Dinner at the Clove Club

Posted by Fuchsia on January 03, 2014
Restaurants / 2 Comments

Radical chicken's feet

There is only the slightest, most tenuous little Chinese excuse for writing about my recent dinner at the Clove Club on this blog, but it was such a fabulous meal that I’m going to anyway. My phone ran out of juice very quickly so I took almost no photos (which was actually a relief: Instagram is fun but can also be a self-imposed tyranny). We had the set menu, with a few extra tasters which were sent out by the kitchen.

The Chinese excuse lies in one of the extras, an ingenious little concoction of boned, deep-fried chicken’s feet, gently embracing a mushroom and chicken stuffing. This is the only time I’ve ever been served chicken’s feet in a non-Chinese restaurant, and these were divine: crisp, crunchy and totally unexpected. (Have any blog readers come across interesting chicken’s feet dishes outside the Chinese culinary world?) Continue reading…

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President Xi Jinping’s steamed baozi

Posted by Fuchsia on January 02, 2014
Chinese food culture, Dumplings, Politics / No Comments

Baozi (library pic - not from Qing Feng)

Last week, Chinese president Xi Jinping caused a sensation after being photographed queueing up for a tray of steamed baozi at a Beijing snack shop, Qing Feng. According to the pics, he bought his own meal ticket, queued up with a tray, collected his pork buns, and then sat down among other customers to eat them. Chinese people have been amazed to hear of their paramount leader rubbing shoulders with the ‘Old Hundred Names’ commoners of Beijing. Some have reacted cynically, wondering if this could possibly be a cynical PR stunt (dreamed up perhaps after former US ambassador to China Gary Locke caused such a stir by buying his own coffee in Beijing), rather than a real glimpse into the hitherto unknown everyday life of Xi Jinping.

It is unusual for today’s Chinese leaders to fraternise with the public. On my most recent trip to China, one of my friends remarked on how leaders’ lives were an absolute mystery: ‘No one ever sees them. We don’t even know if they actually live in Zhongnanhai, the leadership compound, as they are said to. After all, no one ever sees them going in or out.’ Continue reading…

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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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House of Ho

Posted by Fuchsia on December 16, 2013
Restaurants / 3 Comments

That marvellous egg pho cuon

A few years ago, I happened to be in an episode of Bobby Chinn’s World Cafe Asia when he was filming in Chengdu: you can watch our antics here (small fee required to watch the video). Anyway, turns out he’s opened a restaurant in London, and it was a lovely surprise to receive a phonecall out of the blue and an invitation to try some of the dishes at the House of Ho, opening this week in Soho, London…

The highlight was undoubtedly the Pho Cuon, a dreamy, ethereal parcel of rice pasta enclosing an egg cooked

Monkfish with lemongrass

long and slow, in a very delicate broth, but we also loved the smokey aubergine with warm scallion vinaigrette, the shaking beef, the lemon grass monk fish in a caramel sauce, and the stir-fried egg choyote, which was very simple and utterly gorgeous.

House of Ho, 55-59 Old Compton Street, 0207 287 0770

Apple-smoked pork belly, braised cabbage, egg

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Chinese feasts for the British PM – a few thoughts

Posted by Fuchsia on December 03, 2013
Banquets, Menus, Politics / 8 Comments

Random Chinese banquet picture from my library!

Today, the Daily Telegraph published menus of the lunch and dinner served to the British Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday in Beijing. Lunch, apparently, was ‘hors d’oeuvres’, creamy mushroom soup, beef steak Chinese style, bamboo fungus with green vegetables and boiled sea bass, followed by pumpkin cream with sago, ‘pastries’ and fruit. Dinner was another ‘hors d’oeuvres’, sturgeon’s marrow and bamboo fungus soup, boiled lobster claw with peach gum and saffron, codfish roll with bacon, sauteed shredded pork in chilli and garlic sauce, steamed duck and taro paste with rice wine, assorted vegetables in casserole and rice congee with gingko, followed by more ‘pastries’ and fruit. Continue reading…

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Strange fruits

Posted by Fuchsia on November 03, 2013
Chinese food culture, Foraging, Unusual delicacies / 5 Comments

These extraordinary wild fruits, harvested in the Zhejiang countryside, taste rather like pear or jujube, although of course they have proportionally less flesh to skin, to the skin seems thicker and more fibrous. The seeds form outside the fleshy fruit, as you can see in the pictures. Their Latin name is Hovenia Acerbis Lindl, which may be the same as Hovenia Dulcis, the oriental raising tree – see this Wikipedia entry. In Chinese, theyare called guai zao(拐枣), whose literal translation is apposite and charming: jujubes turning corners! A perfect description of their sweet, jujube-like flavour and strange, angular construction. I think they look like dancing horses or underfloor plumbing. According to Wikipedia, they taste like raisins when dried.

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Translation – any ideas?!

Posted by Fuchsia on October 11, 2013
Language / 24 Comments

A friend of mine who is a big cheese in Chinese food circles (or should we say ‘a big tofu’ in these parts?) has asked me for ideas in translating his Chinese term shi xue 食学 (literally ‘Food Studies’). He is proposing that there should be an academic discipline of this name on with the same status as subjects like chemistry, geography and history. It will encompass ecology; food production from farm to plate (including agriculture, animal husbandry, hunting, fishing, foraging…); cookery; gastronomy; the aesthetics of food; the biological process of eating from mastication through digestion to excretion; food law; nutrition; diet-related diseases; famine and other food disasters; anthropology of food; food education; and so on. Continue reading…

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Fancy a buckwheat noodle enema?

Posted by Fuchsia on October 10, 2013
Chinese restaurants, Language, Menus / 6 Comments

I know it’s something of a cliche to giggle at Chinese menu mistranslations, but the menu I came across at lunchtime today was such a spectacular disaster that I had to share it! Here are some of the linguistic catastrophes on offer in a Shanxi restaurant in Beijing:

荞面灌肠 Buckwheat noodles enema [unfortunately the same Chinese characters are used for an enema and some sausagey-type things]

凉拌莜面 Cold you face [here, the dish is cold oaten noodles, but the character for noodle-type foods (mian) is the same as that for face; and clearly they couldn't find oats in the dictionary so they didn't bother to translate and just gave the pinyin transliteration of the character, 'you']

老醋烧带鱼 Vinegar burning octopus [the character shao can be translated both as 'burn' and as 'braise/cook': the translator clearly got confused here. Mysteriously, the main ingredient isn't octopus at all, but hairtail fish.] Continue reading…

Pizzle puzzle

Posted by Fuchsia on September 27, 2013
Cooking, Unusual delicacies / 5 Comments

How to cook a stag penis? Not a question I’d ever seriously pondered, until I inadvertently acquired four of them, and had to find a way. You can read about my adventures in the latest issue of Lucky Peach or on Buzzfeed here…

Lucky Peach is a little hard to find in the UK, but I know Foyles in London’s Charing Cross Road stocks it, and you can also buy it on Amazon.

Here is the Amazon link:

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New York Times recipe lab (+ a note on substitutions)

Posted by Fuchsia on September 24, 2013
Cooking, Ingredients, Interviews / 10 Comments

You can see Julia Moskin and three New York Times readers chatting with me about ‘Every Grain of Rice’ here:

And the full article, focusing on Gong Bao chicken, is here.

A brief note about substitutions: Continue reading…

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