Monday, May 21, 2007
Food Fit for an Emperor (or Empress)
Tonight a foodie friend took me, her husband and another friend to an amazing place tonight, near Hou Hai, East Lake. It's in a hutong that doesn't even have the restaurant sign, only the address, number 11 Yang Fang Hutong.
It's called Family Li Imperial Cuisine, and its founder, Li Shanlin was in charge of the kitchen for the Empress Dowager CiXi. He memorized the Qing Dynasty recipes and passed them down to his descendants. Smart man. And we're all the more grateful for the amazing dinner we had.
The meals are calculated per head and we had the least expensive one at 200RMB (US$26) each. The next price point is 350 and then 500 and 600 I think. The latter ones include shark's fin and abalone. But we were pretty content with our gourmet fare.
We were seated in a private room -- there are three rooms in all, the two others with two or three tables. And we quickly started off with a series of appetizers. They included thinly sliced celery with bits of shrimp paste; two different kinds of fermented tofu, one bright green, the other a purple colour, both not with too strong a taste; thin slices of smoked pork; juicy small pieces of chicken; carrot salad; deep fried lotus root with chives; deep fried slices of beef; and cubes of deep fried bread, but it's actually made from bean paste. All the deep fried dishes were perfect -- light batter and fresh oil so they were hardly heavy at all.
Then we had several dishes, each with one serving. We had braised spare ribs with the meat easily falling off the bone; lightly fried thin slices of chicken breast; "tiger meat"which was braised pork - so juicy, with Napa cabbage in a broth that you ate with some rice; small delicate tea cups of egg custard that were divine; eggplant that tasted sweet; deep-fried fresh water fish called "Mandarin fish", and of course roast duck with the thinnest pancakes I've ever seen.
To finish the meal we also had winter melon soup and slices of melon and watermelon.
And we had the perfect wine to complement the meal -- a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc called Mud House 2006. Very fruity and light.
Good company, wonderful wine, amazing food and fun conversation.
Definitely a meal to remember!
Family Li Imperial Cuisine
11 Yang Fang Hutong
De Nei Da Jie Xi Cheng