Fuchsia Dunlop on the Chinese Appreciation of Textured Food | Conversations with Tyler

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COWEN: Let me now see if you can talk me outof one of my biases.

When I eat food in China there’s nothing I’ve ever been servedthat I found disgusting, ever, which is saying something.

At the same time, it’s rare thatI will prefer to eat organs, or offal, or the various stranger items you might be served.

If I look around the world, those items seem to be what economists would call an inferiorgood.

That is, in virtually all societies, when incomes go up, at some point people stopeating those things.

My background is Irish.

In Ireland, in theearly 20th century, it was very common to eat a lot of organs and offal.

Today, it’shardly to be found.

It’s revived somewhat, but as part of a regular diet, it’s dwindled.

Are offal and organs actually just inferior goods and when people earn higher incomes,they don’t want it anymore, and they’re worse? Or are they parts of the Chinese culinarypicture as good as anything else and they will persist even with rising income?DUNLOP: I think it’s complicated.

In peasant farming societies, you have the nose-to-taileating.

You kill the pig and you eat every part of it, for economic reasons as much asanything.

Also, in China, the thing that really sets it apart is this preoccupation with thedelights of gastronomy and the pursuit of the exotic.

“Fire-exploded kidney flowers” preparedusing Fuchsia’s recipe.

Credit: Kake In particular, the appreciation of texture.

A lot of offal foods have very interesting textures.

Like these fire-exploded kidneyflowers.

They have that kind of slightly brisk crispness with the tenderness of a kidneythat has been cut in this beautiful, ornate, crisscross pattern and then stir-fried veryfast.

It’s a textural pleasure.

There are other things.

In Sichuan, peoplelove eating goose intestines, which any Westerner would throw away.

If you’re a Western personit’s pointless.

They’re tasteless.

Why would you eat a goose intestine? From a Chinesetextural point of view, they’re slippery, crisp, snappy.

They have a delightful kougan or mouthfeel.

The other thing is that some bits of whatWesterners would consider to be old, awful, and rubbish, it’s a very different conceptin China.

For example, a duck’s tongue.

From a Western point of view, there’s nomeat on it.

It’s a small, fiddly thing that’s all bone and cartilage.

“What’s the point?”As my father would say, it has a high grapple factor for very little reward.

[laughter] DUNLOP: In China, one of the ways of lookingat this is that you’ve got a whole duck.

The meat is very commonplace.

Each duck hasone tongue.

It has very particular textures.

If you’ve got the duck tongue, you’vegot the prize.

You’ve got the best bit.

The small, precious morsel.

In the past, before refrigeration, if you could afford to have a whole plateful of ducktongues, the number of ducks it represented, or a plateful of boned goose feet, a goosewas a huge luxury.

If you have 12 goose feet from 6 geese on your plate, you have got thecommand — [laughter]DUNLOP: Of all these ingredients.

The appreciation of these delicacies exists — not onlythe poor farmers but at the highest tables as well.