A food-tasting event, as a part of the "Exploring Yummy Chongqing in London" Chongqing Food & Culture Experience, was held on February 2 at Mr. Meng Chongqing Gourmet in London and Taoran Grande View Garden in Chongqing. It brought together the master chefs of Chongqing's signature dishes. By making Chongqing delicacies on site in the two cities, the event allowed guests present and people online at home and abroad to get to know different aspects of Chongqing.
Anchor Eiko and British journalist James from the Chongqing International Communication Center reported at Taoran Grande View Garden in Chongqing, while Daihao reported at Mr. Meng Chongqing Gourmet in London. They tasted the same dishes, celebrating the Chinese New Year together.
"Exploring Yummy Chongqing in London" Chongqing Food & Culture Experience was the only food-themed activity of the 2023 UK "Happy Chinese New Year" celebrations.
Thirty guests from media outlets attended this event. They included Ms. Xue Ling, director of the China National Tourism Office in London, Ms. Wong Hoi Ling, deputy director-general of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in London, and Dong Kerong and Dong Mei, secretaries of the Cultural Office of the Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the United Kingdom.
Ms. Xue Ling said in her speech, "'Exploring Yummy Chongqing in London' Chongqing Food & Culture Experience is one of the important activities in the UK to celebrate the Chinese New Year. As the Lantern Festival is around the corner, it is significant to share Chongqing delicacies with friends in London and Chongqing. Chongqing is rich in delicious food, among which hot pot is not only a way of cooking but also a way of dining, as well as a way of eating and culture. I hope that in the near future, you can travel to Chongqing and enjoy local food."
The event invited chefs from four Chongqing restaurants in London to make Chongqing signature dishes for participants. Four rounds of dishes were served. The participants watched the cooking closely and tasted the freshly-made delicious food.
The antique Taoran Grand View Garden chefs presented the same delicacies in order. Ms. Yan Qi, deputy to the National People's Congress, vice chairman of Chongqing Federation of Industry and Commerce, and chairman of Chongqing Taoranju F&B Culture (Group) Co., Ltd., enjoyed the Chinese style performance while feasting on the delicacies same as the ones served in London at the Taoran Grand View Garden with James and Julija. Dressed in Hanfu, Ms. Yan Qi introduced Chongqing's food culture to overseas audiences and said, "Welcome to Chongqing for authentic food."
The first round of dishes was carefully cooked by the chef of Barshu, a time-honored Sichuan cuisine brand that has been in London for 12 years. The restaurant presented two classic Chongqing dishes: Fragrant Chicken in a Pile of Chillies and Assorted Meats in Fiery Sauce. As for the former, small pieces of crispy and soft chicken are buried in a pile of chilies. As a typical example of Chongqing Jianghucai, the latter is a savory blend of duck blood, honeycomb beef tripe, pig's intestine, luncheon pork, etc., in a fiery sauce. After tasting the dish, Dai Hao, the anchor in Britain, exclaimed, "The fun of enjoying Fragrant Chicken in a Pile of Chillies lies in looking for chicken in a pile of chilies, just like hunting for treasure. Duck blood is the essence of Assorted Meats in Fiery Sauce. The event has allowed me to enjoy tender duck blood in Britain."
The chef of Er Mei prepared the second round of dishes. Er Mei is the first Sichuan cuisine restaurant opened in Chinatown, London. The owner and chefs are from Sichuan and Chongqing, ensuring the authenticity of the dishes. At the London Venue, Chongqing-style Boiled Grouper Fish Fillet with Bean Sprouts and Chongqing Chicken Hot Pot amazed the guests as the attractive aroma burst out with the crackling sound of hot oil. The British gourmets @freshmikeeats and @tranvfood, popular on social media, said, "We were happy to participate in the lively event. We enjoyed the spicy Chongqing dishes today, although we drank a lot of water."
At the same time, the chef of Chongqing Taoranju also presented the restaurant's most popular dishes. "Chinese famous dish" Chicken Braised with Taro was made of free-range roosters, fresh taro, pickled pepper, Pixian chili bean paste, and pickled ginger. The tender chicken was accompanied by sweet glutinous taro. Fish Fillet in Hot Chili Oil was prepared with fresh fillets quickly poached in boiling water, as well as pepper, Sichuan pepper, and boiling oil sprinkled on top. The tender fish is spicy but not dry. James enjoyed the two specialties.
Ba Dao Tang prepared the authentic Chongqing hot pot in the third round. Chongqing hot pot originated from the simple meal of boatmen and boat trackers on the banks of the Jialing River and such wharves as Chaotianmen in Chongqing in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties. After about 100 years, it has become the name card of the mountain city. Chongqing is an internet-famous city that is the most popular among foreign tourists. Chongqing hot pot not only represents the city's eating habits but also is the soul habitat of every generation of Chongqing people. James, a British journalist, has lived in Chongqing for more than 20 years and has a unique insight into Chongqing cuisine. He said that when he first came to China, hot pot and many other top dishes were almost unheard of outside China, but now it’s very exciting to see more people coming to experience Chongqing from abroad. "My greatest hope is that more people worldwide can experience the wonders of Chongqing cuisine," James added.
The last dish is the signature dish of Chongqing cuisine by Mr. Meng Chongqing Gourmet—Chongqing Spicy Noodles. Sold everywhere in Chongqing's streets and lanes, the reeky noodles represent Chongqing people's attitude towards life. A bowl of tasty Brown Sugar Cool Cake after the noodles will bring us an ice-cold, comfortable feeling to the heart.
Food is a bridge for cultural exchanges. James, a foreign anchor at iChongqing, believes, "Apart from the delights of trying famous dishes, it is also interesting to learn about special ingredients used in Chongqing, such as the prickly ash, different chili varieties, the flower-shaped aniseed known as 'Bajiao', and even some traditional medicinal herbs. Their selection and use have connections to the local climate and customs." In the Sichuan and Chongqing areas, where the climate is humid all year round, eating the prickly ash and chilies—both of which have the function of dehumidification—is a perfect way to respond to the natural environment.
Foreign guest Julija also said, "Food is one of the most important features of any cultural identity, so this event was a great way to promote Sichuan cuisine. I was taken back by the complexity, richness, and medicinal aspect of different spices and ingredients. In our culture, we don’t have traditional beliefs about the importance of foods for hot-cold balance and health affect daily food practices. So this was an eye-opening experience."
Daihao, the anchor in Britain, said, "As a Chinese person who just came to Britain more than a year ago, I feel very happy today to have the opportunity to taste authentic Chongqing food. At the same time, it is also very meaningful to share Chongqing delicacies with friends at home and abroad through live streaming. "
iChongqing anchor Eiko concluded, "As a native of Chongqing, I'm glad to see that anchors from both places like Chongqing's featured foods. Chongqing is an open and inclusive city. These typical Chongqing foods show distinctive regional characteristics and reflect changes in people's way of life from generation to generation. Overseas friends are welcome to learn more about Chongqing and come to Chongqing to taste the most authentic Chongqing food."
"I hope you will enjoy this unique Chongqing food experience event and learn more about Chongqing's unique ingredients, outstanding chefs, and the cityscape." At last, James added that the COVID-19 pandemic had posed great challenges to the cultural tourism industry in the past two years. With the optimization of China's anti-epidemic policies, he sincerely hoped that "more friends overseas could experience this for themselves and that more Chongqing food can expand into more countries worldwide and bring people closer together." "We look forward to your visit to Chongqing to explore the wonders of Chongqing and Chongqing cuisine."
The two-hour global twin-city live stream has been viewed nearly a million times on overseas platforms such as Chongqing International Communication Center's Bridging News app and the Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other overseas accounts of iChongqing. Many overseas viewers commented during the live stream: "I feel hungry looking at the food!", "I must go to Chongqing once in the future because Chongqing food looks so delicious!"
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