Friday, 27 February 2009

Barack Bites

One more reason to love the Obamas.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Great article on cookbooks

Another link to an article, but again, this piece from The Economist on the history of cookbooks is totally worth it. I am a cookbook addict, and such is my foodie geekiness that I will often read cookbooks while I am eating. One of my current projects is to compile a list of the cookbooks that I plan to buy when I'm back in Britain; this article gave me a few more.
ps. I originally found this article through the wonderful Arts and Letters Daily, which I would highly recommend as a home page - great for random discoveries.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

A foodie 'fake' birthday

For our respective birthdays, Cam and I have a tradition of letting each other organise the day – so when it's his I organise something, and vice versa. Because this year my birthday (February 1st) was while I was in Laos and Cam was in China, we decided to have a kind of 'fake' birthday for me after I'd got back to Chengdu. This we did yesterday, and my wonderful, clever boyfriend made it so that it was largely food-themed.

The day started with Part 1 of Cam's presents to me: a beautiful non-stick wok

– perfect for pancakes.

After that, we headed out into the sunshine for a wander around Chengdu's oldest church,

ate a little snack – chilli-laden 凉粉 (liangfen, bean-starch jelly) and crunchy, heart-shaped broad beans,

and mooched around in the lovely tea-house opposite the church.

This is the tea I had,

and here is a glimpse of Cam's.

After such an, err, tiring afternoon, I was quite keen on eating out for dinner, but for some reason Cam was fixated on making 饺子 (jiaozi, dumplings) and soup for dinner. Being the simple soul that I am, I didn't suspect a thing, and so it was a wonderful surprise to come home and find Presents Part 2: a 3-layer bamboo steamer set, a long-handled ladle, and a fancy soup server that they have at restaurants that keeps your soup warm while you eat.

By this point I'd been sent into paroxysms of delight, as anyone who knows me can well imagine; all that was left to make the day complete was to cook a fantastic meal with all these new toys: a simple but refreshing mushroom soup, and not one but two different types of dumplings.

Now all I need to do is think of something similarly wonderful to do for Cam's birthday...

Friday, 13 February 2009


This was written a couple of months ago; it's now spring and most of the sausages have disappeared, but you still see some, so I reckon this post is permissible.

Autumn in Chengdu is sausage season. Long strings of them can be seen hanging from almost every available pole, outside windows...

above shops....

and against walls.

There they are left for several weeks to wind-dry until chewy and aromatic, and then served as ‘horse-ears’ (slices cut at a sharp angle to resemble a horse's ear), either cold or quickly stir-fried. Some weeks ago, perhaps provoked by all this sausage madness, I had a sudden craving for a British-style sausage sandwich – thick, grilled pork sausages, slick with tomato ketchup, and enveloped by soft white bread. I don’t often crave meat, but the intensity of this craving took me rather by surprise, and so I decided to break our normally vegetarian kitchen’s meat-cooking virginity and satisfy my desire.

First, I bought a couple of ‘bai-wei’ (white flavour, ie. plain) flat bread rolls from our local bakery, and then proceeded to the butcher to purchase the sausages. I had anticipated a little trouble here, what with wanting to buy so few, but rather than object to the number of sausages I wanted, the butcher at first simply refused to sell me any. ‘They’re not ready yet’, he said, ‘come back in a week or two.’ Pleadingly, I explained that in England we don’t dry our sausages, and that I didn’t mind if they were ‘bu hao chi’ (not delicious) now. Perhaps just to get rid of me, he eventually gave in, and after a few minutes of gentle frying in the wok, I finally realised my sausage sandwich dream. Though the meat had a (very pleasing) hint of Sichuan pepper, essentially it was exactly what I wanted – a proper British sausage sarnie. If I closed my eyes, I could have been back in in my mum's kitchen in Hebden Bridge.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Interesting article in today's Guardian on underground restaurants

I know it might seem a bit lame having your second ever post on the subject of someone else's writing, but I think that this article warrants it. Seems that the phenomenon of Hong Kong's 'private kitchens' (which I read about in Fuchsia Dunlop's recent memoir) are spreading around the world...

Hello and welcome to Jessie and the Giant Plate!

I'm the Jessie of the title, I am originally from Yorkshire but currently reside in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China, where I study Chinese.

Though I've always been a great food enthusiast, I've recently found myself becoming more and more obsessed with food; at the same time, I have also found myself becoming increasingly addicted to reading food blogs. From reading these blogs (whose writers seem to be having so much fun), I've realised that I too could turn my obsession with food into something productive. So, I've decided to join in the game and start writing a blog of my own!

Though obviously still in it's infancy, I plan for the focus of this blog to be primarily (but not exclusively) Chinese food, and the myriad ways in which culture interacts with what we eat.

The name 'Jessie and the Giant Plate' was suggested by my friend Katy, in homage to Roald Dahl's book 'James and the Giant Peach' - and, in her words, to reflect my insatiable appetite.