We’re charmed by the writing and photographs by food blogger Elaine in Sichuan, China, after coming across her page about Chinese Dishes for Hot Summers when searching for some Sichuan summer dishes: China Sichuan Food. It’s a rare thing to find a Chinese writer presenting dishes in English for a global audience, and she does a great job. I was reminded of an early experience with Chinese colleagues when I saw the dessert recipes listed first. In 2005 I went to the Frankfurt Book Fair for the first time and met a group from Guangzhou at a reception. “Let me get you some food,” said a woman from their group. She returned with plates of chocolate gateau, and clearly thought that I would be happy to eat that first and get a savory dish later. Our ideas about the sequence of meals just doesn’t compute with Chinese diners, though they do have their own sequence. It just isn’t as fixed as ours, and since Western dishes are all quite strange my Chinese friends seem not to bother about how they fit together. Or maybe they just like cake! Bringing me cake might have been a complimentary gesture, offering me the very best thing available.

The first of the Sichuan summer dishes I’m going to try is the cold tofu, then the wood ear salad. I adore wood ear salad in China but have never been able to reproduce the flavor, and I’m hoping that this recipe will be the answer.