Shark’s fin and Sichuan pepper


garlicky pork slicesAs soon as I found out Fuchsia Dunlop had written a new book with her memoirs on eating in China, I ordered it online rightaway. I read it cover to cover in one day. Fuchsia Dunlop’s story is very interesting: she did all the things one would have liked to do in China.

For starters, she lived in Chengdu, heart of Sichuan, were the spiciest food of China comes from. Fuchsia Dunlop had ample opportunity, Chinese 留学生 liuxuesheng [foreign-student] fashion, to hang out in all those eating places instead of staying in her dormitory to study – but then, studying Chinese on the street is studying too, isn’t it? Then Dunlop managed to attend a three month Chinese cooking course in the 四川烹专 Sichuan Culinary Institute, together with a German friend. After the summer, she was asked again to enroll in the real chef training of the same institute. How awesome, to be trained as a Chinese chef for a full year!

This book tells this, and more. How to acquire a Chinese taste takes a very long time; truly enjoying special Chinese textures, like sea cucumber or tripe and that sort of thing. But Dunlop is not snobby about this, it just happens as you keep on eating. She describes how living in China changes you to become two selves, one Chinese, and one English one. But there is a downside too, she was fed up for a while with China and the Chinese, always lusting for food.

Although Dunlop craves Chinese food more than anything, all the Chinese food scares did have her think about becoming a vegetarian. The growth of the Chinese economy and the opening up to the world might change things in the West as well: what happens when the hungry Chinese turn to the Western cheeses, wines and fish (think of the Japanese tuna scarcity since the Chinese start to eat sashimi?)

After writing her first book (Sichuan cookery / Land of Plenty) Fuchsia Dunlop got a job at the BBC writing about Chinese food, and was voted as culinary journalist of the year 2006. She wrote a second cookbook (about Hunan cuisine), which I own as well now. I like her recipes, they are well written and she sure knows what she is talking about. On the picture here one of the things from Sichuan Cookery / Land of Plenty: garlicky pork slices.

These garlicky pork slices are not made by me, but by Flickr friend FotoosVanRobin, who I met IRL last Wednesday. That was fun! We went to the shops to get all kinds of ingredients and then cooked together. I made some baozi in her wonderfully large steamer, and she had prepared two mouthwatering dishes from Fuchsia Dunlop’s books (see photo). Recipe of this pork dish can be found here.

Fuchsia Dunlop. Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China. W. W. Norton, 2008.

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