Tag Archives: reading

(French) Book Review: La Baguette et La Fourchette

Has it really been a month since I first intended to write this post?! According to the WordPress log, that’d indeed be the case. :oops:

LaBaguetteEtLaFourchetteIn terms of better understanding the Chinese food culture, Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper is in my opinion one of the better book out there. Sadly, the book has yet to get translated in French, quite surprising for a country devoting so much to the culinary arts, albeit, surely more in interested in its own.

So, I was quite happy when I found out about La Baguette et La Fourchette (2012, only available in French), written by a Chinese, Yu Zhou, who has spent some time in France for his graduate studies, and went on to compile culinary anecdotes reflecting differences between his native country and France.The book doesn’t have the depth of Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper, but is nonetheless entertaining, and helps shed a little more light on the world of Chinese cuisine.

The author wrote a chapter about tofu, which I found particularly enlightening, maybe to the point of converting tofu haters, or making tofu lovers enjoy tofu even more, like me! Yu Zhou explains how the blandness of the tofu is intentional, and is a way to reset your palate in order to better enjoy other flavors, just like the empty space in some Chinese paintings which allows for the main components to stand out, or let your imagination run wild.

Chinese food is intriguing to the novices, and can even be misunderstood by those familiar with it. Last year, in Paris, at the Eiffel Tower, a famous chef from Beijing, Da Dong, hosted a few lunches showcasing Chinese culinary arts, refined dishes unlike the usual Chinese restaurant fare. I was amused to read the experience of that lunch, by invitation it seems, from two of my favorite bloggers. First is David Lebovitz, with his usual wittiness, tries his best at describing, in appearance and taste, the Chinese dishes presented to him, but actually sounds more excited about the wine pairing. The Sauternes at the end of the meal certainly got more of his attention than the “mysterious” mignardises. William Chan Tat Chuen is the other (French) blogger, of Chinese origin and having written a few French books about Chinese food culture, he offers a different account of the lunch. He points out how the amuse-bouche is stamped with the chef’s Chinese seal, that the geoduck course is actually a signature dish at Da Dong’s restaurant in Beijing, and also explains the symbolism carried by each of the mignardises at the end of the meal. A real cultural culinary gap reflects both of their experiences.

I doubt the book will ever get translated in English, but in any case, I hope you keep being curious about those “mysterious” Chinese dishes and learn to enjoy them :).

en français

Book: The Fortune Cookie Chronicles

[en] Well, it’s been a while, but I hope to get back on a regular schedule here.

I read the “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles” by Jennifer 8. Lee a few months ago, where she literally  follows the fortune cookie trail in search of its birthplace, and at the same time, evokes the development of Chinese restaurants in America and throughout the world. The book is packed with fascinating anecdotes about fortune cookies and the Chinese restaurant business, some funny, and others more tragic.
And, I can only appreciate her geekiness for comparing Chinese restaurants as an open source model in the food industry, whereas Mc Donald is following a proprietary model (ie Windows). It’s a light reading which I highly recommend, and so do the Amazon readers!

To complement the reading, here’s a TED presentation by Jennifer 8. Lee, and a short movie by Marko Slavnic, best enjoyed after reading the book. Enjoy!

[fr] Allez, on se reprend en main ici!

Un repas dans un restaurant chinois aux états-unis se conclue généralement avec un fortune cookie, un biscuit aux orgines mystérieuses. Jennifer 8. Lee en a donc fait sa mission de mieux comprendre comment le succés du fortune cookie et de tenter de trouver son lieu de naissance. Ce projet de longue haleine s’est étendue sur plusieurs années, et l’auteure nous partages toutes ces anecdotes dans “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles”. Le livre évoque aussi le dévelopement des restaurants chinois aux états-unis et dans le monde, et des personnes qui travaillent dans ce milieu.
Pour agrémenter, la lecture de cet ouvrage, quelques vidéos ci-dessous.

 (last updated: 2015/08/20 四)