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Pieces of China: Chef Fuchsia Dunlop, Recap, 6.11.20

Pieces of China: Chef Fuchsia Dunlop, Recap, 6.11.20
Pieces of China is an online series using objects to tell the story of China.

In our third episode, we explore the humble cleaver as told by Fuchsia Dunlop, cook and food writer, and one of the world’s top experts in Chinese cuisine. Dunlop attended the Chengdu Culinary Institute in 1995, where she honed her cleaver skills. She has written five award-winning Chinese cookbooks and appeared on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown and numerous other TV shows.

Selected Quotes from the Program:

“I think people grow up with this stereotype that the cleaver is a heavy, violent, butcher’s knife, and actually, the Chinese caidao, or vegetable knife- a normal, regular kitchen cleaver- is surprisingly lightweight, and can be used for everything from slicing a tiny clove of garlic to jointing a chicken or whatever else. It’s the versatility which is impressive.”

“The skill of cutting is so fundamental to Chinese cooking. It’s the first skill you really have to learn. If you eat with chopsticks, then all of your food needs to be in small pieces that you can pick up with chopsticks, or tender enough to pull apart with chopsticks… Everything is cut, you don’t really have knives on the Chinese dinner table.”

“The requirement to cut food into small pieces goes back to ancient times in China. There is one particularly beautiful passage from the Zhuangzi, that Daoist text, which uses a story about a chef and his knife as an illustration of the Dao, of the way to live your life. This chef talks about butchering an ox, and about how he doesn’t really need to look at the ox, he is guided by his spirit, not to brutally cut up the carcass, but to let the knife find all of the spaces between the sinews and bones, so that it becomes this effortless dance, and the meat sort of just falls asunder at the touch of the knife.”

“…The cleaver does everything. There is a kind of beauty in the fact that you have this one tool that becomes almost part of you, and you can use it in so many different ways.”

Full Video of Pieces of China with Fuchsia Dunlop


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