CHENNAI: Can you believe if I say I gained interest in Chinese cuisine because I knew how to speak Malay? Back in Malaysia, after I completed Class 12, I started working as an interpreter for Chinese chefs at their restaurants. While I was working with them, I got exposed to their cuisine and got fascinated by the names of the dishes. That was when I developed interest in cooking Chinese food!
Later, I went to Hong Kong and took specialised training in Chinese cuisine. During my training period, I got to learn extensively about various ingredients and dishes. And during the late 90’s, I joined The Residency group of hotels and today I am the consultant chef here, designing exciting menus at Chin Chin.
The staple food of China includes rice, noodles and red meat. The major focus for any Chinese dish is sauces, as it adds flavour and texture. Besides that, the vegetables are usually half-cooked and stir fried unlike in other cuisines where the vegetables are fully cooked. Soya sauce, pepper, ginger garlic, edible oil, ajinomoto and red or green chillies are the major ingredients in Chinese cuisine which are rich in flavours. Besides this, huge importance is given to the freshness of the materials be it vegetables or meat.
My specialisation is Schezwan style of cooking. Schezwan Lovely Chicken happens to be one of my favourite; it has bold flavours, particularly the pungency and spiciness resulting from liberal use of garlic and chili peppers. Besides that, Chilli Mushroom is also rather popular here.
Generally most of the Chefs at Chinese restaurants fuse the food to make it suitable to our Indian palette. But I personally don’t like fusing, so I experiment with ingredients to bring out the flavours and keep it traditional and original rather than fusing.
Usually there is a myth that Chinese food is unhealthy and cannot be easily digested. But trust me, it’s prepared with spices like Shezwan pepper, sweet sticks and fermented soya beans, which are light on the stomach and possess high medicinal value.
I have now experimented with Fish using braising techniques where the entire fish is cut diagonally and stir fried.