From our Travel Talk series.
The Cleaver Quarterly is a Bejing-based food magazine that takes readers on a journey through the nuances of Chinese and Chinese-inspired cuisine from around the world. Co-founder Lilly Chow explains.
Can you tell us how and why you started The Cleaver Quarterly?
Four years ago, when I lived in Beijing, two friends and I realized that the quality, sophistication and diversity of regional cuisines available in China far outstripped any Chinese food we’d eaten in our home countries, the US and UK. When we realized that there was no English-language magazine that covered Chinese cuisine in all its glorious complexity, creating our own publication was a challenge we couldn’t resist.
Which regions and different types of foods have you explored in the publication?
We’ve written about quite a few regional Chinese cuisines: Cantonese, Sichuan, Taiwanese, Dongbei, Xinjiang, Macau, Shaanxi, Jiangzhe, and Yunnan — not to mention ethnic minority cuisines such as Miao, Hakka, Hani, Mongolian and Tajik.
The Cleaver Quarterly has also explored Chinese diaspora offshoot cuisines in Hawaii, Cuba, India, the Caribbean, the Netherlands and Mexico. One of our writers penned 3,800 words about the infamous chow mein sandwich of southeastern Massachusetts!
We’re also quite proud of having commissioned articles about Chinese military rations, the zuoyuezi postpartum diet, Qingming Festival joss food, dining with the Tianjin mafia, Manchu ginseng foragers, and the resourceful chefs cooking for homesick scientists at China’s Antarctic science stations.
What’s your favorite style of Chinese cuisine?
Whatever I’m in the mood for!
Where outside of China do you think has the best representation of Chinese food?
Thankfully, Chinese food in the west is finally outgrowing its “cheap takeout” reputation, because the lesser-known regional cuisines are now more accessible than ever before. The gastronomic center of gravity has long since shifted from urban Chinatowns to suburban enclaves such as Richmond (British Columbia), Flushing (New York), and Markham (Ontario). I would say that the San Gabriel Valley (California), with its sheer size, probably best represents the cuisine’s diversity, with its newer immigrant restaurateurs bringing their culinary traditions from all over China.
You have a book project on the way. Do tell us more about it!
We’re about to publish “The Illustrated Wok”, a collection of hand-illustrated Chinese recipes. We sought out 40 “next-generation” chef-restaurateurs who are reinterpreting Chinese cooking for modern diners, and invited each one to submit a recipe. Then we assigned each recipe to a different illustrator.
We’re proud to feature the recipes of two Hong Kong chefs – Jowett Yu of Ho Lee Fook, and Christian Yang of “A Taste of Hong Kong” – as well as two ridiculously talented Hong Kong-based illustrators: Vincy Cheung and Angela Ho. And several of our other featured chefs grew up in Hong Kong, including Lucas Sin, Jonathan Kung, Kiki Aranita, and Yvonne Thompson, who now run restaurants in New York City, Detroit, Philadelphia and rural Virginia, respectively! The Illustrated Wok is a celebration of global Chinese food, and, judging from the wild success of our Kickstarter campaign, people are really hungry for the combination of great food and fantastic visual storytelling.