Imperial Chinese Banquet
1st July 2008 | 09:00 AET
For a series of exquisitely elegant dishes from the court of the Last Emperor, join Beijing-born chef Li Li (whose great grandfather was Minister of Household Affairs for the last Empress Dowager, the famous Cixi) and who learned to cook from her father, a professor of mathematics who now runs a tiny restaurant in Beijing, serving imperial fare.
The royal family had access to the best of China and enjoyed many types of regional cuisine. The key though was the quality of the ingredients and the meticulous way in which they were prepared. Li Li demonstrates this with her vegetarian dish - precisely sliced carrot, radish, bamboo shoots and ginger... tossed with fresh coriander and a little Shaoxing cooking wine...imperial fare in all its understated elegance.
For castanet prawns, marinated prawns are rolled in a pork caul - the membrane from around the belly - and then, in a thin whole egg omelette before being deep fried and sliced. Venison is marinated in Szechuan pepper before being sauteed with water chestnuts, chilli, watercress and other vegetables.
The Emperor would have been served over one hundred dishes, but would have tasted only the first of them, looked at the second one and merely glanced at the third. The imperial banquet at Li Li's consists of eight courses, beginning with an entree of ten small platters, all differing in taste and texture.
Li Li's restaurant
71- 73 Stanley Street
West Melbourne, Vic 3003
tel/fax: 03 9326 5790
Li Li’s Beijing
11 Yang Fang Hutong De Nei Da Jie,
Xi Cheng District 10009
tel: +86 10 6618 0107