Last Thursday there was a two-inch red headline in the World Journal (世界日報) profiling me and my culinary endeavors. I was very excited by this coverage. Through the Culinary Historian of New York I was invited this past March to participate in a panel discussion on “Chinese Food in America Today.” During the event I met a reporter from World Journal, the largest Chinese language newspaper in North America. A few weeks later this reporter emailed and wanted to write a profile about my cooking experience. So she interviewed me and a photographer took pictures of me during one of my cooking classes at the Institute of Culinary Education.
Photo: U.S. Department of Defense It is catastrophic when natural disaster hits a country, but it’s tragic when that country is already struggling to rebuild from decades of political and…
You’re reading your favorite blog and you found a recipe you’d like to try in the future. You bookmark it in your browser, or print it out. But before you know it your bookmarks are out of control or your printed recipe is lost among your pile of bills. Now you can collect them all in one place. Red Cook along with many other prominent bloggers have joined springpad to let you collect your recipes in one place. You can also share your own recipes with other members in the springpad community.
A few days ago I talked with Andrew Coe about his recently published book Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States. Coe has created a scholarly work with extensive research and fascinating findings, enlivened by entertaining narratives and anecdotes. Yesterday I posted my impressions and reactions to some of the findings in the book, today I'd like to share with you highlights of my conversation with him.
Like many immigrants to America I constantly search for food of my homeland. This search continues even now after more than thirty years. When I first arrived in the U.S. during the 1970’s the most common Chinese food was still chop suey. I remember being horrified when I was served chop suey as Chinese food at my college dormitory. Not only was it unrecognizable, but also tasted positively vile. I wondered how Chinese food had turned into this mess. Chop Suey: a Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States, a new book by Andrew Coe, helps answer this question.
Last summer during one of my Red Cook Private Chinese Kitchen dinners, I accidentally let a metal steamer run out of water and burnt a hole in its bottom. Dalia Jurgensen, who was then assisting me in the kitchen, told me that she’d done the same thing while cooking at Nobu. We giggled quietly to ourselves knowing that we’d probably never admit such an error to anyone outside the kitchen. I quickly took the steamer off the stove, cooled it under running water and tossed it in the trash. These private moments are the kind of things Dalia shares in her new book Spiced. Dalia left a desk job in publishing to become a pastry chef. How she started out as a novice cook at Nobu, worked her way through Layla and La Cote Basque to become the pastry chef of Veritas is told with vivid details in her book. She illuminates not only the mundane incidents in the kitchen but also the professional and personal exploits of the staff, as well as the politics in the restaurant world. As you can imagine it’s much more racy than just burning a hole in a pot.
In her book The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, Jennifer 8. Lee states that there are more Chinese restaurants in America than there are McDonalds, Burger Kings and Wendys combined. So why are there no outstanding Chinese restaurants in America? Chinese American food is consistent, reliable, familiar and extremely boring. It has served the American public well and most Americans consider it comfort food. But when I yearn for good authentic Chinese food I usually end up at a small family-operated restaurant tucked away in Chinatown where the service is almost non-existent and the level of cleanliness leaves much to be desired.
In this second post of a series I am looking at trends in modern Chinese cooking that will be showcased at the James Beard Foundation’s Gala Dinner entitled Dumplings and Dynasties. The menu for the Gala dinner is an extraordinary presentation of modern movements of Chinese cuisine globally. In my email interview with the vice president of the James Beard Foundation, Mitchell Davis, he says, “When we are dealing with immigrant cuisines, we often forget that food evolves after immigrants leave. Our increasingly global world means that chefs from all over are exposed to trends in ingredients and techniques from just about everywhere… Rather than try to recreate an old tradition, we thought it would be more interesting to see where Chinese cuisine is today. I think the chefs and the menu will do just that.”
As one of the most misunderstood major cuisines in the world, Chinese cooking has for the most part been relegated to a common and unsophisticated position in America. This is rather regretful since Chinese cuisine has a very long history and has developed into a refined and complex cooking tradition. After decades of political isolation and turmoil, China is now more open and is beginning to be politically and economically active on the world stage. Consequently the American public is paying a lot more attention to Chinese food. So it is not surprising that this year the James Beard Foundation decided to select Chinese cooking as the theme of their annual fundraising gala and educational conference. Known as “Dumplings & Dynasties,” the three-day event will begin on November 13th with a sumptuous modern Chinese banquet, at the historical Edison Ballroom in New York, prepared by distinguished guest chefs from China, Hong Kong and North America. The foundation will then host a two-day educational conference at New York University featuring experts on food and food culture of China.