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Moon on a platter?

It's a special Chinese menu for the August Moon Festival


GOURMETS IN Chennai now make a beeline for Chinese restaurants, as the Moon Festival is on. It is built round the Chinese legend of the Moon Goddess, Chang Er. As it coincides with the autumn equinox, it is also known as the Mid-Autumn festival. Interestingly, it lends itself to quite a few interpretations and takes on a few other names — a woman's festival (because the moon symbolises beauty and grace), a harvest festival (as this time marks the end of the summer harvest) and a festival of family reunion (as relatives get together for vacation).

Though Chennai residents do not celebrate the Moon festival with as much gusto as the Chinese do, they do not fail to savour the culinary preparations that are typical of the festival.

At the a-la-carte August Moon Festival at Shanghai Club, Chola Sheraton, Chef Yang has ensured that a lot of what is harvested during this period is used in the dishes. The Heijiao Yutou Tiao (crispy fried yam toss with black pepper corn) and Yuxiang Supaigu (vegetarian spare ribs in Yuxiang sauce) which is made of lotus roots wrapped and fried in special dough are two delectable starters. Non-vegetarians can try out Luodi Dingdang (fried silver fish with peanuts) and the Yili Zhaji (Yili crispy chicken), which come from the kitchens of XinJiang province on the silk route.

Shishu Maianjin Tang (Mianjin with mixed vegetarian soup) and the Huashengmi Jiding Tang (chicken and peanut soup) go well with the starters.

On the main course, non-veggies can sample Jiaoma Jipian (sliced chicken in Jiaoma sauce of Sichuan pepper and Chinese scallions), Mizhi Jiangsi Paigu (a dish of pork spare ribs in honey ginger sauce, from the Shandung province), Qingjiu Xianyou (sautéed cuttle fish with Chinese leeks), Boluo Xiaren (fried shrimps with pineapple in chilly sauce) and the Sichuan-style preparation Hanzheng Yuxiang Yu (dry steamed fish with Yuxiang sauce). For veggies, there are Huangdou Qieding (diced eggplant with Soya bean in brown sauce), Donggu Shao Sigua (braised ridge gourd with black mushrooms) and Hongshao Mianjin (Chinese style flour dumplings with mushrooms).

Among rice, noodles and pancakes, you have Yuxiang Gaijiao Fan (Fujian rice topping with Yuxiang sauce), Chao Mianpian (fried flat noodles) and Congyou bing (spring onion pancakes).

The dessert is the traditional moon cake - Yuebing - a preparation with a liberal stuffing of apple, green gram and date paste, milk and pineapple.


Meanwhile, Mainland China, Hotel Tulip Aruna, is also celebrating the festival."The preparations will be representative of the food made in three regions - Sichuan, Cantonese and Hunan," says Chef Ramchander.

The cucumber and water chestnut clear soup with mint and the ginger soup with chicken and wood ear, are among the nine soups on offer.

Among the vegetarian starters, spicy green onion wontons (that goes well with sweet garlic sauce) and crispy okra with pickled chillies leave a lingering taste. Among non-vegetarian starters, Keong chilli chicken and ginger-smoked crispy fish pack a punch.

The main course for non-veggies includes shredded chicken Hunan Sichuan sauce, Shuntao prawns, whole Bekti Tsing Tu style (fish with combination of wood ear, ginger, chillies, green and red pepper) and stir-fried prawns with greens.

For veggies, the main course includes Sichuan asparagus, almond and cashew vegetables in pickled chilli sauce, Shanghai snowpeas, mushroom Shuntao and stir-fried bamboo shoot with mushrooms.

Among rice and noodles, the chilli mustard fried rice and stir-fried whole wheat noodles with beansprouts, taste good.

Apart from the moon cake, there are a few mouth-watering desserts - coconut rolls with honey butter sauce, red bean pancakes and banana fritters with kiwifruit sauce and ice-cream.

* * *

Mainland China, Hotel Tulip Aruna, Sterling Road September 11 to 25, Lunch: 12.30 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. Dinner: 7.30 to 11.30 p.m. For reservations call 28238345

PRINCE FREDERICK

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