Available in : Vietnamese
May 19 2021
Jamie Pea was astounded by the variety of vegetables available when she first visited Beijing in 2013. Many of them were unfamiliar to her, and even if she was Chinese (though brought up in America) and a chef, she didn’t know many of the proper names for foods and ingredients. She wanted to know who the people behind these “China-only” specials were and what their backstories were. “How awesome would it be if I could take these Chinese vegetables that have never been used in Western cooking and do something different with them?” she wondered.
Since then, Pea has been traveling the country in search of new foods in order to compile an illustrated encyclopedia of Chinese vegetables as well as a list of vegetarian recipes.
“The encyclopedia aims to provide a popular language for understanding China’s enormous variety of vegetables. “I want to be Putonghua [Mandarin] for vegetables,” Pea says. When you make it linguistically accessible, people will start cooking them more and appreciate the culture.”
Pea was born in Hong Kong and raised in New Jersey from the age of seven, and she learned to cook by assisting her mother in the kitchen, which came to be one of her favorite childhood memories. Then Pea got an apprenticeship at The Peninsula Hotel in the city on a trip to visit her parents in Hong Kong during her college summer break. She acknowledges that working in a luxury hotel kitchen was a challenging experience, but rather than deterring her from cooking, her time there made her “addicted to the whole process of turning ingredients into something beautiful.”
Since then, she’s worked at places like Nick’s Fine Foods in London, Bo Innovation in London, Egg Shanghai, and, most recently, Tai’an Table Shanghai, a Two-Michelin-starred restaurant.
Pea, who also majored in English Literature, has now chosen to leave the kitchen and focus on food writing. “I want to make a bigger impact through education and sharing,” she says. “And also find out about ancient Chinese food traditions and techniques to help young chefs, maybe one day, to learn from the past so they can innovate for the future. More people are interested in plant-based diets, or plant-based cooking at home, and Chinese cuisine is such a great way to start.”
Pea’s vegan diet has pushed her to learn about many more herbs, types of meat, and recipes that others might have overlooked. “It’s so easy to be well, and Chinese food provides such a well-balanced diet,” she says. She hopes to spread this message through her encyclopedia and a series of activities. “If I can be the person who gathers all of this information out there to share with others,” she says, “other people can boost the diversity of their diet and innovative skills.”
Available in : Vietnamese