Here is the transcript and audio, and wonderful photos, over a Chinese meal at Mama Chang in Fairfax, run by the famous Peter Chang. I am not acting as lead interviewer, so this is more like a “Conversation with Tyler chiming in,” nonetheless numerous D.C. area food luminaries are present, as are other members of the Cowen family. Here is one brief excerpt:
T. COWEN: You learned Chinese food in China, of course, much of it in Sichuan province, Hunan province. As Chinese teach food, how is the method of education and training different from, say, Great Britain or the United States?
DUNLOP: Well, I haven’t been to culinary school in Great Britain or the United States, so I’m not sure.
T. COWEN: You’ve been to school in these countries.
DUNLOP: The first thing is that when you go to cooking school, you are learning the building blocks of a cuisine, which is like the grammar of a language. So the basic components, the basic processes and flavors, which you then put together to make a multitude of dishes.
Whereas, I guess, if you were studying French cuisine, you will learn some classic sauces, a bit of knife work, techniques of pastry making. In China, in Sichuan, absolutely fundamental was dao gong (刀工), the knife skills.
[Lydia] CHANG: I actually have a story to share about Dad’s cutting knife. He said when he first started learning, in school, there’s only limited time, but he wants to really excel at it. So he returned back to the dorm, started cutting, using cleaver to cut newspaper to practice.
Some of you will like this a lot, but don’t expect a normal CWT episode. And here is Fuchsia’s wonderful new book The Food of Sichuan, a significantly updated new edition of the old.