Episode 23: Jonathan Wu + Seasonal Chinese Vegetables

We love seasonal produce here in NYC, but sometimes that curiosity stops at our favorite ethnic restaurants where we see the same produce served year-round in the city. Chef Jonathan Wu of the Chinese-American restaurant Fung Tu talked to us about seasonal Chinese vegetables, especially one that’s near and dear to his heart.

This is also a special episode because co-host Iris is in the studio, in person! Iris starts the show by talking about her eating adventures in Toronto (Basque cake!) and Lynda talks about how everything tastes better on a boat.

We then introduce our guest Jonathan Wu. He tells us about his passion for food, his journey to working in professional kitchens, as well as the concept for his restaurant, Fung Tu.

Lynda then asks Jonathan about his story around the seasonal vegetable xiang chun, also known as Chinese mahogany, Chinese toon, or red toon, or by its Latin name, Toona Sinensis. He tells us the story of how his grandmother had a big Chinese mahogany tree in her backyard in Yonkers that she planted in the 1960's. Growing up, Jonathan didn't pay much attention to this plant but after he started cooking, he became interested in what kind of edible foods she had in her garden, and thus discovered toon leaves. He talks about its flavor, its hyper-seasonality, and how he serves it at Fung Tu.

14:45 "Cooking Chinese food is very important because it's my deepest connection to Chinese culture. And not just Chinese culture in a broad sense, but also my family history."

We also talk to Jonathan Wu about other seasonal vegetables, why many other Chinese restaurants don't incorporate seasonality into their menus, and the other side projects Jonathan is working on.

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