China News Service Chengdu, December 12 (Xinhua) -- Rong Paradise in New York: The "first shot" of modern Sichuan cuisine going to sea

China News Service reporter He Shaoqing

Garlic sprouts back to the pot meat, fish-flavored shredded pork, kung pao chicken, mapo tofu... In recent years, Sichuan cuisine has swept the world and has become a frequent guest at Chinese and foreign tables. But what few people know is that modern Sichuan cuisine has only been formed for more than a hundred years.

In 1911, the "originator of modern Sichuan cuisine" Blu-ray Jian and the famous chef Qi Le Zhai founded Rong Paradise, and the Xingchuan cuisine banquet was streamlined and freshly styled, drawing materials from all over the world, and eclectic, so as to become today's Sichuan cuisine system of "one dish, one style, one hundred dishes and one hundred flavors". The "first shot" of modern Sichuan cuisine going to sea was also fired by the Rong Paradise in New York, which was opened by the disciples of Blu-ray Jian in the United States.

Opened in 1980, this legendary Chinese restaurant has welcomed former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia, oral historian Tang Degang, and artists Teresa Teng and Chen Chong. "We went with the expectation of 'starting the authentic Sichuan flavor'." Recalling the grand opening of Rong Paradise in New York, Yang Xiaocheng, a Sichuan chef who participated in the preparation and operation of the restaurant, said with a smile.

In 1986, Kissinger (left) took a photo with Yang Xiaocheng after dining at Rong Paradise in New York. (Photo courtesy of Sichuan Cuisine Oral History Professional Committee)

Yang Xiaocheng recalled that in order to make New York's Rong Paradise a "hit", the chefs conducted a special investigation for nearly half a year before opening. "The biggest difficulty is the ingredients. At that time, there was no live seafood in Sichuan, the traditional method was dry foaming, and Americans did not like to eat pork, so these had to be adjusted. Yang Xiaocheng said that although New York Rong Yuan has adjusted the ingredients, the soul of Sichuan cuisine, such as fish fragrance, kung pao, and spicy, has always remained the same.

As the first Sichuan restaurant to be jointly operated by a foreign party after China's reform and opening up, Rong Paradise in New York did not choose a Chinatown inhabited by Chinese, but opened opposite the United Nations Building with confidence. The chefs brought authentic Sichuan condiments and tableware to the other side of the ocean, based on the flavor of Sichuan cuisine, and developed special Sichuan dishes such as sweet and sour crispy fish and fish-flavored eight-piece chicken with light oil and little juice, which were very popular with Chinese and foreign diners.

In 1986, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger went to New York City to dine alone. This old friend, who has visited China several times, skillfully orders Chinese dishes such as Peking duck, crispy fish, stir-fried choy sum, and red oil dumplings. "But how can there be Peking duck in Sichuan cuisine? After seeking the consent of Dr. Kissinger, the Peking duck was replaced with a camphor tea duck with a fragrance of camphor wood and tea leaves. Yang Xiaocheng said.

As a famous dish in Sichuan, the camphor tea duck is made of fat but not greasy, thin but not withered ducks, with camphor leaves and jasmine tea, and is cooked in three links: pickling, smoking and frying. The chefs of Rong Paradise in New York fried the camphor tea duck, deboned and sliced it in the same way as Peking duck, and served two slices of camphor tea duck with a piece of pickled ginger, with lotus leaf cake, sweet noodle sauce and shredded green onions.

After eating the camphor tea duck, Kissinger specially communicated with the manager and invited the chef from the back kitchen to learn about Chinese cuisine. When the waiter was about to remove his used crispy fish plate, Kissinger changed his usual calm image and hurriedly asked the waiter to leave the plate - the crispy fish soup was so good that he liked it.

The red oil dumplings ordered by Kissinger also appeared on Teresa Teng's menu. "When Teresa Teng placed an order for red oil dumplings, she deliberately remarked less spicy and no garlic." On Yang Xiaocheng's treasured Teresa Teng ordering list, the Asian superstar also ordered New York's signature dish at Rong Paradise - double-flavored shrimp.

In the early years, New York's Rong Paradise double-flavored shrimp. (Photo courtesy of Sichuan Cuisine Oral History Professional Committee)

"At that time, Americans would order one dish when they came to eat alone, and it was often difficult to choose between Sichuan dishes with different flavors such as kung pao shrimp and fish-flavored shrimp, so we used tomatoes to separate the plates and serve two flavors of shrimp at a time." Yang Xiaocheng recalled that Teresa Teng learned that the chef team was from the mainland after the meal, so she specially asked the waiter to take her to the back kitchen to express her gratitude, which moved the chefs greatly.

For some veteran gourmets who pursue authenticity, the chefs at Rong Paradise in New York often start preparing ingredients a day in advance. For example, oral historian Tang Degang often orders handicraft dishes such as chicken bean curd and tangerine peel beef, and requires that "the taste should be exactly the same as Chengdu" and "the pig's ears should be finely chopped".

The booming business of Rong Paradise in New York has attracted the attention of local media. The New York Times food critic has visited the "micro-service" many times, and the "Daily News" and "Washington Post" have also written praise articles. "Sing Tao Daily" even held an annual meeting in Rong Yuan Park in New York one year, "chartered 10 tables of New Year's dinner", and after the annual meeting, it became a "fan" and continued to report on the restaurant.

Time flies, although New York's Rong Paradise has disappeared, but Sichuan cuisine goes to sea more than in the past. More and more Sichuan chefs are going to all over the world, and a large number of overseas chefs are going to Sichuan for exchanges and fights. Integrating the colors of the East and the West, absorbing the strengths of all families, and finally becoming today's Sichuan cuisine. (ENDS)