Chef Chai’s CHINESE NEW YEAR CELEBRATION

For Executive Chinese Chef Christopher Chai of Shangri-La Hotel’s JIA restaurant, celebrating Chinese New Year has become a telescopic childhood memory that he still holds dearly to his heart.

For Executive Chinese Chef Christopher Chai of Shangri-La Hotel’s JIA restaurant, celebrating Chinese New Year has become a telescopic childhood memory that he still holds dearly to his heart.

“IT HAS BEEN almost 20 years since I celebrated Chinese New Year back home,” said Chef Chai who was born in Ipoh, Malaysia.

“As chefs, we mostly spend the festivities serving others in restaurants so these days it is rare to celebrate it together with the family.” However, as a young lad, Chef Chai recalls rejoicing the 15-day festivity playing heaps of fireworks and of course, gobbling lots of food with his family.

He said one of the most customary dishes that must be prepared during the festival is Yu Sheng, a Teochew-style raw fish salad, which typically consists of strips of raw fish, a mix of shredded vegetables and a variety of sauces or condiments, among other ingredients.

“Once a year we gather as a family to toss and mix the salad with chopsticks. This is because, this dish [Yu Sheng] represents prosperity, abundance and vitality, and it is believed that the toss reflects the altitude of growth in fortune, luck and health. So it is best to mix it together.”

According to Chef Chai, most of the essential dishes prepared during the festivity uses ingredients that is believed to hold some significant meaning, for example: fish symbolizes abundance and excess through the year, carrots indicates good luck, noodles are for long life, and so on.

Taking inspiration from his mother, Chef Chai is among the lucky ones to be able to turn his hobby and passion into an admirable full-time career at the age of 17.

“Eating was my hobby! And I would simply follow my mom when she used to cook. Eventually, I decided to pursue it,” said the chef who’s first dish was Yeung Chow fried rice, a popular Chinese-style wok fried rice.

The devoted chef accumulated two decades of culinary experience in Cantonese and Hong Kong style Chinese cuisine from working in several restaurants around Asia like Crystal Jade Golden Palace Restaurant in Singapore, Edsa Shangri-La Hotel in Philippines, and even Star Cruises Group in Hong Kong, before settling twice in Indonesia within eight years.

Despite being an expert in Chinese cuisine, he still embraces his native Malaysian roots, especially through his love for sambal petai – a traditional Malaysian chili sauce usually consisting of anchovies, shrimp paste and petai or also known as stinky beans.

Sharing his expertise for traditional recipes with a modern twist in our home, Chef Chai prepared a three set menu at JIA in Shangri-La Hotel exclusively for Chinese New Year. The menu features some tantalizing traditional dishes including suckling pig, king prawns, lobsters, glutton fried rice, salmon Yu Sheng, Nian Gao (steam coconut cake) as dessert and many more.

SHANGRI-LA HOTEL, JAKARTA
Kota BNI, Jalan Jendral Sudirman Kav. 1, Jakarta
www.shangri-la.com/jakarta
T: +62 21 29229999
Twitter: @ShangriLaJKT
Instagram: @shangrilajkt


Written by Divya Pridhnani Photographs by Dennie Ramon January 31, 2017.

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