Hotline: 400 7888 48
Location: Asia Food & Hotel Service Association (AFHSA) » News » Market Analysis » Herb master

Herb master

Enlarge Font Size  Decrease Font Size Date: 2016-08-31  View: 19
Xu Long explains the use of some of the dried herbs he has collected. Mike Peters/China Daily

Xu Long explains the use of some of the dried herbs he has collected. Mike Peters/China Daily

A prominent Beijing chef completes the first chapter of an encyclopedic labor of love: a professional's guide to the herbs of Yunnan province

First, the bad news: This story contains no gossip about what government celebrities eat. After a three-hour interview and a cooking studio tour with Xu Long, the Western chef at the Great Hall of the People, we still don't know any juicy tidbits about the international leaders he has served. What does President Xi like to eat? Is President Putin picky about his food? Does Chancellor Merkel really like spicy Sichuan dishes?

We're not going to find out any of that from Xu, whose primary responsibility is state banquets and other official functions at the hall. He just smiles and shakes his head at such questions.

What does get him talking, however, is herbs-the fragrant and flavorful plants that add zip to all manners of foods. His new book Fragrance about those plants is hot off the press, and he's presenting it this week at the Beijing International Book Fair.

"When I first began working at the Great Hall of the People 32 years ago, 'Western food' meant Russian cuisine," he says. That quickly changed with China's reform and opening up, and Xu suddenly had a mandate to explore the breadth of European cooking.

"I remember going to the Peninsula Hotel in Beijing in 1990 and being thrilled to see fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme and basil," he says. "Before that, I had only seen and used the dried forms that were quite different in flavor and smell." The hotel manager at the time had brought herb seeds back from Europe in a suitcase, which the kitchen staff used to plant in their own garden.

"I began to realize that herbs play an important role in cooking," he says. "Herbs do more than just make food taste better-they help people connect with food. Some herbs have stories that go back to Greek and Roman mythology, and other have stories that come from religions and cultural traditions."

A good chef, he says, needs to embrace the whole picture of food culture: "It's the emotion in cooking."

The idea of doing a book on herbs began to take shape-a book for chefs, he says, that would allow him to share his knowledge and enthusiasm with his Chinese peers.

His pursuit of the stories behind those plants has taken him to 13 countries-"I like to find the origin place of the herbs"-but his travels inspired a new enthusiasm for plants closer to home.

Share and [Add Favorites]:   NewsSearch  [Share]  [Close window]  [Print] Keyword:

News Video

 
Recommended News
Recommended News
Latest News