Delicated delights

Updated: 2013-10-26 00:07

By Xu Junqian (China Daily)

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Delicated delights

Deep-fried pomfret (above) is a highly recommended cold dish. Photo provided to China Daily

The cuisine of Jiangnan is celebrated at a new hotel restaurant, and Xu Junqian samples the mouth-watering ribs and more in Shanghai.

Chinese Jiangnan-style food is probably one of the most delicate and historical cuisines in the country that originated from south of the Yangtze River.

Different from its derivative, Shanghai cuisine, which is defined by its oiliness and heavy use of soy sauce and sugar, Jiangnan food is light, delightfully sweet and draws from a much wider selection of recipes from Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces.

You can try this cuisine at Yong Yi Ting, the Chinese restaurant at the newly opened Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai.

The menu was created by Lu Yiming, who is better known as Tony Lu, a local celebrity chef behind a string of Fu Shanghainese restaurants.

To get off to a good start, try the turnip soy chili, which is sure to make your meal "half satisfactory". The sour and spicy appetizer is called "a bite of crispiness" in Chinese, which perhaps does more justice to the dish.

For cold dishes, the deep-fried pomfret is a highlight. Instead of the usual black carp, chef Lu has selected pomfret for this common Shanghai household dish, and as a result, the "secret sauce marinated" fish boasts a more tender texture than the river kind.

While red-braised pork used to be a must-have for a benbangcai (Shanghai local cuisine) meal, an alternative is offered here at Yong Yi Ting, the braised beef rib. It looks, at first sight, much more rustic and even plain in a clay bowl, colored dark brown, compared with the usually shiny pork meat.

The boneless rib has been stewed for such a long time that it almost melts in your mouth, and the sauce is much lighter and far less sweet compared to the sticky pork sauce, thanks to the absence of crystal sugar. The chef has also replaced peeled hardboiled eggs with a handful of hickories, which gives a sharp contrast in texture with the crisp meat.

Of course, the mouth-watering new version of this classic dish has a jaw-dropping price tag of 288 yuan ($47) a plate.

The shredded bean curd in chicken broth, a signature cuisine from Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, is unsurprisingly divine. The creamy white hair-like shreds of bean curd (traditionally 1-centimeter thick bean curd should be shredded into 30 pieces), is stacked into a tower with slices of pink ham and fish noodle in the glowing yellow soup, accompanied by some green vegetables.

As the Hong Kong-headquartered hotel has a good reputation for dim sum and snacks, we skipped the sweet dessert to save some space for them. A wise decision, as it turned out.

The chili crab meat dumplings added fun and excitement for the taste buds, while the pea seed fried dumplings, covered with a golden, crispy skin, had a more "ladylike" taste, thanks to the juicy stuffing of shrimps and vegetables.

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