Archive for April, 2010

Rapeseed oil and grass-fed beef

Posted by Fuchsia on April 05, 2010
Environment, Food and health, Ingredients / 11 Comments

When cooking Chinese food, I have been in the habit of using groundnut oil, which is neutral in flavour, stable at high temperatures and relatively easily available. I’d rather, however, use the traditional Chinese cooking oils, which vary by region, but tend to be rapeseed oil in Sichuan, and camellia oil in some other southern areas, like Hunan – which is why I have been so excited to discover what seems to be a resurgence in the production of artisanal rapeseed oils at home in England. Yesterday, I spent a day experimenting with a Sichuanese chef friend in London, and we used Cotswold Gold extra virgin cold-pressed rapeseed oil to make some homestyle Sichuanese dishes. My friend, Barshu chef Zhang Xiaozhong, confirmed that it was very like the oils traditionally used in Sichuan, and we were both very satisfied by its performance as a cooking oil. So I’ll be using more and more of it, anyway!

Incidentally, I bought the oil at the Wild Beef stall at Broadway Market run by Richard and Lizzie Vines, producers of fantastic grass-fed beef. I’ve been using their meat for a while in Chinese dishes, and I highly recommend it. Their cattle are grass-fed and traditionally reared, and the meat is delicious. Yesterday Zhang Xiaozhong and I used some of their beef shin in a Sichuanese cold meat dish – magnificent. They do mail order as well as market stalls, in case anyone’s interested…

Bordeaux is the new Prada (or the new shark’s fin?)

Posted by Fuchsia on April 03, 2010
Banquets, Chinese food culture, Wine / 4 Comments

Chinese merchants and investors are planning to snap up much of the acclaimed 2009 vintage of Bordeaux wines, according to this piece in the Guardian. The article says Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Lafite-Rothschild have been called “tipple of choice for your thrusting Chinese industrialist”:

Top wines have become a prestigious gift among business people in China; a bottle of famous claret is now an essential part of entertaining government officials, Chinese merchants said. Among the middle classes, Bordeaux is also seen as a sophisticated and healthy alternative to Chinese wines, which can contain up to 40% alcohol.

The piece quotes a Hong Kong investor, Sam Yip, as saying ”Everyone in China is thinking Lafite,” he said. “It is seen in the same light as Louis Vuitton, Prada and Gucci.” I can’t say I’ve ever been offered a glass of Lafite at a Chinese banquet, but I can see that it would sit rather nicely on the kind of table described to me by one Chinese chef, at a feast an entrepreneur threw for local government officials (read into that exactly what you will), alongside the abalone, shark’s fin, bird’s nest and humphead wrasse. That particular banquet, as described to me, cost the equivalent of about £8000 for one round table – so I’m sure a few grand on a bottle of wine would have been acceptable. Perhaps they were drinking Lafite anyway – the chef I spoke to only knew about the menu and the cost of the food.

Any of you got any tales of the bling factor at Chinese banquets? Or of expensive Bordeaux wines in China?