On today’s episode of THE FOOD SEEN, and just in time for the Year of the Rooster, Chinese food authority Fuchsia Dunlop walks us through New York City’s monolithic Chinatown, relative to the offerings from her hometown London. What once was a Cantonese stronghold, the cuisine perceived as “Chinese food” in our cities, is now as diverse as the country (of China) itself. In her latest book, Land of Fish & Rice, she explores the region of Jiangnan, best known for the upstart metropolis of Shanghai, which in no way represents the historic gastronomy of the area. There’s “red-braising”, “drunken” dishes made with Shaoxing wine, and “su cai hun zuo” better known as vegetarian ingredients cooked meatily (e.g. smoked tofu slivers), and sweet & sour West Lake Fish in Vinegar Sauce. The foods are often referred to as “qing dan”, which translates to English as misnomers, “bland” or “insipid”, when in reality they conjure up delicate soothing flavors that calm the spirits, very healthy and balanced, or “feel good” comfort food. We promise, you’ll think of Chinese takeout differently from now on.

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*photo by Anna Bergkvist