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Dragon Boat festival comes to Mumbai with a spicy twist

A rendition of the traditional Chinese Dragon Boat festival is being celebrated in Mumbai

art and culture Updated: Jun 08, 2019 17:15 IST
Yoshita Rao
Yoshita Rao
Mumbai
Dragon Boat festival,Golden dragon restaurant,Taj Mahal Palace
The banquet presented at Golden Dragon restaurant for the feast of the Dragon Boat Festival

The traditional Chinese Dragon Boat festival, which is celebrated every year all over China, is now in the city at the Golden Dragon Chinese Cuisine Restaurant at Taj Mahal Palace, who are hosting the 15th edition of the festival here in Mumbai. The celebrations that will be on till June 14, has a special spice-based theme this year as “spices unite India and China,” says executive chef Raghu Deora. A banquet of starters, mains and desserts await the guests. To add on to the authenticity, the restaurant has invited chef Quing Cang, known to all as chef Jeff, who has curated the menu for the festival.

On his first visit to the city, he has acquainted himself with the local palate, keeping the Chinese flavour intact. “We use a lot of chillies in Sichuan and Hunan cuisine. The Sichuan pepper is one that numbs your mouth. Though I’ve made sure to mix the flavours well so as to maintain a balance,” he says. The banquet entails Qinghai Kothe, a scallion and water chestnut dimsum; while sautéed shredded chicken, pickled chilli in vinegar sauce and steamed tiger prawns, Hong Kong style chilli black bean sauce, are a couple of the items in the mains. To cater to the vegetarians, a bowl of tofu soup with sea vegetables, which can be made with chicken and seafood as well, has a flavourful broth. Yezi Mangguo Dangao, a layered mix of a coconut concoction and mango pieces inside a gelatin cake, is the perfect end to the meal. With his vegetable pairings and addition of Indian spices, he says he has consulted with the locals for the fusion. “I have been taking regular feedback from the locals to get a sense of the Indian palate,” he adds.

Keeping the festive food in mind, chef Jeff also regales his guests with the fable of the Dragon Boat. “Long ago, a Godman, who was a favourite among the people, was exiled from the kingdom. He felt bad and committed suicide by jumping in the sea. But people loved him so much that they immediately rushed with their boats to get his body out. In a failed attempt of not finding his body, they threw in parcels of rice, so that the fish would eat the rice instead of him,” he says. Those rice parcels came to be known as Zongzi, which is very typical of the festival. “Over time,” he adds, “We came to add different ingredients in it like dates, red beans, chicken, eggs and even pork.” As a boy growing up in Beijing, China, chef Jeff recalls making sweet dumplings “every year as a family tradition”, using red beans, sugar, sweetened dried fruit peels and jujups (Chinese dates). While he likes to do a lot of plated Chinese food, his decision to be a chef, he explains also stems from his traditional cuisine. “I always wanted to travel. I knew that Chinese food was very popular everywhere and that could be just the ticket,” he laughs.

First Published: Jun 08, 2019 17:14 IST