Noodle Narrative-Ruiyue Hong

 

The person I interviewed is the chef in Bank of China, Shanghai. I chose to interview him because he has always been the chef in my mom’s company. I remembered when I was young, whenever I was early from school or during the summer vacation, I would go to my mom’s office and went to have lunch in their cafeteria. In my memory, the food in their company was really diverse and delicious. There are all kinds of staple dishes like noodles, rice, fried rice with eggs and dumplings etc. Moreover, their chef always surprised me with his variety of dishes. For example, there are crab powder with Toufu(蟹粉豆腐), Shanghainese smoked fish(熏鱼), Borscht(罗宋汤) and Shanghai bok choy etc. When it’s in the right season, they would also provide the employees with crayfishes, and steamed crabs. In additions to these dishes, their cafeteria also had great dessert, including fried rice patties(粢饭糕), Radish crisp cake(萝卜酥)and egg tarts(蛋挞). Without doubt, my mom’s cafeteria was the dining place that brought me up. I had a strong affection towards their cafeteria as well as their chef who cooked all these wonderful meals. Therefore, i thought this interview provides me with a great opportunity to actually meet with the chef whom I enjoyed his cooking from a little child and ask him questions about cooking.

 

In our interview, he mentioned that he is born and raised in Shanghai, China. He has been the chef for Bank of China for almost twenty years. He mainly chose to become a chef because of his father’s opinion. At that time, it was around 1980s. China has just opened its door towards foreign companies and embraced the idea of market economy. Tour guide, chef and hotel managers are all popular for people who did not manage to go into universities. Among these careers, he chose to become a chef because Chinese culture values eating a lot and Chinese people could not live without food. Therefore, he became a chef and got a relatively high salary compared to other workers at that time. He told me that after he became a chef, he learned to cook a lot of different dishes. Among these, his best dishes are shredded pork with fish flavor(鱼香肉丝), Kung Pao Chicken(宫保鸡丁), Stir fry shrimps and crab powder with Toufu (蟹粉豆腐) too. When I asked him about his relationship with Chinese noodle, he told me that his most unforgettable noodle was Yibing burning noodles(宜宾燃面). When he was young, his friend had a bet with him about whether the burning noodles could actually burn. He took the bet without hesitation because he believed it was impossible for a person to set the noodles on fire. However, he lost the bet because that night, his friend took him to a restaurant and the Yibing noodles did burn amazingly. After he consulted with the chef, he learned that the Yibing burning noodle had a secret in cooking that is the chef need to put less water while cooking. Therefore, when it was served on the table, it could be set on fire immediately and tasted stretchy and spicy. From Yibing burning noodles, he saw the diversity of Chinese culture because before the burning noodle, he would never know that Chinese had so many cooking styles for noodles. Yibing noodles opened his horizon and made him marveled at Chinese knowledge in cooking. Moreover, he taught me his little tricks of cooking noodles. He would normally prepare a delicious soup that might get from chicken soup or pork bone soup. Then he would cook the noodles with lots of water and wash it in cold water twice. He told me that only in this way, the noodles would be stretchy and smooth.

 

When I asked him about the meaning of noodles in his mind, he answered this question with a saying in China that goes “Eat dumplings for returning home and eat noodles for going away from home.” Therefore, this person could remember that his family member missed him as always. From this quote, people could see that noodles in China is not just a food. It has lots of culture aspects inside of it. It may contain a person’s love and wishes in noodles.

 

At last, I asked him to compare the difference of Shanghai noodles he had in childhood and the noodles he had nowadays. He told me that the noodles he had in childhood was rather plain. There were not much ingredients inside. There was no meat of vegetables because at that time, China was lacking food. There were not such variety of foods for citizens. However, with the development of China, people had more and more to eat. And Shanghai experienced a lot of western influence on food too. Therefore, the taste of noodles in Shanghai is different nowadays, and the ingredients people put in noodles are different too. For example, people will add shrimps, tomatoes, pepper and beef into the noodle so that the noodles are more nutritious and more diverse. Thus, from the development of noodles, people could discover how China have grown over the twenty years. Moreover, it also reflected Shanghai’s inclusive culture because it can combine both the western and Chinese influence on food into one dish. In addition, although the difference in noodles is notable, people still preserve the basic routine of cooking noodles. For example, people would also add scallions into the noodles and always use cold water to wash noodles. Therefore, Chinese people would feel the combination of culture, tradition and innovation in the society within in one noodle dish.

Interview Questions:

  1. Hi,Could you introduce yourself, including your relationship with food?
  2. Why did you choose to become a chef?
  3.  What are some of your best dishes?
  4. Could you describe the most memorable story with you and noodles?
  5. How many different kinds of noodle can you cook?
  6. How would you normally cook noodles?
  7. To you, what are the meanings of noodles?
  8. Do you think there is a big difference between the noodles you had in childhood and the noodles you have nowadays?
  9. What are aspects of Chinese culture you can see from noodles?
  10. What do you think is the essence of Chinese food and Shanghainese food?

And here is my youtube video for my interview

 

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