Oriental grandeur at Peony Garden

by Geraldine Rullan-Borromeo
(Manila City, Philippines)

Published in the Daily Tribune Life
July 29, 2011

Who would have thought that competing territorial claims over the Strait of Malacca would birth a unique Malaysian Chinese cuisine, creating Chinese origin dishes that would not even be found in all of China?

The Chinese merchants and traders’ forays into the port of Malacca in the Malayan Peninsula, a strategic trading post, brought in a flurry of Chinese immigration to Malaysia. The legendary marriage arranged by the ruling Chinese Emperor in the 15th century between Princess Hang Li Po and the Sultan of Malacca marked the entry of the first Chinese settlers in the port town of Malacca.

A unique community called Peranakan was then formed when the Chinese settlers and the Malays intermarried, creating a new way of living, thus, a new way of eating, as Chinese recipes were adapted to the available ingredients in the Malayan Peninsula.

While Chinese cuisine is originally milder compared to Malay or Indian fare, the influence of Malaysian cuisine has given a spicier touch to classic Chinese dishes. And since Cantonese food is most popular, the reinvention of Malaysian-Cantonese cuisine has become renowned not only in Malaysia, but also in all of Asia.

The Peony Garden brings us this delectable cuisine, as executed by executive chef Lee Yan Feng, offering a vibrant interplay of cultures and tastes with a festive lineup of traditional recipes that depict an exciting fusion of Chinese and Malaysian cuisines.

Lee Yan Feng was born and raised in Malaysia. After completing his Diploma in Culinary Skills at East Canton University, Lee further honed his culinary prowess when he was the Chinese chef at Gloria Maris restaurant and became assistant Chinese chef at Portman Ritz-Carlton in Shanghai,
China.

When asked what makes his recipes extraordinary, Lee says he
cooks with his heart. “Being a chef entails a lot more than just cooking a sumptuous dish. It requires a combination of hard work and determination since my goal is to contribute significantly to the culinary industry by way of developing novel concepts in food preparation,” Lee said.

The culinary intuition of Lee depicted in the old-world Chinese grandeur setting of Peony Garden with red, gold and earth color schemes, complemented with modern Chinese etched glass scenery and artifacts, heightened the experience of a nine course lauriat.

The traditional roast platter of chicken, barbeque pork, jelly fish, and century egg was itself a feast to begin with. The braised shark’s fin soup with bamboo, fish lips and sea cucumber soup and the tender Braised whole chicken with Chinese herb was a hearty introduction to the phenomenal deep-fried fish fillet with crispy oatmeal. The fish was crisp on the outside, a little chewy with the oatmeal and flaky tender to the bite. The fried shredded egg, angel-hair like strands strewn over the fillets added a savory crunch, another dimensional high to the one of a kind spectacular looking and tasting dish.

The deep fried prawn with Lee’s special prawn sauce, a sticky sweet and sour chili like blanket over the fresh plump tender prawns highlighted the seafood goodness that abounds in Peony Garden. Followed with a cold bean curd with minced pork, century egg and pickled lettuce, this palate calming calming dish, is a welcome respite after the taste buds have been keyed up by Lee’s exciting dishes.

The braised Chinese cabbage with carrot and radish vegetable, reflective of classical Chinese vegetable dishes, was crunchy and tender all in one bite. As in any lauriat, the last savory meal before dessert is always a starch. The al dente freshly made soya egg noodle with three kinds of meat was another touchdown meal to end the Malaysian- Cantonese presentation of Lee.

For dessert, a classic Cantonese favorite was served, deep-fried sesame balls with a chewy soft crisp crust of white sesame seeds encasing a rich paste of black sesame seeds.

“We are very excited and proud to present our newest selection of Malaysian-Cantonese fine cuisine. This menu revamp not only enhances our dining service, but it also gives us the excellent opportunity to present another dimension to our concept of grand Oriental dining,” says Christopher Park, Manila Pavilion Hotel’s general manager. Luther Lapuz, Manila Pavilion Hotel’s food and beverage director, also enthuses that the new menu is in keeping with the hotel’s aim for culinary excellence and delightful guest experience.

The new menu includes deep-fried taro suckling pig and roasted duck; dried scallop with winter melon and spinach in thick soup; baked chicken with shark’s fin and dried scallop in bread dough; Calmex abalone with Szechuan plum sauce; braised roasted duck and black mushroom with fried garlic in oyster sauce; stir-fried shredded beef with walnut and cashew nut served with vegetables; braised garoupa fish fillet with sate sauce and bean curd in claypot; deep-fried chinese pancake with ice cream, and cold mango tapioca.

Apart from the grand a la carte selection, the new menu also
boasts of Lee’s monthly special recommendations, four grand lauriat set menus, a live seafood selection, and 18 new sumptuous, homemade dim sum choices to choose from. Cuisine-worthy is the large aquarium housing different kinds of live seafood such as lapu-lapu, crabs,lobster, and eels, where dining guests can select the fresh catch of the day and request for a la minute Chinese gourmet creation — for it to be fried, sautéed or steamed.

For a taste of Peony Garden’s Oriental Grandeur dining, a 15
percent discount privilege on a la carte and a 10 percent discount privilege on set menus are offered daily until Aug. 31. On regular dining occasions outside of the special discount privileges offered, Gourmet Elite Plus loyalty card members get a 15 percent Peony Garden dining discount subject to the Gourmet Elite Programme’s terms and conditions.

Peony Garden is located at the third level of the Manila Pavilion Hotel and is open for lunch daily from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dinner is served from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. For inquiries and reservations, call 526-1212 extension 2303 or visit www.waterfronthotels.com.ph. The Manila Pavilion Hotel is along UN Avenue corner Ma. Orosa St., Ermita Manila, Philippines.

Manila Pavilion Hotel is part of the Waterfront Group of Hotels and Casinos in the Philippines, considered as the largest, 100-percent Filipino-owned and operated hotel chain in the country.

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