The Perennial Plate - China

THE PERENNIAL PLATE: Documentary makers

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Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine are the brains behind The Perennial Plate – a website and online documentary series focusing on socially responsible and adventurous eating.

Daniel (a chef and filmmaker) and Mirra (a designer, editor and cameragal) originally embarked on a year-long mission around Minnesota to share their culinary adventures via a weekly documentary. Garnering much admiration and a slew of dedicated followers, the pair then embarked on a Real Food Road Trip across the USA. Their latest gig, in partnership with Intrepid Travel, has seen the pair go global – filming sustainable food practices around the world as part of their Real Food World Tour.

Most recently, Daniel and Mirra touched down in China. Enamoured with the vast array of tasty street food they encountered, it was the simple flavours of authentic Chinese cuisine that stole their hearts.

Tofu with cabbage & coriander

Tofu with cabbage & coriander

With the bite of pepper, the crispness of cabbage and the aromatics of coriander, this tasty dish was inspired by China’s love affair with the versatile cabbage.

Read the recipe

Streets ahead with Beijing's tantalising street food

As Perennial Plate quickly found out, Beijing has an unmissable array of tantalising street food. Keep an eye out for:

kao rou – succulent lamb kebabs cooked over coals.

baozi – tasty steamed buns filled with meats or vegetables.

cha ye dan – or tea eggs. These amazing, marbled eggs are hard boiled in tea, soy sauce and spices.

jian bing guo zi – a delicious thin, crepe-type sandwich rolled with lettuce, coriander (cilantro) and spices.

Plus there’s Peking duck. You haven’t really eaten it until you’ve tasted the crispy skin and delicate duck meat in Peking.

Q & A with Perennial Plate

What do you hope to teach people about sustainable eating through your Real Food World Tour?

We hope to continue a dialogue about what ‘good food’ means and how to produce it.  We don’t want to tell anyone what to do, but instead get people to think about what they’re eating. We also want to encourage cultural exchange through positive stories and to connect people through a shared interest in food.

‘Must eat’ dishes for first-time travellers to China?

I would say if you see a long line of locals waiting by a street stall, it’s probably a good place to eat. That said, Sichuan peppercorns, Peking duck, DanDan noodles and various Xi’an noodles, dim sum and of course Donkey burgers are definitely worth a try. 

What is the ultimate after-midnight Chinese snack?

I think all Chinese food tastes good after midnight. But the best late night snack we had was spiced lamb kebabs. Northwest China has a large Muslim population and some of their cuisine has found its way into Beijing street stalls.  

Favourite Chinese drinks?

There are wonderful yoghurt drinks in cute little ceramic containers that are available on the streets of Beijing.   

Pu’er tea, the aged and fermented tea from Southern China, is an acquired and delicious taste that shouldn’t be missed.  

The beer in China isn’t anything special, but it helps to cool off a burning mouth (maybe).

And then there are all those bubble teas and mango drinks from Taiwan.

Describe the flavours of Chinese cooking in 5 words

Diverse
Spicy
Immediate
Strong
Bountiful

What do you need to cook authentic Chinese food at home?

I was actually shocked by the food in China and how simple it was. Sure there are the places that serve the sweet and sour sauces, but a lot of Chinese cooking is fried vegetables with chilli and garlic. Some good things to have on hand at home are garlic and ginger, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil and, of course, chilli.  There are also some pretty decent bottled sauces like oyster sauce, Sriracha and hoison that help replicate that experience.


Intrepid Travel & Perennial Plate's Real Food World Adventures

If you’re looking for travel inspiration, look no further than The Perennial Plate. Exploring the stories behind global cuisine, they’ll have you wanting to eat your way around the planet in no time. Here's their first video from India. So take a look, and start planning your next Intrepid Food Adventure… For more episodes, visit the Real Food World Tour page