Delight in home-style dishes from Shang Palace’s new Executive Chef, Ben Lam
One need not necessarily speak or understand Cantonese to have a palate which has perfect comprehension of and appreciation for delicious and hearty Cantonese cooking. These days, the best interpretation of “maoh chan’s” (the Cantonese word for mother; at least, according to the internet) cooking is to be found at the Shang Palace, through the flavorful creations of its new Executive Chef, Ben Lam.
A taste of home-style Hong Kong
Chef Ben grew up in Hong Kong and has been cooking since the age of 14. Nineteen years later, he finds himself on Philippine shores, eager to take Manila’s gastronomes on a delectable food journey, borne of his passion for traditional Cantonese cooking.
“Cantonese cuisine is very popular in Hong Kong; the taste is light, and the food is nutritious, freshly cooked and very popular with everyone,” Chef Ben shares. “It is the thought of bringing Hong Kong to the Philippines, through my dishes, which inspires me to cook in a more homey or traditional style of cooking. I want to our guests to feel that they are dining in Hong Kong, when they eat at Shang Palace. I want to create that feeling through my dishes.”
Since 1993, Shang Palace has been the best Chinese restaurant on the Makati side of the Metro, and quite possibly, beyond that. While much of the menu remains unchanged, Chef Ben’s new creations prove exciting additions to well-loved, classic favorites.
A new array of sumptuous treats
“Shang Palace is upholding its classic Cantonese dishes, but for our latest array of sumptuous treats, my new creations are inspired by a combination of Asian and Sichuan touches, making them less formal and less evocative of Lauriat style, but more traditional and homey,” Chef Ben explains.
Must-try dishes include, among other offerings, tasty and slightly spicy Sichuan style shredded sea cucumber, along with the flavorful water pan-fried Shanghai-pao, for starters; hearty and comforting spareribs with pumpkin, taro, and coconut milk, cooked in a clay pot for that authentic home-style taste and feel; deep fried prawn balls coated with oatmeal with thousand island sauce, to evoke the goodness of Cantonese comfort food; and tender and savory sautéed diced beef tenderloin with Chinese wine, vinegar, and black soya sauce.
While all of Chef Ben’s new dishes are a gastronomic pleasure, he says that the highlight of his creations is the Shang Palace fortune chicken, which is said to bring good luck and prosperity. A staple at festive occasions, such as birthdays and anniversaries, the dish is a gustatory masterpiece which requires a 24-hour advanced order, on account of the meticulous preparation involved in this mouthwatering recipe. A whole chicken is first marinated for hours in a mix of customary Chinese herbs and spices, before it is wrapped in layer upon layer of lotus leaves, then braised and steamed inside a pastry shell. The result is an incredibly aromatic, flavor-rich experience that comes with each whiff and bite of the tender and succulent chicken.
Sweet endings include the toothsome mango rice roll with desiccated coconut, and the satisfying red bean paste dumpling coated with green tea powder.
Cantonese comfort food
“We are more than happy to have Chef Ben and his Hong Kong style in the classic Shang Palace. His creations evoke the same effect as the Filipinos’ adobo or sinigang. Each dish has a familiar flavor that creates a comforting feeling,” shares Agnes Chuah, Shang Palace’s operations manager.
Indeed, lovers of home-cooked Cantonese goodness need look no further than the Shang palace to satisfy their cravings for comforting sustenance.
To view the complete menu, log on to www.shangri-la.com/makati.
By ANGIE DUARTE