Ningxia is one of the coun­try’s agri­cul­tural heart­lands, and the only five-star ho­tel in the re­gion’s cap­i­tal takes full ad­van­tage of the boun­ti­ful pro­duce and the de­li­cious lo­cal lamb. Mike Pe­ters re­ports from Yinchuan.

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

It’s no sur­prise that lamb steals the show at the Kempin­ski Yinchuan’s Chi­nese restau­rant, Zhong. Chef K.K. Wong, af­ter all, is run­ning a kitchen in the heart of the Ningxia Hui au­ton­o­mous re­gion, fa­mous for lamb pre­pared in a style re­flect­ing the tra­di­tions of the Western Xia cul­ture and the Mus­lim com­mu­nity that has thrived in the area for cen­turies.

While the Western Xia em­pire (1038-1227) is shrouded in mys­tery — the no­madic peo­ple are be­lieved to have had an ad­vanced mil­i­tary and writ­ing sys­tem, but were fa­mously an­ni­hi­lated by the armies of Genghis Khan— the im­print of the Hui peo­ple per­vades even the el­e­gantly Euro­pean Kempin­ski. Those fa­mil­iar with the brand may be sur­prised to find the fa­mous Ger­man ho­tel to be a pork-free zone, even in the Paulaner Brauhaus, an oom­pah pub that in other cities is awash not only in tra­di­tion­ally crafted beer but in roasted pig knuck­les and Ger­man sausages. At this Silk Road cross­roads in Northwest China, how­ever, the en­tire ho­tel is strictly halal, in ac­cor­dance with lo­cal culi­nary cus­tom.

In­theZhon­grestau­rant din­ing room, the star of the menu is Wong’s Xixia roasted lamb spare ribs. The grass-fed lamb comes from the nearby city of Yanchi, and the chef cred­its the re­gion’s en­vi­ron­ment — where the Yel­low River, the Gobi desert and the shel­ter­ing face of He­lan Moun­tain meet to cre­ate an ideal en­vi­ron­ment for pro­duc­ing high-qual­ity meat that is both ten­der and aro­matic. Wong says his se­cret method of mar­i­nat­ing the roasted lamb skin is what gives his sig­na­ture dish its richly fla­vored crust.

Our meal starts with a Euro­pean-style pre­sen­ta­tion of amuse bouche, cre­ated by the Hong Kong mas­ter chef who is now equally at home with Ningxia cui­sine. On any given night, the ver­i­ta­ble pa­rade of nib­bles may in­clude spicy beef, pick­led veg­etable Sichuan style, steamed Chi­nese date stuffed with gluti­nous rice, cut­tle­fish with pep­per, chili ring with soy sauce, fish filet with sweet sour sauce, and cab­bage mustard beans.

Be­fore the sig­na­ture lamb ar­rives, the ho­tel’s gen­eral man­ager, Detlef Win­ter, takes us on a quick tour of the din­ing area. Be­yond the pub­lic area are 24 pri­vate din­ing rooms that can ac­com­mo­date par­ties of six to 20, beau­ti­fully


soya ap­pointed with Chi­nese and Western el­e­ments and fea­tur­ing ex­pan­sive views of the city. Be­yond, there is He­lan Moun­tain, with rich farm­lands on the east­ern side and far-reach­ing desert on the other.

There is also a well-stocked wine room where, Win­ter notes, a top-notch se­lec­tion of French Bordeaux and Bur­gundy wines has pride of place. Ningxia, of course, is an up-and-com­ing wine re­gion it­self — much of the talk at nearby ta­bles, whether pop­u­lated by lo­cal Chi­nese or vis­it­ing Euro­peans, seems to be about viti­cul­ture, and lo­cal la­bels have won a place on the restau­rant’s wine list.

Back at our ta­ble, a se­ries of dishes ar­rives: a stir-fried chicken pre­sented in a “horn of plenty”, wok-fried prawn­sSichuan style (the prov­ince with the fiery palate is not so far away), and braised spinach with wolf­berry and broth. Then­the­lam­bar­rives, fra­grant and steam­ing ribs as well as slices for wrap­ping in del­i­cate pan­cakes a la Pek­ing duck.

We would have been con­tent to sit back and re­lax at that point, sip­ping the last of a pleas­ant bur­gundy. But that would­have­meant­miss­ing chef Wong’s spe­cial dessert: goji choco­late cake made from fa­mous West Lake Longjing tea, fresh milk choco­late and the “su­per food” known as goji berry.

Yinchuan is a top pro­ducer of this health­ful fruit, cred­ited with im­prov­ing the body’s re­ac­tion to stress, strength­en­ing the im­mune sys­tem, en­hanc­ing­mem­ory and as­sur­ing healthy skin. The ac­com­pa­ny­ing fruit plate also in­cludes two kinds of fresh Chi­nese dates, known in the West as ju­jubes, which were glo­ri­ously sweet in Ningxia dur­ing our late-fall visit.

Con­tact the writer at michaelpeters@ chi­nadaily.com.cn



Xixia roasted lamb spare ribs. Cen­ter:

Wok-fried prawn Sichuan style.


Braised spinach with wolf­berry and broth.

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