I think cooking is no different from styling. The meals I cook become the outfits and the ingredients are the garments and accessories. I employ the same level of creativity and skill in cooking as I would styling a celeb or model.
First, I have to decide what story I’m telling. Am I feeling 1950’s Paris with neat tailoring and full skirts? If so, I’ll make Chinese Egg Custard Tarts, dressed in perfectly groomed salty pastry cases with soft, daffodil-coloured filling. Or do I want to convey the rebellion of 60’s China with colourful Pak Choi tossed in peanut oil and scattered with red chillis to add danger and warning?
Today, the story I am creating is provincial, so I need a dish that exudes purity and innocence. It cannot feel overdone and too glamorous, so the foundation needs to be basic. Its flavour must run quietly throughout the meal so for this spread, I choose noodles as my model. I need a secret familiarity so ho fan or soba are out of the question; they’re too pretentious with their western fusion attitudes. Dried egg noodles are best: they’re neat, simple and that murky mustard hue will work beautifully swimming in a bowl of clear broth. My model will wear a simple dress of hot soup.
Next, I need to choose the accessories for the dish to wear. I want to demonstrate depth and texture so I will balance three different pieces. First, tofu; silken is best with its milky white colour, diced into equal-sized cubes with a sharp knife to ensure a clean finish. Its presence is subtle and modern, like a detailed flesh-toned thread embroidered onto a coarse stretch of hessian.
Next come thinly sliced ginger root and Julienne-cut spring onions. Each sliver of ginger will bring warmth to the palate, like a finely knitted shrug. Its gentle layering over the dish will add balance and proportion, and the green of the onion will tempt and tantalize. Finally, a splash of sesame oil to finish the dish. Like a necklace, it will provide the last touch, its roundedness adorning the meal with precious intricacy.
There. All done. A glorious, perfectly styled dish. How lucky am I that I can combine my two great loves, fashion and food?