Archive for August, 2010

Long-life chopsticks?

Posted by Fuchsia on August 17, 2010
Environment / 16 Comments

According to this piece in the Los Angeles Times, Greenpeace China estimates that 100 acres of trees need to be felled every 24 hours to keep up with Chinese demand for disposable chopsticks. The article says the Chinese government is so concerned at the waste that it’s trying to clamp down on their use – although with little effect so far. As anyone who has lived in China will know, many Chinese people are becoming obsessed with hygiene – it’s one of the reasons that middle-class parents prefer buying their children packaged snacks in Walmart to  old-fashioned street snacks sold by itinerant vendors. Now that everyone expects restaurants to supply either disposable chopsticks (made of wood or bamboo) or those that have been properly sterilised, it’s hard to go back to the old days when many small eateries would simply have a potful of reusable wooden chopsticks on each table.

Perhaps the solution is to revive the old Manchu and Mongolian habit of carrying around a personal set of chopsticks and other implements. The one pictured on left and right, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, is a rather fine ornament that can be attached to a belt, and it contains not only a pair of bone chopsticks, a knife and a file for sharpening, but also (not pictured) a tiny bone toothpick and an ear scoop! Of course the set pictured is rather elaborate and unnecessarily heavy, but imagine a funky, well-designed set of chopsticks in a little holder you could slip into your handbag…  (Actually, I remember on my very first trip to China, and indeed to Asia at all, I carried round my own pair of plastic chopsticks because I was paranoid about hygiene, and just rinsed them after use.) Continue reading…

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Observer accolade for my Sichuan book

Posted by Fuchsia on August 16, 2010
Books, Sichuanese cuisine / 9 Comments

My first book, Sichuan Cookery (published in the US as Land of Plenty), was chosen by the Observer Food Monthly as one of the ten best cookbooks of all time! Crazy, but delightful!

Of salt and sodium

Posted by Fuchsia on August 11, 2010
Chinese cuisine, Cooking, Food and health / 7 Comments

A blog reader called Tom emailed me recently to say that he was enjoying cooking from my books, but:

I am trying to figure out whether there is any way to reduce sodium in these
recipes, though. Like many Americans, I have high blood pressure and am trying
to manage it through diet modification. That means really watching salt intake.
I see that my soy sauce has nearly 1600 mg of sodium per tablespoon. It tastes
fantastic, but wow! That's a huge number. And that's hardly the only source of
sodium in Sichuan and Hunan cuisine. Continue reading...

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Chinese food slurred again

Posted by Fuchsia on August 09, 2010
Chinese cuisine, Chinese restaurants, Food and health / 1 Comment

I’ve just written a guest post for the Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog, which you can read here.

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Why not eat insects?

Posted by Fuchsia on August 01, 2010
Agriculture, Environment, Unusual delicacies / 18 Comments

A fascinating piece in the Guardian today about an FAO policy paper on the eating of insects. Apparently, senior figures in the UN and elsewhere are looking for ways to boost consumption of creepy-crawlies as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Rearing livestock such as cows, pigs and sheep guzzles agricultural land and spews out 20% of global greenhouse gases, and so we all need to start eating less meat. Insects, it seems, are a promising alternative, since they are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, and breeding them produces far less pollution than breeding conventional meat animals. The only problem, according to the experts cited in the article, is the Western taboo on eating insects.

If you are interested in this subject, I heartily recommend this extraordinary book by the Victorian Englishman Vincent Holt, which deploys powerful, rational arguments in favour of eating insects – and offers some recipes that sounds rather interesting. It’s a delightful, amusing and provocative little book. You might also like to read my thoughts on the subject in a piece for the FT a few years ago, which is on this website. The photographs that accompany this post are of some of the ingredients (raw and cooked) on the menu of Zou Haikuan’s restaurant, which is mentioned in my article.

Continue reading…

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