What makes or mars a meal is the passion and expertise the chef put in while preparing it.
Which is why I love Ling’s Pavilion so much when it comes to Chinese food in Mumbai.
The owner, Baba Ling, doesn’t man the kitchen all the time but his pride in the food served shows in the quality of the food served there. He travels across China looking for new recipes to teach his staff. He goes to the markets himself to source the fish. He is proud of the specials that he cooks up for his Chinese guests and will urge you to try these dishes. If you ask him for his recommendation, then you can be sure that he will keep an eye on you from a corner to see your reaction to the food.
Another Chinese chef that I love in Mumbai is chef Liang.
He is the expat chef at Pan Asian in ITC Maratha. Spends at the Pan Asian would seem like the Chinese defence budget when compared to spends at Ling’s and one can’t go to eat there as often as in Ling’s, but each visit there leads to sheer delight.
I remember the first time I met chef Liang and he asked me if there is anything I don’t eat. He broke into a smile on hearing my reply ‘vegetables’.
Which, I suspect, is one of the reasons that Baba Ling is fond of me too. Chinese chefs love it when you give them an open canvas.
The dish to try at the Pan Asian is the Double Cooked Pork that Liang makes with imported pork. We order this every time we go to the Pan Asian. The Chilean sea bass in ginger broth scores high on the Umami count too.
Like Baba Ling, Chef Liang too makes annual trips to China to come back with new inspirations.
The Pan Asian is shut for a couple of months right now. They do have a limited menu running at the Peshwa Pavilion where he is hard at work these days before he heads off to China to judge a cooking competition.
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Kalyan Karmakar authors the popular award winning blog, Finely Chopped and is an authority on the food of Mumbai. His extensive knowledge of the city's food scene has been featured in publications such as Femina, Mumbai Mirror and BCC Good Food. He was one of the founding critics of EazyDiner's Mumbai team.