The snake's sumptuous spread
You can dine on Fortune or Wealth at The Peninsula's Mei Jiang restaurantThere's plenty of activity in the Cantonese kitchen of Mei Jiang, the Chinese restaurant of The Peninsula Bangkok, as the chefs prepare to welcome the year of the snake with lots of enticing flavours. Under the supervision of executive chef Jackie Ho from Hong Kong, menus are being designed that revolve around such delicacies as fresh salmon, sun-dried oysters, fish maw, tiger prawns, abalone and other favourite ingredients guaranteed to delight foodies though sadly only until February 12.
Forget kung pao chicken, dim sum and steamed fish. It's Chinese New Year, and therefore time to celebrate and treat yourself, your friends and your family. Mei Jiang's set feasts come in two different sets, Fortune and Wealth, each boasting eight dishes.
Fortune, which is priced at Bt2,280 per person, kicks off with the auspicious dish that many Chinese enjoy at New Year, yu sheng, a salmon sashimi salad with shredded veggies and several condiments. Yu sheng literally means raw fish but since the word is commonly conflated with its homophone "abundance", the dish is considered a symbol of abundance, prosperity and vigour.
You simply pour all the condiments - lime juice, chilli oil, fried Chinese croissants, peanuts and sesame crackers - over the dish and then everyone helps with the mixing until it becomes a savoury, mouth-watering salad with juicy, fat salmon strips and crunchy vegetables.
History has it that fishermen along
the coast of Guangzhou traditionally celebrated Renri, the seventh day of the Chinese New Year, by feasting on their catches. The practice of eating raw fish in thinly sliced strips can be traced back to ancient China. However the present form of yu sheng is believed to have started in Chaozhou and Shantou as far back as the Southern Song Dynasty. While versions of it are thought to have existed in China, the contemporary version was created and popularised in the '60s amongst the ethnic Chinese community in Malaysia and Singapore. In both countries, government, community and business leaders often take the lead in serving the dish as part of official functions during the festive period or in private dinners.
Other delicacies in the set include braised shredded fish maw soup with conpoy, sun-dried oysters braised with sea moss and shitake mushroom, deep-fried fillet garoupa and fried sticky rice with conpoy and dried meats.
If you choose the Wealth set (Bt2,680 per person), the feast also starts with yu sheng and follows on with slightly different dishes, among them pan-seared Australian pork tenderloin in red wine sauce, stir-fried rice noodles with roasted duck, broccoli and Yunnan ham and the delectable double boiled matsutake mushroom with fish maw and capon chicken. The soup is clear but very tasty and smooth. The fish maw they use, both in this soup and other dishes, are premium quality, fresh fish maws. Fish maws are actually a fish's swim bladders -air-filled organs that help control buoyancy. Fish maw is high in protein and collagen.
Both sets end with Chinese New Year petit fours, and they are different each day.
Mei Jiang is also offering several a la carte dishes for those who don't feel they can manage the set or are going in small groups. Most recommended are braised fish maw with sea cucumber and conpoy (Bt1,280), stir-fried prawns with egg yolk and broccoli (Bt720) and stewed sun-dried oysters with seas moss and Pacific clam (Bt950). If you crave rice, opt for abalone fried rice wrapped in lotus leaf (Bt520) that goes well with all the dishes, and is also good on its own.
>> Mei Jiang is located at The Peninsula Bangkok. It is open daily from 11.30am to 2.30pm and from 6 to 10.30pm.
>> Call (02) 626 1841; www.Peninsula.com/Bangkok
>> The Chinese New Year special menu is served only till February 12.