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Posts tagged Shandong

Would Confucius dine at the Shangri-La hotel?

At least since the intoxicating book on Fuchsia Dunlop’s culinary travels “Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper” the Western world knows that Confucius was a picky wise man when it came to food:

 

His rice is not excessively refined, and his sliced meat is not cut excessively fine. Rice that has become putrid and sour, fish that has spoiled, and meat that has gone bad, he does not eat. Undercooked foods he does not eat, and foods served at improper times he does not eat. Meat that is improperly carved, he does not eat, and if he does not obtain the proper sauce, he will not eat. (p. 208)

 

Confucius lived in Qufu (曲阜市) at a time when the city was part of the so-called Lu state (魯國, around 1042–249 BC). Imbedded in today’s Shandong province it has been listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994. People come to see the Temple of Confucius (Kǒng Miào, 孔庙), the Kong Family Mansion (Kǒng Fǔ, 孔府), and to stroll around the woods of the Kong family (Kǒng Lín, 孔林), which is in fact a cemetery where also Confucius is buried.

 

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Very near the Temple of Confucius there is a new Shangri-La hotel scheduled to open soon. Its cuisine will partly revive the tradition of the Kong family (Confucius’ original name Kǒng Qiu, 孔丘). Before the kitchen personnel would start to cut loose there, they already got their knives out in several other Shangri-La hotels in South East Asia. In January they kicked off their road show in Qingdao, which was followed by Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taipei. From March 9th they will stop by in Bangkok (until March 15th) and in Jakarta (March 19th to 25th). These kind of tiny pop-up-festivals will in each case take place at the hotel’s Shang Palaces, the Cantonese restaurant brand of the Hong Kong based hotel chain.

 

I know that from a journalistic point of view it seems a bit awkward to cite a press release longer than, let’s say, three lines. However, I found this release from the Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel in Taipei highly interesting to read, so here it comes in bulk:

A classic menu item is the “Six Arts” Cold Appetizers Platter (spiced beef shanks, jelly fish salad, spiced duck tongue, sea whelk jelly salad, scallop skirt and lettuce salad, and baby celery with sesame and olive oil). Each appetizer represents a category in the “Six Arts,” which Confucius advocated at the time; the arts are Rites, Music, Archery, Chariot Racing, Calligraphy and Mathematics.

 
Kong Mansion’s Eight Seafood Treasures in Superior Broth, Lu Wall’s Hidden Collection (prawn roll wrapped in crispy vermicelli), the Three Ingredients Soup (soup cooked with chicken, duck and pig trotters), and Kong Family’s Special Four Treasures (braised chicken, braised fish, braised pork and meal roll of minced chicken breast and prawns wrapped with seaweed) are also signature dishes found in Kong Family cuisine.

 

Many dishes commemorate Confucius and impart stories related to him. One example is called Wisdom Frees Perplexity (braised pork ribs stuffed with spring onion stalk). Legend has it that the dish was created during Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s era of the burning of the books and live burial of scholars. It was said that in order to preserve the Kong family line, a minister named Zhang Ge exchanged his own son for the life of a Kong family male descendent. In the process, this dish was created to pass on secret information. Mirroring the concept of the story, pork rib bones are removed and replaced with the stalk of a scallion. The meat is deep-fried and finished with a rich sauce.

 
The Kirin Imperial Book dish (deep-fried snapper with crispy skin) tells another tale. Rumor has it that just before the birth of Confucius, one Kirin – a mythical Chinese creature believed to bring good omen and that looks like a unicorn with scales – made its appearance in the neighborhood of the Kong family with a jade stone in its mouth. On the jade was written, “From a defeated kingdom rose a new emperor – a spiritual leader.” The fish, marinated in Chinese wine, is deep-fried with scales until golden brown, which resembles the skin of a Kirin.
In total there are 25 à la carte dishes and three set menus on offer. The culinary team consists of Executive Chef Ng Kok-Leong, Banquet Sous Chef Washington Lin, the two senior chefs Perry Kong and Sam Liu, and Sous Chef Frank Chen. In addition, two “storytellers” from Qufu are traveling with the chefs, to help unfold more exciting tales related to the dishes.

 

Sources / Links:
“Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper” (Ebury Press, 2008) / Fuchsia Dunlop
Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel / Press release