This book had me by the neck from a few pages in until the very end. These Violent Delights was an engrossing take that saw star-crossed lovers in a fantastical 1920’s Shanghai must confront both the burning rivalry of their families and a deadly threat lurking in the shadows. It had very little Romeo and Juilet in my opinion and I’m happy with that! Roma Montagov and Juliette Cai were fantastic protagonists who brought out a different Romeo and Juliette character that I could love and want to learn more of in comparison to how school forced us into the classic. I’m here for the romance between the protagonists in books that is not the main driving force of the plot but more like a minor.
Spoilers but the virus/monster is not just physical, it’s a metaphor for the destructive changes in Shanghai that had awakened this bumbling city from it’s peaceful routine. Now this monster and the insects are causing more havoc on both the Cai and Montagov family. I was very pleased with the pacing of the story and the additional characters’ stories such as Rosalind and Benedikt.
I can’t wait for the sequel, Our Violent Ends coming out November 16th because I have so many questions about what will happen after the first book ended.
The Spicy Dish?
Violent Delights being set in Shanghai would provide us with a variety of Shanghainese and European imported of a fusion type of food. So I had a look and decided upon Ma La Xiang Guo, a spicy Sichuan stir fry dish. Although it is a dish from the Sichuan province, it can be referred to as a type of hot pot or a tingly, spicy soup that dates back to the 1920’s when the First Opium War occurred and had the city open up to citizens from Britain, Russia and more.
This time, one of the family members of The Woks of Life, Judy posted this fantastic recipe and I think it would be great to pair with These Violent Delights! Be warned, it’s a lot of ingredients but the outcome is amazing!
- 3 celery stalks, thinly sliced
- 2 carrots, thinly sliced
- 2 potatoes, sliced
- 2 cups rehydrated wood-ear mushrooms(黑木耳), rinsed and drained
- 3 long pieces of rehydrated tofu bean threads (Fǔzhú 腐竹), drained
- 4-6 shiitake (rehydrated if using dried shiitake) mushrooms, washed and sliced
- a handful of sliced lotus root
- 1/3 cup oil
- 3 star anise
- 2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorn
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 black cardamom (草果)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 whole nutmeg
- 1 large dried orange peel
- 2 pieces dried ginger (沙姜) or 5 slices of fresh ginger
- 1/4 cup dried red chili peppers (keep them whole to avoid the dish being too hot)
- 2 tablespoon spicy red bean sauce
- 2 tablespoons hot pot soup base sauce（火锅底料）
- 6 slices ginger
- 8 cloves garlic, smashed
- 3 shallots, sliced
- 1 cup dried red chili peppers (keep them whole to avoid the dish being too hot)
- 3 scallions, chopped
- 1/4 head cabbage, sliced
- 1 7 oz. pack fish-balls (optional)
- 2 tablespoons shaoxing rice wine
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- a handful of chopped cilantro
- Turn the heat back on low to medium, add in the hot bean sauce, hot pot soup base sauce, ginger, garlic, and shallots.
- Cook for a couple of minutes until the oil turns red, taking care not to burn the sauce. Now add in the dried chili peppers, scallions, and cabbage.
- Stir and mix everything for 2 minutes. Now stir in the fish balls and all the blanched vegetables, adding in the Shaoxing rice wine and sugar.
- Stir-fry and mix everything well for two minutes. Salt to taste.
- Transfer to a serving plate (or serve right from the wok), and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.
- Serve your Ma La Xiang Guo with plenty of steamed rice.