The Cleaver Quarterly

the cleaver quarterlyJust received my comp copy of issue 4 of The Cleaver Quarterly. I found my interview  on page 73. Click Dandelion Cuisine to read. I love the way the article looks with my brother’s (Alan Lau) colorful art. The article shows what the book might have looked like if the publisher’s budget could have afforded the use of 4 color in the book.dandelion cuisine

A few months ago a message landed in my inbox, “We would love to interview you in our magazine, The Cleaver Quarterly.” I was impressed with their unique interview questions that indicated they had read The Hakka Cookbook thoroughly. I had never seen the publication so did a web search. Since it is a print-only magazine, I couldn’t find articles online but got a taste of their mission.

If you are into Chinese food, The Cleaver Quarterly is for you. This year-old publication, headquartered in Beijing, figure more people eat Chinese than any other cuisine. Their focus is to connect people through their passion for Chinese cuisine. This indie publication—sort of like a Chinese-focused version of Lucky Peach—seeks to tell stories through long-form writing. Yeah! Such sentiments are almost unheard of in this age of short bites of text. Irreverent art, photo essays, and illustrations add visual punch to the pages.

In the same issue on page 76, you will also find “Can-Do Attitude,” an interview by Winston Chang, who grew up in a Hakka shopkeeper’s family in Trinidad. Read more about him in The Hakka Cookbook.

Since the magazine is not supported by ads, it is priced higher than glossy ad-supported mass media publications.  Visit their website to see where to buy or get a subscription. I have seen the magazine at Omnivore Books in San Francisco.

Cultural Ambassador of Seattle

Mayor's Art Awards 2014Recently, Alan Chong Lau, the artist for The Hakka Cookbook, received the Mayor’s Arts Award for Cultural Ambassador in Seattle.  Alan, who is my brother, is an artist and poet. Also he is Arts Editor for the International Examiner. Here he posts events so artists get recognized for their work. Hear his thoughts on art in this video.

As a longtime supporter and promoter of the arts community, he has earned their respect and support. I saw evidence of this community love at our book signings in Seattle. Book signings are not easy to set up. Many stores are not interested unless you are an established best seller. Once you get an event scheduled, it’s difficult to predict if anyone will be in the audience. Due to Alan’s contacts, many stores and galleries hosted book signings for The Hakka Cookbook. His many friends showed up at our events. We got the biggest turnouts and book sales for events in  Seattle. No doubt, it was due to Alan’s good will. Even in other cities, often someone in the audience would stop by and say “I’m a friend of Alan’s.”

Congratulations Alan! You deserve to be Cultural Ambassador of Seattle.

The story behind the art

Alan Lau and his wife Kazuko Nakane in China.

Alan Lau and his wife Kazuko Nakane in China.

Some people voice disappointment over the lack of color photos illustrating every dish in The Hakka Cookbook. I love food photos, too. However, color photos cost a fortune to produce. I knew as a first time author, it would be hard to find a publisher willing to front a rather obscure book with a huge photo budget attached.

Steamed fish painting by Alan Lau

Steamed fish painting by Alan Lau

I had worked with food styling and photographing for decades and knew the time, cost, and frustration involved. I also knew like fashion, food photographs look dated quickly. So I envisioned the book with art instead of photos. I felt paintings would provide a more timeless elegance to the book. Also I have an artist in the family who could provide the art at a good price.

Painting by Alan Lau

Pomelo painting by Alan Lau

My brother Alan Lau, a Seattle artist, toured China with me on my scouting trip and constantly captured scenes and inspirations along the way. The large pockets sewn onto the front of his shirt were big enough to hold notebooks and pens for a quick sketch or to record words for a poem. He has several painting styles. Some of his paintings possess a free, playful quality that I love. Often he paints with abstract abandon. For the book, he painted with a bit more control since the book’s budget limited him to one tint color. His art weaves a lovely visual trail throughout the pages. Many of his original paintings and color versions did not make it into the book but you can view some here.


Red chile painting by Alan Lau

Red chile painting by Alan Lau

Alan studied sumi-e  (East-Asian brush painting) with Nirakushi Toriumi (Nanga School) in  Kyoto, Japan from 1972 to 1974 and later received a B.A. in Art from the University of California in Santa Cruz in 1976. In the book, you will find many samples of his art. You will find his pea and pumpkin painting in the header of this blog.  View this slide show to see how he creates his paintings in his tiny studio.

Thanks Alan for making The Hakka Cookbook look so beautiful!

The Hakka Cookbook, a year in review

With book artist and brother, Alan Lau, at Book Larder in Seattle

With book artist and brother, Alan Lau, at Book Larder in Seattle


Just one year ago on September 29, 2012, I officially launched The Hakka Cookbook, Chinese Soul Food from around the World at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. It was a bit like giving birth in public after a seemingly endless pregnancy, more than seven years. The long labor was worth it.

What a great year! The press has been good to the book, gaining attention even at some of the big names such as New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, and Martha Stewart Living.

Cooking with Mark Bittman, NY Times writer.

Cooking with Mark Bittman, NY Times writer.

The Hakka Cookbook was recognized as “Best Chinese Cuisine Cookbook in the World” in Paris, I’ve talked about the book on the radio and cable television and many book signing events. Bloggers wrote very thoughtful and appreciate reviews. Best of all, I have connected and met with Hakkas from all over the world. Just shy of its first birthday, the book is in its second printing.

Here’s a quick summary of year one for The Hakka Cookbook. For details on this list, visit this page.

"Best Chinese Cuisine Cookbook of the World"

“Best Chinese Cuisine Cookbook of the World”

  • 21 Printed articles and reviews
  • 24 Digital and blog articles
  • 5 Best or Favorite Cookbook Lists
  • 3 Radio interviews
  • 1 Television/youtube interview
  • 1 Cookbook Award
  • 26 Book signing events

Thanks for all your support. Hope to meet you at a  future event.