厉晓麟和刘国柱两位大师在澳门永利皇宫的京花轩演绎宫廷菜的精髓。 厉家菜主厨厉晓麟 (Ivan Li) 与澳门永 …
厉家菜主厨厉晓麟 (Ivan Li) 与澳门永利酒店京花轩主厨刘国柱都来自北京，因此二人见面时，都有宾至如归之感。刘先生是中国烹饪大师，曾在北京饭店工作，为邓小平、美国前国务卿亨利·基辛格以及英国女王等众多世界政要烹制过顶级菜肴，而厉先生也是国内最受欢迎的中餐主厨之一。
厉先生是“亚洲 50 家最佳餐厅”终身成就奖得主，是厉家菜第二代传人，他与刘先生的合作可谓珠联璧合。刘先生负责管理的京花轩餐厅是澳门著名的珍宝级美食餐厅，这家餐厅保留了丰富的谭家菜传统。
厉：无论是厉家菜还是谭家菜，耐心都不可或缺。中文里有个字叫 “鮮” 。这个字最初出现在甲骨文中。中国人对“鲜”的理解是外国人很难明白的一个概念。
对于日本人而言，“umami”（鲜味）只是发明味精（谷氨酸钠）之后出现的一个词。什么是味精？氨基酸。味精只是一种增味剂。英语词典 1979 年才纳入“umami”这个词，但是中文里的“xian”字我们已经用了数千年。
厉：对，就是一种感觉。我们对美食的追求和其他国家的人有所不同，并且这种高品质的追求始于康熙时期。据说康熙帝的臣子当时在离黄河特别近的内蒙古捕鱼，他们捕获了 10 万多条鱼。因为鱼极为鲜美，所以从皇帝到侍卫每天都吃鱼。经过一番探索，他们发现这些鱼以藻类为食。御膳房的人随身都带着鱼，但后来身上开始散发鱼腥味。结果，所有臣子都因此受到责罚，俸禄也减少了。
刘：使用最简单的方法烹饪，同时保留食材的营养成分。这是为了品尝到原汁原味，而不应该把事情复杂化。准备过程可以很简单，但如果每一步都谨小慎微，事情就会复杂化。 举个例子，我们需要花至少 6 到 7 个小时熬肉汤。之后，我们仍然需要减少汤量。我们只会使用减量之后的汤。步骤并不多，但注重细节很重要。
Two masterchefs are currently cooking up a delight for connoisseurs of Imperial Cuisine at Wynn Palace’s Golden Flower restaurant.
When Chef Ivan Li of Family Li Imperial Cuisine visits Chef Liu Guo Zhu of Golden Flower at Wynn Macau, he feels right at home. Both are from Beijing. While Liu is a master of Chinese gastronomy who has worked at the legendary Beijing Hotel, where he served dignitaries such as the late former paramount leader, Deng Xiaopeng, former US diplomat Henry Kissinger, and the Queen of England, Li is today one of the country’s most sought-after Chinese chefs.
The recipient of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants’ Lifetime Achievement Award represents the second generation of the family-run restaurant. He works fittingly with Chef Liu, who oversees Golden Flower, a gem in Macau that preserves the rich traditions of Tan cuisine.
Tan cuisine originated in the household of Tan Zongjun. Originally from Guangdong, he was an official of the late Qing dynasty with a passion for gastronomy. As a Cantonese who had taken residence in Beijing, he brought culinary elements of the South to the North, blending the best of both worlds and creating an exquisite cuisine that pleases the palette delicately with its subtle flavors.
Family Li cuisine is a combination of Imperial Court cuisine and Beijing traditional flavors, with ingredients and cooking methods based on Empress Dowager Cixi’s imperial menu. Served in small portions, each dish must be patiently cooked over a gentle fire. Li’s great grandfather, Li Shunqing, was in charge of the Qing Dynasty’s imperial kitchens in the Forbidden City, and had passed down imperial recipes to offspring. While strictly following his ancestral training, Li blends contemporary culinary ideas with traditions.
Together, Li and Liu are showcasing the essence of Qing dynasty court cuisine at Golden Flower. For discerning diners, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore dishes from these two particular Chinese gastronomic heavyweights at the same time. It is indeed a feast unlike any other. Highlights on the menu are foie gras and pea sprout in chicken soup and braised oma abalone in original sauce extracted from fish lips and fish maw.
Macau Inc: What fascinates both of you the most about imperial cuisines?
Li: Tan cuisine is extremely well-known. It is regarded as the epitome of good taste. Chiang Kai-shek once famously wanted to invite a Tan chef to cook in Nanjing, but the invitation was rejected. There was a saying, “You must enter the Tan household to enjoy Tan cuisine.”
Liu: No matter how high an official you are, it does not matter. You might still get rejected because it is imperial cuisine.
MI: What are the similarities and differences between Tan and Li cuisine?
Li: There are many, but one element in common is that we choose the best ingredients. Our aim is to bring purity and richness to the palate at the same time. For example, in Tan cuisine, the broth is very clear and when combined together with bird’s nest, one can appreciate its natural taste.
MI: In modern times, how do you select ingredients to match the taste profile of Qing dynasty?
Liu: We can get ingredients from all over the world. We only choose the best, however, at Wynn Macau. Tradition has its pros and cons, but if it can traverse history and remain relevant, we must preserve it. However, how to deal with modern ingredients while being innovative on the basis of tradition is a question that masters like ourselves often discuss among one another. It is a dilemma. My answer is to use modern ingredients while keeping traditional cooking methods and taste profiles.
Some taste profiles must not be modified as we hope to pass them down to future generations. If they change, we will have no tradition. One can change taste profiles, but with other dishes, not with traditional cuisine.
MI: What is the essence of Chinese cuisine?
Li: Patience is essential for both Li cuisine and Tan cuisine. Chinese have the word “xian”(鮮).It first appeared in oracle bone script. The Chinese understanding of “xian” is not a concept that individuals from other countries can easily understand.
For the Japanese, the word “umami” came about only after the invention of MSG, monosodium glutamate. What is MSG? Amino acids. This can only be appreciated as an enhancer. The English dictionary only included the word “umami” in 1979, but the Chinese word “xian” has been with us for thousands of years.
We Chinese are patient with our protein. If we make chicken broth, we take our time. Both Li and Tan cuisine has an aspiration to preserve slow-cooking methods. Chinese have an idiom, “danbozhishen” , meaning that we must take elements lightly in order to appreciate deeper meaning and wisdom. Flavors must be subtle for one to enjoy the nuances of “xian” in amino acids.
Liu: Complexities in savor, freshness in subtleties.
Li: Yes, it is a feeling. We do not have the same gastronomic aspiration as foreigners and this level of sophistication started with Emperor Kangxi. One story was that his associates were fishing in Inner Mongolia, specifically near the Yellow River and they caught 100,000 more fish. From emperor to guards, they all ate fish everyday because they were delicious. After some exploration, they discovered the fish fed on algae. The Imperial kitchen staff carried the fish with them but then they began to lose their taste. In the end, they were disciplined and had their salaries reduced.
MI: Is there an element in the menu that represents Northern cuisine very well?
Li: On today’s menu, Liu’s steamed pork dumpling with crab roe is an example of a Northern delight. It is very juicy, but the juice does not come from the pork skin.
Liu: We don’t cultivate the juices using pork skin. We use fresh pork meat and blend it with chicken broth. That way, pork meat absorbs the broth, and then we add crab roe and steam. The result is high-quality juice coming out from the thin dough of the dumpling, succulent and “xian.”
MI: What does the future hold for Chinese cuisine?
Liu: Using the simplest methods to cook while preserving the nutrients of ingredients. It is to appreciate their original flavors. We must not complicate things. The process of preparation might be simple, but if one takes each step seriously, it might become complicated. An example: We need at least 6 to 7 hours to make a broth. After that, we still need to reduce it. We only use it following the reduction process. Steps are not numerous, but attention to detail is important.
Li: Not to invent extra steps but staying true to each detail and executing each step diligently. That’s the Chinese philosophy when it comes to aesthetics as well, not just gastronomy.
Liu: In the past we had a lot of carvings as decorations for Chinese dishes, but that’s from another era. We don’t really see that anymore and I would consider that a progress. Even Western cuisines are now influenced by Japanese and Chinese presentations. There are no secrets in the world of gastronomy. We all learn from each other.