Do you know the secret to achieving perfect chicken’s feet? Or how to make your char sui bao laugh? And that it’s technically illegal to make XO sauce in the UK? That’s just a taste of the many aspects of Chinese cuisine that chef Andrew Wong of two-Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant A.Wong in London and food anthropologist Dr Mukta Das, a research associate at SOAS who focuses on Hong Kong, Macau and Guangzhou, cover on their podcast, XO Soused.
The podcast was a natural progression of the pair’s work together, which began in 2014, and has seen Das and Wong explore Chinese food history, including recipes and ingredients, to inform innovative dishes and inspire new ideas.
XO Soused came about organically. Propelled by the pandemic, Wong and Das’s in-person get togethers, where they would chat all things Chinese food, were forced online and the duo decided to document them for future reference.
“We hit record for selfish reasons, then we put it out there tentatively. We didn’t know what to expect,” says Das of the podcast, the first episode of which aired in January 2021 with fortnightly episodes released throughout last year. Each one is a raw, unedited conversation around topics that range from the techniques behind such Chinese classics as Peking duck and pulled noodles, to the culture of Chinese New Year feasting and the truths and tales behind Beggar’s chicken, with much more in between. It’s like listening in, as Wong puts it, on “two people sitting in a coffee shop sharing a passion and having a chat”. Like the best podcasts, listeners feel part of the conversation, get to know Wong and Das, and are simultaneously educated and entertained.
A more diverse audience than imagined has tuned in. The original thinking was that the conversations would appeal to culinary professionals. “We thought it would be great for chefs. Andrew gets a lot of messages from fellow chefs who say they want to introduce [a certain] technique and how to go about doing that,” says Das. As such, early episodes focused on topics such as steaming, or how to execute transparent wrappers and bouncy fillings for har gau. But as the audience expanded, Das says “our conversations become less about technique and a bit more about the social history.”