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Welcoming the Year of the Fire Rooster in style

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Welcoming the Year of the Fire Rooster in style

/ 12:12 AM January 08, 2017
China Blue pumpkin in salted duck egg          —Photos by Margaux Salcedo

China Blue pumpkin in salted duck egg —Photos by Margaux Salcedo

So 2017 has arrived and almost everyone is giddy with excitement over the promise of a better year. The promise that time will heal even the wounds of the merciless 2016.

But wait! The Year of the Monkey isn’t over. It began on Feb. 8, 2016 and lasts through to Chinese New Year on Jan. 27, 2017.

That means… there’s more eating to be done!

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China Blue

So where to welcome the magnanimous Fire Rooster?

The best restaurant to experience the Chinese New Year has to be China Blue.

On an ordinary day, you can come here for the impeccably executed Chinese cuisine designed by celebrity chef Jereme Leung.

The Master Chef is known for blending modern Chinese concepts with classical Chinese cuisine.

No less than The International Herald Tribune’s Patricia Wells has remarked of Leung—it’s been a long time since I got up from the table after dining in a restaurant and whispered to myself, genius. But there’s surely a touch of that talent in the young, sure-footed Hong Kong-born Jereme Leung.

On Chinese New Year, though, the restaurant offers something even the finest touches of Leung’s cuisine can’t compete with: the equivalent of front row seats to the fireworks shows that will passionately light up the Manila Bay sky.

Usually, the floor to ceiling glass walls of China Blue are perfect for a sunset dinner. On the 27th, it will be the best place to witness the spectacular fireworks that the Chinese community of Manila and the Mall of Asia make sure to deliver every year. (So remember to reserve at this section or get a private room that offers the view because there are also other private rooms that do not have a view.)

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Then eat like there’s no tomorrow, because the menu is superb.

Most memorable on the palate is the crispy pumpkin coated with salted duck eggs, a beautiful contrast of the gentle sweetness of squash and the suave saltiness of salted duck egg. It is creatively presented, too, in what looks like a Chinese takeout box, contents of which had just fallen on the plate.

Creativity is a strong point of this restaurant. They also have the most adorable mushroom siopao: a mushroom-filled bun that comes in the shape of—you guessed it—a mushroom!

And the crispy lychee comes in the shape of balls presented in a box so it looks as if a hen had just hatched eggs. This would be good to order for the New Year, since round objects are supposed to be lucky. Also because there’s a surprise inside the crispy lychee ball: crab meat. An excellent starter dish.

Another round starter would be the cherry tomatoes that are marinated in sour plum and sweet vinegar. This dish exemplifies the elegance of Chinese cuisine. It is so delicately sour it becomes addictive.

For tradition, there are also dishes that are straight to the point. Try the stir fried shiitake mushrooms or the Shanghai-style fish. These are presented classically but not outdated in taste.

Most indulgent, especially for those watching their cholesterol levels, is the soya braised Hangzhou-style pork belly. The fat glistens then melts in your mouth. Ooh-la-la!

If you are avoiding pork, have the stewed Wagyu beef cheeks with tendons. Another melt-in-your-mouth bolt of savoriness.

Don’t go home without trying the black gold egg custard. It is a custard bun that is black (ask your Feng Shui master how that plays out for the Chinese New Year) but with an edible gold design on top. It’s like Chinese Givenchy on a plate!

China Blue tomatoes and plums

China Blue tomatoes and plums

Feng Shui Master Chau

For a guide on how to make this year truly auspicious for you, get a copy of the book of Feng Shui Master Joseph Chau (available in National Bookstore). He is also giving the blessing at the Manila Hotel this year.

In this book, you will find out what specific dates you should give your Thanksgiving Ceremony in gratitude for the protection, peace, harmony and safety given you in the past year. Showing gratitude for the year that has passed also helps bring better luck for the coming year.

There are different dates to observe the Thanksgiving ceremonies, i.e., if you are a corporation or firm; in government; in the military; a merchant; an employee; or a fisherman. (Some ceremonies must be performed as early as Jan. 13.)

But whatever date you must give thanks, the following food items, according to Master Chau’s 2017 Feng Shui guidebook, are recommended to be served in offering:

  1. A whole suckling pig
  1. A whole steamed chicken with head, feet and intestines intact
  1. A whole roasted goose or duck with head and feet intact
  1. Five kinds of fruits like apples, pineapples, pomelo, oranges and bananas
  1. Three cups of Chinese rice wine
  1. Three cups of tea
  1. Three bowls of cooked rice with three pairs of red chopsticks
  1. For the God of Kitchen and Landlord (Toh Ti Kung): glutinous rice ball with peanuts and white sesame inside to prevent them from badmouthing us in Heaven. (The glutinous rice will stick their teeth together so they cannot speak clearly and thus cannot report all the details clearly to the Jade Emperor in Heaven.)

However you celebrate, may we at Inquirer Business be the first to greet you Kung Hei Fat Choi!

May your year be auspicious! Here’s to a healthier, wealthier, yummier, (sexier?) and happier Year of the Fire Rooster!

China Blue by Jereme Leung at Conrad Manila.

Level 3, Conrad Manila, Seaside Boulevard, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City.

Reservations recommended. Call (02) 8339999. Major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible. (For the ladies: unless you can walk a kilometer in stilettos, be warned that the restaurant is quite a distance from the elevator and hotel lobby. Seniors might want to bring or request for a wheelchair.)

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TAGS: China Blue, Chinse New Year, feng shui, food, Master Joseph Chau, Year of the Rooster
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