While working in a corporate hotel environment for the last four years, I found it was nearly impossible to use seasonal ingredients or to have recipes and cost ready weeks before the ingredients and prices were available. When I first moved to Beijing, I was told that there weren’t really any seasonal ingredients, as everything was imported either from other parts of China or from other countries. Except for the prevalence of migrant workers, Beijing bore a strong resemblance to Airstrip One in terms of neighborhood markets when I first moved here. But in the ten years since I first arrived, the vegetable and fruit selection has gone from sparse to import-focused to local and seasonal—a quick turnaround compared to the twenty-five or so years it took that to happen in New York. Gooseberries are hardly an unknown ingredient, but to now have the freedom to smoke them in soy milk over charcoal at the last minute for customers is reward in its own.
Photo: Courtesy of Max Levy