Archive for January, 2010

Red-braised pork – the official version

Posted by Fuchsia on January 31, 2010
Chinese cuisine, Chinese restaurants, Hunan / 5 Comments
The Party Secretary's wife's version

The Party Secretarys Wifes version

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, a local government in Hunan is issuing precise instructions for making Mao’s favourite dish, Red-Braised Pork (hong shao rou 红烧肉), in an attempt to stem the flood of imitations. They are also attempting to standardise recipes for other dishes enjoyed by Mao, including stir-fried pork with peppers (nong jia chao rou 农家炒肉) and steamed fishhead with chillies (duojiao zheng yutou 剁椒蒸鱼头).

I was particularly amused by this because in the course of research for my Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook I was shown two different versions of this in Mao’s home village Shaoshan alone: one, made by the wife of the local Communist Party Secretary, was a simple dish of braised pork belly, cooked in lard with dark soy sauce to give colour, a dash of vinegar and a little sugar; the other, made in the kitchens of the Shaoshan Guesthouse, where I’d just had lunch with Mao’s nephew, was a more sophisticated dish, coloured with caramelised sugar (糖色), spiced with dried red

The Shaoshan Guesthouse version

The Shaoshan Guesthouse version

chillies, star anise and ginger, and enhanced by some juices of fermented beancurd. Who can say which is truer to Mao’s own tastes? Continue reading…

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Woof woof

Posted by Fuchsia on January 27, 2010
Chinese food culture, Unusual delicacies / 15 Comments

According to reports in various newspapers (such as the Guardian in the UK), legal experts in China are proposing that a new law to prevent the abuse of animals should include a ban on the consumption of cats and dogs. As anyone who lives in China knows, eating these animals is rather unusual, and generally limited to a few regions. Moreover, eating dog meat, though it dates back to ancient times, is a seasonal delicacy, suitable only for very cold weather because of its heating qualities. Looking at Western discussions of Chinese food, however, you’d never know that it was a minority pursuit. Westerners, as I argued in this op-ed piece in the New York Times a couple of years ago, have been obsessed with Chinese dog-eating since the time of Marco Polo. It’s something they just love to get outraged about. Continue reading…

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El Bulli

Posted by Fuchsia on January 27, 2010
Interviews, People, Restaurants / No Comments

The legendary Catalan chef Ferran Adria announced last night that he would be closing his restaurant, El Bulli, after the next two seasons. As I think I mentioned, I went there for dinner for the second time in October. Anyway, you can listen to me on BBC Radio today, on Newshour, talking about Ferran Adria and his work.

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Sichuan chilli bean paste

Posted by Fuchsia on January 25, 2010
Ingredients / 99 Comments

I spent yesterday experimenting in my kitchen with Zhang Xiaozhong, the head chef of Barshu restaurant, where I work as consultant. A few people have emailed me to ask which Chinese seasonings to use, and so while Chef Zhang was here, I asked him to give me his opinion of a few versions of chilli and broad bean paste (豆瓣酱), which is one of the essential flavourings of the Sichuanese kitchen. When I first started writing about Sichuanese food, the only brand available in the West seemed to be Lee Kum Kee’s chilli bean sauce (toban djan), but a few others are now on sale in Chinatown in London. These are the ones we tasted, with some of Chef Zhang’s comments: Continue reading…

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Shark’s fin encore!

Shark fins for sale in Hong Kong You can hear me talking about eating shark’s fin (or not) on the BBC today (or read the piece here).

While I was writing it, I came across a page I tore out of the South China Morning Post in October last year. It includes a letter from Dr Choo-hoo Giam, a member of the animals committee of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. What is particularly interesting about the letter is that Dr Giam points out the extent to which it is not only the Chinese and their notorious shark’s fin soup that are to blame for the devastation of worldwide shark stocks. The main points Dr Giam makes are as follows: Continue reading…

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Grandmother’s food 慈母菜 (Chinese version)

Posted by Fuchsia on January 15, 2010
Uncategorized / 3 Comments

我的博客一般是用英语写的可是我觉得我真应该把这篇小文章翻译成汉语啊我写的是关于一位美国记者作家最新发表的著作麦克尔·波兰Michael Pollan《捍卫食物》(In Defence of Food《杂食者的困境》The Omnivore’s Dilemma这两本书在美国和欧洲有很大的影响。他基本的观点 如下最近几十年营养学发展了很多可结果是人们现在一点也不知到怎么吃了脑子里填满了各种营养信息太混乱而且常常是自相矛盾的。营养学家也犯了一些严重的错误(譬如说,以前告诉我们动物脂肪对人体很危险,应该用人工食品代替, 而且过了几十年,发现了这些人工食品本身也是非常危险的。)

麦克尔·波兰的建议是:要吃事物,但不要太多,而且最好多吃植物。(’Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

“食物一词在他看来是用可以辨认的成分做成的真正食品,不是那些在当地的超级市场上出售的那些怪异的、高科技的类似食品的东西。他也指出,我们的祖母一代远比我们了解如何吃得好,因为他们的大脑里没有被自相矛盾,而且是一些误导性的建议弄得六神无主,她们采用是一种大致相同方法喂养她们的家庭。所有这些都是我本人受到他在《纽约时报》发表的最新文章中得到的启迪。 Continue reading…

Grandmother’s cooking 慈母菜

Posted by Fuchsia on January 10, 2010
Chinese food culture, Food and health / 2 Comments

I’m sure many readers of this blog will be familiar with Michael Pollan and his work – especially the eminently sensible, and absolutely timely polemic In Defence of Food. For those of you who aren’t, his basic thesis is that the growth of nutritional science has made most of use confused about what to eat, and that the answer to all our worries is simply to ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants’. By ‘food’, he means real food made from recognisable ingredients, not the weird, high-tech ‘foodlike substances’ on sale in your local supermarket. He also suggests that our grandmothers knew much more about how to eat well than we did, because their brains were not addled by contradictory and often misleading nutritional advice, and because they took a similarly commonsense approach to feeding their families. I was reminded of all this by his latest piece in the New York Times. Continue reading…

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Comfort food on a cold day

Posted by Fuchsia on January 07, 2010
Barshu, Chinese cuisine, Food and health / 17 Comments

One of the great things about having Chinese friends is that they really know how to look after you when you’re ill! I dropped into the restaurant for which I work as a consultant, Barshu, earlier this week with a rotten cold, and the manager, Juanzi, told me I should be eating 粥 (congee). She persuaded me to stay for half an hour while the chefs whipped some up in a pressure cooker – and so I left with a wonderful potful of sleek congee laced with slivered ginger, sliced 皮蛋 (preserved duck eggs, a.k.a. ‘Thousand-year-old eggs’), and pork ribs so tender they were falling off the bone. Oh, and two little packages of pickled vegetables to eat with the congee, and another potful of stewed Chinese honey dates 蜜棗 with crystal sugar. Yum yum.

Have any of you blog readers had similar experiences? What are your favourite Chinese comfort foods?

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General Tso’s chicken (again)

Posted by Fuchsia on January 06, 2010
Chefs, Chinese cuisine, Chinese restaurants, People, Restaurants / 13 Comments

Francis Lam has written an interesting piece on the history of General Tso’s chicken for Salon.com. And I think it may clear up one of the niggling little questions that has been perplexing me since I gave a paper on the subject last month, at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. In the discussion that followed my talk, I realised that I didn’t have any idea how to explain the fact that, although the Taiwan-Hunanese chef Peng Chang-Kuei seems clearly to be the originator of the dish, and although the Chinese name of the dish on the menu of his restaurant in Taipei is Zuo Zongtang’s chicken (左宗棠土雞 - Zuo Zongtang is the full name of General Tso), he translates it as ‘Chicken a la Viceroy’. It didn’t occur to me to ask when and how the English name was changed from ‘Chicken a la Viceroy’ to ‘General Tso’s Chicken’ – and I’d resolved to ask Chef Peng and his son about this detail next time I talk to them. Continue reading…

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