Chicken Char Sui Dumplings
Replacing a popular favourite is not an easy decision. For years, Pan Asian at the Sheraton, New Delhi, was the go-to place for those who had a craving for well-made Chinese and South-East Asian food and had wallets fat enough to endure it. In its place now is Yi Jing, which opened at the Sheraton in December. This is the second Yi Jing in the country. The first one opened at the ITC Kohenur in Hyderabad a few years ago.
The new restaurant eschews any attempts at a broad representation of Asian flavours and focuses on Chinese cuisine, a fact made immediately obvious in the red, black and gold decor. The intent, chef Zheng Wei says, is to serve contemporary interpretations of classical Chinese food. In fact, yi means ‘to change’ and jing means ‘classic’ in Chinese. While the menu offers flavours from across China, most of the food is from Hunan and Sichuan. Of the eight culinary regions of China, the food from these provinces is known to be the spiciest and the decision to focus on them is a wise one, given the Indian taste for bold flavours.
Hunan’s food draws its heat from uninhibited use of a wide variety of chillies, which goes well with the liberal quantities of garlic used in this cuisine. Sichuanese food, on the other hand, draws its heat from the fragrant Sichuan peppercorn – a deceptively-mild looking spice with a numbing quality that is completely unlike the heat of black peppercorns or chilli peppers. “Just a drop of the Sichuan peppercorn oil, which we import from China, is enough for a dish, usually, because it’s very strong and it’s not the kind of spice that diners are very used to. It’s got a beautiful aroma, but it needs a light hand,” says Zheng, who specialises in food from this province.
In its avatar as Yi Jing, the restaurant now boasts two tables (seating four people each) with live hot plates, as found in hotpot restaurants across China. There is also a tie ban table, similar to a teppanyaki grill in Japanese restaurants, where diners sit around a table fitted with a flat iron plate, watching the chef cook different kinds of meats and vegetables.