Archive for September, 2009

A world first?

Posted by Fuchsia on September 28, 2009
Unusual delicacies / 8 Comments

Sekerci Cafer Erol

While I was in Turkey, my friend Aylin took me to a marvellous sweet shop in Kadıköy – Sekerci Cafer Erol, an old family business specialising in lokum (Turkish delight) and pulled sweets in all kinds of exotic flavours. The proprietor, M. Nurtekin Erol, let us taste various things, including some experimental lokums made with flavourings such as Turkish coffee and black pepper.

Of course I’d arrived in Istanbul with a small supply of Chinese cooking spices, just in case, and so I returned to the shop a few days later with a pot of top-grade Sichuan pepper from my friend Yu Bo’s restaurant in Chengdu. I thought they must have fun playing with it, and told them a little about its uses in Sichuanese cookery. Continue reading…

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Eating ladies’ thighs

Posted by Fuchsia on September 26, 2009
Unusual delicacies / 1 Comment

It’s been a while since I posted here, mainly because I was away on holiday for a couple of weeks, and then came back to an avalanche of things to do. Still, it was a fantastic break, staying in with friends in Istanbul and then on Büyükada, the largest of the Princes’ Islands.

For once, instead of just biting everything I came across, I was actually bitten myself, by the pet dog of a friend of a friend. The small, ferocious, yapping creature jumped up my skirt and bit me, hard, on the leg. It was shocking, and painful, not quite deep enough to draw blood, but enough to leave me with a vivid, jaw-shaped ring of toothy bruises. Continue reading…

Dining in Hangzhou

Posted by Fuchsia on September 26, 2009
Books, Chinese restaurants / 3 Comments

There’s a piece of mine in the Financial Times Weekend today, about the wonderful restaurants of Hangzhou.

And a mention of the paperback of ‘Shark’s Fin’ in the latest New York Times Book Review.

Crazy menu translations

Posted by Fuchsia on September 08, 2009
Menus / 7 Comments

The photographer Ian Cumming was my partner-in-crime on one of my Xinjiang food research trips. It was a hilarious couple of weeks: we were trailed by secret police and asked to leave our ‘weapons, explosives and isobactive materials’ at hotel receptions; Ian was hassled by prostitutes while I was repeatedly mistaken for a prostitute myself (given my scruffy clothes and lack of make-up, I can’t imagine how anyone would have thought I was soliciting for custom!); and I was unable to fasten my trousers for the entire trip because I had badly scalded my midriff with a kettle of boiling water the night before departure, which meant I had to go around with a loose silk cummerbund wrapped around my waist for a month to avoid disturbing the wound. Having said all that, and despite the tense political atmosphere, Xinjiang was fascinating and beautiful, and we met some wonderful people.

Anyway, Ian has just returned from a trip to Italy, where he dined in an apparently very smart restaurant with a menu whose translations rival the very worst Chinglish atrocities (see this link for my Financial Times piece on Chinese restaurant menu translations). This is an excerpt from Ian’s email, reproduced with his permission:

Appetisers included…

Imagination of Lubranese Sea

First dishes included:

Drops of it gleans with clam and rucola

Linguine to escapes him

Spaghetti to the veracious clams

Second dishes included…

Fished to the crazy water

Fish boiled to vapor

And my favourite…

Resentful of calf to the lemon

Then in the section entitled “Chef’s Contours”…

Capricious salad

Peas bridegrooms

Any of you got any favourites?

I have to mention that when I was looking through one of my China notebooks this morning, I found a note about ‘one of best-ever translations!’, found on a Suzhou restaurant menu. It was

‘Boiled the soup with the ovary of toad’

I laughed a lot, because the idea of eating TOAD’s ovaries was so horrible, until I realised that the translation itself actually wasn’t too far off the mark, because it was actually a soup made with FROG ovaries (xue ha), and that while I might not myself find a frog ovary soup revolting, most normal English people probably would…

Telegraph ex-pat book club

Posted by Fuchsia on September 08, 2009
Books, Environment, Shark's Fin / 4 Comments

‘Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper’ has been chosen as the first book featured by the international ex-pat wing of the Daily Telegraph’s website. This is great, except that the discussion so far has been hijacked by people who haven’t read the book, but accuse me of promoting the consumption of shark’s fin!

If they did read the book, of course, they’d discover that there’s a whole chapter about the damage caused by the consumption of bits of endangered species, including shark’s fin.

It’s very weird – the very mention of shark’s fin seems to be a kind of trigger for outrage. This has happened to me before online, and I do wonder if some people do a kind of websearch for the term ‘shark’s fin’, and then automatically post furious messages, without troubling themselves to find out what is actually being said.