My Chinese zodiac sign is the wooden horse, and since this is the year of the wooden horse I’m not surprised I’m starting out the year with a busy schedule. For the first time in a very long while, I did not make a family Chinese New Year dinner at home. But I do have very good reasons for this lapse. First of all I’ve been busy with the manuscript for my upcoming book, which is now due in the spring that I was supposed to have completed last fall. Then I was asked by my very good friends Amy and Romy at Purple Yam restaurant in Brooklyn to help them develop a Chinese New Year menu for their restaurant. And just two weeks before Chinese New Year, through my wonderful friend Wendy Chan, Ron DeSantis at Yale University dining services invited me to put together a home-style Chinese New Year dinner for the students.
When I prepare a dinner party at home I try very hard to put together a plan with menu, ingredients list, preparation schedule, dinner service schedule and all. But I have never been able to put together a foolproof plan. There would always be last minute items I forgot to buy or cook. Warren will always be the one to rescue me by going across the street to Pathmark and get whatever I forgot. Now imagine working with a group of star chefs preparing a six-course Chinese banquet for 250 guests at the James Beard Foundation gala dinner and auction. The logistical problems as you can imagine increased many fold.
What’d you do when an opportunity comes up to meet star Chinese chefs from all over the world, and work with them in a kitchen presenting a banquet? You jump at it. That was the offer a little over a month ago from a friend at the James Beard Foundation. They needed someone who spoke Mandarin to help escort and assist the chefs from China during their gala auction and conference. I immediately agreed to volunteer. After a full month of coordinating with the foundation, I finally spent four days with the chefs last week. What follows is the story of a journey through the world of star chefs that’s harrowing, entertaining, educational and, most of all, fun.
Photography by Ron Boszko
In Chinese cultures the Mid-Autumn Festival is the most anticipated holiday after Chinese New Year. It is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, which fell on September 14th this year. While my family celebrated on that day with a traditional family gathering and an evening of sumptuous food and mooncakes, I am using this opportunity presented by FoodBuzz to celebrate again with my “extended family” in my new neighborhood of Harlem USA.
Following in the footsteps of the Omnivore’s 100 quiz Diana Kuan, at Appetite for China, has created a “100 Chinese Foods to Try Before You Die” list. Diana listed 100 food items of Chinese or Asian origin to see if you’ve tried. It is probably not fair for me to take this quiz as I grew up with many of these items, and continue to explore them whenever I travel to Asia or China. But it is a fun list! So here it is… I scored 92 and there are two items that I wouldn’t be caught dead trying.
After I published my homemade mooncake post, my dear friend Lee Chin Hock, who is now living in Hong Kong, left a comment on my Facebook post. He sent me links to a story and pictures of a collection of “innovative” mooncakes that are all the rage among the young and hip in Hong Kong.
I often wondered what I would do when someone tagged me for a meme. I’ve read quite a few memes along my online travel. Although I find them to be fun they can be rather silly. Then Bron at Feast with Bron tagged me. I was amazed by the power of the Internet to connect people. I’ve not heard of Bron before. I don’t even know Bron’s gender. But here is someone who’s been reading my blog and I am now connected to him or her. Not just a reader from New York. But someone from London! Well for that I feel the need to participate.