One would not expect an endorsement of Sino-Ludhianvi cuisine from a Michelin chef based in London, but chef Andrew Wong does not shy away from acknowledging the mass acceptance of bastardised, fusion food to suit local palates. In fact, he says he would “love for the UK to try Chicken 65 one fine day”.
But at Baoshuan, the modern Chinese rooftop restaurant at The Oberoi, Delhi, where he is the mentor chef, he sticks to the authentic and traditional cuisine, only carefully crafting a menu he thinks would find acceptance among Indians. Not surprisingly, the sweet and sour ribs, dimsums and the Peking Duck are among the favourites at Baoshuan.
“It is important to understand the affinity between Indian and Chinese food, and we learnt in the first two-three months of opening Baoshuan that the audience here is extremely important,” says Wong, the man behind London-based A. Wong restaurant that was awarded a Michelin star in 2017. As mentor chef at Baoshuan, Wong went beyond tailoring the menu and played an active role in studying the market, and training the team in Delhi to cook and serve. With presentation considered equally important, if not more than the flavours, the dishes appease to the eye first and then cater to the tastebuds. The dimsum basket, boasting of clear shrimp dumplings with sweet chili sauce and citrus foam, slow-poached soy chicken with caviar and liquorice soy and a mango-based dessert with chili and lime are as much a visual delight as a flavoursome experience.
Besides recognising authenticity and tweaking it as per Indian tastes, Wong also focused on expanding the vegetarian options under the Chinese cuisine. “In London, we usually feel guilty for treating vegetarians like second-class diners. But since vegetarian food is really popular here, it has been really interesting to dig into that,” he says. Catering to that demand, Baoshuan’s lotus root and sesame salad, Emperor’s soup with morels, shimeji and goji berries are as fine a dish as you could get.
Another highlight is the Xian city lamb bun with sesame, coriander and pomegranate salad that presents itself as a DIY bowl to be turned into a burger of sorts. The ingredients, including lamb meat, to be used in the making of the burger, are placed neatly around a puddle of peanut sauce. Accompanying the bowl is a slightly charred Cantonese bun that resembles pita bread. After putting the elements together, the dish turns out to be a true winner in terms of flavour and experience.
Wong, who was born and raised in a family of restaurateurs, however, was barely inclined to the culinary world at first. He studied chemistry and anthropology at Oxford University and London School of Economics, respectively. As fate would have it, Wong’s father passed away, prompting him to return home to help his mother manage the family’s four restaurants across the UK. It was then that he set out to discover his roots and learnt the nitty gritties of regional cuisines of China. Since most Chinese restaurants focus only on Cantonese and Sichuanese cuisines, Wong walked an extra mile to learn about the cuisines of Hunan, Fujian, Xinjiang, Shandong, Anhui and other provinces. As a result, the food at Baoshuan stems from 14 different regions of China and is not limited to cuisines from Szechwan and Canton that is served in most other restaurants.