Back in 1980, when the rest of India was still reeling from the hangover of the Emergency, Kochi was fiddling with chopsticks and rest: courtesy of Chiyang, the first Chinese restaurant in Kerala. Perhaps if anyone deserves the credit for the ubiquity of Chinese cuisine in state, it is probably the proprietors of Chiyang.
Seated at the heart of the city, across Seematti junction, foodies throng this place for a taste of the Orient, served up miles away from the land of the dragons.
The restaurant serves Indianized version of native Chinese dishes. Compared to other subcontinental adaptations of Chinese cuisine, Chiyang's menu stands apart for its moderate spicing, ingenuity in sauces and the incredible ambiance that teleports its customers to the east Asian country.
If that sounds like an exaggeration, forgo your table manners for a minute and try a soupcon of the red chili sauce on the table. As the half-ground chili in the sauce tickles on your palate, swallow all skepticism and smack your lips.
Go for a combo meal to get a quick taste of the variety in Shanghainese cuisine. Mixed veg-chicken soup would make for a good starter if you are going for schezwan preparations in main course. The mild, creamy, veggie-rich, moderately spiced soup will melt in your mouth and make your taste buds savor for something really spicy. The fresh and crispy vegetables and their fine symmetric chops go well with the tiny chicken pieces which you'll notice only when it touches your tongue. Mix the sauces one by one if you feel it is a bit bland. A generous mix of red chili sauce will impart a mighty twitch to your gustatory cells.
Special chili pork is what Chiyang is famous for. This brownish red dish with immense lard is absolutely magic in a bowl. Schezwan mixed fried rice makes a good accompaniment with the pork dish. Chiyang’s mixed fried rice is not your routine masala rice, it contains a generous amount of spring onions, chicken, egg and beef, and some celery leaves to add flavor. Guzzle the rich creamy gravy of Chiyang chili pork along with some peppery hot shezwan rice and feel indulgent.
Chiyang chili pork comes in gravy, semi gravy and dry consistencies. Semi gravy preparation makes an excellent combination with Chiyang mixed noodles and dry preparation could well be a starter. The restaurant's ambiance takes you straight to the great Mongolian culture, especially if you choose your table from the first floor. The soothing Chinese music and the dim yellowish lights add to it.
Interestingly, a pride of 20 chefs have been working with the restaurant for the past 25 years. The chief chef of Chiyang is a Chinese by origin and he joined the restaurant when it started three and a half decades ago. “Many came in between, many left; we try to maintain a diversity in our crew to get the perfect taste outcome,” says Rajesh, the manager of 'Chiyang.'
Amid the umpteen food joints and startup cafes in Kochi, Chiyang enjoys pride of place in the city’s gastronomic map, propounding the saga of Kerala’s first cross-cuisine experience.