Updated: September 29, 2016 2:41:40 pm
Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of debate around the authenticity of Chinese food served at Indian restaurants. While it’s not a surprise that Indo-Chinese has stir-fried its way into our lives, there are many places that claim authenticity, but reality is a Great Wall away. Flavours are tweaked to suit the Indian palate, not usually with ingredients but their permutation-combination for sure. Now, there is no saying that it’s a bad thing, but it does make the discerning foodie ache for authentic Oriental flavours, with a need to hop onto a flight.
There are a couple of restaurants – mostly fine-dining – that now offer such original fare, and adding their wok to the lot is a new restaurant in Delhi’s Taj Palace, Spicy Duck.
Led by expat chefs Cheang Chee Leong and Chee Kuai Oon, this place attempts to retain the authenticity of original Chinese dishes and create a cozy ambiance that’s still luxury dining. The cuisine reflects the specialties of the Taishan and Chengdu sub-regions of Sichuan and Canton province of China. Most of the ingredients and raw materials, including spices and vegetables, are handpicked from Chinese farms and flown in, so as to retain true flavours. To add to the experience, Chef Leong uses infused oils and homemade concoctions while cooking.
Leong says, “The idea is to give our customers an authentic experience. Before we prepared the menu at Spicy Duck, I personally surveyed different Chinese restaurants in Delhi to figure out what is it that the capital is actually missing. Accordingly, I worked on the flavour profile and introduced dishes that were Chinese but had a modern touch to it.”
“If you taste our food, you will realise that the flavours are true to its essence even though there are a few changes. We have worked around the concept and we always use the best ingredients, sourced directly from China. Even ginger is imported to the country. That’s how particular we are about the experience we provide to our customers,” he adds.
So here’s what’s cooking
We started our meal with the restaurant’s signature Crispy Spring Rolls with Mushroom and Milk in truffle oil and two kinds of dumplings: Ying Yang Har Gao and Shanghai Vegetarian. The spring rolls were by far the best we’ve tasted in Delhi – extremely light and crispy. The Ying Yang dumplings (with prawn stuffing) were a little intriguing at first, especially with the dark cover on the outside (owing to the use of squid ink) but they tasted nice. However, the clear winner was the vegetable dumplings – the burst of flavours as one bit into them took the gastronomic experience to a whole new level. Never before has a steamed dish tasted so good. We also tried out Vegetable Dao Su (vegetables topped with crispy soya granules), which weren’t all that impressive. We followed this with a Chicken Szechuan Soup that was mildly spicy – it was comfort food at its best, and, we think, the perfect dish to lift your spirits on a chilly winter night.
For our main course we picked the two-course Peking Duck. The first serving was sliced skin, spring onion and cucumber with an amazing plum sauce and in all honesty, the fruity flavour teamed with the duck made a lot of difference. Also, the duck was cooked to perfection with the crackling skin intact. The second serving was of stir-fried shredded duck, vegetable and black bean sauce. Another, must-try if you visit this place.
The black bean sauce was so rich that it tied the whole dish together.
We now know Chef Leong wasn’t kidding when he said that he actually put a lot of thought and energy into his sauces – they were exquisite.
Next up were Prawns Stir-Fried in Szechuan Chilli Bean Paste and Deng Long Chilli in Clay Pot, Pan Fried Lamb Rack with Black Pepper, Stir-Fried Chicken in Szechuan Chilli Paste with Bamboo Shoots and Mushrooms, Wok-Fried Glass Noodles in Chilli Bean Paste and Wok-Fried Vegetable Rice. While much of this blurred past, two things stood out. If you love Szechuan sauce then you will love the chicken; it is delicious and a class apart from most leading Chinese restaurants in Delhi. Team it with those glass noodles and you are sure to have an instant foodgasm! It was by far the thinnest noodles we have ever had.
By the time we were done with our mains, we were so full that there was hardly any room left for desserts. But the chefs promised us something really soothing and it came in the form of Pomelo Mango Sago with vanilla ice cream. Light and refreshing, it celebrated the goodness of pomelo and mango in all forms. We even had a mouthful of the Sticky Date Cake With Five Spice Caramel but it’s strictly for those who really really love dates.
Overall, a good experience; Spicy Duck does deliver on its promise of an authentic taste of China right here in Delhi.
Where: Spicy Duck, Taj Palace Hotel, Diplomatic Enclave, Chanakyapuri
When: Lunch: 12:30 pm – 2:45 pm, Dinner: 7:20 pm – 11:45 pm
Meal for two: Rs 4,000 (approx)
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