Chinese Master Chef Dhan Limbu of Soaltee’s Bao Xuan

If you love life you must love food; if you love food, you must surely love Chinese food. And, if you love Chinese food, then you must taste Chinese Master Chef Dhan Kumar Limbu’s lovingly rendered cuisine from Sichuan, Hunan, and Guangdong provinces of mainland China. The first two are neighbors, and so share many similarities in their cuisine, the primary commonality being that both are hot and spicy, leaving you with a “mouthful of rich flavors” as described so aptly by the Master. The third, that is, Cantonese cuisine of Guangdong, is many degrees lighter, healthful, and with a freshness to the flavor that bestows serenity to your taste buds, as also, to your senses. More so because Cantonese cuisine consists of many different types of seafood.

At Bao Xuan with the Master

Imagine now, sitting down for a meal of Master Chef Limbu’s delicious concoctions in the dimly-lighted, cozy environment of Bao Xuan restaurant in Soaltee Crowne Plaza. The name translates to ‘Delightful House’ and the byline is ‘Flavors of China’, and you couldn’t find a better place to indulge your palate with truly authentic Chinese cuisine. “Originally, it was the China Garden, which was run as a franchise,” discloses Ms. Anupama Acharya Maharjan, Assistant Manager, Marketing & Public Relations. “Now, we have decided to operate it ourselves. So, we not only have a new name, but also, new interiors, a new master chef, and a brand new menu.” The name is delightful, of course, as are the interiors, but gourmet that I am, I am more interested in the new menu!

“It took us two months to come up with the menu,” says Executive Chef Yuba Raj Pokhrel. “As you can guess, a lot of R & D goes into this effort before we make the right decisions, which depends on many factors. One of them being the question of availability of ingredients, most of which we have to import from places like China. We are talking about authentic Chinese cuisine, you know! And, that has all to do with getting the right ingredients.”

Experience and Passion

To elaborate, Master Chef Limbu has experience of more than eighteen years, having worked in many of the best hotels of India and Dubai, including the likes of Holiday Inn Jaipur, Hyatt Regency Ahmedabad, Taj Group of Hotels, and Leela Hotel. Impressive names, no doubt, and no less impressive are the Master’s creations. The next dish on our table is Crystal Prawn Dim Sum, minced prawn wrapped in potato and wheat starch dough. It is almost translucent, like shrimp, and it leaves a fleetingly memorable taste in the mouth, light and airy, one could say. It also endows our plates with a delightfully artistic ambience, and as any gourmet knows, the presentation matters!

Well, you would think that all that has arrived would be quite enough for a sitting, but no, there’s much more. Master Chef Limbu is out to impress! His animated countenance, flushed somewhat by his passion, as also by the warmth of the Sichuan and Hunan cuisine, displays satisfaction at our hearty response to his masterful creations. So, what’s next on the agenda? The main course, of course. Chinese Provincial Lamb Shank (Beijing style), that’s what’s next, and it comes in a clay bowl that’s piping hot to the touch, which means that the meat on the bones is still being made all the more tender even when at the table. “They require marinating for a day, and then are slow-cooked for about two hours,” explains Master Chef Limbu, in response to my pleasant surprise at the tenderness of the meat.

The meat on the bones are set in a thick barbecue-sauce-like gravy, and the dish is accompanied by small coriander buns. Coriander buns? Never heard of them before, but wow! They taste great when dipped in that juicy gravy. Tender meat, tender buns, the meal is making me all tender and kind. And, coriander buns are not all that you have with the tasty gravy, there’s that inviting plate of sticky jasmine rice, which is really popular with the Chinese. It’s fragrant, and apparently, pretty expensive, too.  

Well, that wraps up this account of my visit to Bao Xuan, my meeting with Chinese Master Chef Dhan Limbu, and my feasting on authentic Chinese cuisine. However, there’s one other interesting thing to be noted. Chinese cuisine requires at least 38 basic ingredients to be on hand at any given time, according to the Master, and for a home cook like myself, that’s a, “What?”, since I generally make do with three or four (you know, jeera, dhaniya, besar, garam masala). So, I want to know where I can get these mystery ingredients that help to conjure up such fine delicacies. “We import most of them, as also many other ingredients” discloses Master Chef Dhan Kumar Limbu. “Except for the vegetables, that is.”  

Well, considering all that goes into the crafting of authentic Chinese cuisine, a cuisine that is undoubtedly the world’s favorite, looks like I’ll have to reset my confidence level as a satisfyingly adept cook of Chinese cuisine (I always thought my chicken chowmein and momo (dim sum, in a way) were great!). What did I know?

The Best of Chinese Cuisine
Now that a curiosity has been satisfied, let’s get down to the reason we are here today. Food. Chinese food. Gourmet Chinese food. And, here comes the starter—Cantonese Style Seafood Broth (accompanied by a refreshing fragrance of the sea). There’s pieces of succulent prawn and squid swimming in the temperately clear soup, and there’s ginger, tomato, and pok choy, too. So, it’s to be expected that this bowl of hearty goodness will completely absorb your attention till the very last ladleful. 

You’re now properly primed for what’s coming next—Fried Eggplant Hunan Salad—eggplant with garlic and chili bean dressing, so crispy on the outside, so succulent within, it will, henceforth, make you look at the humble eggplant in a new light; and Deep Fried Prawn with Lantern Chili, a delectable dish of prawn, mushroom, bamboo shoot, and appetizingly red lantern chili. I tell you, you just cannot have enough, so fulsome is its taste. And, then, another seafood dish, Burnt Chili Fried Fish, tossed with ginger, garlic, and bell pepper. A blend so smooth, a taste so fulfilling, ‘heavenly could be the word to describe it; especially for a fish-lover like me.

There’s more to come. Sichuan Crispy Chicken, which is certainly a far cry from the usual crispy chicken found elsewhere. Master Chef Limbu reveals the secret, “A minimum amount of corn flour is used; say, only five percent, which means that you not only get the crispness, but also more luscious morsels of chicken.” Oh yes, the chef knows what he’s talking about, and listening to him delve into some detail about the various dishes, you can easily see the passion, too. “He is a Chinese Master Chef, after all,” says Executive Chef Pokhrel, “and can you expect any less from someone with so many years of experience in Chinese cuisine? He knows all there is to know about this finest of finest culinary art.”