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, Cooking, Food and health, Hunan, Ingredients / 16 Comments
I’m back in Changsha, where I lived for a few months while researching my Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, for the first time in five years. It’s wonderful to see some old friends, including Peng Tieh-cheng, the son of legendary Hunanese chef Peng Chang-kuei (of General Tso’s chicken fame). He’s in Changsha for the same Hunan food conference as me, and I hadn’t seen him for about six years. Peng Tieh-cheng tells me his father, who is now 93, is in good health, and still popping into their main restaurant in Taipei every day.
I’ve had some rather lovely meals in the last 24 hours, and one of the highlights of all of them has been the simplest of dishes: stir-fried red rape shoots (hong cai tai 红菜苔), served at lunch with a little dried chilli, and at dinner with slivered ginger. Only the tenderest tips of the shoots are used, and the thicker parts may actually be peeled of their skin. Stir-fried, they have an exquisite flavour and mouthfeel, sweet and juicy, with a hint of dark sleek bitterness in the leaves. Hong cai tai have a similar appeal to asparagus, although I think they are even more delicious. When they are in season, they are served at almost every meal. Continue reading…
Bashan, the sister restaurant of Barshu, for whom I also work as consultant, has launched a very delicious new menu of Hunan dishes, a few of which are based on those in my Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook. As you can imagine, being involved in all the tastings has been delightful!
The new menu offers dishes that include the ever-popular steamed fish with chopped salted chillies, Chairman Mao’s favourite red-braised pork, the famous General Tso’s chicken (invented by a Hunanese exile chef in Taiwan), Bandit’s pork liver with green chillies, sizzling stir-fried lamb with hot peppers, and a number of rustic stir-fries made with the dried vegetables that are a favourite ingredient in the region. Other specialities include a sumptuous stew of beef with zongzi, the glutinous ricecakes that are traditionally eaten at the Dragon Boat Festival in the fifth lunar month, an irresistible platter of stir-fried bamboo shoots with pork, and a gentle bowlful of silken beancurd seasoned with the yolks of salted duck eggs. Prices start at £4.90 for appetisers and £6.90 for main dishes, so it’s a bit cheaper than Barshu.
Our designer has created some special posters for the restaurant, in keeping with the new revolutionary atmosphere.
According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, a local government in Hunan is issuing precise instructions for making Mao’s favourite dish, Red-Braised Pork (hong shao rou 红烧肉), in an attempt to stem the flood of imitations. They are also attempting to standardise recipes for other dishes enjoyed by Mao, including stir-fried pork with peppers (nong jia chao rou 农家炒肉) and steamed fishhead with chillies (duojiao zheng yutou 剁椒蒸鱼头).
I was particularly amused by this because in the course of research for my Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook I was shown two different versions of this in Mao’s home village Shaoshan alone: one, made by the wife of the local Communist Party Secretary, was a simple dish of braised pork belly, cooked in lard with dark soy sauce to give colour, a dash of vinegar and a little sugar; the other, made in the kitchens of the Shaoshan Guesthouse, where I’d just had lunch with Mao’s nephew, was a more sophisticated dish, coloured with caramelised sugar (糖色), spiced with dried red
chillies, star anise and ginger, and enhanced by some juices of fermented beancurd. Who can say which is truer to Mao’s own tastes? Continue reading…