What made you decide to write your latest book ‘Every Grain Of Rice?’ What was your inspiration?
Many people in the West don’t realise that Chinese meals can be delicious, quick and easy. People think of Chinese food as either over complicated or unhealthy fried food that is often found in restaurants. Certainly, Chinese banquet cooking is complicated but that isn’t the sort of food that’s eaten on a daily basis. Chinese cooking can be extremely easy. It’s basically vegetables, a little meat or fish, served with rice or noodles. I wanted to inspire people in the West by introducing this simple way of cooking delicious food.
What sparked your interest in Chinese food, Sichuan in particular, as opposed to other cuisines?
I have always loved cooking from childhood and my interest in China started through a job. When I won a scholarship to study there, I had an amazing lunch in Sichuan and so that’s where I went. When I got there it completely exceeded my expectations. I learned to cook regional dishes and absolutely loved it.
Are you disappointed by this country’s perception of Chinese food based on the typical generic Chinese take away menu?
I think it’s changed a lot. 15-20 years ago people had a low opinion of Chinese food or their experience of it was limited to what they ate in their local Chinese restaurant but I think that’s changed now. There are better restaurants now, lots of the big cities have regional restaurants that are very good. Also, British people are travelling more and getting a glimpse of the great food they cook in China for themselves and bringing it back with them. I see the perception as more wide and diverse than it was.
What can we learn from Chinese cooking to better the British diet?
How to make vegetables taste so sensational that we don’t miss meat! The Chinese use fragrant ingredients such as soy sauce, chilli and black beans to give vegetables an amazing rich, savoury taste. In these times when people are thinking about health and environmental concerns, we can learn a lot from the Chinese. Chinese food offers a lot by way of addressing these concerns without losing the pleasure.
What 5 ingredients do you always have in your kitchen?
Sichuan chilli bean paste, soy sauce, Chinese rice wine, chilli oil and preserved Chinese vegetables.
What is your favourite Chinese inspired breakfast?
There are so many good ones! One to cook at home would be rice porridge with pickled vegetables, topped with fermented bean curd.
If you’d like to have a look at Fuschia Dunlop’s latest book ‘Every Grain of Rice’ you can purchase it from her website.