Aale disc of orange melon appears on our white porcelain plates at the start of the Moon Festival at the Golden Dragon. It’s scattered with glistening pomelo segments, Sichuan pepper and sesame dressing. We are instantly transported to the ferry boat in Hong Kong harbour and the image of beautiful French Chinese actress Nancy Kwan and The World of Suzie Wong. In the 1960s film, Suzie Wong is first seen standing by the rails of the ferry going to Kowloon, spitting melon seeds between her teeth. There’s still a Suzie Wong restaurant in Hong Kong, but you don’t have to go that far to get your fix of melon seeds and mooncakes. It’s all there at Taj Coromandel’s Golden Dragon, courtesy chef Prakash Radi.
Traditions and more
The Moon Festival takes place when the Autumn moon is at its zenith. The Chinese believe that there was once a ruler named Hongi, who got drunk on power. He wanted to drink the elixir of eternal life. His wife Chang’e, tried to stop him, but when Hongi attempted to kill her, she floated up into the air and became the spirit of the radiant moon. One of the traditions at the Moon Festival is to place tiny cups of tea in the garden and catch the reflection of the moon. The men drink cassia wine. We are more fortunate. We open a chilled bottle of Italian white wine — Gavi di Gavi — and sip it alongside small porcelain cups of Chinese tea brewed by Puii, an exquisite tea hostess from the hills of Mizoram.
Pieces of eight
Chef Radi serves us Chinese-style, in a series of courses. We go from the melon starter to a roasted pumpkin soup to a glazed roast duck with a ginger scallion sauce. The crackling chicken is served in a pancake wrapping, followed by helpings of lamb, pork and lotus stem and the five precious kernels — everything comes in five, or eight, as chef tells us. Finally there are the mooncakes (red bean, cream cheese, chocolate, five kernel). We sip tea and think of Suzie Wong.
Starting today, till September 21. Mooncakes at `350 for two and `650 for four. Meal for two at approximately `3,000. Details: 66002827
— Geeta Doctor