Revising the classics

Updated: 2013-06-15 07:57

By Pauline D. Loh (China Daily)

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Revising the classics

Shangri-La is the first luxury-standard international hotel in Qufu. Provided to China Daily

Revising the classics

Revising the classics

The city where China's most famous sage was born is getting its very own international luxury hotel, with the opening of the Shangri-La Hotel in August. Pauline D. Loh gets a sneak peak.

It is an easy train ride to Qufu now that it is one of the stops along the Beijing-Shanghai high speed rail. By 10 am, we were there.

As our little coach sped along the spanking new highway that connects the high-speed rail station to the town, rows of gingko trees flashed by, interspersed with magnolias. Soon we were passing by the magnificent yellow-roofed building of the city council office, and right opposite, the twin towers of the Shangri-La Qufu rose, still veiled in parts by scaffolding, like a new bride peeking out.

We are about to get a preview of Qufu's first luxury-standard international hotel.

The highlight of the one day trip for two groups of journalists - from Beijing and Shanghai - was to be lunch at the Shang Palace where executive chef Ng Kok Leong was to show off his team's rendition of Confucius Family cuisine.

It had taken time and effort for the Malaysian-born chef, who was also on site for the opening of another Shangri-La in Manzhouli in Inner Mongolia, on the borders of China and Russia.

Revising the classics

His challenge in Qufu was definitely more literary, literally. His team of chefs all had to go back to school, and they had to study the Analects, Confucius' most famous body of work.

"In Confucius family cuisine, well-kept recipes and cooking techniques are passed down and refined over the generations along the Confucius family lineage. It can only be learned at the Confucius Culinary School," says Ng.

Ng has a natural advantage, being a Malaysian who has worked all over Asia, where all the culinary styles of China are kept in practice. But even the experienced chef had to work hard at perfecting his Confucius Family menu.

"We learned from the best chefs, and then had the task of lightening the dishes so it can be acceptable to an international audience."

Lu cuisine, the Shandong cuisine that the Confucius Family dishes draw on, is famously thick and rich, with very earthy flavors.

There was also the difficulty of not having a kitchen, yet. So Ng brought his team to the nearest sister hotel, in Qingdao, where they set to work perfecting every dish. In the end, however, Ng and his team succeeded so well that even their Qufu teachers were impressed.

The next step was to test the menu, and again, the Qufu Shang Palace team went on the move to many more cities, including Singapore and Hong Kong. Feedback was very positive, and when they came back to Qufu, they were ready to roll.

Every dish on the menu has a historic reference, such as Confucius Mansion's "Six Arts" Cold Appetizers, Wisdom Frees Perplexity (red-braised pork) & Wok-fried Chinese Yam with Asparagus and Wild Mushrooms. Kirin Imperial Book (sea bass) and Lu Wall's Hidden Collection (prawn scrolls) and Gingko Poetry Rites (stewed pear with gingko nuts).

The Shangri-La Qufu will have its official opening on Aug 1, and it is offering very good introductory rates. Of course, the Shang Palace is already accepting bookings for lunch and dinner.

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(China Daily 06/15/2013 page13)