…or at least the most ancient kind. You can read my piece about fresh, unfried spring rolls in today’s Financial Times Weekend magazine – it includes recipes based on those from Every Grain of Rice. As I mention, it takes a little experimenting to get the knack of making the pancakes. The dough needs to be the right consistency, and the hotplate the right temperature – not too hot or too cool. Here’s a video of a professional doing it, a street vendor in Chengdu. Isn’t she wonderful?!
Banquets, Chinese food culture, Chinese restaurants, Politics / 2 Comments
Over the last year, high-end restaurants in China have been struck as if by lightning by President Xi Jinping’s ‘anti-corruption campaign’ and ban on dining out at government expense. ‘People in China are used to such political campaigns,’ one friend of mine told me, ‘But normally they drop off after a while. No one expected the ban on expense-account feasting to last this long.’
Officials in China are paranoid about being caught breaking the rules: these days, all it takes to ruin a reputation, and perhaps a career, is a meddlesome citizen with a smartphone camera, hovering outside the restaurant as you sneak out after eating your shark’s fin soup. Continue reading…
I’m thrilled and amazed to be nominated in two categories this year! Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking is on the shortlist for international cookbooks, and my Lucky Peach article ‘Dick Soup’ (one of the pieces I’ve enjoyed writing most!) is shortlisted in the ‘Personal Essay’ section, alongside pieces by two fantastic writers, Elizabeth Gilbert and Gabrielle Hamilton. You can read the full shortlist here.
With all good wishes for the Year of the Horse, here’s a picture of New Year’s Day feasting in rural Hunan, 2004. A table of plenty, all cooked either on an old-fashioned wood-fired stove, or in a blackened cooking pot hanging over the open fire on the kitchen floor. We were sitting around that table in an old mud-brick cottage in a beautiful valley. Happy memories.
And here’s another pic of my lovely friend Fan Qun’s father on a horse, for the Year of the Horse.
Have any of you blog visitors been cooking anything special for the Chinese New Year?
Chinese cuisine, Chinese restaurants, Hunan, Regional cuisines, Restaurants, Sichuanese cuisine / 8 Comments
You can read my article on the new Chinese regional restaurants in the Guardian here. I thought I’d use my blog to offer a bit more information.
So here are a few of the most interesting regional Chinese restaurants in London:
HUNAN: Local Friends (hu nan ren湖南人)
Chef Ren Jianjun, a native of Yueyang in northern Hunan Province used to work at the Shangri-La Hunan restaurant in Oriental City, Colindale. Ignore the entire front section of the menu and turn to the back, which is conspicuously RED because of all the chillies. Here you’ll find a wonderful selection of hearty Hunanese dishes which are among the most authentic in London.
Local Friends, 28 North End Road, Golders Green, NW11 7PT, 020 8455 9258
Local Friends, 132 Bethnal Green Rd, London E2 6DG, United Kingdom
020 7729 9954 Continue reading…
As always, cooking mainly ‘Western food’ for Chinese friends was an interesting experience. For a start, I faced unusual competition for the best bits of the chicken. Whenever I cook roast chicken for my family or Western friends, chances are that someone will want the breast meat, which suits me fine – but anyone Chinese knows that the most delicious parts of the bird are the legs and wings, as do I. My friend chose to have wing ‘so I can fly high!’. She added that when she was a child, her parents wouldn’t let her eat chicken’s feet because they thought eating them would make her calligraphy as ugly as chicken’s footprints! (Probably her parents just wanted to eat the feet themselves.) And she said many Chinese parents in the past deliberately gave their children – or most likely, their sons – the cockscomb, because this resembles an imperial official’s cap, and might help them to enter the civil service. Continue reading…
Chillies, Recipe, Regional cuisines, Sichuanese cuisine / 6 Comments
As 2014 is the Year of the Horse, perhaps I should be marking the Chinese New Year with a horse recipe (!) – but instead I‘ve put together one for that Chongqing classic, ‘Chicken with chillies’ (lazi ji 辣子鸡). You can read the full recipe on the Financial Times website here, along with a quick and easy version that does not require dismembering a poussin but uses chicken wings instead.
At first sight, this dish can appear terrifying to the uninitiated, because there are more chillies than pieces of chicken, a great red -silk-and-firecracker pile of them. But, as with that other notoriously chilli-laden dish ‘Water-boiled fish’ (shui zhu yu 水煮鱼), the spices are just there to lend their flavour to the cooking oil, and should not be eaten. Use your chopsticks to rummage out crisp morsels of chicken from among them. The fragments of skin will be the most delicious, and some of the little bones so crisp you can munch them. Continue reading…
Well, I was a total shard-sceptic, but now, having been inside the building for the first time, I have to admit I’ve been converted. A friend of mine is working in the kitchens of Hutong, the Chinese restaurant on the 33rd floor, and invited me to lunch – and what a view! What a feast! We dabbled in the dim sum menu: opalesque, translucent orbs filled with colourful morsels (‘crystal crab meat dumpings’); roast puff pastries stuffed with wagyu beef instead of the usual char siu pork; and pretty little bundles tinted with spinach juice, holding a mix of carrot and shiitake mushrooms. Judging by these, the dim sum here is exquisite and at least on a par with its closest London rival, the Royal China Club. Continue reading…
In Zambia, an opposition politican has been charged with defamation for comparing the president to a potato. Speaking on the radio earlier this week, Frank Bwalya described president as ‘chumbu mushololwa’, an expression in the Bemba language which, according to the BBC website, refers to ‘a sweet potato that breaks when it is bent and is used to describe someone who does not listen to advice’. It found guilty, Mr Bwalya faces a prison sentence of up to five years.
Personally, I think I’d find it more insulting to be compared to a kohlrabi – not the world’s loveliest vegetable, even if it’s delicious. (A friend and I were wondering how many years you would get for that – perhaps even execution?) Continue reading…