UP AHEAD: FOOD FEASTS

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TASTE -

The up­com­ing Spring Fes­ti­val falls in Jan­uary 2017. And as more Chi­nese nowa­days pre­fer to dine out to cel­e­brate the fes­ti­val, restau­rants in China have al­ready be­gun prepar­ing for the cel­e­bra­tion.

The Quan­jude Group, which owns the pop­u­lar brands Quan­jude, Fengzeyuan, Sichuan Res­tau­rant, and Fang­shan Res­tau­rant, has just re­leased its 2017 Spring Fes­ti­val din­ner menus, fea­tur­ing its sig­na­ture and award-win­ning del­i­ca­cies.

Its renowned Pek­ing roast duck fran­chise Quan­jude was es­tab­lished more than 150 years ago, and the group now op­er­ates restau­rants both at home and abroad.

The high­lights of its menus are dishes that have won at the World Cham­pi­onship of Chi­nese Cui­sine, which is held once ev­ery four years. It is one of the most cel­e­brated Chi­nese cui­sine com­pe­ti­tions in the world.

The event this year was held from Sep 19 to 21 in Rot­ter­dam, in the Nether­lands, and at­tracted more than 200 chefs from around 20 coun­tries and re­gions.

The com­pe­ti­tion was fierce. Quan­jude’s con­tes­tants were chefs from the Wang­fu­jing branch of the Quan­jude Pek­ing roast duck fran­chise, and they car­ried some of their in­gre­di­ents, sea­son­ings, and table­ware, from Bei­jing.

Yet, they still had to over­come ob­sta­cles such as lack of proper cook­ing de­vices and in­gre­di­ents to present the Group’s culi­nary tra­di­tions and in­no­va­tion through eight dishes.

For in­stance, they could not get conches big enough to cook a cold dish, but man­aged to cre­ate al­lur­ing taste and tex­ture with the lo­cal pro­duce thanks to their skill, Zhu Ruibo, the gen­eral man­ager of the Quan­jude Wang­fu­jing branch says.

The eight dishes that the Quan­jude chefs cooked were the com­pany’s time-hon­ored dishes with a bit of in­no­va­tion in pre­sen­ta­tion and taste to ap­peal to mod­ern palates.

The “peony duck”, or Pek­ing roast duck that re­sem­bles a fully opened peony blos­som, was the star of the com­pe­ti­tion.

It de­buted as the main course at a state ban­quet at the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion sum­mit in Bei­jing in 2014, and since then has be­come the com­pany’s most renowned cre­ation.

The “pe­tals” of the peony duck are made up with ten­der, sa­vory duck meat del­i­cately sliced and ar­ranged, each with a sliver of roast duck skin that is very crispy and de­li­cious.

Pop­u­lar as the peony duck is, the chefs gave it a twist — for the Spring Fes­ti­val din­ner, the duck is to be served with hand­made pan­cakes.

The diced scal­lop salad served with dried potato is an in­no­va­tion based on the com­pany’s tra­di­tional sig­na­ture dish — sau­teed duck with shred­ded fried potato.

Here, the pota­toes are shred­ded and deep-fried, to re­sem­ble a bird’s nest. The nest sits on a piece of cab­bage, and in­side it is the salad made of scal­lop.

The dish is bite-sized, and the com­bi­na­tion of the pota­toes, crunchy veg­etable and the scal­lop salad cre­ate a fla­vor­ful del­i­cacy.

The pine mush­room and chicken broth is a new dish based on a sig­na­ture Sichuan dish, ji dou hua, or chicken tofu soup.

For more than 100 years, Sichuan’s chefs have mixed minced chicken, egg whites and other in­gre­di­ents in pre­cise pro­por­tions and boiled the mix­ture in chicken soup so that the fi­nal re­sult re­sem­bles tofu but tastes like chicken.

The Quan­jude ver­sion does not use only chicken but also the flesh of the sole to make the “tofu”, so that it looks whiter and had a ten­der tex­ture.

The pine mush­room also im­proves the chicken soup, both in terms of taste and nutri­tion.

An­other must-have is the dragon-beard cake, which gets its name be­cause it looks like a dragon’s beard.

One of the Quan­jude Group’s sig­na­ture dishes, the dragon-beard cake has won numer­ous awards, both at home and abroad.

To make it, the chefs use a tra­di­tional tech­nique to pull wheat dough into thin threads that can pen­e­trate the eye of a nee­dle. One kilo­gram of wheat flour can be made into more than 30,000 dough threads that have a length of more than 50,000 me­ters in to­tal.

The beard­like threads are then deep-fried and topped with milk cream and cho­co­late.

The set menus will be avail­able through­out the fes­ti­val at the com­pany’s restau­rants all over the coun­try. Din­ers can make reser­va­tions for the set menus through hot­lines and the in­ter­net, us­ing the QR code or vis­it­ing Dian­ping.com.

The com­pany will of­fer special gifts to those mak­ing din­ner book­ings be­fore Jan 26, 2017.

PHO­TOS BY JIANG DONG / CHINA DAILY

Quan­jude Group has launched set menus for Spring Fes­ti­val cel­e­bra­tion, fea­tur­ing its time-hon­ored and award-win­ning del­i­ca­cies.

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