Head to Nanjing Impressions for a taste of Jiangsu cuisine.
Think Chinese dining and Cantonese, Teochew or Sichuan fare may spring to mind. A little less familiar is the cuisine of Jiangsu, a province cradled by the Yangtze River on the eastern coast of China. Nanjing Impressions, which specialises in Jiangsu fare, is hoping to change that. Established 23 years ago, the restaurant chain, named after Jiangsu’s capital city, has over 40 outlets across China. A year ago, it started its first overseas branch in Singapore.
A lantern-clad décor transports you to traditional teahouses in Nanjing. Live song-storytelling performances, an art form from Suzhou, Jiangsu, help set the mood. Hailing from a region abundant in seafood, poultry and vegetables such as taro, lotus roots, water chestnuts and osmanthus, Jiangsu cuisine emphasises fresh, seasonal ingredients and natural flavours. Vinegar and rice wine, produced in Jiangsu and neighbouring Zhejiang, are commonly used. Ingredients are often steamed, baked, braised or drunken, i.e. marinated in Chinese wine. As Nanjing had served as the seat of government through several dynasties, royal banqueting traditions such as refined techniques and deft knife skills are a proud heritage.
Nanjing Impressions’ extensive menu showcases the uniqueness of this storied cuisine. A must-try is the Jinling signature salted duck (from $16.80), a cold dish synonymous with Nanjing food. It follows a 400-year-old recipe that involves more than 10 steps such as dry-rubbing and hang-drying. The result is an aromatic and umami-laden meat.
Superior knife skills are exhibited in the poached ‘lion head’s meatball’ ($13.80), an ancient dish that came about when royal cooks sculpted a meatball to resemble a sunflower at an emperor’s behest. Served at Nanjing Impressions, the giant pork meatball is so delicate that it melts in your mouth.
Likewise, the sesame-scented beancurd julienne ($8.80) is a study of intricacy. What look like spirals of noodles at first glance are really intricate ripples of shredded dried beancurd. The chilled drunken crayfish ($38.80 per portion) is another stellar dish. It gets its mesmerising sweet, boozy flavour from being marinated overnight in a huadiao wine, sour plums and aged citrus peel.
For dessert, try the osmanthus-scented steamed sponge ($4.80 for three pieces) with a light mochi texture and a hint of osmanthus. Have your meal with yu hua or rainflower tea ($8.80 per pot), a mild flavoured green tea from Nanjing, or Chinese wines such as Autumn Osmanthus wine ($48.80 per pot). Legend has it that it was created by a female imperial scholar using osmanthus flowers harvested during the full moon.
#04-46 to 51 Plaza Singapura, 68 Orchard Road. Tel: 6352 7877
This was first published in Wine & Dine’s December 2017 issue – The Festive Issue as a Special Feature