British Chef Fuchsia Dunlop Makes Chinese Food Simple
(By Yao Ching Yang)
Fuchsia Dunlop is a British chef who loves Chinese culture, speaks Mandarin, and specializes in Sichuan cuisine. Fuchsia was working as a sub-editor at the BBC, and by chance was assigned by to the Asia-Pacific desk, where she became fascinated by China. As a result, she went there on holiday, fell in love with the country, and then started evening classes in Chinese. A year later, she won a scholarship to study in China, and chose Sichuan University partly because she’d always loved cooking and eating, and knew Sichuan was home to one of China’s most famous cuisines. She didn’t know much about either Chinese or Sichuanese food when she arrived in Chengdu to take up her scholarship, but she was immediately smitten.
“Every Grain of Rice”, Fuchsia’s new book, is both a crash course in Chinese cooking and an immersive voyage through the countryside and villages of regional China. Drawing from her unique training, Fuchsia begins the book with an indispensable primer on the basic ingredients and tools needed for Chinese cooking. She guides you with expert knowledge and clear instructions through the ins and outs of the Chinese kitchen. She breaks down the staples of the Chinese pantry, from chilli oil to potato flour, to dried shrimp, explaining the uses of various ingredients and noting where substitutes (e.g. cornstarch for potato flour) are acceptable. For wok amateurs and enthusiasts alike, Fuchsia’s overview of this key kitchen implement is invaluable, as is the briefing on basic Chinese cooking techniques.
Since Fuchsia can speak and write Chinese fluently, we’re curious if it made the food even more accessible for her. She responds, “Absolutely. On a basic level it means I can order food easily in restaurants in China, and discuss dishes with waiters and chefs. It also means I can talk about cooking in detail, and identify unusual ingredients in kitchens and markets, not to mention read cookery books in Chinese. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without knowing the Chinese language.” Also, we asked her thoughts on “Chinese cuisine” in America. “I think the most important thing to remember is that it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Nothing you see in terms of Chinese restaurants abroad can prepare you for the sheer diversity of Chinese cuisine. So even if you turn your back on the most Americanized Chinese food and go in search of authentic flavors in places like Flushing, New York, it’s just a tiny glimpse of what China has to offer.”
For the ones who want to enter the world of Chinese cooking, we highly recommend you check out “Every Grain of Rice”. It’s a very simple and straightforward book, an exciting collection of recipes that are quick to make and extremely delicious. Although it’s not a vegetarian cookbook, it includes a great many recipes that are either vegetarian or can be made without meat. Fuchsia hopes this book will show readers that the Chinese way of eating can be not only scrumptious, but also economical, healthy and sustainable.