Food in Literature Series by Jiang Nan Chun: Four Beauties Set Meal
Every year, Jiang Nan Chun @ Four Seasons Hotel Singapore selects a classic Chinese literature/legends and crafts them into amazing culinary dishes that depict the tales. Last year, I have tried their six‐course “Journey to the West” (西游记) menu that depicts the pilgrimage Buddhist monk Xuan Zang and his disciples ‐ Sun Wu Kong, Zhu Ba Jie, Sha Wu Jing and the White Dragon Horse ‐ took in search of the sutras in India.
This year, we are treated to an delicious journey across all senses by the lovely story of the Four Great Beauties of China. Weaving the legends into sumptuous menus that nourish body and skin, you can enjoy an exclusive beautifully chef-crafted dishes that encapsulate the essence of their tales.
The enchantment begins with Scent of the Heavenly Beauties Combination Platter (国色天香四美图), bringing together the essence of each beauty’s stories with exquisite tender meats and fresh seafood. Combining the charm of all 4 pretty ladies, we started our meal with chilled cherry tomato with lychee martini water, deep-fried shrimps paste with minced mushroom “pipa” beancurd, chilled foie gras with osetra caviar, and steamed seafood dumpling.
It continues with the most famous beauty Yang Guifei, concubine of the Tang Dynasty king. Lychee was a favorite fruit for Yang Guifei, and the emperor had the fruit, which was only grown in southern China, delivered by the imperial courier’s fast horses, whose riders would take shifts day and night in a Pony Express-like manner, to the capital.
Yang was known for having a full and fleshy figure, which was a much sought-after quality at the time. And she loves taking fragrant baths, so she was granted use of the Huaqing Pool which had been the exclusive private pool of previous Tang emperors. And she would always enjoy the fresh dewy lychee while having her bath.
Executive Chef Alan Chan has created an exclusive double-boiled soup – Dance of the Double-boiled Soup (贵妃醉舞华清池) that brings this story to life: the crystal clarity of the soup mirroring the fragrant baths she indulged in while sampling the dewy lychees. The double-boiled abalone soup with calipash, dendrobe and chicken is a bowl of delicious Chinese soup and really heartwarming on a rainy day.
Xi Shi’s beauty was so renowned that the famous Xihu (West Lake) in Hangzhou is named after her, and two famous Chinese poets Li Bai and Su Dong Po wrote poetry of her. Xi Shi’s beauty was said to be so extreme that while leaning over a balcony to look at the fish in the pond, the fish would be so dazzled that they forgot to swim and sank away from the surface. This description serves as the first two characters of the Chinese idiom 沉魚落雁, 閉月羞花 (comes from Aquatic Reflections of Beauty Fish Poetry, 浣沙俪影赛鱼儿) which is used to compliment someone’s beauty.
As such, chef created a very unique steamed Atlantic cod stuffed with wild mushrooms and wrapped in rice paper, superior broth and shaved black truffle. The rice paper was very thin, which was said to go through 17 times of R&D before achieving this silkiness. The tender Atlantic cod was wrapped with rice paper and the addition of black truffle brings the dish to another level.
Wang Zhaojun cemented enduring respect in Chinese history as the most famous political bride who was gifted at the tender age of 16 years old to the barbaric nomadic Hun king, and remarried to his son after he died. Although born to a poor family, she was beautiful beyond measure, and wise and talented beyond her age. Legend tells of how she, holding her beloved pipa (a musical instrument) in her arms, turned three times to look in the direction of her homeland as she journeyed hundreds of miles to the nomadic Hun tribe, bearing the self-sacrifice of being given away twice to a barbaric father and son.
Embodying the intensity of her love for her homeland in the tender delicacy of the pipa chicken is the dish Song of Lingering Memories Pipa Chicken (曲琵琶忆乡思) which features smoked french spring “poussin” with crispy rice ball. Inspired by our local chicken rice, the very succulent and smoky roast chicken was served with a fried rice ball and chilli sauce.
Last of the four beauties… Diaochan is the only beauty with no historical record, but written about in the famous literary classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms. An orphan used as a political tool to turn a brutal warlord and his lustful son against each other during the warring period, she was instructed by the court to engage in clandestine liaisons with the son while officially betrothed to the father.
However, she was secretly in love with her adoptive father – although he was the main orchestrator of her role to sow discord between the warlord and son – destined to never enjoy a blissful marriage, which was a woman’s greatest blessings back then. Dangerous Liaison Dessert (惊鸿一梦镜花情) portrays this game of intrigue in a symphony of flavours that tantalize the taste buds. Served in a duo, our meal ended with superior bird’s nest with black and white sesame pudding, and salted egg puff pasty with almond cream boasts a delicate balance of flavours that does not overwhelm the generous serving of bird’s nest.
“Four Beauties” five-course set meal is available till 31 January 2015 and priced at $148/pax with à la carte options available.
Address: 2F, Four Seasons Hotel, 190 Orchard Boulevard
For reservations, please call 6831 7220 or email [email protected]