Join Chef Liang as he explores the vegetable and fish markets of Mumbai and chances upon some very fresh 'catch' straight out of the sea... all in his quest to bring us the ultimate Hunan Style Mixed Dry Meats & Vegetables.

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It's hard to think of chemistry amid a rapturous moment.

But then, this is exactly the kind of thought-altering revelation Hunan Style Mixed Dry Meats & Vegetables is.

The complexity of flavours, the crispness of each ingredient, the distinct temper of each spice and the intense pleasure of its symphonic explosion on the palate – these are truly bewildering things, especially when they come together in one preparation.

This dish is beguiling in its intricacy.

Called Hunan Style Dry Pot at the Pan Asian restaurant, it is one of Chef Liang's favourite dishes. It's evident why, once you taste it. Despite its riotous, almost cacophonous appearance on the plate, the flavours are remarkably clean and distinctive.

And this is where the chemistry figures.

Like a delicately balanced equation, every ingredient is accorded the kind of special attention that heralds a masterpiece. Each is regarded for its individuality. While the vegetables are blanched, the fish and the prawns are fried, the squid is scalded in water tempered with Chinese wine and the meats are tossed with the chilli oil along with other condiments; all this, before the entire batch is thrown in for a final toss together in the wok, to astonishing result. [for the complete recipe, look below]

Hunan cuisine, one of the eight Great Traditions of China is also among its oldest. While it's usually characterised by a pure hot chilli flavour, this particular dish bears definite strains of Sichuan sensibilities with its masterful orchestration of complex flavours that are set off with a zestful edge of chilli.

In fact, this is what sets Hunan cuisine apart – over the centuries it has adapted and evolved to accommodate a range of influences.

Chef Liang, though he trained in the Shandong tradition in his early years which is "as Escoffier's coding is to French cuisine, because all Chinese cooking begins here", and later specialised in the Sichuan tradition, he enjoys being creative with his dishes.

He is of the firm opinion that cooking is mostly about the people you feed. "You know, so many times people come to Pan Asian, saying 'chef, make us your favourite dish'. They think only then will they get the 'real' taste of Chinese food. But I know that if I don’t keep their preferences in mind, they’ll go away feeling that dish should’ve had more chillies. Or it should’ve been less spicy."

But then what about authenticity, you ask, and pat comes chef's response "of course every dish has a certain technique and ingredients you cannot do without, but who said it can’t be adapted to suit your taste?"

And that's where the genius of Chef Liang is most evident.

He finds inspiration in everything. In everyone. He's like a child in a toy store when he's in the restaurant, where every table offers the opportunity to awe, surprise and tantalise.

"I can tell where the guest is from instantly from what they ask for. Even among my Chinese guests, I can tell their origins and even which province they’re from. For instance, Singaporean Chinese will always ask for a healthy dose of fresh green chillies in their dishes." he says, radiating genuine delight.

Added to this, Chef Liang also has the sort of memory that could shame a steel trap. He unfailingly remembers what a guest ordered the last time they visited; even if that was a year ago.

It's not surprising then that drama and interaction are a very important part of Chef Liang's approach to food.

And this is exactly what the Pan Asian decor and design make so endearingly possible. The open kitchens, the warm inviting colours, chefs in action and a gentle buzz of conversation that is intermittently enlivened by an amiable sizzle and sputter from the Korean table-grills and the live cooking counters.

Every now and then cheerful flames leap up as woks are tossed. And the chefs always make it a point to stroll over to your table and enquire if the food is to your liking.

At the Pan Asian, you can choose from a range of East and South East Asian cuisines, ranging from Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Korean to Indonesian, Malaysian and Mongolian. The well stocked bar offers great pairing options with every kind of meal.

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Pan Asian in your City:
Sheraton New Delhi Hotel
ITC Maratha, Mumbai
ITC Sonar, Kolkata

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Hunan Style Mixed Dry Meats & Vegetables

Ingredients:
1 tbsp Sichuan chilly bean sauce
1 tbsp Red chilli paste
1 tsp Yang jiang black bean (chopped)
1 tsp Chinese cooking wine
1 tsp Chinese dark soya sauce
1/2tsp Sesame oil
1 tsp Makee chicken powder
1 tsp Oyster sauce
1/2 tsp Chinese black vinegar
1 cup Chilli oil (made from Chinese five spices and chilli powder)
1/2 tsp Salt
10pc Dry chilli
10 gm Sichuan peppercorn
10 pc Fresh garlic
20 gm Sliced spring onion
10gm Sliced fresh chilly
1tbsp Water corn starch (made from corn starch and water)
1 Egg

Meats:
50 gm sliced chicken breast
50 gm sliced lamb meat
50 gm sliced pork tenderloin
50 gm sliced squid
50 gm sliced pomfret fillet
50 gm prawn (shelled)

Vegetables: (choice of 400gm of different vegetables)
Chinese cabbage
Pak choi
Broccoli
Potato
Carrot
Onion
Red and green capsicum
Chinese white and black fungus
Black mushroom
Bamboo shoots

Method:

Marinate the pomfret and prawns in a mix of salt, egg and water corn starch. Keep for 5 minutes. Then deep fry till cooked.

Boil mixed vegetables and squid briefly

Add red chilli oil in the wok and fried garlic, dry chilli and Sichuan peppercorn

Stir fry sliced lamb, chicken and pork in the wok with chilly bean sauce, black bean and red chilli sauce in the oil.

Cook mixed vegetables, squid with meats. Put soya sauce, oyster sauce, cooking wine, Makee soya sauce in the wok and stir them well.

Add sesame oil and Chinese black vinegar in the dish before removing it on the plate.

Enjoy!