It may not seem obvious to diners at Q by Peter Chang, the Bethesda flagship of the notable chef’s empire, but there is a link between many of its Szechuan dishes and an Amish farmer from New York. The soybeans sprinkled throughout a curried oxtail dish, the shiitake mushrooms stir-fried with green peppers and cured pork belly, the ramps in the pork dumplings, and the braised eggs in Chang’s latest pork belly dish all have an Amish provenance.
The connection dates to the early days of the pandemic. After being introduced by a mutual friend, Mark Lin, who co-owns Finger Lakes Tea Company in Waterloo, New York, reached out to Chang to see if he’d be interested in buying produce from Sam Peachey, an Amish farmer whose local client base cratered at the onset of COVID-19. Chang agreed to take chickens and eggs and whatever seasonal vegetables were available. “It was a good promotion to attract more customers, either for takeout or catering. We were looking to attract customers because business had fallen off so much,” Chang explains, with his daughter and business partner Lydia translating. “The Amish farming method—heavy use of labor, reliance on farm
animals—reminds me of how my mother farmed in China.”
As time went on, Chang started buying more products, such as soybeans, apples, pears, garlic and chiles. In August 2020, Chang introduced Peachey to growing shiitake mushrooms, a mainstay of Chinese cooking. Soon, Chang invested in a company Lin and his brother had formed called Amish Agriculture to provide seed money for Peachey to buy inoculated shiitake logs and build greenhouses in which to grow the mushrooms. The first harvest was in February 2021. The company is now making and bottling Chang’s mushroom sauce, using his recipe. The first bottles are expected to roll off the line this spring for distribution in upstate New York.
Chang visits the farm eight to 10 times a year to check out the operation. His March farm order included 60 pints of honey; 300 head-on, feet-on chickens; 180 dozen eggs; 200 pounds of soybeans; and 50 pounds of shiitakes, the latter of which Chang trained Peachey in how to ferment. Chang also instructed Peachey on how to cure pork belly per his specifications and expects to receive a couple hundred pounds of it. My next order of Chang’s famous crispy pork belly at Q may well have Amish heritage.
Q by Peter Chang, 4500 East West Highway, Ste. 100, Bethesda, 240-800-3722,
This story appears in the May/June issue of Bethesda Magazine.