Archive for May, 2012

An amazing durian snack

Posted by Fuchsia on May 24, 2012
Unusual delicacies / 4 Comments

It’s a lobe of ripe, fresh durian, enclosed in a kind of cage of shredded taro, tied prettily with seaweed and then deep-fried – so your teeth crunch through the outer layer into the bewitching succulence of the fruit. Oh blimey. If you’re a fan of durian, which I have been since a midnight initiation in Singapore a few years ago by the street food guru K.F. Seetoh, you’d adore this incredible titbit, bought at the old seafood market in Taipei, which been converted into an ultra-chic supermarket and ‘stand-and-swallow’ (i.e. no seating) sushi bar. Just the memory of it is driving me slightly wild, and now I’m wishing I’d bought some of those freeze-dried durian chips at Bangkok airport on the way home… And I’m also remembering the taste of durian in flaky pastries from Vietnam, and a divine, incredible shaved durian ice cream in Hong Kong, but that’s about the limit of my durian experiences. Anyone like to share their memories of other interesting durian snacks?

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Chinese cheese adventures

Posted by Fuchsia on May 20, 2012
Regional cuisines, Unusual delicacies, Yunnan / 5 Comments

You can read my piece about making cheese in Lunan County, near the Stone Forest in Yunnan Province, on the BBC website, or listen to the podcast of my voice on the same page. As you’ll see/hear, the kind of cheese they make there is a fresh, unsalted goat’s cheese that is somewhat reminiscent of Cypriot Anari. It’s delicious pan-fried and served with a dip of sugar or salt and Sichuan pepper; steamed with Yunnan ham; or stir-fried with other ingredients.

Another kind of Yunnan cheese just mentioned in passing in that piece is a speciality of the Bai people in northwestern Yunnan, especially Dali. I didn’t make it up there on my most recent trip, but came across it on the streets of Kunming. It’s a really unusual form of cheese known as ru shan 乳扇 (‘milk fans’). Continue reading…

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Feeding gods and ghosts in Taiwan

Posted by Fuchsia on May 16, 2012
Chinese food culture, Rituals / 1 Comment

Some tables of food offerings outside shops and restaurants in Tainan, southern Taiwan:

With the 'three sacrifices' 三牲, chicken, fish and pork, in pride of place

The same table as the one above, from another angle

Continue reading…

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A spoon-tasting dinner in London

Posted by Fuchsia on May 06, 2012
Awards, Equipment, Events / 5 Comments

©Zoe Laughlin

My piece about this unusual event is in this weekend’s Financial Times Magazine here. Since that memorable evening, I’ve noticed myself on a few occasions unconsciously sucking my cutlery, just to see what it tastes like… One intriguing question that I didn’t have space to explore in the article is why we are sensitive to the tastes of different metals: could it be so that we can avoid those that are harmful, and are drawn to those that we need for our health? Zoe Laughlin told me she had noted that ‘men of a certain age’ have a penchant for copper; while Mark Miodownik cited a recent study backing up the suggestion that zinc, taken with Vitamin C, can help to stave off a cold. ‘Perhaps, instead of shelling out fortunes on mineral supplements,’ he said, ‘We could just stir our hot lemon juice and honey with a zinc-coated spoon.’ You can find out more about the materials adventures of Zoe, Mark and their colleagues here, at the Institute of Making.

P.S. My article about a cheese-tasting in Shaoxing (which appeared in the FT last year) won the James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for Food Culture and Travel on Friday night! Thrilled!

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Chinese seaweed in Whitstable

Posted by Fuchsia on May 01, 2012
Foraging, Ingredients, Unusual delicacies / 3 Comments

We picked over Whitstable beach, finding empty winkles and oyster shells calcified into heavy white reliquaries. And then between a couple of groynes there was a great green slick of seaweed, like wet fur on the beach. I recognised it immediately as the tai cai seaweed that is a speciality of Ningbo in eastern China, or at least a close relative, and its aroma, when I squeezed a handful of fronds, confirmed it. So we gathered a bagful, and took it back to London on the train, where it perfumed the air in the carriage with its irresistible, almost white-truffly smell, rich and savoury, like the promise of umami. In my kitchen, I rinsed out the sand and seashells in many changes of water, spun it in a lettuce spinner and then hung it out to dry overnight on linen tea-towels spread over a radiator. Continue reading…

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