Chinese and Mexican foods may be the most popular cuisines in San Diego, but few Finest City-folk know about the influence of Asian cuisine — especially Chinese — on neighboring Baja, California.
Through five wine-harmonized courses of three dishes each (15 dishes total) on Tuesday, March 13 at 6 p.m., Village North’s (4428 Convoy St., Ste. 330) owner Steven Ji, his executive chef Alex Ma, Baja Wine + Food’s Fernando Gaxiola and guest chef Nancy Leon of Tijuana’s Chan’s Bistro will tell the story of China’s influence on Baja cuisine, including the emigration of Chinese workers for public works projects, including the railroad, from the 1880s to the 1940s and again in the 21st century.
“There’s a deep history of Chinese culture and food in Baja and we’re delighted to share it through food, wine and story with San Diegans as our friend Chef Leon joins us from Tijuana,” said Ji. “Of course, no wine dinner with the word Baja in it would be complete without the wisdom and care of Fernando.”
There are currently approximately 350 Chinese restaurants in Baja, where Chinese cuisine is warmly embraced. Consider the similarities between Baja and Chinese cuisine: sauce profile, spiciness, use of tempura or fried foods.Village North is revered for both Northern and Southern Chinese cuisine, with an emphasis on harder to find northern, noted for heavier ingredients, like potatoes and wheat, due to the colder weather in the north of China — in what used to be Mongolia. Dishes, including all sauces, are made from scratch and some, like the signature pickled cabbage and pork hot pot, entail a laborious 30-day process to prepare.
Guest chef Nancy Leon brings her own style of Chinese cooking: a blend of Canton, Szechuan and other flavors and techniques unique to the reputed Mexican chef, to Village North for this special event. Leon owns and operates Chan’s Bistro, a popular Chinese restaurant in Tijuana. Leon’s grandfather relocated from China to Tijuana in 1921.
“It’s an honor to join the chefs of Village North, bringing my own style of Chinese cuisine to the Convoy District and, more importantly, sharing a story few in the San Diego area know. In Baja, Chinese cuisine is deeply respected; families gather for it, embrace it,” said Leon. “Fifteen dishes later, we’ll all be in a stupor, well-nourished by both cuisine and story.”
Darling of the Baja wine world Gaxiola will pair each course with a selection of wines from preeminent winemakers in Baja, including Adobe Guadalupe, Torres Alegre, Lomita and Paoloni, based on guest preference, in what he calls wine harmony, rather than wine pairing. In other words, guests won’t be relegated to one wine per course, but rather, a selection of wines that will work with each course. Wines will be for sale at the end of the event.
“We’ve been in conversation about creating something so beautiful, marrying two ancient cultures that deal in oral tradition and cuisine for the people, for many months,” said Gaxiola. “Now, it’s before us and we’re eager to immerse new friends and old in it.”
About Village North
Village North is nestled in the heart of Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa. Breaking years of drought when it came to Northern Chinese cuisine in San Diego, the focus is on quality, variety and authenticity. It boasts two chefs under one roof, one specializing in Northern Chinese cuisine and another in Southern Szechuan, meaning guests can playfully explore the vast menu of faithful regional dishes and let their taste buds run wild.