Update 17-April-2011: This restaurant is now closed.
Dylan made sure that the Jiangsu cuisine is one that everyone will never forget. He had set a standard so high that it will make it more difficult for future dinners in the Eight Great Traditions of Chinese Cuisine (8GTCC) series to measure up to.
Last week was the second in the series of the discovery of the 8GTCC cuisine dinners. It was based on a cuisine that I had very little knowledge of. Dylan and the rest of the 8GTCC team did a lot of research and provided input that produced an excellent introduction to the Jiangsu cuisine. During the course of the planning, I personally learned a lot about the people, the history, the province and finer points of the Jiangsu cuisine.
The dinner was held in the Shanghai Village restaurant. The restaurant is located on Cambie Street.
When we started hashing the whole idea of the 8GTCC project, we were quite uncertain on how we could do the more obscure cuisines. We knew it would be easy to do Cantonese, Sichuan and Hunan cuisines because these cuisines were so well represented in Metro Vancouver. It was only with the collective effort of the team that we managed to find a restaurant that could do Jiangsu cuisine.
It was not easy. I mean who would have thought that a restaurant by the name of Shanghai Village would be the one? It was Sarah, a chowhound, who alerted the team that the chef behind Shanghai Village restaurant is from Nanjing, the capital of the province of Jiangsu.
This dinner is dubbed 8GTCC Jiangsu.
In all counts, this dinner surpasses the initial 8GTCC Hunan dinner in Alvin Garden. In the 8GTCC Hunan dinner, we had 52 people attending. In this dinner, we had 67 seats filled.
We think that the number would have been higher if not for the fact that this dinner is more expensive ($36+tips per person) compared to the 8GTCC Hunan dinner ($20 rounded). But then we know we cannot compare just on the prices alone. For one, this dinner has an astounding 19 dishes(!). I can safely say that I had never had a dinner with so many dishes before in my life.
The 8GTCC team debated on the number of dishes fearing that it would be too many. At the end, we all went ahead with 19 dishes, not wanted to cut any dishes from the initial shortlist.
Moreover, in Dylan’s words, the 8GTCC Jiangsu dinner is a journey from the humble farm houses of Hunan to the palatial ancient Chinese capital of Jiangsu. This dinner is more refined with a number of seafood dishes of lobsters, crab, fish, and prawns. There are also complete servings of duck and chicken.
Logistically, this dinner was a bit of a challenge when we found that the table arrangements were less than ideal. That called for some last second changes. Our dinner party was spread over 6 tables of various sizes and spread out through the length of the restaurant. That put paid to any pre-dinner speeches and all. I wanted so much to properly introduce all the people who worked so hard on this event (particularly Dylan).
The dinner started off with two types of soup.
Shanghai Village’s specialty is their soup. Their menu dedicates two full pages of their claypot soup and carries 35 different kind of soups.
The two soups are Ribs with Lotus Roots (left) and Ranch chicken with Tea Tree Mushroom (right).
The soup are double boiled soup cooked in individual claypot.
I like the Tea Tree Mushroom soup, particularly the medicinal mushroom which has a long stem with a woody smell.
The Nanjing Salty Duck came next. If there is one dish that associates most closely to Nanjing (the capital of Jiangsu), it is this. I was told that in Nanjing, you see this hanging from many city restaurant windows.
I had associated duck dishes with very lean dry meat with sharp bones. However, this Nanjing Salty Duck is very different. It is quite meaty and has a nice fatty layer under the skin. Served cold, the dish showcases the purest flavour and texture of the duck. Because this is such a classic dish, we had a full duck for each table.
Next came the Cold Dishes platter.
In the middle is the Qinhuai bean jelly — a cold dish of green bean jelly, named for the former pleasure district of Nanjing.
On the top left is the Five Spice Smoked Fish. it is cooked in the red-braised style, flavored with anise, cloves, cassia, and dark soy sauce.
On the top is the Preserved Beancurd which tasted pleasantly sweetish. I can’t recall this dish being planned but am not complaining if this is an addition.
The Marbled Preserved Egg is not exactly a Jiangsu specialty. This is the creation of Chef Ming which captivates the attention of everyone. This dish is a playful take on a cold dish of preserved duck egg: a salted duck yolk and a century egg combined in one shell.
Sorry for mentioning this but I felt it was funny that one of us actually ate the whole thing together with the egg shell. LOL! I understand. How is everyone to know right? This sort of things happens to the best of us and this is part of the learning of foreign cuisines.
The next one was my favourite … the Soy Sauce Braised Spot Prawns.
Taking the Jiangsu cuisine philosophy of eating what’s in season, Shanghai Village served the local prawns and had it cooked simply.
Chef Ming served the best and largest spot prawns that is so satisfying. For me, the proper way to eat this is … More on following page. Click here to continue reading
We are continuing our journey of the Eight Great Traditions of Chinese Cuisine next with the Jiangsu Cuisine.
A few weeks ago, we had our first dinner in Alvin Garden which was on the Hunan Cuisine. That event was a great success and was attended by 52 chowtimes readers. This next event is going to be an entirely different experience.
Dylan will be our cuisine lead for the next cuisine and this will be bigger and better … building upon what we learned from the last dinner. In Dylan’s words, he will be taking us on a journey from the rustic farm house in the Hunan province to the ancient Chinese capital in the Jiangsu province.
Yesterday, I blogged about the Shanghai Village Restaurant on Cambie which from the feedback I received I think you all are impressed. Well, guess what … the discovery of the Jiangsu cuisine will be in that very same restaurant. Read all the way below for the details!
Before you read on, you must imagine yourself in the palaces of the ancient Chinese capital of Nanjing. Turn on the volume of your speaker, click play …
… gaze on the idyllic garden of the summer palace.
Here it is … the second in the series on the Eight Great Traditions of Chinese Cuisine … presented by Dylan:
The Jiangsu Province
To many Chinese Jiangsu is a special province in China. It is often considered that Jiangsu is the center of China. It is in this province that demarcation of the north and the south is the most noticeable. It is as if the north and the south China appears like separate country.
In 1987, Colin Thubron in his book, Behind the Wall: A Journey Through China said:
…the Yangtze redefines the country with a subtle absoluteness. It marks the immemorial divide between a soldierly, bureaucratic north and the suave, entrepreneurial south. Men dwindle in size and integrity as they go south (say the northerners) and the clear-cut Mandarin of Beijing becomes a slushy caress. The dust of the wheat and millet-bearing plains dissolves to the monsoons of paddy fields and tea plantation. The staple of noodles becomes a diet of rice, and the low cottages and symmetrical northern streets twist and steepen into labyrinths of whitewashed brick.
Jiangsu is defined by the Yangtze, which splits the nation, and the province, into north and south. Its topography is a bit like that of the Netherlands: flat and wet. It has a warm, subtropical climate and its fertile land produces world famous tea and rice.
In imperial China, Jiangsu see-sawed between being … More on following page. Click here to continue reading