Regional Chinese cuisine is nothing new to Los Angeles — the sprawling San Gabriel Valley just east of Downtown has been home to hundreds of thousands of first and second-generation Chinese and Taiwanese for years, many of whom have imported their regional flavors into exceedingly popular restaurants.
Los Angeles food writer and occasional Eater contributor Clarissa Wei has become something of an advocate and historian for the many variations of Chinese food across the Southland, and has spent time living in China to help further her craft. Now the well-known freelancer is jumping in with both feet — Wei is planning a backpacking journey through every region of China that will take approximately two years to complete, and she’s looking for a little crowdfunded help along the way.
During her time, Wei plans to chat with regional chefs and locals, documenting her findings in photos, videos, and blog posts on her site clarissawei.com. She’ll also be compiling recipes for specific dishes from each area she travels, leading to a treasure trove of culinary possibilities. "I think there are a lot of great cookbooks on Chinese food," says Wei, "but I don’t think that many of them take it from the perspective of the Chinese people, and they don’t encompass all the regions of China."
To help fund the multi-year effort, Wei is crowdsourcing $20,000 for the first leg of her four-leg journey. The money, she says, will be used primarily for paying videographers, translators, and guides who work in-country, with the rest going towards necessary travel costs.
As for how the 24 year old plans to tackle the gigantic country (mostly) by herself? That’s up in the air. "I have some connections already, but because of this campaign I’m already getting into conversations with lots of other people, meeting with chefs and talking to Chinese millennials who are very interested in this project."
As Wei tackles the other corners of China (she’s working regionally across the north, south, east, and west, respectively) she’ll be asking for another matching boost of Indiegogo funds, but that won’t be until sometime next year; Wei’s backpacking journey kicks off in December, and there are no set boundaries for when she’ll actually come back to the States, recipes in hand.
To support the ambitious project, check out Clarissa Wei’s donation page here. She’s already gotten support from the likes of Andrew Zimmern, and hopes to reach her goal and start the logistical legwork as soon as possible.