To a young Zhang Mei, the nutty aroma of sizzling ham always signaled a good meal. The salty, cured meat wasn’t a luxury her family could often afford but she was in luck because her hometown of Dali, Yunnan was the only place in the world that produced it. Or so Mei thought when she left for graduate school in the U.S.
Years later, after travelling the world, founding award-winning travel company WildChina, and tasting hams of every variety, Mei began to see her humble roots through very different eyes. She saw the beauty of the region, its people, and its cuisine and felt an urgent need to share the stories of her childhood with others.
Mei’s Penguin published book, Travels Through Dali: with a leg of ham is a beautifully illustrated chronicle of her return to Yunnan in search of her favorite salt cured ham. At each stop along her journey, Mei’s hosts share with her their story, their traditions and a recipe for their own favorite ham dish. The result is a travelogue like no other – filled with photos, stories and cuisine that will transport you to Yunnan.
This recipe from the book for Chef Qian’s Ham Sandwiches will get your taste buds tingling for adventure and it might just make you question your own idea of what makes a good ham.
Mei’s passion for travel, food and her native Dali are best seen in person. If you happen to live in Chengdu, you’re in luck. This Friday at the Chengdu Bookworm you have the opportunity to meet Mei in person, get your copy of the book signed and ask all of your burning questions – about everything from the art of curing ham to planning the perfect trip to Dali.
UPCOMING BOOK TALK
Meet the Author
Friday March 31 | 7.30pm
Admission 50RMB (Includes a glass of house wine, beer or a soft drink)
Want to follow in Zhang Mei’s footsteps and retrace her route through the savory villages around Dali? You’ll find artisans cultivating salt and butchers curing ham in the traditional style. You’ll even get to pull a chair up to the dinner table where local chefs serve regional delicacies like Chef Qian’s Ham Sandwiches. Let’s get started planning your Travels through Dali: with a leg of ham tour.