June 3, 2012
An American-born chef tells Han Bingbin how she's turning on local Beijingers to a meatless menu.
The moment Laura Fanelli came up with the idea of making a vegan pizza, she knew that this cheese-free notion would sound crazy to some and disappoint many.
But while not everyone thinks the result can be called "pizza", to the chef's surprise, lots of people have called it "great". Her pie features sun-dried tomatoes as the base and a toping of smoked eggplant, sauteed mushrooms and onions. A sort of "fermenting process" in the sun gives the concentrated tomatoes an almost cheesy flavor, which melds with the earthy eggplant for a savory finish, or in Fanelli's words, "mummy taste".
It's become a recommended specialty at the Veggie Table, the vegetarian restaurant she opened in Beijing a year ago. Before that, Fanelli traveled worldwide for a whole year studying food. From Southeast Asia to the Middle East and then to Europe, she took cooking classes and, more beneficially, ate widely to train her taste. ... In and out of China since 2003, Fanelli has found that for the Chinese, being a pure vegetarian is still mostly a religious choice.
Except for older people who have health concern, she says, it will take more education to get young Chinese to see the advantages of a vegetarian lifestyle. ... In 2008 as suggested by her vegan (strictest vegetarian) friends, she gave up eggs and all dairy products. After a while, she became so physically active and energetic that she was skating around the city all day. Though friends would fret that she was too skinny at 35, Fanelli says that's genetic heritage and she always enjoys being complimented for looking younger than she is.
"Cutting out eggs and dairy, I avoided eating a lot of processed food and junk food like ice-cream," she says. "I was cooking whole food and eating healthier."