Chef adds Chinese touches to BC fresh
Ned Bell loves how fresh Canadian seafood and the ancient Chinese culinary tradition come together.
The celebrity chef has incorporated some of the secrets of China’s cooking into his own recipes.
Bell shared some of his approaches on June 9 at the start of the 10th British Columbia Shellfish and Seafood Festival (June 9-19) in Comox.
Bell, who has been to China, demonstrated his Chinesestyle cooking and talked of Chinese influences and flavours from around the world, as an audience including Chinese businesspeople and journalists watched with appreciation.
“Chinese influence has been massive throughout my entire culinary and chef’s life. In my own experience, when I went to China and visited Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, to celebrate BC’s seafood, beef and wine, the Chinese just loved it,” said Bell, a chef based in Vancouver, which is home to a large community of Chinese immigrants, tourists, students and businesspeople.
Bell, who was trained in the French culinary tradition, told China Daily that both Western Canada and China are in for a great culinary journey together.
The strong Chinese appetite for seafood, including farmfresh salmon, oysters, lobster, prawns, crabs, mussels, scallops and other species, has driven exports, especially from Canada, which is famed for its quality seafood, due to the clean and natural state of its waters.
The latest data from Statistics Canada show a rising appetite for farm-raised salmon in China, with exports from British Columbia alone more than doubling over the previous high in 2012.
The BC shellfish farming industry produces scallops, oysters, mussels, geoduck, and Manila and other clams as part of a $37 million industry, according to Lara Greasley of the Comox Valley Economic Development and Tourism.
BC exports more than 90 percent of the seafood it produces to over 74 markets, with the US and China topping the list.
Demand for salmon raised in BC has never been higher, according to Jeremy Dunn, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. “If we had more fish to sell, I believe that marketers would be selling more to China because of the improving Chinese economy,” Dunn said.
Amid the backdrop of a vibrant and growing seafood industry are chefs like Bell as well as the sizable number of Chinese restaurants in Vancouver he says have influenced him into creating Chinese-style flavours and ingredients.
“This is an extraordinary culinary phenomenon which lends itself well to the enjoyment of seafood,” he said, describing BC’s seafood as of premium quality, coming from a clean and healthy ocean. “That is what builds up a strong Chinese appetite for Canadian seafood.”
BC is the leading oyster-producing province and it produces 87 percent of clams cultured in Canada. BC fish farmers produce Atlantic salmon, Chinook and Coho salmon sable fish, trout and steelhead and sturgeon using hatcheries, marine farms and land-based aquaculture systems.
“Such raw and fresh ingredients are phenomenal and some of the best in the world,” Bell said. “Knowing Chinese cultue loves seafood, I don’t think you get any better supplies than seafood from this part of the world.”
At the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver where Bell works, there is a Chinese kitchen and frequent Chinese events such as weddings and 10-course dinners that employ Chinese chefs, with Bell overseeing the affairs and learning from them as well.
“The education I get from this is extraordinary,” Bell said. “I get to experiment with global flavours. Vancouver has globally inspired favours, namely Indian and Chinese. I am trained in French cooking skills using cream sauces from France, but now I experience the use of Chinese ingredients, and this is an everyday thing and ongoing,” he said.
Bell said Chinese cuisine, which involves a unique style of cooking with distinctive ingredients, techniques and dishes, has evolved over the centuries, while Canadian cuisine is only a couple of hundred years old. That fact interests and intrigues him.
“Not till I went to China did I experience such great traditional Chinese foods. He said Chinese dishes served in Western countries “are not that authentic. It is adapted to our palates. North Americans are not adventurous eaters; we don’t love things we cannot recognise, and we don’t have much history in our foods.
“Chinese have health benefits, mind benefits and soul benefits in their foods,” he said, an approach not often seen in the West.
Bell said he loves to see food prepared in its natural state as much as possible and not overseasoned.
“BC’s seafood is of such good quality, we don’t need to (do much to it) to eat. We just enjoy, “he said.
Contact the writers at huyongqi@ chinadaily.com.cn
Canadian chef Ned Bell shares his cooking skills in Comox, British Columbia.
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