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Pastry chefs master the art of innovation

By LI YINGXUE | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-01-30 09:26
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Pastry in the shape of lotus roots created by master chef Wang Zhiqiang. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Lifetime's passion

Dubbed the "king of pastry", Wang Zhiqiang, 74, became a pastry chef assigned to Chinese state banquets when he was in his 20s. Now, he is constantly creating new products.

In 1971, Wang was tasked with making pastry for a state banquet marking an international table tennis competition. Designing a cake in the shape of a table tennis paddle, he used a Chinese yam to make the ball.

A year later, during then-US president Richard Nixon's visit to China, Wang designed a dish for a state banquet that resembled a panda playing with bamboo.

Over the next two decades, he created and perfected mianguo, or flour-based fruits, with his apprentices. He also spent 10 years finding the ideal solution to creating the colors he insists on using as natural ingredients.

"We lost count of how many times we tried to simulate the colors. Sometimes we'd find a good color, but when we steamed it, the color faded," Wang said.

When cooking mianguo, he chooses to steam, instead of deep-frying or baking the pastries, as steaming is a traditional Chinese cooking method and a healthier alternative.

After five decades, Wang continues to push the boundaries in making traditional Chinese pastry.

"You have to rack your brain to create, and sometimes when you think of good ideas, you have to get up in the middle of the night and draw them directly in a notebook," he said.

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