Manila Hotel's Mabuhay Palace proves there's more to Chinese food than chop suey
Chinese food will always be a tough nut to crack for us Filipinos.
With a myriad styles and influences, Chinese cuisine has always taken eclectic forms and tastes that the average Filipino palate will find familiar, but cannot quite pin down. This curious challenge to the taste buds is made even more exciting by a buffet banquet offered by Manila Hotel's Mabuhay Palace.
Mabuhay Palace’s Assistant Chef Josephine Yu Tangaco-Candelaria says that she and her team always make it a point to come up with something new each month. “We hold regular brainstorming sessions to develop new, original, and exciting courses,” she says..
And yes, they have proven true to their word. The new menu boasts of a gamut of new courses and appetizers adapted from Guangdong, Beijing and Hong Kong cuisine.
This isn't your typical Chinese meal at all. Snacks and appetizers available at most Chinese restaurants and fast food joints such as chicken feet (or, as the Chinese call them, phoenix claws), dumplings, congee, and mango pudding are not even present on the menu.
Fans of dimsum need not despair, though, as Mabuhay Palace’s menu offers new dishes that will give you a unique gustatory experience, and change the way you look at Chinese cuisine.
Soups are always a staple in the Chinese diet as they replace beverages during meals because it is believed that it is unhealthy to down cold drinks while eating. Kicking off this month’s menu are four kinds of soup, the Winter Melon Soup, Cream of Pumpkin, Hot and Sour Soup, and Minced Beef with Celery Soup, to whet the appetite and aid digestion.
If you want something light on the stomach, opt for the winter melon soup. It’s a thin soup that is said to be good for cleansing the body of toxins. Variations of the winter melon soup often feature barley, crab meat, and dried shrimps.
For those who prefer thick soups, the hot and sour soup is a great option. Hot and sour soup consists of shredded pork and dried Chinese mushrooms. In Northern China, fresh chicken blood is even included as an exotic thickener.
The hot and sour soup, like the popular Peking Duck, represents the flavors of Beijing. Beijing cuisine, also known as Capital City cuisine, was the food of the ruling class, and is heavy on meat. It is said that the Beijing elite were particularly fond of mutton and pork.
Common methods of cooking in Beijing cuisine are stewing, roasting and boiling. Quick-frying has also been adopted from Shandong cuisine. The cooking techniques have evolved since, particularly during the 1800s, when people from neighboring provinces like Huai’an, Zheijang, and Yangzhou migrated to the city.
After the soup you can tease your taste buds further with Mabuhay Palace's selection of authentic appetizers. Take your pick from Century Egg with Japanese Beancurd, Marinated Jellyfish, Honeyed Pork Asado, or Poached Chicken with Ginger and Leeks Style, or try them all for a course that is a meal in itself.
Guangdong cuisine originates from the province of Guangdong in Southern China. Originally exotic, Guangdong food emphasizes dishes that include snake, leopard, and chicken meat and liver. It is characterized by the use of herbs and spicy seasoning.
Western influences have shaped the manner of cooking Guangdong cuisine. Such cooking methods include burying an ingredient in heated salt, steaming an ingredient in wine, baking , and soft-frying food in milk or other liquids.
To start the main course with classic Guangdong entrées, help yourself to the Pork Ribs in Fragrant Salt, Beef Pungent, or Beef with Bitter Melon in Oyster Sauce.
You can pair your Guangdong-style dishes with side dishes cooked in the Hong Kong and Guangzhou style. Give your palate a quick tour of China with Yang Chow Fried Rice, Vegetable Fried Rice, Stir-fry Noodles in Soya Sauce, and Braised Efu Noodles with Assorted Mushroom.
Hong Kong is a melting pot of culture, with settlers coming from the nearby region of Guangzhou (formerly Canton) and the West. Traders and merchants flocked to Hong Kong to conduct business, and the interaction of various cultures has created unique dishes, although the base is still Cantonese.
Guangzhou or Cantonese food traces its origins to the Western Han Dynasty. It is characterized by a lighter flavor compared to other regional cuisines. Basic methods of Hong Kong cooking include steaming, roasting, smoking and fermenting. Barbecuing and poaching are common methods as well.
Other dishes that are worth trying are the Deep Fried Fish Fillet in Black Pepper Sauce, Stir-fry Cuttlefish and Asparagus in Sze Chuan Chili Sauce, and, of course, the Manila Hotel Seafood Casserole.
In Chinese culture, desserts are served traditionally only during dinner. However, Filipinos are accustomed to top off their meals with sweets, which is why desserts can be ordered at any meal of the day in Chinese restaurants.
Concluding the menu are sweet treats such as cookies (strawberry, almond, sesame), the ubiquitous Egg Tart that came into popularity in mid-21st century Hong Kong, Taro Sago, Almond Jelly and Fruits, and Almond Cream with Glutinous Rice Balls.
Of course, the Filipino favorite butchi (jin deui), or Red Bean Rice Balls, is also on the menu. Mabuhay Palace offers butchi covered in oatmeal, or the usual sesame seeds.
Moon Cake is also on the menu, and offers another sweet dessert option. The moon cake, or hopia, is a very popular Filipino snack and pasalubong (present). It is traditionally served during the Autumn Festival in August.
Another welcome addition to the menu is the curious Pumpkin Sago, a delectable custard cake topped with mushy pumpkin and black tapioca pearls.
Looking for a sumptuous Chinese treat to fill your heart amidst the hustle and bustle of the metropolis? Visit Mabuhay Palace at Manila Hotel, where you'll eat like the old kings of Beijing without turning into a pauper after the meal.
Experience Mabuhay Palace’s All You Can Eat Feasts Mondays through Fridays.
The Mabuhay Palace Lunch Feast is available from 11:00 AM to 1:30 PM at P888++ per person
and the Mabuhay Palace Dinner Feast is available from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM at P1,200++ per person.
Print ed: 03/10