Earlier in the year, I had the chance to visit a wonderful interactive exhibition focusing on Japanese food culture housed in a repurposed abandoned building in Nihonbashi, Tokyo. Produced by MOMENT FACTORY, a digital art studio, the exhibit was divided into four installations, telling the story of traditional, seasonal and local cuisine known as washoku (和食). Read more
Anyone who knows Japanese retailer MUJI (無印良品) in Europe or America is probably familiar with their “no brand” stationery, but in Japan their product range is far bigger with clothing, furniture, food & drink, kitchen ware, cosmetics, bicycles, plants, consumer electronics and even houses. Read more
I’m a committed carnivore and very few days in my life have gone by without some sort of meat consumption taking place. I’m also someone who dabbles in the art of cooking (with mixed results). Yesterday evening I invited some friend over for dinner but there was a catch – one of them was a vegetarian. Meat and fish were out so it was time to learn something new… Read more
Last weekend I took a trip to Foshan (佛山), a relatively affluent city of around 5 million inhabitants near Guangzhou. As you might imagine from a typical Chinese city there’s not much to write home about architecturally – the same generic mass produces factory boxes adjacent to tasteless villas for the super rich built on once picturesque countryside. Read more
Last weekend I learnt how to cook Chinese dumplings. For those who might not be familiar with these tiny parcels of deliciousness a dumpling consists of minced meat and chopped vegetables wrapped into a piece of dough and then boiled, fried or steamed.
There are also sweet varieties but I made the traditional type and for your entertainment filmed a short video of the process:
Pretty simple but somehow I don’t think Jamie Oliver has anything to worry about!
- Minced pork (about 1:1 ratio with vegetables)
- Spring onion & cabbage finely chopped
- Soy sauce & rice wine (or vinegar)
- Dumpling pancakes (some people make their own but it was too much hassle for me)
- Mix together the minced pork and chopped vegetables with a drizzle of soy sauce and rice wine
- Place a small amount of mixture in the middle of each pancake and seal the sides with water
- Boil the dumplings for 3 minutes being careful not to let them stick to the sides of the pan
- Drain the water and serve plain or with hot chili sauce
These are just the most simple type of dumpling to make – there are many more shapes and varieties with different fillings. Take a look at these great guides for more inspiration (1, 2). You’ll see that dumpling making is a pretty serious business!
For lunch today I was guided to one of Shenzhen’s secret underground restaurants. “What is a secret restaurant?” you might ask. Basically it’s an unlicensed establishment inside someone’s “home” and is only underground in so much as there are no signs to point you there and only a few locals will know about it.
More chillies than you could comfortably eat in one afternoon.
After giving the secret code word and exchanging a secret handshake we were hustled into a dimly lit room with dark wooden furniture which the proprietor claimed was over 100 years old (OK, I made the first bit up). In these restaurants there is no menu and no advertised prices. You simply get what they decide to cook that day and pay by leaving money on the table when you leave.
Whilst this is a bit of a gamble my friend assured me that the food was very special but in China that usually means you’re about to eat some part of an animal you’d rather not. I decided to take sneak peak in the kitchen to see what they were cooking and try and ascertain what lay ahead…
Luckily it appeared that monkey brains and pigs eyes were not to be served today but instead what I thought was beef at first turned out to be deer and various other dishes. I considered it probably wise not to ask where the deer had come from and tucked in.
Accompanying the food was also some home made beverage which tasted strangely like sweet communion wine and no doubt also illegal! In China the police often turn a blind eye to illegal activity as long as it doesn’t cause disruption and they get their cut . Outside my apartment there is often a street restaurant at night which some migrants set up on the pavement complete with tables and chairs and an open BBQ.
I almost laughed when on the way out the owner gave me his business card and asked me to come again!