Zen celebrates a Cantonese favourite with its new festival
With Asian staples like sushi and dim sum getting more than their fair share of attention in the city’s culinary circles, Zen at the Leela Palace now turns its focus to the quintessential Chinese snack —cheung fun. Essentially a rice noodle roll, the cheung fun is a popular dish in Southern China, including Hong Kong. A filling, made with anything ranging from vegetables to prawns and pork, is encased in a thin sheet, which is steamed and served with a topping, usually made with a mix of oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, water and oil. At Zen, senior sous chef, Abhijit N Chavan-Patil has curated a menu that features traditional cheung fun alongside contemporary versions.
“People often eat cheung fun as a snack or as a small meal. In some cases, it is even served as dim sum. Our menu is focused on traditional cheung fun, but just to make things more interesting I’ve included a few experimental ones as well,” says Abhijit before serving us the light Three Style Mushroom cheung fun. This one did make quite an impression, thanks to the use of three different mushrooms — shimeji, shiitake and oyster. The casing, silky and smooth, adds to the appeal of the dish.
Far more textural, the Crispy vegetable cheung fun is one you must not miss. Here, the rice noodle casing is coloured with beetroot juice for an enticingly beautiful creation. The filling features diced yam beans, lotus root and water chestnut rolled into a rice paper sheet and fried in tempura batter, with a sprinkling of rice crispies. The Scallop cheung fun is served with a touch of tobiko or flying fish roe and homemade XO paste. The flavour of the scallop comes through nicely and is well complemented by the tobiko and XO. The Steamed angus with spicy hoisin cheung fun, according to the chef, is a Chinese take on lasagne and right enough, the accompanying mayo-based sauce paired with the hoisin ensure the mix of sweet, tangy and salty notes resemble that of the Italian favourite. The meat was also soft and succulent, so this one proved to be an all-round winner.
We drew our afternoon to a close with a hot cup of Chinese tea that served to energise and refresh us after the heavy meal. Head to the festival if you are in need of a quick and delicious pick-me-up and to experience a lesser known Cantonese staple.
Rs2,500++ for two. At Old Airport Road. Details: 30571234