August Moon, Chinese delights

IF YOU are going out, visiting chef Han Zheng from Hangzou, China, is cooking up a storm in the kitchens of I'Ching, the elegant fine-dining Chinese restaurant, at The Radisson, Delhi. Spending an evening with Kong Zhyian the `moon fairy' like hostess can be fun provided you can cope with the morning-after effects of moon cakes and Tshao Tshing and Lu Chiew, the Chinese rice wines. Adding to the zest of the August Moon Festival is Smirnoff steeped with lemon peel and Sichuan peppers, also Bacardi with galangal.

Fawn coloured Chinese coats for the waiters, red and black gowns for the hostess and a bright gold and maroon `cheongsam' for the Chinese hostess who has accompanied the chef all the way from the Radisson Plaza Hotel in China along with Chinese Opera masks, hand painted fans and tableware, provides for an authentic setup for this ancient festival. Celebrated during the full Moon that falls anytime between early September and mid October, it is an autumn equinox, a sign of the changing seasons. On this night of the full Moon, tradition says that you sit outdoors with your family admiring the Moon, talking, and eating the specially prepared Moon Cakes.

August Moon, Chinese delights

Chef Han Zheng's August Moon selection runs into a list of over 90 dishes and interestingly the 80-odd-cover restaurant is full house on a working day, which is quite something! And what a treat when it comes to the food: exotic marinated duck, deep-fried corn cakes, steamed chicken in lotus leaves, smoked ginger and spring onion fried rice, fresh asparagus with black mushrooms, bean curd (tofu), cooked in a variety of ways, and a wide selection of vegetables, with, of course, lashings of steamed rice. The table is really creaking! For toasts to the Moon Fairy the steeped vodkas on the rocks are a particularly potent choice, interspersed with Longjin or

Chrysanthemum teas, regularly replenished at your table by the demure hostess from China. Highly recommended are the Tofu preparations at I'Ching - bean curd with Chinese cabbage in brown sauce or with bamboo shoot and black mushrooms, but the tofu with dried red chillies has my vote. Absolutely delectable! I'Ching has a whole host of `must try' items, the best among the best being Red Snapper on Fire, Stir fried Water Chestnut in Hunan Chilly sauce, Chinese broth with vegetable Wontons and a Chinese style `kimchi' consisting of raw papaya in Soya and the special garlic chicken - special because it is first boiled with garlic and five spices, hung out to dry for sometime and then golden deep-fried. Top it up with the Water Chestnuts marinated in pomegranate juice and then immersed in sweet coconut milk. I'Ching also offers its guests something rather special for the August Moon celebrations. Moon cakes, the ubiquitous pastry shaped liked the moon, palm-sized, square or round in shape made from lotus seed paste, sugar, fat and intensely flavoured salted duck egg yolk in the centre, also symbolising the Moon. It is very rich and filling, providing just the right energy you need to stay moon watching until dawn!

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