As the local saying goes, "one pigeon is more nutritious than nine chickens". For health-conscious Cantonese, squab is the ideal delicacy because of its tender texture and rich nutrition, among which the squab in Shiqi District, Zhongshan is one of the best.
It's reported that Shiqi has a history of over 100 years of raising pigeons, with an annual output of several million nowadays. Early in 1915, fine breeds of pigeon were brought to Zhongshan by overseas Zhongshan people. After crossbreeding these pigeons with the local breed, a new breed of "Shiqi pigeons" was finally produced.
Zhu Deqiang is the production director of Zhongshan Hot Spring Hotel. He has been a chef for more than 30 years and was recognized as a four-star Cantonese cuisine chef. Recently, he won the grand gold medal in the second World Pigeon Gourmet Competition Guangzhou Selection with his Shiqi squab dish.
Zhu said that among the various ways to cook Shiqi pigeon, the most classic one is the deep-fried crispy pigeon, which offers guests the true taste of ingredients.
"In the 1980s, famous businessman Henry Fok Ying-tung also especially added Shiqi crispy pigeon to the menu when he entertained foreign guests at the Zhongshan Hot Spring Hotel," Zhu added.
Making a crispy pigeon involves steps such as marination, brine soaking, coating with "crispy syrup" (the mixture of water, vinegar, malt syrup, and Shaoxing wine, which makes the skin crispy during the frying process), drying, and deep-frying. According to Zhu, the 13-day-old squab is the most ideal ingredient for this dish. He said that even the bones of such crispy pigeon are aromatic.
Zhu recalled that when he first became a chef, the Qijang food street in Shiqi was very popular, and many diners from Hong Kong and Macao would make a special trip to the street to order a crispy pigeon if they visited Zhongshan. "The older generation of Hong Kong guests also introduced to their offspring in particular that crispy pigeon is one of the specialties of Shiqi," he said.