Chef Yang Jiayu gives a thumbs up to authentic Chinese cuisine

In the 80s, much before we got pampered by a bouquet of international television channels, the cheery chef Martin Yan's cuisine programme, Yan Can Cook, was one of the few windows we had to authentic Chinese cuisine. Since then, a lot has changed. We've learnt to accept authentic Chinese flavours thanks to a well-travelled population and equally wolf down the high-on-masala Indian Chinese sold on bandis.

Chef Yang Jiayu, who came to India in 1999, has seen the country go through this metamorphosis. “Some of the Chinese sauces have a mild, sweetish taste. Indian food, barring Gujarat, is not used to having a tinge of sweetness in the preparation. Initially diners would request me to add more masala. Today, they are more accepting of natural, subtle flavours,” beams Yang Jiayu, who is in town to spearhead the Yang Can Cook food festival at ITC Kakatiya.

He sources raw materials locally as much as possible and combines them with sauces from China. “Bok Choy and Shitake mushrooms, for instance, are cultivated in many Indian cities. This has made things easier. The chef still prefers sourcing sauces like the oyster sauce and the black bean sauce from China,” chips in Sous chef Zubin Writer.

Yang Jiayu has had a taste of Hyderabad and its cuisine during his earlier visit in 2006 and recalls loving the mutton biryani, paya curry and haleem. Currently overseeing Chinese cuisine at the Shanghai Club, ITC Grand Central, Mumbai, he has also worked in Chennai for five years. “In Chennai I also served Rajnikanth,” he recalls with a glorious smile. In the 11 years he has spent in India, he has had a loyal clientele and a host of personalities from Shilpa Shetty to Leander Paes eating out of his palm.

He fondly traces his journey from the time he took up a two-year culinary diploma in Beijing and then travelled to Singapore and Lebanon before coming to India. “Over the years, I started enjoying Indian food, especially South Indian food. I love idli, masala dosa and the thin noodles… idiappams,” he says. Surprisingly, he adds with a laugh, “I also like the Indian Chinese dishes like the Gobi Manchuria and Chinese Chicken, though the flavours are not authentic.”

Yang Can Cook festival is on for dinner at Deccan Pavilion till August 14.

Keywords: Chinese cuisine

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012