This year’s festival – Sani Gourmet 2014 – focused on world cuisine through the prism of the Silk Road. The long route travelled by merchandise between Asia and Europe, bearing new ideas and cultural influences as well as commodities, made a decisive contribution to the diffusion of new ideas and approaches in one of the most fundamental areas of human creativity: gastronomy.
What was the influence of Asia on Europe? How did rice, for example, evolve into a major ingredient in European cuisine? How did pasta and soya take roots in the gastronomic culture of each country? Do we use spices in the same way as Oriental peoples? What are the differences and similarities between us?
These and many other questions were explored by the guest chefs at Sani Gourmet 2014, whose menus illuminated aspects of the gastronomic trail carved out over the centuries along the Silk Road, starting in China and passing through India, Iran, Turkey and Greece (to mention just some of the important stages along the way) to end in Italy.
We studied all these different cultures through the flavours and fragrances which, reflecting many different culinary philosophies, make up the mosaic in which each country is different, and yet all share many common features. And this, finally, was the objective of Sani Gourmet 2014: to help us understand how food has brought together the cultures of Asia and Europe.
You can see the full programme of the festival here.
Jen Lin-Liu's note for Sani Gourmet 2014 "The Silk Road: from Beijing to Rome"
Chef and author Jen Lin-Liu was born in Chicago and raised in California. In 2000 she moved to China to study the country’s cuisine, write and carry out research. Her most important publications are: On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome with Love and Pasta (Riverhead, 2013) and Serve the People: A Stir-Fried Journey through China (Harcourt, 2008). She now lives in the city of Chengdu. Here is how she describes the history of noodles:
‘It might have been called the Noodles Road, or the Rhubarb Road, but in 1800 the German scholar and geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen came up with the term Silk Road, to describe the whole network of land routes which linked Europe to Asia, and which had been in use since about the time of the birth of Christ.
It was then that the Romans discovered the wonders of silk, originating from a mysterious place called China. The huge demand for the fabric triggered one of the first great waves of globalization; caravans of merchants and camels crossed barren deserts, meadows and mountains to satisfy the emperors’ desire for silk. But this was only one of the many goods that were carried along the Silk Road. A wide range of goods, spices and even culinary techniques also found themselves being negotiated, traded and passed on along the same route. Precious seasonings like saffron, originating in Persia, were valued by merchants as if they were diamonds. Pomegranates, widely grown in the Middle East, were introduced into the kitchens of renaissance Italy and the gardens of China. Rhubarb, originating in China and used more for medicinal than culinary purposes, found various uses as it made its way along the Silk Road; in central Asia it was chewed raw, the Persians used it in cooked dishes, the Italians prepared it as an appetizer, and it was only when it reached England that it began to be used in pies and puddings. It was so valuable that it is even mentioned in the last will and testament of Marco Polo.
Noodles also travelled along the Silk Road, but the story that Marco Polo brought them from China to Italy is a myth, because the Italians were eating pasta long before the birth of the Venetian explorer. The earliest references to noodles I have found are in a Chinese dictionary of the 3rd century BC. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, I found a first reference to noodles in a Talmud in Jerusalem. Which means that noodles appeared independently in China and the Middle East, and then spread along the Silk Road, testimony to the greatness of this humble ingredient, which has been incorporated into so many different cuisines, from East to West’.
For more information, contact Georgia Dodou, Sani SA Director of Communication, tel. 2310 317327 or 6948 594046, email Georgia@saniresort.gr