The Browser have just published an interview with me about five books on Chinese food.
Chinese food culture
My piece about inviting some chefs in Shaoxing (known for its stinky beancurd and other smelly fermented foods) to taste a selection of fairly whiffy Neal’s Yard cheeses appears in this weekend’s Financial Times magazine. It was fascinating to be able to witness some very accomplished Chinese chefs tasting cheese for the first time in their lives, and gave me a new perspective on one of my favourite types of food.
“Hmm, this black garlic is delicious.”
“Actually it’s made from the single-cloved garlic of Sichuan.”
“Is that like the wild elephant garlic of Iran?”
Such is the conversation when you invite the cookery writer Anissa Helou over for a quiet Sunday night supper. I’d promised her something very casual, but ended up thinking about the menu all weekend, of course. This is what we had:
A sweet, treacly black garlic clove each: these were a gift from the Sichuanese chef Yu Bo.
Smacked cucumber with a Sichuanese chilli-oil dressing.
Photographs from Chinese New Year’s Eve in Hunan, 2004.
Chinese President Hu Jintao was honoured with a state banquet at the White House last night. Apparently he and his entourage had requested a ‘quintessentially American’ menu, and this is what they were given:
D’Anjou pear salad with farmstead goat cheese, fennel, black walnuts and white balsamic
Poached Maine lobster with orange-glazed carrots and black trumpet mushrooms
Dry-aged rib eye with buttermilk crisp onions, double stuffed potatoes and creamed spinach
Old-fashioned apple pie with vanilla ice cream. Continue reading…
At the conference today I received a Hunanese government award for contributions to the internationalisation of Hunan cuisine! It was worth getting up at what seemed like ungodly hour, after a jetlagged and somewhat sleepless night. The hall was packed with about 300 delegates, and I was the only Westerner – a weird throwback to my early days in China. Awards in the international category were also given to my friend and colleague, Bashan/Barshu owner Shao Wei; Peng Tieh-cheng, son of Peng Chang-kuei; and Susur Lee. And there were also awards for local chefs and restaurants. Shao Wei and I spent the rest of the morning doing interviews with local media (I think we may be on TV tonight!), and then I had to give a brief talk after lunch. A bit nightmarish having to speak in Chinese before such a crowd, but it seemed to go OK, and I managed to entertain them with tales of persuading Westerners to love eating preserved duck eggs and rubbery things!
Chinese cuisine, Chinese food culture, Cooking, Events, Uncategorized / No Comments
The knife clinic, held last Thursday, was great fun. Delicious canapes by Daylesford Organic, great demos by Marianne Lumb and Corin Mellor. And I did a bit of Chinese chopping, including spring onion ‘fish-eyes’, ‘flowers’ and ‘horse ears’, ‘ox-tongue’ slices made from Asian radish, and ‘eyebrows’ and ‘phoenix tails’ cut from pig’s kidneys.
Illustration on left by Sebastian Wilkinson
You can read my piece about eating my way around Piedmont with Chinese restaurateur A Dai on the From Our Own Correspondent pages of the BBC’s website. Or you can listen to me reading it myself on their podcast for today, 13 November, on this webpage.
I’ll try to post a suitable photograph later!
Chinese cuisine, Chinese food culture, Development, Environment, Events, People / No Comments
I’m just back from a week in Turin for my first Slow Food Salone Del Gusto and Terra Madre. The Salone Del Gusto centres on a vast ‘Slow Food’ trade fair: two enormous halls filled with vendors of Italian delicacies, and (more interesting), a slightly smaller international hall where you can find extraordinary and wonderful foodstuffs, including ancient varieties of almonds from Uzbekistan, Yak’s milk cheese from the Tibetan Plateau, and dried mulberries and mulberry halva from the Pamir mountains. The simultaneous and adjacent Terra Madre is a gathering of some six thousand delegates from 161 countries, all of whom are in some way involved in sustainable local food production.
Funnily enough, I was a member of the Chinese delegation. Continue reading…