Travel, chocolate inspire cuisine

Updated: 2011-11-07 11:12

By Ye Jun (China Daily)

  Comments() Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

I have tried chicken prepared in many different ways, but covered in chocolate was a first. And it was amazing! The bitterness of the chocolate enhanced the aroma of the roast chicken and enhanced its tenderness.

Chef Chakall (aka Eduardo Andrs Lopez) from Argentina has traveled to more than 100 countries, which partly explains why he is able to come up with such novel dishes. He was demonstrating his diverse culinary skills to media at Astor Grill, St. Regis Hotel, on the evening of Oct 17, the last day of his four-day visit to Beijing.

The chef explained that his chicken Oaxaca was inspired by his travels in Latin America, where chocolate is widely used in dishes, in its bitter rather than sweet form.

The evening's dinner was a mixture of culinary traditions from various countries and regions. Coconut pumpkin soup was a mix of Thailand and Latin America, with a touch of lime juice. Martini prawn served with fried bread was a combination of Italian sweet vermouth and Sichuan pepper, garlic and coriander.

Fish fillet with dry prunes and panko crust served on chickpea puree comes from living in Portugal and being educated in Lebanon. Following that was a champagne and lemon ice cream, in which lemon cello of Italy met France. The main dish was Argentinean rib eye with potato and three sauces, including a chimichurri mix of dried herbs and fresh parsley, with a pinch of chili.

Chakall said he was pleased to be given the opportunity to show off some of the dishes he had cooked on TV shows in China and Europe, and at his restaurants. He has published cookbooks in many languages and received awards for some of them.

"This is the third time I have come to China. I have been tasting and cooking in Guangdong and Shanxi provinces and recently visited Ningxia," he says. "Every place has fed me with new ideas and new technical skills."

Born in Tiger, Buenos Aires, on June 5, 1972, Chakall is a child of five different cultures, his family being of Galician, Swiss-German, French Basque, Italian and Argentinean descent. He loves traveling to distant places and discovering new flavors. "Food is about history, and I have transported a bit of my personal history in this menu," he says.

The chef recently appeared on China's National Geographic TV, and on China's CCTV for a program called Chakall & Tiger.

He says Cantonese food touches him deeply and after a month in the province he saw things he had never imagined. These experiences led to the creation of a sweet dim sum filled with mango and passion fruit, served in a vanilla sauce - his version of steamed Cantonese dumpling.

The meal finished off with a dessert of ice cream and chocolate cake called the "mashalla" - which means "made by god" in Arabic.

Tasting his food, Chakall helps diners travel the world with their tongues and the food tastes even better when they are embellished with his tales about gourmet discoveries on the way. He is indeed a chef who both cooks and travels with passion.