FOODIE FRIDAY: Authenticity in gastronomy

In 1961, restauratrice Cecilia Chiang opened The Mandarin restaurant in San Francisco and introduced Americans to real Northern Chinese dishes. She served hot-and-sour soup, dumplings, pot stickers, beggar’s chicken, smoked tea duck, Peking Duck, among many others that replaced then-standard Chinatown food like egg foo young, egg drop soup, and chop suey.

Chiang received the James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. Wayne Wang’s documentary “Soul of a Banquet” features her and her remarkable story, as she prepares a banquet for her friend Alice Waters of Chez Panisse. This film is previewed in the following video clips.

[Oscilloscope / YouTube] SOUL OF A BANQUET – Official US Trailer (HD)
[Opening Ceremony / Vimeo] Screening Room: Cecilia Chiang Makes Beggar’s Chicken

Learn more:

  • [Wall Street Journal] Cecilia Chiang, the Queen of Chinese Cuisine: “I never cooked in my whole life before I came to this country, … but I knew exactly what the food should taste like and look like. I have a very good palate and good memory.” Read more
  • [Center for Asian American Media] Meet “Soul of a Banquet”‘s Cecilia Chiang: “I asked my sister, I said, “Sophie, is this Chinese food?” She said, “Yeah, this is Chinatown, this is Chinese food.” I said, “Chop suey, egg foo young. We never had this in China before.” She said, “Now we’re American.” I thought it was pretty sad.” Read more
  • [San Francisco Gate] Cecilia Chiang’s epic journey: “Anyone who has savored a platter of pot stickers or a hissing tureen of sizzling rice soup has Chiang to thank for introducing these Northern Chinese dishes – and many others – to a city familiar only with faux Cantonese.” Read more
  • [KQED] Alice Waters Reflects on Friendship With Cecilia Chiang: “She would think about a menu in ways that I’d never imagined before. It was always about what was exactly in season; always ending with fish; and she was always thinking about the textures.” Read more

  • [Soul of a Banquet Movie] Website

Photo credit: Cecilia Chiang in a still from SOUL OF A BANQUET. Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories.

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