According to this report in the Guardian, student groups in China are beginning to challenge the custom of eating endangered animals for their supposed health benefits. I remember when I was researching a piece on eating endangered species for the Financial Times a couple of years ago, I interviewed Jim Harkness of the WWF, and he told me he was hopeful that the younger generation would reject some of the more exotic delicacies favoured by their parents. I can’t say I’ve seen much evidence of this so far, but I was heartened to meet someone in Chengdu in March who said she no longer ate shark’s fin or wild animals for a mixture of health and environmental reasons (the health reasons were the high mercury content of shark, and the risk of disease from eating wild animals – as highlighted in the SARS crisis of 2003, when civet cats were fingered as a possible source of the virus).
Anyway, let’s hope that these students in Guangzhou, which is, after all, the epicentre of Chinese trade in exotic animals, start to change opinions…
Posted by Fuchsia
on May 07, 2009
I’m hugely flattered to discover that a Canadian video journalist has named me as her perfect dining companion!
Some time ago I wrote a piece for the Financial Times about the Michelin Guide’s awarding of its maximum accolade, three stars, to a Chinese restaurant, for the first time. While researching the article, I interviewed the director of the Michelin Guides, Jean-Luc Naret, on the controversy over whether one could judge Chinese and Western restaurants by the same criteria. Since I spoke to him, I’ve had one more niggling question, which is: with most Chinese restaurants, you really need to go with a large group to see what they can do, so aren’t they at a disadvantage when the judging is done by lone Michelin inspectors on repeated visits? Perhaps the inspectors don’t go alone, but it’s hard to imagine that their expenses budget would cover repeated visits with a party of people. If you visit a typical high-end Chinese restaurant alone, or with one dining companion, you are likely to be able to try only a few dishes, and to miss the excitement that comes from a really well-planned and diverse dinner for a group, which can be a kind of showcase for different cooking methods. In general, it is international hotels with Chinese restaurants that offer something equivalent to a Western tasting menu: could this explain the much-criticised focus on hotel restaurants in the inaugural Michelin Guide to Hong Kong and Macau? Hmm…
A couple more reviews of Ba Shan, the new London restaurant in the Bar Shu Group for which I work as consultant. Giles Coren, writing in the Times on Saturday, called it ‘A wonderful addition to my eating life… and a fresh new way to enjoy the most exciting food in the world’. Terry Durack, in the Independent on Sunday, found it ‘immediately charming’, and enjoyed ‘a meal of such distinct and interesting textures and flavours… a gastronomic tour of the provinces of China that Chinatown forgot’.
by Danny Elwes