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The Empress beckons... .

Park Royal's Empress of China aims to bring authentic Chinese food to Delhi. Its chef, who has had a stint in Bahrain's royal kitchen, tells SUMITRA SENAPATY the secret to real, real, Chinese food....

MANDATE OF HEAVEN: The Empress of China offers exotic delights.

NEW AND cool at the Empress of China is the thirty-something Chef Thomas Xing, who hails from Beijing and has had an eventful culinary stint at the Amir of Bahrain's royal kitchens. A whole new vista of culinary delights unfolds itself when Xing wields the wok.

Starters comprise deep fried crumbed prawns, vegetable beancurd spring rolls and feather light Dim Sums to close the first course. Apart from these delicious little bites from heaven, there is something else, which has recently happened at Empress of China in New Delhi's Park Royal Hotel, so much so that a table here could be the city's most coveted. The crowd, who makes it to this chic restaurant, will choose their food from a brand new menu, introduced to Delhi by the new chef. The new menu showcases Beijing and Cantonese cuisine at its authentic best, with a few popular Szechwan specialities. The Cantonese kitchen is probably the best known, as citizens of this province voyaged to the Western Hemisphere and were the first to establish Chinese restaurants outside their country.

They specialise in stir-fry cooking technique, which preserves the natural colour and flavour of the ingredients. Cantonese are well known for roasted meats, pomfret, lobster, fish and crustacean dishes and fried rice. What the Cantonese excelled in was their control of the crisp and tender textures. We guess this is because they knew when to leave things alone. Chef Thomas Xing informs us that authentic Chinese cooking requires the meats, poultry or the seafood dishes to maintain tenderness. This is achieved only by reducing the cooking time to bare minimum.

For example, the cooking time of a chicken dish in the wok should not exceed two minutes to achieve that tenderness and taste. There are cooking norms for vegetables too. According to cookbook author and television show host Martin Yan we all have a "bigger is better'' philosophy when it comes to Chinese vegetables. But the opposite holds true in China, where the smaller varieties are valued for their tenderness. An added benefit is that recipes often call for them to be cooked whole, reducing preparation time.

The best thing about Empress preparations is that the natural taste of these foods is not altered, and because of this one does not feel uncomfortable or sluggish after an indulgent meal.

In a quandary over what to eat? Choosing at the Empress could be quite a feat really... from Chinese lamb chops, steamed herb fish, melt- in-mouth prawns, stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts, pan fried noodles, garlic fried rice and Almond Tofu served with a variety of fruits ... Heaven indeed.

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