The Shanghai Express at the ITC Grand Central, Lower Parel has reached its terminus at Beijing and will halt there till June 9, 2019.
The ITC at Lower Parel will hold the last part of its five major Chinese Cuisine experience and host the famous Beijing Cuisine for the next ten days from May 30th to June 9th, 2019. Their far east restaurant The Shanghai Express will serve authentic Beijing dishes especially prepared by Master Chef Jia for their menu.
Beijing or Mandarin cuisine is one of the five major cuisines of China. It is distinct from the Szechuan, Hunan, Canton and Shanghai cuisines in that, that it is the cuisine greatly influenced by Beijing being the capital city and therefore the political hub of the country for the last eight hundred years.
Each dynasty, whether native Chinese or from the surrounds, added to the fascinating imperial cuisine; wolf’s and swan’s meat by the Mongol Yuan Dynasty! The Court of Persia, which took refuge when fleeing from the Arab Aggression also had a lasting influence on the kitchens of the Imperial Court. ‘Shaobing’, a baked, flat bread, hot pots and grilled and sliced meats would be a good example.
Beijing is the cuisine from North of China with its variant served throughout the Northern region. The geographical location and its extreme climate —too hot, too dry, too cold — and surrounding hills made it incumbent on the cuisine to exclude, until very recently, fresh foods like fruits, fish and vegetables. Art of Pickling and Preserving foods developed.
The pollution of a well populated capital did not help! So originally and necessarily, staples were maize, sorghum and buckwheat not rice or wheat. Over the years Wheat, Soya, Vinegar, Maize were introduced and in the last eight hundred years the cuisine of Beijing has changed tremendously. Interestingly there is a ‘Beijing Cabbage’ —- a cabbage grown in the orient which unlike the cabbage known to us does not have a compact cluster of leaves at its heart, cylindrical in form, pale leaves with large crisp base.
Pork meat, and in Muslim habitats, beef or mutton and of course the Imperial Court added exotic fowl (Duck/Swan/Chicken) to its cuisine. Beijing flavours its food with coriander, ginger, garlic, scallions, wines and soy.
The Shanghai Express is serving two varieties of set Beijing meals— @ Rs. 1500 per person and Rs. 2000 per person. Both tickets avail the customer one soup from a choice of 2 vegetarians and 2 non-vegetarian; one main dish from a choice of four vegetarian or four non-vegetarian; one noodles or rice again, from a choice of two noodles/rice and one out of a choice of two deserts.
The more expensive Rs. 2000 per person meal has one Appetizer added on from a choice of four vegetarian and four non-vegetarian.
My friends and I tried the Peking duck and mushroom soup— mild, smooth and laden with little cubes of Duck meat accompanied by Mala Xia — huge tiger prawns in mala sauce, fried to a crisp and chilly hot! Beijing Kaoya Juan — Peking roast duck rolls with pickled cucumbers thrown in for a sweet and salty taste and the vegetarian Haricot beans tossed with dry chilli and Chinese YACA.
THE quality of their lamb, both in the appetizers and the main dishes was as always excellent and delicious when cooked by Chef Jia. The cutely named Pixie Jiding gentle smooth and mild on the palate — chicken in a beer sauce. All in all, the meal was worth spending time over and value for money!
The Aiwowo (a steamed croquet of stewed walnuts and raisins in a sweet sauce covered in rice flour and shredded
coconut) was unique amazingly delicious and to die for. The nut and dry fruit stuffing was reminiscent of the flavours of Khubani Ka Meetha and yet with a distinct Chinese bent.
Obviously, camels’ humps, apes’ lips, bears’ paws, preserved exotica like birds’ nests (edible nests of swifts) and sea cucumbers of the Imperial Cuisine are a thing of the past. Beijing Cuisine in the modern times is a sophisticate set of dishes delicious and very appealing to the Indian Palate.