Monday, June 16, 2008

Cinema Stir-Fry: Xian Doujiang

I love Chinese food, and I love Chinese movies. When Chinese movies feature Chinese food, what can be better than that? Sometimes the movies are great in their own right, like Eat, Drink, Man, Women. Sometimes the food steals the limelight, as in Life Show, about a single woman who operates a stall serving spicy duck necks in the Wuhan Night Market. That one actually launched a national chain of popular duck neck restaurants bearing the name of the heroine of the movie. I wouldn't be surprised if My Rice Noodle Shop led to an increase in Guilin Rice Noodle restaurants in China and Taiwan; the scenes of spicy horsemeat noodles being made and served made my mouth water. Sometimes the prominent use of a food leads me to enjoy movies more that their cinematic worth would warrant, like in Chicken and Duck Talk, where I enjoyed the efforts of that prominent thespian, Martin Yan.

Nothing, however, prepared me for the surprise that a Taiwanese move of some critical success was actually named for one of my very favorite (if somewhat obscure) snacks, xian doujiang. Xian Doujiang the movie (the English title is Brave 20) is a noire-ish story about two young men who drop out of their college exam prep class and get involved with some of the more colorful elements of Taipei society. The movie stands on its own merits (it made a few festival appearances) and xian doujiang, the food, makes only two appearances (albeit stunning ones) including during the opening titles, and following a traumatic experience by one of the youths, who takes solace in it. The message is clear, however, to anyone with a passion for this savory soymilk soup; the complex interaction of the many disparate ingredients that go into the potion and and the ritual act of stirring it is the perfect metaphor for the lives of the beleaguered protagonists.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Fuschia Does Flushing

I wasn't just jacking off when I said the 41-28 Main St. mall (a.k.a. Golden Mall) in Flushing was the closest one can come to being in China without leaving the US. This sentiment was echoed by none other than cookbook author and food writer Fuchsia Dunlop when she toured the mall with Joe DiStefano of Serious Eats (who shares my passion for Liang Pi's Xi'an snack stall:

Dunlop was amazed by the diversity of eats and gushed that it was "just like being in China."

The affable Mr. Liang, meantime, has branched out, opening a "Chinese Burger" (roujiamo) stall at the mall just down the street. If he continues cranking out the same great hand-helds at the same low price, he'll soon have an empire on his hands.