Fried Rice https://www.recipeboffin.com/authentic-chinese-fried-rice-recipe/
Chinese Salad Dressing https://www.recipeboffin.com/chinese-salad-dressing/
How to Cook Rice https://www.recipeboffin.com/how-to-cook-chinese-white-rice/