Adding a touch of Sichuan
The recent menu at St Regis, courtesy their new chef de cuisine, is an overhaul that adds authenticity and homeliness to the fare
Chef Xian Bin Li has been in the restaurant industry for over 23 years. But his tryst with food can be traced back to his childhood spent in the countryside of the Sichuan province, China. As he enters a fresh chapter in his life as the new chef de cuisine at St Regis, Li recalls, "Growing up in a Chinese joint family with a matriarch, who had close to perfect culinary skills, gave me the perfect head-start, paving the way for a career that also became my passion. Monitoring livestock at home to taking morning jaunts with my mother to nearby produce markets, helped hone my skills further."
Later, at the age of 21, the 45-years-old Li went to a culinary school in Sichuan. This equipped him with technical knowledge to fine-tune heirloom recipes. It makes sense then, that in his new role at By The Mekong, the chef hopes to introduce dishes that rely equally on age-old recipes and culinary skill.
Sizzling Okra with Chilli Vinegar
"It took me a month to rework this menu. The challenge was to take an already popular menu and add my signature style to bring an element of authenticity. I brought in the techniques of preserving and pickling and have introduced condiments like flavoured oils, chives and Sichuan garlic," the chef explains. He adds that the new menu makes a concerted effort to incorporate lesser-known ingredients that are native to Sichuan, such as, mountain chilli, ya cai (pickled vegetables), preserved Hong Kong olives and jujube (Chinese red dates). These find their way in to intriguing dishes like jujube and lotus seed soup with truffle oil, sizzling okra chilli vinegar, Hainanese fried rice and wok-fried lamb rice noodles.
Yet, how does someone with such deep ties to his own culinary heritage work in a country with entirely different topography? "I've worked in the city before, so I'm familiar with the ingredients here. India has great produce and nowadays, it's easy to procure ingredients from around the world. What I can't get here, I import from China. Plus, today, Mumbai is India's culinary capital and there are diverse experiences to be had here. I wanted to offer patrons familiar food fused with a delightful new world of flavours. I am happy to be back."
Chef Xiang Bin Li
At By The Mekong, The St. Regis, 462 Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel.
Time 12 pm to 3 pm; 7 pm to 12 am
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