Archive for November, 2009

Living in a police state

Posted by Fuchsia on November 18, 2009
Uncategorized / 5 Comments

This is not about food, but it’s such a striking story that I had to post it…

I was chatting to a friend who works in the Chinese restaurant industry here in London, and she was lamenting a change in the UK immigration laws which means that foreign students will no longer be allowed to work part-time while they live here.

Anyway, she said, large numbers of Chinese students and young people had decided to leave the UK for Canada, because of Britain’s ‘CCTV culture’. ‘They just have the feeling that they are being watched all the time, and it’s no longer fun to be here. And first the authorities asked for fingerprints, now irises, and they want to take everybody’s DNA and keep it for six years!’

When people from China want to leave the UK because of the decline in civil liberties, you know you’re in trouble…

Who’s calling who greasy?

shui zhi yu - Barshu menu

shui zhi yu - as seen on the Barshu menu

An illuminating little story from Sichuan, told to me by my friend Dai Shuang, the wife and business partner of the Sichuanese chef Yu Bo (who you will meet in the ‘Rubber Factor’ chapter of my ‘Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper’):

A friend of Yu Bo and Dai Shuang’s, an American chef who works in Shanghai, was complaining that many Sichuanese dishes, including mala yu, were too oily. As I’m sure you blog readers, will agree, this is a common western complaint about Sichuanese cuisine, and even Chinese cuisine in general.

Anyway, later that day, Dai Shuang and Yu Bo watched their American friend make some mashed potatoes, and they were incredulous at the amount of milk and butter he added – Dai Shuang said it was so rich she could hardly bear to eat it.

That evening, they offered him some of that classic Sichuan supper dish, hui guo rou (twice-cooked pork), and asked him if he found it oily – he did. So Dai Shuang pointed out that his mashed potato had been full of butter, and that they had been expected to eat it all, whereas with the Sichuanese dish, almost all the oil had remained on the serving dish. Moreover, the oil used in Sichuanese cooking was mainly vegetable oil, whereas in Western cooking it was often less-healthy animal fats. ‘It’s very funny’, she said, ‘The way Westerners think Chinese food is so oily, while we think Western food is so oily!’ Continue reading…

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Are we all mad?

Posted by Fuchsia on November 16, 2009
Environment / 1 Comment

My friend Andrea, cooking supper for a group of us at his home, mentioned that a mutual friend hadn’t been able to join us because he was at the ‘fish extinction awards, otherwise known as the sushi awards’. And so we got talking about the perilous state of bluefin tuna stocks (this magnificent fish is almost certain to be extinct within three years - just watch The End of the Line to see why). Continue reading…


The mystery of the mango pancake

Mango pancake at the Sea Treasure restaurant in Sydney

I was intrigued while in Sydney to find ‘mango pancakes’ an apparent staple of Chinese restaurants there. I’ve never come across this speciality anywhere in China, even in Hong Kong (which some chatters on the Web suggest is its place of origin). For those of you who haven’t come across them, mango pancakes consist of a normal sort of pancake stuffed with whipped cream and chopped fresh mango – delicious, but not typically Chinese at all.

Is the mango pancake the General Tso’s chicken or the fortune cookie of Sydney (or the whole of Australia), i.e. a Chinese diaspora creation that has become an indispensable part of a particular immigrant Chinese culinary culture?

I’d love to hear from any blog-readers out there who know more… Has anyone seen this kind of mango pancake anywhere else in the world? Hong Kong? Other Australian cities? Anyone have any idea when it started to appear in Sydney Chinese restaurants? Do all Cantonese restaurants in Sydney, or Australia, serve them, or just a few? Please let me know!

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The Sydney Food Festival

Posted by Fuchsia on November 03, 2009
Chinese cuisine, Cooking, Events / 1 Comment

I’m finally back in London after a crazy month’s travelling: first to Sydney for its International Food Festival, then to Singapore for a food and wine conference, then to Hong Kong and, at the end, Barcelona!

The Sydney food festival was a gathering of chefs and food-writers from all over Australia, Asia, and further afield, including Tetsuya Wakuda, Peter Gordon, David Thomson, Kylie Kwong, Neil Perry and Alvin Leung. The photograph on the left, taken at the opening night of the World Chef’s Showcase, was taken by Marco del Grande of the Sydney Morning Herald. Continue reading…