| Chef Liang with his original Sizzling Rice (plate in left hand) and Mixed Bamboo Shoots in Oyster Sauce as part of Liangs China, on till August 28 at Pan Asian. Picture by Rashbehari Das
He swishes out his cellphone, scrolls through the picture gallery with a quizzical expression, and stops where his face breaks into a satisfied smile. Then Chef Liang turns the phone around for all of us to see. It is a picture of Sridevi from the 80s.
She comes to my restaurant once every week, and the other day when I saw her on TV, I was quick to click her picture with my cellphone so I could tell others who she is, grins the 48-year-old Chinese chef, evidently proud of his feat. Amongst his other guests at the Pan Asian restaurant at ITC Maratha in Mumbai are the Kapoor family (Shashi to Ranbir) and friend Sanjay Dutt.
But Liang is in town to stage a feat of a different sort — to create his own China here in Calcutta, Liangs China, till August 28 at ITC The Sonars Pan Asian.
The magic of the meals is hidden in Liangs sauces. You may have 10 dishes on one table but all 10 will have different tastes if the sauces are unique, explains the man who donned the chefs hat when he was 18. Twenty years later, he moved from Great Wall Sheraton Beijing to Pan Asian in Mumbai where he is now the executive Chinese chef of the ITC-Welcomgroup chain. When you come to a new place, you have to understand the culture, says the chef who is still getting used to eggetarian Indians and vegetarians who eat white meat!
At ITC Sonar, Liangs saucy story continues. A dark-brown oyster sauce is stewed with mixed bamboo shoots, baby corn and mushroom to create a vegetarian delight for the main course. But the highlight of the festival has to be the Sizzling Rice. Sashimi rice, used because of its sticky nature, is steamed, dried on the teppan and fried to make a moa-like meal, with mixed vegetables in sweet and sour sauce poured over.
The man from Beijing also has a sauce named after him — the Chef Liang Special Sauce. When I came to India, I created this sauce and now the Lobster with Chef Liang Special Sauce is number one on the menu. Maybe they should put my name in every dish, he says with a twinkle in his eyes.
The deep-fried ice cream is also a Liang original. Slice the round crumb-fried cover which tastes like a pastry, to burst open a ball of vanilla ice cream, which is served with sweet strawberry sauce and fresh fruits on the side.
Known for his brilliant memory, Liang never forgets what his guests eat, even if he forgets their names. And the two things he cannot work without are wok and stock. A good chef always keeps chicken stock ready, he signs off as he readies the table for the next lot of guests.