From studying the Chinese market to creating and drafting the menu for The Oberoi, New Delhi’s Baoshuan, Mentor Chef Andrew Wong is a culinary force to reckon with. Warm, interactive, with a bit of a rebellious streak, this Michelin Star Chef’s creations are a lot like him — consistently pushing the boundaries of classic gourmet dining. He tells us more about his food, influences, travel, and more! Text by Bayar Jain; Photographs by The Oberoi, New Delhi
1. You’ve travelled all over China to gain knowledge of specialised techniques of Chinese roasting. How have you brought those learnings to your dishes at Baoshuan in The Oberoi, New Delhi?
All our dishes at Baoshuan are steeped in history; either celebrating ingredients or ancient cooking techniques. The menu — as it stands today — is a big thank you from Chef ChuanXi Sun, a Masterchef at Baoshuan, and myself. It is dedicated to all those people throughout our careers who have been so kind in sharing their knowledge and wisdom with us.
2. Do you think your formative years in London has influenced your dishes in any way? If yes, how?
Running a restaurant and creating menus for London is very different from creating them in Delhi. The one thing that I have learnt from writing menus in both these cities is the importance of a strong understanding and appreciation of the local demographic and palate. Food is meant to be interpreted and re-interpreted. As chefs, we try our best to celebrate the ingredients available to us in the most creative way possible.
3. Learning the ancient skill of cooking traditional Peking Duck in Beijing, or learning how to make Hong Kong’s famous Cantonese dim sum, your preferred technique and why?
I love traditional roasting techniques that exist within the Chinese kitchen! In fact, we recently opened a restaurant in London specifically celebrating this art. It is named after my grandmother, Kym’s. I also have a great passion for dim sum, and in trying to learn all the techniques involved there; its usage of multiple and varied starches and its wider connection with things like pastry and tapas on the global dining scene.
Not to mention, I have thoroughly enjoyed designing the dim sums with the head chef at Baoshuan in Delhi. Starting with the slow-cooked glutinous carrot puff, to the wild mushroom and truffle steam bun, to the thousand layers baked chicken roll, each one is a masterpiece of its own kind.
4. When travelling around China for culinary knowledge, what were some of the hidden food gems of the nation you stumbled upon?
There were many! But the ones that fascinated me the most were the ones which were region-specific like the mastery involved in Cantonese roasting of pork belly; or the traditional style of making Peking duck, roast goose and crispy baby pigeon; or the amazingly versatile usage of Sichuan peppercorns. There have been plenty of new things I stumbled upon, and there is so much more still to be seen and discovered.
5. Having grown up in a family of restaurateurs, what are some of the tips and tricks you learnt in the kitchen?
My mother taught me something major when we first opened A.Wong in London. She taught me the importance of stocks and sauces within the Chinese kitchen. If you understand its ingredients well and pour loads of love into the sauces, there is very little chance you will go wrong with a dish.
6. Chinese cuisine in London, or Chinese cuisine in New Delhi – your personal preference and why?
London for its regionally available produce and the scope for exploring what such products can bring into the dishes. At the same time, Delhi for the co-existence of Indian and Chinese cuisine. The two most popular cuisines in the United Kingdom interact beautifully with one another to create an exciting ‘moreish’ phenomena.
7. An Indian dish you enjoy eating every chance you get?
Dosas for breakfast! I am fascinated by dishes that are made to look simple by those in the know. But when people who try to make the same without expertise, one begins to see and learn the amazing levels of technicality and intricacies involved in creating the dish.
8. If you could pick only three ingredients from any part of the world to create a new dish and experiment with, what would you pick?
Semi-germinated coconuts, tamarind and Sichuan peppers.