Making royal cuisine accessible

Court herbal chicken. The family of Jing Changlin, 79, has been cooking Chinese royal cuisine for three generations.His grandfather, Jing Hua, was the head chef in the kitchen of the Forbidden City in Beijing.”He cooked for emperor Guangxu and empress dowager Cixi of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911),” says Jing Changlin when he speaks about his grandfather.His grandfather left a book of recipes of the royal dishes.”I remember reading that book in my childhood, but it is such a pity that the book was lost,” he adds.Jing Changlin’s father, Jing Huating, followed the family tradition, learned Chinese cuisine, and later cooked Western cuisine as the Qing Dynasty faded away.”He was sent to learn Western cuisine at the British American Tobacco Company in Beijing by Li Hongzhang (a minister of the Qing Dynasty who tried to modernize China),” says Jing Changlin.Jing Changlin, who was born in Beijing in 1938, has three brothers and three sisters, but he is the only one interested in cooking.”I used to sneak into my father’s workplace to taste at the food,” he says.”I used to ask my father to tell me about grandfather’s time in the royal kitchen.”