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Telegraph ex-pat book club

Posted by Fuchsia on September 08, 2009
Books, Environment, Shark's Fin / 4 Comments

‘Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper’ has been chosen as the first book featured by the international ex-pat wing of the Daily Telegraph’s website. This is great, except that the discussion so far has been hijacked by people who haven’t read the book, but accuse me of promoting the consumption of shark’s fin!

If they did read the book, of course, they’d discover that there’s a whole chapter about the damage caused by the consumption of bits of endangered species, including shark’s fin.

It’s very weird – the very mention of shark’s fin seems to be a kind of trigger for outrage. This has happened to me before online, and I do wonder if some people do a kind of websearch for the term ‘shark’s fin’, and then automatically post furious messages, without troubling themselves to find out what is actually being said.



Official gluttony

Posted by Fuchsia on July 20, 2009
Banquets, Chinese food culture / No Comments

According to an academic quoted in the official Chinese English-language newspaper, The China Daily, Chinese officials spend an annual average of about five hundred BILLION yuan (or 73 billion US dollars) of public funds on banquets. ‘Officials are used to sealing deals and making decisions at dinner tables,’ said Professor Li Chengyan of Beijing University. (He was commenting on the news that an official in Hubei Province recently died of a heart attack after drinking excessively at an official dinner, and that another official, in Guangdong, fell into a coma after a separate alcoholic binge.)


Braving the shark

Posted by Fuchsia on January 30, 2009
Unusual delicacies / 9 Comments

A journalist friend of mine passed through London last week on his way back from Iceland, with all kinds of goodies, including a sheep’s head, horse meat and some cured puffin. Most excitingly, he brought back a little of that most infamous Icelandic delicacy, rotted shark. As anyone who’s read my recent memoir will know, I don’t have many food taboos, and I was longing to see if this stinky stuff would defeat me. I really expected it to: I had visions of some slimy, putrescent gunge that I’d only be able to taste with closed eyes and pinched nostrils.

To my amazement, however, it was fine, and not shocking at all. It came in small cubes, with a heady, high, exhilarating smell reminiscent of ripe roquefort and Chinese preserved duck eggs. It was no worse than the aroma of durian fruit or cheese, and actually rather bracing. Smell aside, the rotted flesh looked like any cured fish, waxy and slightly translucent. In the mouth, it had an oily, chewy texture, like a cross between real cold-smoked salmon and biltong.

Oh dear, if I can eat even this without blanching, where on earth am I to go for a real gastronomic challenge?! Any suggestions?

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Goji berries, a.k.a. gouqizi or Chinese wolfberries

Posted by Fuchsia on January 20, 2009
Ingredients, Unusual delicacies / 1 Comment

I’m quoted in Wednesday’s Boston Globe, on the culinary uses of trendy ‘superfood’ goji berries, otherwise known as 枸  杞  子  , gouqizi, or Chinese wolfberries.

The picture on the right is of the berries in an eight-treasure rice (babaofan), which I came across in Liuyang, Hunan:

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Chairman Mao’s red-braised pork

Posted by Fuchsia on November 01, 2008
Recipe / 2 Comments

The Independent newspaper in Britain used this recipe from my Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook to accompany an article about… chillies. This is Georgia Glynn-Smith’s beautiful photograph of the dish, taken in my flat in London during the shoot for the book (it appears on the cover of the US edition). The pork is served in a bowl made during the Cultural Revolution: you can’t see very clearly in the photograph, but it’s emblazoned with a picture of a truck and a revolutionary slogan. I picked it up when I was living in Hunan in 2003.

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