Sichuan sojourn
Art & Culture

Sichuan sojourn

By Alisha Shinde

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Don’t we all love Chinese food? Be it Hot and Sour Soup or Cantonese-style Pan Fried Noodles or Steamed Fish in Hot Garlic Sauce, Chinese food has made a special place in our hearts.  However, the Chinese food that we indulge in restaurants here or elsewhere in India are mostly localised. If you want to try some authentic Chinese food, head to the ongoing Chinese Food Festival at Baan Tao, Hyatt Pune.
 
Curated by Chinese master chef, Sun Wenlin, the festival brings to you flavours from the Sichuan province, which is known for its spicy and bold flavours created by pungent ingredients like chillies, garlic and pepper. 

When we tried the dishes we were pleasantly surprised. The Beijing style Hot and Sour Soup was a clear soup with a tangy flavour and loaded with thinly sliced mushrooms, bamboo shoots and lots of pepper — an ingredient that lifts the flavour of the soup.
 
With the taste of the soup still lingering in our mouth, we tried Dou Ban Jiang String Beans next. Green beans tossed in an aromatic sauce consisting of Doubanjiang paste (spicy chilli bean sauce) and lots of tiny pieces of chopped, burnt, crispy garlic made this dish heavenly. Even if you don’t like green beans, we bet you can’t not have this dish. 

Sichuan Chicken, the non-veg starter that we tried, was  equally lip-smacking. The dish gets its amazing and heartwarming taste from the spiciness and smokiness of chillies and Sichuan peppercorns combined with sesame seeds. You can finish off the bite-sized portions of chicken in no time! 

The Chinese take their ‘wok’ extremely seriously, so the Wok Fried Fish with Chilli Bean Sauce and Coriander was a superstar. The fish nuggets were crispy on the outside and well cooked and soft in the inside, and since the fish was cooked along with chilli bean sauce it had a slight spiciness to it, but what won our hearts was the garnish — a blend of peanuts, fresh coriander and pieces of burnt garlic and chillies.   

Chinese food is all about fresh and colourful ingredients and the slow cooking brings out a melange of flavours. For the main course, we were served Prawns in XO sauce. The prawns are pan tossed in the XO sauce that gets its aroma and taste from calamaris, chilli oil and chillies. The Chinese can hardly go wrong with the XO sauce, a wonderful seasoning that makes any dish irresistible. The prawns went well with the authentic Sichuan-style Vegetable Fried Rice. But the fried rice is nothing like the ones served at Chinese restaurants here. This simple rice dish is traditionally tossed in vegetables grown locally and seasoned with Sichuan chilli oil has a toasty chilli flavour to it. The crunchy vegetables give the rice an extra edge and make the dish complete and wholesome. 

Next on the menu, we tried Stir-fried Vegetable Noodles which had lots of vegetables packed with flavours of soy and garlic. The thin noodles were flavourful and a complete dish in itself. One can easily get the taste of soy, vinegar and chilli because of which one does not have to add any additional sauces to it, like we usually do in Chinese restaurants here. (In authentic Chinese food, once the dish is taken off the flame no sauces are added to it). Though the noodles did not need an accompaniment, the chef insisted us on trying their Mapo Tofu which is one of the most popular classic Sichuan dishes. This gravy-based dish, which has a slightly thin consistency, looks deep red and is spicy because of the Sichuan pepper used in preparing it. The tofu pieces do not need any effort in chewing, they are so soft and silky that  they simply melt in your mouth. 
 
If you think the Chinese dessert menu is unappetising or limited, think again. The Mandarin Creme Brulee, which was served at the festival, is probably one of the most exciting desserts we’ve had in a long, long time. The zesty flavoursome mandarin (a citrus fruit) balances the sweetness of the delicate creme brulee, and the highlight here is definitely the crust — it literally makes a sound when tapped because of the perfect caramelisation of the custard.  

ST Reader Service
The Chinese Food Festival continues at Baan Tao, Hyatt Pune, Kalyani Nagar, till May 12, and is open for lunch from 12.30-3 pm and dinner from 7-11.30 pm  

 

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