13 May 2019
Nanjing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou are three of China’s most prominent culinary capitals; each with its own style of cooking. We recently caught up with Jumeirah Nanjing’s Executive Chef, Yeon Chin Foong, to talk about modern Chinese cuisine and the best places to eat in China’s expansive culinary capitals.
Chef Foong started his culinary career at the tender age of 14 as a food runner at a local restaurant. He swiftly learnt from the passion and creativity of the chefs around him, and over time developed a reputation for his own innovative take on modern Chinese cooking. His two-decade gastronomic journey has seen him step into kitchens in Dubai, Singapore, the Maldives and Taipei, where he honed his unique style of fusion cuisine, applying modern western cooking techniques to traditional Chinese dishes.
Yeoh Chin Foong and Chinese Cooking
“My mother was the biggest influence on my cooking style,” Foong says. “Her cooking is simple Nyonya style, but it tastes excellent.” Nyonya cooking combines Chinese ingredients with Malay and Indonesian cooking styles. Over the years, Foong has adapted his mother’s style by drawing in foreign elements. “During my time at the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah [where Foong was the first Asian Executive Chef within the Jumeirah Group], I was combining Asian ingredients with modern, French cooking in a way that was completely different from the past.” His reputation in Dubai grew to such an extent that the Royal Family would frequently ask Foong to cater for them on their private island.
Foong is drawn to fusion cuisine as he searches out original and complementary flavours. “I adapt traditional Chinese cooking by being different without being confusing. I focus on modern presentation while keeping the authentic taste of Chinese cuisine.” To Foong, this modern take on classic Chinese cooking is typified by the traditional sweet & sour recipe, which he tweaks by adding the citrus tang of Japanese Yuzu sauce.
Foong draws inspiration for his fusion cuisine from travel. “I like to explore different cultures, cuisines, and food products.” Foong loves to assemble flavour profiles, intertwining ingredients and techniques that people rarely expect to work. When it comes to creating a fusion dish, Foong tell us “there is no right or wrong; it’s only about whether it tastes nice or not.”
Modern Chinese Cuisine & Where to find it
“Nanjing cuisine has a unique style of presentation and it tastes delicate”, Foong explains, while “Shanghai typically tastes sweet.” Guangzhou cuisine, meanwhile, “focuses on the products used, and has a particularly sharp taste, especially the ‘Daily Soup’”, a slow-cooked broth.
In Nanjing, Foong recommends exploring the Hexi Jianye District, a short walk from Jumeirah Nanjing. Here, “many different types of cuisine make it a great gathering place for locals and visitors alike. In Shanghai, Foong suggests touring the Bund, right on the shores of the Huangpu river. “With many celebrity restaurants, it’s the most innovative area in terms of China’s food and beverage industry.” The Bund is within easy reach of Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel.
“Guangzhou,” Foong explains, “has a very strong food culture, especially when it comes to Cantonese cuisine, which is famous all around the world.” Here, amidst so much choice, Foong recommends New Pearl City. “The best Cantonese cuisine is located at New Pearl City, which is also very close to Guangzhou landmark, Canton Tower.” New Pearl City is within walking distance of Jumeirah Living Guangzhou.