Shangri-La’s Shang Palace Marries Tradition with Innovation

Diners lucky enough to sample the updated menu at the Shangri-La Far Eastern Taipei’s Shang Palace will notice a shift in the air, thanks to new Chef de Cuisine Chin Fei Liew. Chef Liew, a native of Kuala Lumpur, has made a name for himself by putting a creative spin on traditional Cantonese fare.  

The use of locally sourced ingredients, where possible, is one way Liew has adapted the more than 30 reworked items on the Shang Palace’s 100-dish menu. The readily available and flavorful Taiwanese produce has helped inspire him to reinterpret dishes that usually follow a strict ingredient and preparation method.  

This innovative approach is beautifully illustrated by a sampling of crispy white prawns with mango sauce and passionfruit. The batter is light and contrasts the crunchier puffed rice, while the sweetness of the Taiwanese mango and passionfruit sauce balances the prawns, delivering a familiar yet unconventional marriage of savory and sweet.  

Crowning the prawns is edible gold leaf, an indication that Chef Liew values presentation as much as flavor. In another dish, the stir-fried Japanese A4 Wagyu beef with black pepper and longans, Liew has combined high-quality Japanese ingredients with their Taiwanese counterparts. The dish is further enhanced by asparagus, which, when the season allows, will be switched for the white variety.  

The black pepper oil, the main spice profile of the dish, is made by hand. Even here, Chef Liew insists on doing things the right way. Other restaurants would usually buy the sauce pre-made – a compromise he is unwilling to make. The Wagyu is cooked medium rare, allowing for the beef’s natural qualities to shine through as it perfectly melts in your mouth. 

Shang Palace’s Chef de Cuisine Chin Fei Liew.

Taking on big challenges is a theme throughout Chef Liew’s career. His dream as a youngster was to travel and study in Taiwan, but fate would instead have him move to Singapore in search of employment. From humble beginnings, he worked his way up in restaurants and hotels, eager for the knowledge imparted to him by more experienced chefs. Accepting the top position at Shang Palace in Taipei, he notes, has brought his career journey to a full circle.  

While in Singapore as an understudy to some of the greats of Cantonese cooking, Chef Liew was invited to run the kitchen onboard a yacht on a five-week cruise. The client? A billionaire investor from the United States. Such was the confidence in Liew’s skills that he was recommended for the job by his superiors at the Regent Singapore.   

Many of the dishes now served at Shang Palace trace their origins to Liew’s time at the Regent Singapore. The signature braised live pearl grouper with fish maw in X.O. sauce exemplifies this. In more traditional Cantonese restaurants, this dish is usually prepared using a fish native to Southeast Asia, but on his arrival in Taiwan, Chef Liew learned that Taiwanese pearl grouper lends itself better to the marination process than its Southeast Asian cousin.  

The flesh absorbs the flavors – ginger, coriander, spring onion – better, and it holds well together under prolonged heat, resulting in a fuller, firmer textured bite. As the fish is enjoyed, a subtle smokey undertone is discovered, thanks to the wok hei (鑊氣, the air of the wok), a quintessential element of Cantonese cooking.  

Braised live pearl grouper with fish maw in X.O. sauce.

Hinting at a flair for showmanship and theater, Chef Liew has included a table-side flambéing inspired by his love of Western cooking shows. In practice, completing the dish in front of guests means that the aromatics reach them before they’ve even tasted a mouthful. Again, Liew thinks about exciting the senses – sight, smell, and taste. Set in Shang Palace’s elegant and low-lit interiors, it makes for a memorable sensory experience.  

As for dessert, lovers of all things sweet will not be disappointed. Those familiar with Macanese egg tart will enjoy the baked sago pudding with bird’s nest, topped with red beans as a nod to Taiwanese dessert. The pudding isn’t too sweet but rich and velvety. The addition of the bird’s nest impresses a feeling of refinement and luxury that features in many of Shang Palace’s reinterpretations of old Cantonese favorites.   

From entrées to desserts, Chef Liew’s expressions of Cantonese cuisine bring a breath of fresh air to familiar favorites.