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The Asia Society prison. This is a series of interviews with experts on Asian affairs designed to strengthen our understanding of Asian people and ideas. Your most on this transcribed series is the noted author on the ward winning broadcaster Lee Graham. Here now is Mrs. Graham. We've talked about many aspects of Asia as we showed on a series into the aging society prisons but we haven't talked about food. And there was great cooking in Asia in fact one of the two great cuisines of the world is supposed to be the Chinese cuisine. But there are variations on that in all kinds of delicious foods and things to drink which we'd like to know more about I think. And who could. Tell us about this better than the man that we all very much respect in this field. Craig Claiborne on Mr. Claiborne as you know has been food news editor of The New York Times since 1957. He's written several fine cookbooks I'd like to mention two of them. The New York Times cookbook and the New York Times menu cookbook and mystically von spend about six weeks in
Asia recently. And perhaps you saw some reports byline by him on the food page at the times but here we're going to get a person to person report and describe what I feel very please if we can because you know right enough in the Times to see it most of us we wish we could see more of what you have to say. Did you go to aid your primarily to check on the food or was it a pleasure trip. Well it's. Not the food and pleasure don't have it as a matter of fact that I think one of the two or three greatest pleasures in life of course is eating you know. And I think it's more tremendous heiress as you all know tourism is increasing so tremendously throughout Asia and in both and both and in Japan and Taiwan Hong Kong and because they're rather quick methods of getting there today so. And so we thought that people should know more about what people are eating in
Kong and Tokyo and Osaka and kyu Shu and so the times in this six week trip and I must say it is one of the great experiences of my life. I had been there before about seven years ago and a nonworking capacity but I never got to so there was such a marked degree of eating from morning noon and night. I sed I would fly left on it on Japan Airlines and do a fresh stop in Hawaii but only briefly then to Osaka which I think is a lot of people call it the big astronomic capital of Tokyo and it was quite an experience for them. The first place and the first person I met was a Mr Suji who's the head of a hotel school there who perhaps knows as much about Japanese cooking I think as anyone I know and he was quite insistent when when I wrote to say I was coming to Japan and I come to Osaka first. So he took me to what he says is the the greatest sushi
bar in all the world and I would take his word for it you know sushi you know I don't. It's a it's a kind of his face is quite commonplace even in New York today there are so many Japanese restaurants in New York. And Sushi is one of the specialties in several of them is when you eat raw fish that is absolutely fantastic. It is so beautiful. And it's served on very good rice the rice is cooked and served cold with a little bit of honor and you spread wasabi which is horseradish on it. This makes me hungry just to talk about this perfectly. Well I mean if anything been done to you I don't know you know caught you know you all want that there are ways of you know you can even eat raw shrimp you can eat any raw fish or seafood that you know the most is something. There are certain you know poisonous species which we won't even think about but a lot of the faces one fish called the tie which is brought into this
the Russian We went to is called the food. That he says I say is the greatest sushi restaurant of all. Also could be the greatest source for this because the food is brought in by air and by train overland express from all parts of Japan Hokkaido and she called Khun Q shoe and also has closed on those near the end and see her only in NZ. But the fish for example the Thai is a celebration fish it's a fish they eat for all things like birthday as a wedding feast and so they bring in the fish to tie the flip flops on the on the bar and they kill it and feel it and they serve it to you immediately when on the right. Yeah absolutely enchanting bar too because it's also quite expensive. But you sit at a counter. There are also tables with the choice places is at the counter in the thing you've got to get about 11:30 the morning is so popular with the working working people of Japan in that neighborhood and you literally have to stand in line
sometimes for 30 minutes on hour if you if you don't get there you know before the crowds arrive. But you sit at the bar and they've got a little little stream that runs right in front of you where your fingers are. And after you take the sushi and eat it and then you wrench your fingers in some little bubbling water this was right before you and then they keep serving of you know as much as you can possibly eat. And you pay according to the two how much of what kind of food you eat and one of the things I was fascinated was to there's a one in one of the raw fish dishes called. Oh Dorrie. And oh Dorrie in Japanese means to dance and these are the shrimp they bring to the bar to live in a bucket of water. And the reason they call it to dance because the shrimp keep jumping in and out of stuff and so then they take 100 time and kill it and they separate you know the car part of the tail. Then they take the meat out of the tail and serve you that on the rise fresh then they take the head of the shrimp and rush in the kitchen and they grill it and so with with salt and.
It's absolutely quite an experience and you must know the way the Japanese if their food is supposed to be is that equally very pleasing it is without colors and arrangement of the food that is the. All of the visual aspects and it is quite true that. It is without question the most beautiful presentation of food in all the world. Some people quite wrongly to my mind has said it. That the most important thing about Japanese food is the is the presentation but this is to me that to my taste because I love Japanese cooking and I can I can cook up an appetite for just thinking about what some people think that Japanese cooking like other Japanese things are different that is from China. This is totally false absolutely false. We have that idea. Well some of those are cooked in a wok. The age of the Chinese used tremendous amounts and most of their food. The greatest percentage their food is based on cooking food rather quickly and one fat or another. You know generated
either deep fried or it's cooked in a very little bit of oil in a walk and it has to be cooked tremendously quickly. The Japanese on the other hand have tremendous amounts of boiled dishes and it was it's it's a it's a wholly different concept. There are some dishes that are related because when you've got what what we call the Mongolian hot pot a Chinese method and this is one of my favorite dishes and it's getting increasingly populous country in Japan is called shabu shabu which is a onomatopoetic. It refers to the swishing of water of the liquid. But the way it's eaten is to place before each guest a basin of water boiling liquid. I try to describe it in the New York Times one day as it has rather unpoetical is saying the the vessel looks like a tube cake pan with the steam of it with it with a steam burn a coming out of the top of it the water starts to boil and before
you have very thinly sliced pieces of meat such as beef chicken and pork. You do it with your chopsticks you eat you take a piece of meat dip it into the boiling water in a minute that it's cooked in seconds really you dip it into a very highly spiced sauces with nutty sauce. Like summit with sesame seed and with sesame oil and shrimp paste perhaps and then you eat this. Then you drop and you put vegetables of the broth and you dip that in the sauce in it and when you finish you've got a fantastic soup going for you but I think that it Chinese food is very popular in Japan. It is let in Tokyo. It is there are a great many Chinese restaurants right that in private. The Japanese people really prefer Chinese to their own although I have no I don't think this is true I think I think that to use the word chauvinist again I think the Japanese feel a chauvinist about their cooking as as anybody in the world much more so than
Americans for example you get an American all he wants to go to France the French cooking perhaps. While a more and more Americans I mean coming to to this great craving for Chinese food I had it myself you know when I've been in Europe for for an extended period of time no matter where the one thing that I want to do is come back to New York and went to Chinatown and it is although it was a Japanese restaurant that I was a little simple rights right as well i'm fat right now but basically I want if the traveler goes to Japan does he have any problem ordering food. Most of the restaurants have menus almost playing almost every almost everybody in in Japan and this is true and more true even in Taiwan. Almost everybody that you meet on the street or in the home speaks because perfect English if you go to some of the some of the finest there's no point in killing people if you go to some of the finest restaurants in in Japan you will find that they don't have.
Very fine working knowledge of the English language which I I don't object to you know I have had a very funny thing happen I once took the I took the New York Times correspondent to a restaurant in Tokyo one day and there was no nobody in the whole party who spoke who spoke English. No none of us spoke spoke Japanese but it was very funny that one somebody in the party remember the Japanese word for a lot of little things. When we arrived at the restaurant the waitress came up and. She smiled at us and we smiled at her and we tried English and she wouldn't say anything so she tried Japanese and we wouldn't say anything so it was complete silence and then we try to speak French and that didn't get by anywhere. And both these people as the correspondent is wife had had some training in unison a few Japanese lessons but they hadn't got much beyond thank you very much in where's the lavatory. So one of them suddenly remembered the
phrase that they had they had heard in school call you Roy. No no no which means various little things. So we tried this on the waitress and she brightened and she said so. I'm so happy she disappeared because it came back absolutely fantastic. For some some little like dish which began of a great promise in the shell and. Fried oysters with grated horseradish and pieces of steak and salmon roll Lemon weighs in fish put it in a couple cans of just nuts and fish thrown in clam broth and lack of balls and so on it were mostly quite exhausted. The right thing to do though is by all means if you go to Japan to find yourself a friend who speaks Japanese and preferably Japanese of course because you do it most negative and it makes a tremendous Yeah because because they they know me they know you know if someone comes here I mean it's best to find somebody who speaks English to take you to a restaurant. But I know that in addition to keeping you went to Hong Kong and Taipei
are there other places where you find what we think of as Chinese cooking. Aside from Hong Kong and some parts of Japan always Chinese cooking confined mostly to the mainland and we can't get in there. No I mean you but what if what happened is I mean I don't know if you know of the I think that what you'll find in Taipei that you will find the finest Chinese restaurant perhaps in the world today. I feel quite certain you find the greatest restaurants in. In the world in Taipei. They have every kind of every kind of Chinese cooking every kind of original cooking that is known as a busy Shanghai restaurant or a Peking restaurant. Because when when Taipei was first. When when when the national Chinese move there so many of the greatest chefs and in and you know in in China came with
the movement. You found fantastic Cantonese restaurants in Hunan restaurants and so on. And a Hong Kong on the other hand I I was tremendously pleased with the restaurants there. But I also felt as I have in years past when I was there that that at its best you can get some of the finest Chinese cooking in the world in Hong Kong. However an average meal that you get there is not much better than your find of the finest Chinese restaurants in New York. I make myself clear. Yeah I think the prizes should people expect the food to be much less expensive. You can do is a matter of fact you know yes indeed I'm sorry you are using your food is much less expensive throughout the forest and at its best you cannot find you can't find Japanese food or Chinese food at its ultimate. In New York or in America as you can in Hong Kong and certainly the cost is there's a tremendous difference in prices. The thing about
Americans are foreigners it is that most of us if we have you know we got a night on the town. We've got a maybe you know we have a few dollars in our pockets and we go to a restaurant for two people and really living it up you know you save for and you want to find a fine meal so you're going to $4 to people. Without whimpering. People go to anywhere outside of Canada limits the United States and I think they're going to eat for nothing which is which is idiotic. I mean for you know you go to restaurants for people because for the last you start screaming because it's just like you say I write about $10 a person you can get oh you can have the finest food going in anywhere that I want in the orient you can you can find fantastic fantastic but you have to go to a first class restaurant. I think no rush NO NO NO NO NO NONO NO modest like you know the whole concept of eating in the organise is so beautiful to me because i'm people dedicated to it and they have no they don't have this these hang ups as we as we have about calories and things because of the food all their courses
is not the cream is almost unknown. But it was quite a rarity in. And any of those days I'm convinced that it is the is the is the healthiest food in all the world. You worry about placing mesdames don't too much myself but I mean but those who do it so it is it's quite incredible. But also the food is so fresh you know. I can't think of anywhere you go the shrimp is is it's beautiful it's freshly killed and it's not sediment frozen which is very much variety in New York. But not not to talk exclusively about Japanese food. I was so fascinated they eat so much safe with them and you know that. Almost every restaurant in no matter where you go Osaka Tokyo que Sure OK you know. The restaurants dedicate themselves to one one kind of food for example you go to a Crab restaurant and you won't find steak on the menu you will eat crab in about 20 different ways.
Or if you go to a you go to Turtle restaurant or say and you will you'll have turtle and you have turtle soup ladle so I specialize and want to specialize in one kind of food in wine. Many of us in the West and I think Americans and Europeans think that what Asia lacks increasing is good wines and that is a strain so that is something I although I and in America drink wine almost every meal you know except breakfast I mean a full lunch of dinner I mean and if I don't depending on what I mean for example by car I drink beer or. And some do like sauerkraut I mean I drink beer but normally I will why because I think it's more civilized beverage in all the world. But. But when you're in when you're in the Far East I think that I mean for example in Japan I mean you drink tea is it's after after the meal there's something else quite quite unusual because tea is not served is not plop plop down on the table every time you sit down in a Chinese
restaurant as it is in this country. Yeah. In China they have a very good wine that is it's called Shall shall sing. And warm is quite pleasant it's a little bit a little bit like Sherry wine's the closest one I can think of to compare it to but shall see is absolutely delicious. Energy pan of course I mean it is. The first thing they do is to bring out the hot Saki bottles and hot sock and it's not a lot of beer also drunk in Japan. And as a matter of fact it is and I love Japanese. I drank it. I drain away a good deal in my own home in this country you can buy it here. But to the Japanese it is quite fantastic but there are people for whom the desire is the combination of guests and everything they do is leading up to that Mariano. I don't happen to feel that way and you don't know you know I live like I'm I'm not a great is very not with you a trim figure however for many people this is
important especially Europeans and Americans do such as Asian cooking no dessert so I mean they do exist but most of them with with with bean paste and or with rice. They are quite starchy and I think this is something that I. They're not very rich you see in rich in the sense sense of cream and butter desserts almost nonexistent U.S. And so most people when they're faced with a son like Precious pudding which is made with a glutenous rice with some preserved fruit on it it is quite foreign but what is fantastic fantastic is the fruit and the fruit is the fruit of the most popular dessert you get throughout East with it would be any cheese because they don't have it. Derek Now this I know but what kinds of fruits we think of kumquats beautiful of beautiful melons and persimmons to some who are in season. When I was there was light enough but the perceptions are quite extraordinary they are there the size of baseballs.
They have a texture This is told you and I have they have the same beautiful flavor that we have. But but they have a firm texture that is quite. Do most Asians do what you could eat at home rather than out in restaurants. I did not eat in and unfortunately I was all I was invited on several occasions to you know to dine with people in their homes since I was on a working assignment heating in restaurants trying to tell the public you know where to go or what the food is like. I confine myself to restaurants and I really couldn't. Although I did go into one home and I was shown of the I was shown the contents of the refrigerator and it was quite fantastic so it looked like my everything falling out of it. Would you say that there are basic differences between East and West when it comes to dining. Is this service more measured in age is it.
No I think the whole attitude of eating is different out of summer somehow with with with us it would seem so mechanical a time for such a production you know. It's either mechanical or a big deal. Yeah and this object to when you go when you have to do it with with the Japanese. They say they care so much about the Chinese they care so much about what courses of on the table they this isn't reflective of what they think about it you know to a much greater degree and the same thing is true of the food preparation. They care so much about about about what and the waitresses who serve you. They want so much they sit in the ground and they laugh with you and they make you feel so confident they want to play here is almost an act of transit is its part of life and they love live do they take much longer to complete a dinner than we do. Do they spend I'm sure the hours would depend of course because you can stop on a street or some some of the street some of the street shop and have their beautiful food. Quite inexpensively on as a little sushi shop there because when you go you have different different styles of eating I mean natural I mean the man who you know but I mean you finally
right you have a special dinner take several hours I can I can recall that I can recall I've done as it's a fantastic place called The food could die and talk of a beautiful farmhouse and we spent three hours at table and it seemed like nothing at all. Are there restaurants are simpler than our so called top restaurants or more elaborate in their design while other Maxime's in Tokyo are as equally as elaborate as ours but the great beautiful simplicity of the beautiful beautiful simplicity of the restaurants in Tokyo and Taipei they are quite simple. And in Hong Kong the Chinese really do concentrate more on how to food than on the decor. But you've got the whole concept in Japan. What's on your plate and your surroundings. Have you just made me hungry you know I didn't think I would be after having such a nice lunch as I have had today. But I thank you so much for being here and I think you've given us a better idea of what to look for when we go to Asia to dine and mass say that our guests on this edition of the Asia Society present has been quickly born
Craig Claiborne is the food news editor of The New York Times a position he held since 1957 among his books on the New York Times cookbook and the New York Times menu cook book. This is legal I am saying goodbye and asking you to remember is we hope you do that although east is east and west is west. We think the time has come for the twain to meet. That concludes tonight's edition of the Asia Society presents with league Graham. This series comes to you through the cooperation of the Asia Society. If you would like to comment on tonight's program or would like further information about the society and how you can participate in its many interesting activities please write to Mrs. Graham at WNYC New York City 100 0 7 and make a note to join us again next week at this time for another edition of the Asia Society presents. This program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
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Asia Society presents
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Asia Society presents is a series of programs from WNYC and The Asia Society. Through interviews with experts on Asian affairs, the series attempts to strengthen listeners understanding of Asian people and ideas. Episodes focus on specific countries and political, cultural, and historical topics.
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Global Affairs
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Host: Graham, Leigh
Producing Organization: WNYC
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-6-19 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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