The new man at the Peninsula’s Mei Jiang says hello with a stunning 16-piece sampler of unusual bites
JACKIE HO, the renowned chef at the Peninsula Bangkok’s Chinese restaurant Mei Jiang for a decade, recently returned home to Hong Kong, passing the baton – or perhaps the ladle – to Ball Yau, who’s ready to take the kitchen in some exciting new directions.
Though the crowd-pleasing menu remains unchanged so far, Mei Jiang has for the first time since it opened 20 years ago introduced a 16-course degustation menu. It’s Yau’s splendid way of introducing himself to the regulars and a great chance to sample unfamiliar dishes served in tasting portions.
Chef Yau adds modern flair to Chinese tradition. /courtesy of Peninsula Bangkok
Patty Lerdwittayaskul, the hotel’s director of public relations, calls Yau a pioneer in “incorporating Chinese culinary tradition with contemporary flair and innovative presentation”.
He’s never before worked in a non-Chinese-speaking country, but he’s been in restaurant kitchens since he was 17. He’s now 40, and the interceding decades have placed Yau at 1949 Jin Bao Street in Beijing, the Langham Shenzhen and the Lei Garden chain in Hong Kong.
He was the celebrated head chef at Lei Garden Mongkok, earning it two Michelin stars, and Lei Garden Shatin, garnering another one, and spent two years at Lei Garden Macau, part of the Venetian Macau Resort.
Carabineros shrimp and stewed red grouper
Advanced booking is required at Mei Jiang as Yau personally prepares each of the 16 sampler dishes, a task so painstaking that only 12 sets will be available per day.
The feast costs Bt4,900-plus, and for teas pairing, it’s another Bt888-plus.
The style is Cantonese and the focus is on vegetables, herbs, seafood and white meats, with minimal use of sugar, oils, seasonings or red meat. Yau won’t swap ingredients around to suit individual preferences, so if a dish contains something you don’t like, move on to another.
Crispy bean curd filled with mushrooms
The chef makes his own bean curd skin that’s ready to try first, stuffed with assorted mushrooms, fried crispy and slashed with plum sauce. The home-made preserved plum sauce adorns the thin pumpkin slices that follow, along with goji berries, for a crunchy sweet-and-sour experience.
Patty notes Yau’s choice of a familiar ingredient – pumpkin that’s “pleasing to both palate and eyes” – in a nod to Westerners’ reluctance about eating preserved green vegetables.
The signature dish is double-boiled soup prepared much the same way Yau’s mum made it when he was a child – except that he always wanted it more flavourful.
Pumpkin with plum sauce and double-boiled soup with sea conch
He yearned to quit school and become a chef, but his parents wanted him in a suit and tie working in Hong Kong’s Central district. They made a deal. Yao, all of 13, would prepare the family supper every day. The folks figured it would be too tough for him, but on the contrary, he was watching the clock all day at school, anxious to get to the market and buy his ingredients for the evening meal.
An avid viewer of television’s “Mrs Fong’s Cooking Time”, young Yau jotted down the recipes and followed the instructions. A new version of double-boiled soup emerged, clear, rich and tasty, and his parents were convinced they had a gifted cook on their hands. Yau got his first restaurant job at the age of 17.
At Mei Jiang, the double-boiled soup is sea conch and morel mushrooms in chicken broth.
Phuket lobster with egg white and crab coral
It’s hard to beat, but the follow-up is a fantastic bite of stir-fried Phuket lobster presented on a bed of egg white and topped with crab coral.
The first four dishes are paired with cold brew Long Jing tea, a green tea that’s steeped in cold mineral water for at least six hours to extract the flavour. Its light body perfectly matches the opening rounds of the menu.
Tomato with braised vegetables
The culinary journey continues with pan-fried Hokkaido scallops crowned with minced shrimp, followed by a whole organic cocktail tomato filled with braised mixed vegetables and dressed with pumpkin sauce – a modern version of Chinese-style mixed vegetable stew.
Stewed chunks of snow fish with garlic, onion, bell pepper and chilli sauce appear on a layer of crisp-fried noodles, chased by a Spanish Carabineros shrimp coated with egg yolk, fried golden and resting in sweet-and-sour sauce.
Next up is stewed red grouper with black mushroom and bean curd skin in garlicky brown sauce.
Stewed red grouper with black mushroom and bean curd skin
These five dishes are paired with white peony tea mixed with rose buds. The taste and aroma are a bit stronger, in keeping with the seafood.
Oolong tea mixed with goji berry accompanies the next two dishes, one of which features the only red meat on the menu – braised M6-score wagyu beef brisket wrapped in thin slices of turnip, all this in beef soup.
Braised wagyu beef brisket rolls in beef soup
Served at the table, braised bamboo fungus and black truffle are rolled with bean curd skin and smoked over apple wood.
The last three savoury dishes are free-range chicken steamed with red dates in lotus leaves, noodles with barbecued Iberico pork, and fried rice with Chinese sausage and taro. These are paired with pu’er tea, which has a bold and earthy character and helps burn off fat.
Noodles with barbecued Iberico pork, fried rice and steamed chicken in lotus leaves
The adventure ends with two tempting sweet treats – pumpkin coconut cream in a bird’s nest, and refreshing sweetened tofu moulded into the shape of a chrysanthemum blossom.The desserts go well with cold black tea, which is good for the digestion.
Pumpkin coconut cream with bird’s nest and sweetened tofu flower
JOIN THE ADVENTURE
Mei Jiang at the Peninsula Bangkok is open daily for lunch from 11.30 to 2.30 and for dinner from 6 to 10.30.
Make reservations at (02) 020 2888 or www.Peninsula.com/bangkok.