50 years later, Shang Palace revisits its opening menu for timeless Cantonese classics 

In 1933, British author James Hilton released his utopian fantasy novel Lost Horizon, detailing the fictional valley paradise of Shangri-La, located in Tibet, with its inhabitants seemingly immortal.

The book went on to inspire three film adaptations, a Broadway musical and, eventually, the Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts franchise. On April 23, 1971, the Shangri-La Hotel Singapore threw open its doors at Orange Grove Road, welcoming guests into what would become the first of a chain of over 100 five-star deluxe hotels around the world.

Accompanying the hotel on its big day was Chinese restaurant Shang Palace Singapore, now the flagship of 38 Shang Palace restaurants worldwide.

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Fifty years later, Shangri-La Singapore and Shang Palace celebrate their golden anniversary by revisiting the menu from half a century ago. Executive chef Mok Kit Keung has taken a leaf out of the history books — literally — by tracking down retired kitchen staff and drawing inspiration from the restaurant’s launch menu itself.

Mok, who led Shang Palace Hong Kong to its second Michelin star in 2011, is offering Singapore diners a taste of history with a special two-month celebratory menu available till June 30.

Snap a photo with three specially commissioned dim sum pushcarts, from which the Shang Palace team will serve a curated selection of 50 steamed, baked, and deep-fried old-school favourites.

See: Cantonese memories at Yan's fifth anniversary

In addition, enjoy a comprehensive a la carte menu showcasing more than 50 heritage and celebratory dishes. Dim sum highlights include the Steamed Crystal Dumplings with Assorted Mushroom and Preserved Olive ($9 for 3 pcs). A nostalgic treat, the house-made crystal dumpling skin yields easily to offer moreish diced mushrooms, stir-fried with preserved olives.

Equally noteworthy are the Steamed Pork Ribs with Bean Curd and Preserved Olive ($8). A timeless classic, the pork ribs are generously meaty and carry the rich flavour of the preserved olives, which are specially imported from Hong Kong.

The a la carte dishes are a blast from the past, with plating and recipes that are fading fast from Chinese restaurants today. The Shang Palace Barbecued Meat and Poultry Platter ($58) is like a time capsule, down to the single cherry used to grace appetiser platters at wedding banquets. A century-old dish previously featured in the 1971 launch menu, the platter features seven delectable delicacies: jellyfish, soya sauce chicken, Chinese ham, roast duck, abalone, century egg and pork knuckle terrine.

Another heritage recipe, the Wok-fried Sliced Sea Conch and Prawns with Seasonal Greens ($56) would not be out of place in a contemporary restaurant today. Also featured in the 1971 menu, the chestnut-shaped Chilean conch is stir-fried with prawns and seasonal greens. According to Mok, the deep, briny flavours of the conch remind him of his days as a kitchen commis.

From as early as its launch, Shang Palace has been practising the “no waste” philosophy that is all the rage today. Chefs of the 1970s maximised their ingredients by using every part of it, including offal, fat and bones.

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One example is the Traditional Barbecued Pork Roll with Chicken Liver in Honey Sauce ($8 for 2 pcs). Chicken liver is trimmed into a coin shape, basted with char siew marinade and baked, then sandwiched between thin layers of pork fat brushed with rose wine and malt sugar, and char siew. Laid open-face atop a fluffy bao, the medallions are melt-in-your-mouth tender with just a touch of sweetness.

The Traditional Yin Yang Fried Rice ($36) showcases the influence of Western cooking on Asian chefs in the 1970s. Two sauces — a sweet, tomato-based sauce with shredded chicken, and a creamy bechamel sauce with crabmeat and shrimp — are poured over egg-fried rice to form the dual “yin-yang” motif.

We also sampled two desserts that made for a lasting memory. The Traditional Deep-Fried Egg Puff with Sugar ($8 for 3 pcs) is a hearty heritage dish of deep-fried eggs and flour, finished with a sprinkling of sugar.

Next is the Sweetened Red Bean Soup with 50-Year Tangerine Peel — a prized ingredient that the Cantonese describe as “more precious than gold” — which is priced at just $5, as part of Shang Palace’s 50th anniversary celebrations and Mok’s expression of heartfelt appreciation to his guests for their support over the years.

“It is the duty of the chef to pass down knowledge; and to share wholeheartedly,” says Mok. The veteran chef believes that as long as people ask for these dishes, chefs will continue to teach, learn and cook them, creating a cycle that perpetuates itself. By honouring heritage dishes, traditional delicacies can perhaps be enjoyed by a generation fifty years from now.

Shang Palace

Lobby Level, Tower Wing

Shangri-La Hotel Singapore

22 Orange Grove Road

Singapore 258350

Contact: Tel: 6213 4398

Email: [email protected]

Opening hours:

Lunch: Weekdays: 12pm – 2:30pm

Weekends and public holidays: 11am – 3pm

Dinner:

Daily: 6pm – 10pm