Despite Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ongoing crackdown on opulent spending and extravagance by Communist Party leaders, Xi decided to mark a couple of recent occasions with lavish meals by dipping into party funds.
One of the meals was a state banquet in Shanghai to mark the occasion of an upcoming Asia security summit, which also preceded the newly announced massive natural gas supply deal that was signed with Russia.
Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin had much to celebrate after the signing of the landmark deal on Wednesday, which is worth about $400 billion. According to the terms of the deal, Russia will provide northeast China with a natural gas supply for 30 years beginning as early as 2018. The mutually beneficial deal will advance Moscow’s diplomatic and economic ties with China and the rest of East Asia. The deal offsets somewhat Western Europe's attempts at reducing the amount of natural gas it buys from Russia. For China, the deal will mitigate the nation’s energy deficit and relieve its dependence on coal fuel, which will help address the country's severe environmental issues.
According to the Shanghai Morning Post, the state banquet venue and kitchen were under pressure to deliver a budget-conscious meal for Putin and the dinner's other heads of state and distinguished guests.
State-run Xinhua News Agency, a publication that's usually mum on details about state events, was quick to publish the extensive menu, which it said featured affordable, seasonal ingredients sold in local markets. The meal's planners were sure to steer clear of controversial and expensive dishes traditionally served at state events, such as shark fin soup or abalone, according to the report.
That isn’t to say that diners were left hungry. The 10-course meal had a “Silk Road” theme, with a menu that reflected dishes from the Yangtze River’s southern region, such as double-flavored prawns, fried and braised beef, and stir-fried scallops. The Silk Road theme was reportedly chosen because of its significance as a trade route that connected China with areas of Central Asia.
The tables were draped with gold tablecloths and the diners used gold cutlery. A dramatic centerpiece on each table made of vegetable carvings was dubbed the “Great Wall.” The four-star hotel located in Shanghai’s central business district said that its staff spent several hours rehearsing before the diners arrived. “We rehearsed twice yesterday,” executive chef Su Dexing told the local newspaper. “Nine chefs needed to prepare over 10 dishes for each of the 330 guests … we were under unprecedented pressure.”
The full menu featured the following:
Fish maw stewed with matsutake (soup)
Fried and braised beef Stir-fried scallop
Flatfish with soya bean sauce
Stir-fried towel gourd and green soy bean