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Sizzle Magazine China

  1. 1. 44 Sizzle Summer 12 international flavors china international flavors China Beijing Hangzhou Fuzhou O n the morning of Oct. 17, 2012, I woke up to find an interesting email from the culinary director of The Art Institute (AI) of Colorado. It detailed an opportunity for AI instructors to travel to China and take part in Fuzhou’s 13th annual Food Festival and 11th annual Food Expo as guests of the Chinese Hotel Association. I’ve done extensive traveling, but had never been to China and jumped at the chance. I teach the Asian cuisine class at The Art Institute and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to enhance my knowledge of Chinese cuisine and culture. The email was sent out to the entire faculty, so I thought there might be some competition from others wanting to represent our campus. Luckily for me, because of the short notice and the cost of the plane tickets, there were few people interested at my campus. Once it was decided that I would attend, I had less than three weeks to obtain a visa, make travel arrangements, find instructors to teach my classes and prepare for the trade show. There were nine participants from various AI campuses across the U.S. We were given only limited information about the trip. However, we did know that we were to arrive in Fuzhou Nov. 7 and come ready to prepare Western-style culinary display tables for the show. I teamed up with Richard Hurst, a chef-instructor from AI Atlanta, to create a Caribbean-themed table. We were advised to bring as much of the food and supplies as possible, because we did not know what ingredients would be available in China. My suitcase was stuffed Marla Simon, chef-instructor, The Art Institute of Colorado, Denver
  2. 2. 45www.acfchefs.orG/sizzle with platters, tablecloths and dry ingredients. Richard prepared his family’s recipes for traditional Puerto Rican dishes such as pasteles and mofongo and carried them halfway across the world in cryovac bags. It felt odd to be so focused on food other than traditional Chinese cuisine, but it was all part of the cultural exchange. beijing adventure I decided to go to China a few days early and spend time exploring Beijing before meeting up with the group. I arrived on the evening of Nov. 3. On the recommendation of a friend, I booked a room at the Cote Cour, a courtyard-style hotel situated in a hutong (a historical neighborhood built within the confines of a narrow alley). Staying at the Cote Cour was a special experience. The property was beautiful, the staff was extremely helpful and the food was some of the best I ate throughout my two weeks in China. A daily chef-cooked breakfast was included in the price of my room. Some of the items served at breakfast were comforting congees (traditional porridge) made of millet or black “forbidden” rice; skillfully hand-formed dumplings; colorful fried rice; and lightly stir-fried cellophane noodles with vegetables. While in Beijing, my days were split between the Forbidden Palace, Tianamen Square, the Summer Palace, the Lama Temple and a trip to Mutianyu to visit the Great Wall of China. My nights were spent exploring the local cuisine. One of my more unique dining experiences was wandering through the Donghuamen night market. A virtual feast for the eyes, approximately 100 red vendor booths lined the street. The pungent aromas of durian fruit and “stinky” tofu can be smelled from blocks away. Menu choices vary from traditional bao buns and tanghulu (brightly colored skewers of candied fruit) to more exotic offerings such as fried scorpions, silkworms, crunchy starfish, whole sea urchin and grilled snake meat. While in Beijing, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a traditional Peking duck dinner. It was difficult to choose where to go for this famous delicacy. Several restaurants serve the dish, and each person I met insisted that one was better than another. I decided on Dadong, a modern fine-dining restaurant within walking distance from my hutong. The ducks are cooked over an open fire, producing a crispy skin and tender meat. They are then carved tableside and served with traditional condiments—pancakes, radish, preserved vegetables, cucumber, garlic, sweet soy sauce and sugar. fuzhou food festival After three days in Beijing, I met up with the rest of the group arriving from the U.S. at the airport. We flew to Fuzhou, arriving at our hotel late in the evening. The following day opposite: The Great Wall of China top: A kitchen staff member at Sunny Hotel in Hangzhou holds Marla Simon’s fried-chicken plate. bottom: Beggar’s chicken was served at Lou Wai Lou restaurant in Hangzhou.
  3. 3. 46 Sizzle Summer 12 their pictures with us. Some of the members of our group were even asked for their autographs. Colleen Wong, a chef-instructor from AI Hollywood, was interviewed by a local television station. When we weren’t representing AI at our display tables, there was time to walk around and view the work of other chefs inside the convention center. The presentations put forth by some of the local chefs were truly amazing. While we only had a few hours to get ready for the show, it was obvious that some of the participants had prepared for several weeks or months. The trade show floor was filled with intricate displays of sugar and chocolate work, beautiful vegetable carvings and impressive sculptures. While all the food inside the expo was for display only, there were hundreds of food vendors at the food festival, which took place outside the convention center. The festival was similar to the Donghuamen market, but on a larger scale. I recognized many of the same Chinese foods (scorpions, stinky tofu, durian fruit, etc.) that I saw for sale in Beijing, as well as some additional international dishes such as Mongolian lamb stir-fried with cumin and Sichuan peppercorns and tteok, a traditional Korean confection that is made by pounding glutinous rice with a large wooden mallet. During our time in Fuzhou, we attended two elaborate dinners. The we went shopping for supplies at a warehouse-type grocery store—the Chinese equivalent of Costco. At first glance, the store seemed similar to what we have in the U.S., but the selection of unique produce, whole fish/meat and live seafood was quite different. After the hotel restaurant kitchen was closed for the night, we began getting ready for the food expo. From about midnight until 5 a.m., we prepared foods from Italy, Germany, France, Mexico, the Caribbean and the United States—using primarily woks. All of our display plates were coated in gelatin and transported to the convention center before the sun came up. We spent the early part of the morning setting everything up, and took part in the opening ceremony. Throughout the expo, we met chefs from around the world, as well as many locals who were unusually excited to shake our hands and take international flavors china top: Xia long bao, which is pork soup dumplings, were demonstrated for the visiting chefs at Sunny Hotel in Hangzhou. bottom: All manner of sea creatures were for sale at the night market in Beijing, including starfish and sea urchin.
  4. 4. 47www.acfchefs.orG/sizzle including beggar’s chicken (a whole chicken that is stuffed, wrapped in lotus leaves and coated and baked in clay mud); dongpo pork (braised pork belly); sweet-and-sour West Lake fish (whole local carp from the West Lake inavinegar-sauce);andsteamedturtle. In addition to the food festival, I also took part in a culinary exchange between AI chefs and local Hangzhou chefs. We split into two groups and spent time in the kitchens of two hotels. I spent the day with the chefs at Sunny Hotel. We made several Western-style recipes for them. I demonstrated Southern fried chicken (in a wok), which was a big hit with the kitchen staff. In turn, the head dim sum chef taught us how to make xia long bao (“soup dumplings”). We were kept pretty busy during our visit to Hangzhou, but did get a little free time to enjoy an afternoon boat ride on the lake. Throughout the trip, our group was given gifts by many of the people we met. My favorite was a package of Longjing “dragon well” tea. The high- quality green tea is grown locally in Hangzhou. I became accustomed to drinking it while there and am reminded of the trip whenever I make a cup at home. Sad to leave Hangzhou and say goodbye to the rest of the group, I ventured by train to Shanghai for a short stay before heading home to the U.S. beggar’s chicken Many legends surround the history of beggar’s chicken, all of which begin with a hungry beggar wandering in search of food. He happened upon a chicken, either found or stolen, killed it, and wrapped it (feathers and all) in lotus leaves and coated it in clay mud. Some say that the stolen chicken was buried in mud to hide it from authorities. Others say the mud was used for lack of cooking utensils. In modern-day preparations, the chicken is stuffed, flavored with Shaoxing rice wine and baked in clay for several hours. Because of the lengthy cooking process, several restaurants in China require that you order the dish in advance. chef- instructors Have you visited or participated in the culinary scene in another country? Sizzle readers would like to read your story. To be included in International Flavors, email first was a large welcome banquet for all the participants of the expo. The second event was a small dinner hosted by the president of the Chinese Hotel Association at a private club. At both dinners we ate upward of 15 courses, most of which were served family style on a traditional Chinese “lazy susan.” Each course was accompanied with wine and/or baijiu—a clear liquor made from distilled grains. On our last day in Fuzhou, we were taken to the local open-air market by the chef of the Fuzhou Hotel. On one end of the market, whole ducks and goats hung from the ceiling. Across the room, tables were piled high with chicken feet and pig's trotters. One wall was lined with tanks of every kind of live seafood from abalone to razor clams. We bargained for kitchen wares, several of us bringing home carving tool sets and cleavers. After the market, we took part in an award ceremony, and went to dinner with one of our translators at her favorite local dumpling restaurant. hangzhou food festival The following day, we flew to Hangzhou, a picturesque lakeside city in the Zhejiang province of Eastern China. We attended the 13th annual China Hangzhou Food Festival at Lou Wai Lou, touted as Hangzhou’s “most famous restaurant.” We dined at Lou Wai Lou three times during the festival, trying many Hangzhou specialties,