No one knows a village, town or city like a chef. Intimately acquainted with the locals and markets, and invariably impressively informed on the best hidey-holes to drink or party at, chefs are the folks to chat up if your hotel doesn’t have a concierge.
So who better to get the inside scoop from for a series on regional escapes?
In this ELLE Exclusive series from TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site, top chefs from around Asia-Pacific reveal how to see the places they’re based in like a local. Bonus included for wannabe cooks: Delicious recipes from the culinary wizards’ own menus!
This week: Beijing from the perspective of Ignace Lecleir, proprietor of Temple Restaurant Beijing, who has been in the Chinese capital since 2008.
What are five things you recommend doing in Beijing?
1. Take a hike on the Great Wall, especially the rural part where there’s no cable car to go up - it’s gorgeous.
2. Watch the Beijing acrobatics show.
3. Get lost in the hutongs and be fascinated by the local life and scene.
4. Catch the sunrise at Summer Palace.
5. Visit Ritan Park: My favourite park in Beijing, very lively yet tranquil with all the local residents practicing tai chi every morning and evening.
What Chinese food would you suggest travellers try?
It’s really difficult to just pick one specific item as the country is filled with delicacies that are diverse and different. Therefore, my recommendation is to be open-minded and try AS MUCH as you can. Don’t be sceptical about anything; you might end up loving it although you’ve never heard about it before!
Having said that, I’m very fond of the sheng jian bao (a type of Chinese bun) from Shanghai. It’s quite greasy and might not be the healthiest thing out there, but it’s extremely tasty.
Does the Beijing culture inspire the menu at TRB much?
We actually don’t have a specific culture reference for our food here as we have a very international culinary team. Besides Chinese, we have another three nationalities in our kitchen (French, Belgian and Dutch), and each of them brings their own food culture into our menu.
We also have guest chefs/consulting chefs visiting us frequently - from as far as Romania, Australia, Germany, New Zealand and Spain - and they all bring their own unique takes and specialties, so our offerings are very diverse and international.
In your opinion, what are two must-try dishes on TRB’s menu?
I would suggest the Mango Foie Gras and Cheese Cake - they’re two of my personal favourites.
Temple Restaurant Beijing’s recipe for Slow-Cooked Octopus With Squid Ink Mayonnaise
For the octopus
1 piece lemon
1. Remove the ocotpus tentacles from the body and cut into pieces of about 20cm long.
2. Grate lemon and mix the octopus pieces with the grated lemon peel and olive oil.
3. Steam in the oven for 2 hours at 62 degrees Celsius, then let cool.
For the mayonnaise
6ml Dijon mustard
15ml squid ink sauce
1 egg yolk
2g garlic cloves
Pinch of salt
16ml red wine vinegar
100ml cooking oil
1. In a blender, mix the mustard, eggs, garlic and salt at a moderate speed.
2. Transfer to a mixer with whisk attached. Shift to high speed.
3. Gently and very slowly, pour the oil over so that a mayonnaise forms.
4. Pour in the squid ink and vinegar.
1. Slice octopus into bite-sized pieces and place them on a plate.
2. Garnis with drops of squid ink mayonnaise, tomato halves, boiled quail eggs, lemon, radish and arugula.
Temple Restaurant Beijing was named No 1 in China, No 2 in Asia and No 12 in the world in TripAdvisor’s 2015 Travellers’ Choice awards, which are based on the reviews and opinions of millions of travellers around the globe.