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Happy Chinese New Year! 新年快乐!马年吉祥!

Posted by Fuchsia on January 31, 2014
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With all good wishes for the Year of the Horse, here’s a picture of New Year’s Day feasting in rural Hunan, 2004. A table of plenty, all cooked either on an old-fashioned wood-fired stove, or in a blackened cooking pot hanging over the open fire on the kitchen floor. We were sitting around that table in an old mud-brick cottage in a beautiful valley. Happy memories.

And here’s another pic of my lovely friend Fan Qun’s father on a horse, for the Year of the Horse.

Have any of you blog visitors been cooking anything special for the Chinese New Year?

新年快乐!马年吉祥!马到成功!

The world’s most amazing food museum?

Posted by Fuchsia on January 31, 2014
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You can read my piece about the incredible Hangzhou Cuisine Museum (中国杭帮菜博物馆) on the BBC website here, or listen to me talking about it on From Our Own Correspondent here. Slurp!

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…

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El Bulli: Ferran Adria and the art of food

Posted by Fuchsia on July 10, 2013
Restaurants, Uncategorized / 5 Comments

Last week I went to the opening of this new exhibition at Somerset House. It’s a peculiar idea, an exhibition about a restaurant without anything to taste, and I have to admit I was sceptical. So what’s in the exhibition? Well, there is a lot of memorabilia: old photographs, menus and the like. But what I found more interesting were the explorations of the creative process at El Bulli: a display of multicoloured modelling clays that were used to make maquettes for every dish, so that the proportions of each ingredient, each colour, each texture, could be reproduced accurately in the restaurant; the display of custom-made serving vessels, including strange bits of mesh, and indented glass. And there were many small video screens showing films of the construction of El Bulli dishes, which were compelling. The exhibition certainly helps to stake Ferran Adria’s claim to be considered as a creative artist and not a mere cook – but it’s hard to convey s sense the magic and fun of El Bulli in a museum in London… Continue reading…

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Why do Americans think ice is so nice?

Posted by Fuchsia on April 14, 2013
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Ice blocks, Kashgar Sunday market

The first time I went to America, I couldn’t understand why, whenever I checked into a hotel, the first thing the bell boy told me was where I could find ice. He might point out an ice dispenser in the lift lobby, or tell me which number I could call to have some ice sent over. Ice, it seemed, was the number-one preoccupation of American hotel guests, whatever the season. As a Chinese convert, though, the first thing I want to see when I check into a hotel room is hot water and the means to make tea. In the old days in China, every hotel or guesthouse would provide tealeaves and lidded mugs, and a fuwuyuan would bring you a thermos filled with hot water as soon as you arrived – one of those lovely, old-fashioned thermoses with floral patterns that evoke the style of pre-war Shanghai. Fresh supplies of hot water could be obtained from a service room on every floor where a giant steel samovar simmered away, day and night. These days, you’re more likely to be faced with an electric kettle, but the tea-making facilities are non-negotiable. A cup of tea always has to be part of the welcome, whether you are arriving at someone’s home or office, or checking into a hotel. Continue reading…

Year of the Snake

Posted by Fuchsia on February 13, 2013
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Aperitivo (snake's blood in rice wine)

A snaky infusion of rice wine

Bizarrely, I spent this Chinese New Year’s Eve teaching cookery in Houston, and then eating Tex-Mex! (Molten cheese with tortilla chips; a San Antonio ‘puffy taco’ stuffed with smoked chicken; a great platter piled with a tamale, a couple of enchiladas, refried beans and rice – all very tasty, but incredibly rich and heavy! Could have done with a salad or some stir-fried greens. The highlight, for me, was one of the sides, the scrumptious refried beans cooked in lard.) On New Year’s Day I travelled back to Washington DC, where I was staying with friends. So no Chinese food at all – not even a fish!

Snake soup

Anyway, since it’s the Year of the Snake, I thought I’d post some pictures of snake delicacies from a visit to Fujian a few years ago.

What kind of snakes are these, in the kitchen? Anyone know?

Every Grain of Rice US edition now out!

Posted by Fuchsia on February 04, 2013
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The US edition of Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking, is out today, published, like the American editions of all my books, by W.W.Norton. It’s the same book as the UK edition, but with Americanised measurements and so on, and a different cover.

Wonderful response so far, like this lovely piece in LA Times, this review by Asian Review of Books, and this one by Carolyn Phillips on Zester Daily.

I hope it will help American readers discover the joys of Chinese home cooking, especially vegetables!

The lonely life of the Chinese chef

Posted by Fuchsia on December 01, 2011
Chefs, Uncategorized / 4 Comments

Chef Zhang in the CIA kitchens

Recently I went with the head chef of Barshu, Zhang Xiaozhong, to give some presentations at the Worlds of Flavour conference at the Culinary Institute of America (generally known, amusingly, as the CIA). As we were driving back to San Francisco after the event, I asked Chef Zhang about his plans for the Chinese New Year, and he replied with this wistful little poem about the life of the chef, slaving away over a hot stove while everyone else celebrates with their families:

他人家中聚   Other people gather in their homes

我望锅中油   I gaze at the oil in the wok

妙手烹万物   Using my subtle hands to cook ten thousand

ingredients

厨房度春秋   Working in the kitchen as the seasons pass

Fuchsia and the giant peach

Posted by Fuchsia on May 14, 2011
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Driving through the countryside near Beijing on the way back from the Great Wall, we passed through a fruit-growing region, which advertised its wares through this enormous fruit bowl! It’s actually a half walnut shell, filled with totally out-of-proportion fruit.

Shanghai in November

Posted by Fuchsia on November 20, 2010
Uncategorized / 3 Comments

Arrived in Shanghai to warm and sunny weather! I had a simple vegetarian lunch at a Buddhist monastery (Shanghai wontons stuffed with shepherd’s purse, green pak choy and mushrooms; ‘Arhat’s noodles’ with cloud ears, bamboo shoot and another kind of mushrooms). Dinner was fine Spanish jamon, cut from an entire leg of ham that had been smuggled into the country in a container, with home-made Spanish tortilla, tomato bread and red wine. Well, Shanghai is a melting pot, isn’t it?

I spent the afternoon doing a few errands, and while I was walking around in the old Foreign Settlement area, I noticed these salted fish and pieces of pork wind-drying on a traffic light!