Univer­sity can­teen mas­ter can thread a potato through the eye of a nee­dle

China Daily - - CHINA - By LIU MINGTAI in Changchun and XIN WEN in Bei­jing Han Jun­hong con­trib­uted to this story. Con­tact the writer at xin­wen@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Feng Zuowen sliced the potato ef­fort­lessly into thin strips and threaded the strips though the eye of a nee­dle to show how thin they are.

The in­cred­i­ble skill has made him a star at Jilin Univer­sity, where he has worked in the can­teen for sev­eral decades. It also draws hun­dreds of stu­dents to line up in the kitchen to taste Feng’s stir-fired po­ta­toes.

“It’s an un­be­liev­able stunt. We are pretty in­ter­ested,” said Chen Yuxi, a first-year post­grad­u­ate at the tech­ni­cal and eco­nomic man­age­ment school of the univer­sity. “I have been study­ing here for five years and al­ways want to try more of Feng’s dishes. The stir-fried po­ta­toes are quite crispy and sticky.”

In 2017, a can­teen WeChat group was formed to show dishes made by dif­fer­ent chefs. Feng’s dishes are pop­u­lar and al­ways got the most com­ments.

Feng, 61, has been cook­ing since 1978. The can­teen work was his first job, and it turned into a life­time. In 1998, he got a chance to learn cook­ing tech­niques at the Nanhu Ho­tel, a lux­ury ho­tel in Changchun, Jilin prov­ince.

“I stud­ied for three months there,” he re­called. “I started prac­tic­ing cut­ting cab­bage strips, and when I was able to do that eas­ily, I prac­ticed with po­ta­toes.”

Feng has wit­nessed many changes at Jilin Univer­sity, which has de­vel­oped into the largest univer­sity in North­east China in terms of to­tal cam­pus area.

Feng said that in the 1970s the can­teen was old and shabby. “There were only round ta­bles and stu­dents could hardly sit and eat.”

“We only cooked one dish a day due to lack of food sup­plies,” he said. “Po­ta­toes and Chi­nese cab­bage were the main in­gre­di­ents that were pro­vided on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.”

Stir-fried dishes ap­peared in the 1980s, Feng re­called, and var­i­ous kinds of rice prod­ucts gave stu­dents more choices — for ex­am­ple, steamed bread, bean buns, flaky pas­try and cakes.

“Prices for the meals have risen from 6 yuan ($0.87) a month 40 years ago to the cur­rent 400 or 500 yuan,” Feng added.

More elec­tronic de­vices have joined the ar­ray of kitchen equip­ment.

Although he reached re­tire­ment age in 2017, Feng con­tin­ues to work at the can­teen, ap­ply­ing his ex­cel­lent skills. He is on duty at 6 am every morn­ing and gets off work at 6 pm with only two days off per month.

“I hope stu­dents can feel warmed when eat­ing dishes at the can­teen. I want to give them the taste of home,” Feng said.

/ CHINA DAILY

Feng Zuowen DING LUYANG

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