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  • Michael Swamy

Hunt for good peking duck

My search for the ultimate Peking duck and all its showman ship took me to the China House at Grand Hyatt in Mumbai, Spices at the Marriott in Mumbai and Memories of China at Taj Vivanta MG Road Banagalore.

A Chinese street in Hong Kong and downtown Soho in London evokes these memories of meals over Peking duck. Of seeing Chinese culture with a sense of style and grace along with an old age feeling seeing the pots and crockery festooned around the place. Imposing wooden doors lead into a serene open air garden punctuated with small pools teeming with fish, bamboo plants amongst tables placed under pagodas. Step indoors into a Chinese alley, a smorgasbord of Chinese condiments overflowing from wooden buckets, Chinese curios, artefacts and pottery on display. From street food to fine dining in India Chinese style at the Hyatt, Taj and Marriott the food is simple and elegant at the same time and makes for an interactive dinning experience.

Keeping the Indian palate in check, spicy Sichuan dishes, alongside the famous Peking Duck. Chinese cuisine is to me appetisers, noodle and dumplings, Peking duck, wok and desserts further specialise in dishing out authentic fare. A variety of dumplings – steamed and served with condiments are delicate parcels of flavour.

What fascinates me while I stand in front of the open brick oven staring at a few ducks cooking inside is nothing short of amazement. I used to see the same along downtown Soho in London but this close to the oven I had never been. Peking duck takes 45 minutes to cook, and its preparation is long drawn out. The duck is marinated in spices then dried off in a hot oven which leaves the skin crisp, and the meat tender. The duck is then further cooked to perfection, using several techniques to produce myriads of dishes. The best way to enjoy this delicacy is to watch it being carved, right in front of you.

The Peking Duck, roasted in a special oven is a real treat; dig your fingers as the chef craves the duck at your table. Bite into slivers of roasted skin laced with sugar-crunchy yet melt in the mouth, followed by dollies stuffed with meat, finely sliced cucumber and hoisin sauce.

Other Sichuan food which fascinated me is the tender melt in the mouth Lamb Shanks Hot Pot, lamb simmered in a spicy thin sauce to be polished off by Chinese buns. Sink your teeth into an old Chinese’s tale with Beggar’s Chicken-stuffed with shitake mushrooms, pickled cabbage, and pork, wrapped and roasted in Lotus leaves. Dan dan noodles is a popular and typical Sichuan dish-spicy garlicky peanut and sesame sauce served over noodles or watch the chef skilfully toss Hand pulled noodles. Apart from serving a varied list of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, the wide range of Chinese teas available here should not be missed. The Jasmine pearl tea is not just aromatic but also a visual treat to watch as the bud unfurls slowly.

The desserts are as varied and interesting and provide a sweet ending to a spicy meal. The chocolate and ginger ice-cream with a red currant sauce is interesting with an after taste of ginger. The fresh fruit bowl with vanilla and orange ice cream is light and refreshing.

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