Christmas greetings!

Posted by Fuchsia on December 24, 2013
Chinese food culture, Festivals, Uncategorized / 4 Comments

I’ve always rather admired those incredible Chinese cold-cut platters 冷盘, in which auspicious scenes are recreated in a collage of little slices of food. Sometimes they may be assembled from slices of cooked tongue, roast duck and other meaty ingredients, sometimes from multicoloured vegetables, often a mixture of both. It’s rare to see them in restaurants these days, because they require a great deal of patient work and artistry – in China, I think I’ve only seen them as exhibition pieces in culinary competitions. But I love to flick through cookery books that show some of these extraordinary platters in their full glory. Continue reading…


In praise of simplicity

Posted by Fuchsia on April 04, 2013
Chinese cuisine, Cooking, Festivals / 11 Comments

The picture on the left is of my lunch yesterday, at home: pao fan 泡饭 (‘soaked’ or soupy rice) made from leftovers of brown rice with broccoli, with added green pak choy, and some spicy fermented tofu. You could say it was the most basic, skeletal epitome of the Chinese meal: a staple grain, some healthy brassica greens, a little protein (the tofu), and a strongly-flavoured relish to ‘send the rice down’ (xia fan 下饭)  (in this case the tofu again). It was just what I felt like after a few days of rather gluttonous eating over Easter: plain, cheap, healthy and nutritious but also rather nice.

The privileged among us really do live in one of the golden ages of eating. Like rich Romans of classical times, who served peacocks at their banquets, or the upper classes of Tang Dynasty Chang’an, with their predilection for Silk Road spices, we can pick and choose what we consume; we can have Sichuanese food tonight, Italian tomorrow and Japanese the day after; we can buy fresh uni, fennel pollen and verjuice; we can eat meat at every meal, or decide to become vegetarian for intellectual reasons. We can fuss over the provenance and purity of our coffee and chocolate. We can throw away vegetables that are a little wilted, or good food that we simply forgot to cook because we were out at some fancy new restaurant. Our biscuits are double-choc or triple-choc, our ice creams are threaded with extra nuggets of luxury. The world is our oyster. Continue reading…


Happy Christmas!

Posted by Fuchsia on December 25, 2012
Festivals / 1 Comment


Happy New Year!

Posted by Fuchsia on January 22, 2012
Chinese food culture, Cooking, Festivals, Sichuanese cuisine / 12 Comments

Last year I gave you a few photographs of Chinese New Year in Hunan, 2004. This year, here are a couple of photographs of Chinese New Year meals in the far north of the country, in a remote part of Gansu Province in 1995. They were taken in the village that is the subject of the chapter ‘Hungry Ghosts’ in my book Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper. (Please forgive the poor quality of the images! I may try to scan them properly another time!)

On the right, you can see a pair of fish (fish are an almost obligatory part of New Year’s Eve dinners because nian nian you yu is a phrase that can mean both ‘fish every year’ and ‘plenty every year’: so the dish is an auspicious play on words.) Continue reading…

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Christmas leftovers, Sichuan-style

Posted by Fuchsia on December 30, 2011
Cooking, Festivals / 1 Comment

As usual, some of the leftovers of my family’s Christmas turkey ended up in a Sichuanese dressing on Boxing Day (as mentioned in Time Out): tamari soy sauce, Chinkiang vinegar, sugar, ground roasted Sichuan pepper, home-made chilli oil and a little turkey stock. A scattering of toasted sesame seeds would have been a nice garnish, but I forgot to bring them with me to my parents’ house. We served it alongside ham, potato salad, green salad, Chinese kohlrabi salad, carrot salad, chicory with pear, walnut and blue cheese and other delicious leftovers. And then for pud, apple crumble, leftover Chinese mince pies (little mince pies made in the shape of jiaozi dumplings – a stop-gap invented one Christmas in Chengdu when there were no mince pie trays to hand, and used ever since), meringues and plum compote made with plums from the garden. Oh – and these marzipan and walnut balls, made in memory of my wonderful grandmother, who used to make them every year.


Year of the Rabbit

Posted by Fuchsia on February 04, 2011
Cooking, Festivals / 12 Comments

Dinner at home to mark the start of the Year of the Rabbit: lotus root salad and preserved duck eggs to start; then Cantonese steamed sea bass (年年有余), Sichuanese red-braised wild rabbit, garlic stems with shiitake mushrooms, Shanghai-style braised water bamboo, Dongpo pork, Shanghai green pak choy with quail egg ‘rabbits’. The picture on the left shows the quail egg ‘rabbits’ before the  meal. Aren’t they sweet!


Happy New Year!

Posted by Fuchsia on February 03, 2011
Chinese food culture, Festivals, Hunan / 2 Comments

Photographs from Chinese New Year’s Eve in Hunan, 2004.

Food offerings for the ancestors

Writing Spring Festival couplets

A song before dinner

New Year’s Eve feast