Cheeseburger spring rolls. General Tso’s gator. Milk bread babka with chocolate and red bean.
If you can't imagine these innovative, wacky Western takes on Chinese cuisine, then don't worry – they'll soon be brought to vivid life by illustrators tapped for a new hand-drawn cookbook, courtesy of the same team that brought you The Cleaver Quarterly. Dubbed The Illustrated Wok, this newly launched project is being described as "a print collection of hand-illustrated Chinese recipes from some of the best chefs around" by its founders (who worked as higher-ups at the Beijinger before founding The Cleaver in 2013, highlighting innovative Chinese cuisine in all corners of the globe via that quarterly print publication and website).
Those colorful etchings will depict offbeat East-meets-West fare by chefs from North America, Latin America, Europe, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Southeast Asia. A roster of artists have already been recruited, and many have already finished gorgeously drawn depictions of the recipes that will catch your eye and leave you grinning, thanks to their fun tone. Above all: this cookbook will teach you how to make these dishes yourself, being entertained by the illustrations all the while.
The founders recently launched a Kickstarter page to help fund the project, and they aim to have The Illustrated Wok printed in late September, before shipping around the world to those who order by early October. So far, nearly two-thirds of the illustrations are completed, with the remainders being steadily submitted in the next few weeks.
On their crowdfunding page, the team describes their process for creating The Illustrated Wok: "We reached out to 40 well-known chefs, asking each to choose one restaurant-quality recipe that reflected their deep connection to Chinese cuisine. Next, we assigned each recipe to a different illustrator. We challenged these artists to use visual storytelling to bring the dish to life – while integrating the full recipe text into the illustration."
"The Illustrated Wok is something that excites us because, well, it looks awesome," says Jonathan White, co-founder of The Cleaver Quarterly, as well as a former managing editor of the Beijinger. He adds: "A book of illustrations in radically different styles is a fascinating object that demands to be flicked all the way through, then makes you double back to compare styles and discover the details in every illustration."
White goes on to say that The Illustrated Wok was a natural progression from what The Cleaver had grown into, seeing as the pages that their quarterly publication had dedicated to food illustrations and recipes were often what elicited the most enthused responses from readers. White says: "Putting the two strands together was the logical next step, even if it was an awful lot of work for everyone involved. It's worth it to us because it continues the work of the magazine to document where global Chinese food is right now – and it's been eye-opening to witness how illustrators from all over the world decided to interpret those recipes."
White and his colleagues "can't wait to get the book printed and into people's hands so they can work out how they want to use it – cooking their way through it or treating it as a kind of visual storybook."
For more information on what the project entails and how you can get involved, check out The Illustrated Wok's Kickstarter page.
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Photos: The Illustrated Wok (via Kickstarter), Ningbo Guide