Sichuan food is a com­plex cui­sine made up of seven ba­sic flavours. Chef Rick Du of Shangri-la Ho­tel Shenyang demon­strates two of them: mala and yux­i­ang.

Epicure - - CONTENTS -

Yux­i­ang Crab and Cangzhou Crispy Chicken

Known as one of China’s eight great cuisines, Sichuan food is of­ten de­scribed as spicy and numb­ing. It is, how­ever, more than just a one-note cui­sine. Ex­ec­u­tive Chi­nese chef Rick Du of Sum­mer Palace restau­rant in Shangri-la Ho­tel Shenyang de­scribes each of the seven ba­sic flavours – sour, pun­gent, hot, sweet, bit­ter, aro­matic and spicy – and their roles in the cui­sine.

For ex­am­ple, mala (hot, spicy, pun­gent and bit­ter) is made up of a laun­dry list of in­gre­di­ents, with Sichuan pep­per­corn and chilli pep­pers be­ing the two most prom­i­nent ones. The for­mer forms the ma por­tion and is con­sid­ered a hot flavour, while the lat­ter forms the la and is spicy. Gar­lic and gin­ger add pun­gency.

The Cangzhou Crispy Chicken is a dish brim­ming with mala taste as it re­quires the use of three dif­fer­ent types of chilli and rat­tan pep­per oil (a Sichuan pep­per­corn ex­tract). Du prefers to use rooster meat, which has a skin that crisps up well when fried, and the ro­bust meat flavour is an ap­pro­pri­ate com­ple­ment to the fiery notes.

Yux­i­ang taste may be lesser known, but it is no less im­por­tant in Sichuan cui­sine. Ac­cord­ing to Du, chefs can take years of prac­tice to achieve the bal­ance of yux­i­ang. His recipe is one of the many gems to have come out from his time in Chi­nese kitchens, and his nom­i­na­tion as one of China Ho­tel Global Fo­rum's Plat­inum Top 10 Chefs is a tes­ta­ment to his ex­per­tise.

De­spite the name lit­er­ally trans­lat­ing to fish taste, there is no seafood used in the sauce or sea­son­ing for any yux­i­ang dish. In­stead, a com­bi­na­tion of vine­gar, sugar, gar­lic, gin­ger and pick­led pep­pers is used to form a dis­tinct fish-like aroma. This sig­na­ture base makes for an ex­cel­lent start­ing point for dishes such as Du's Yux­i­ang Crab. The se­cret to a lip-smack­ing crab? En­sure all ex­posed flesh is cov­ered with a lib­eral coat of corn­flour be­fore deep-fry­ing. It pre­vents the flesh from be­com­ing too dry dur­ing fry­ing.

Yux­i­ang Crab

Check out epicure on Youtube for a be­hind-the-scenes video of this masterclas­s.

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