China Comes to Town
By Venessa Anthony
Rising from the renowned Flower Drum restaurant, Jasmine Song came to being. Jasmine Song was passed down the generations, by the late David Gyi, who owned Flower Drum. Gyi is the youngest child of a Chinese culinary expert and cookery author, the late Josephine Gyi. Their family comes from a long line of culinary experts in Chinese food.
They passed on their natural flair and adoration of the culinary arts to Kalen Gyi, daughter of David Gyi, who then rebranded Flower Drum, with the hopes of carrying on her father’s legacy, and opened the doors to Jasmine Song in 2014. Soon, there were branches established in Kandy, Colombo and Moratuwa. She is now the proud owner of the restaurant.
Jasmine Song sings of the rich East Asian traditions that began 100 years ago. Kalen’s husband and their two sons also devote their time to help manage the two restaurants, marking the fourth generation of service to the community. Jasmine Song believes that food tastes best when shared amongst family and friends!
We had the opportunity to sample some of their best selling dishes, recommended by Kalen. For the first course, we indulged in the sweet corn and crab soup. The soup was creamy and packed with bite-sized pieces of crab meat. The combination of the sweet corn and the tanginess of the crab were absolutely divine. It’s perfect for a cold, rainy day. As an appetizer, we had the chicken spring rolls. They were steaming hot and came wrapped in crispy rice paper, with a generous amount of chicken. It went really well with the green chillie sauce. We loved the extra spice it added. You can even add some soy sauce for more flavour.
Next up; for the mains, we had the chicken fried rice, along with a selection of meat. The rice was well cooked, and they definitely didn’t hold back on the ample amount of chicken in the rice. The addition of their chillie paste enhanced the flavours further. We were served the hot butter cuttlefish, which we were told was a crowd favourite, and we could certainly see why!
It was crunchy and an explosion of flavours in your mouth. It was so good, you could have it as a meal on its own. We also tried the chilli chicken with cashew nuts; the chicken comes soaked in the rich chillie sauce, it certainly packed quite the punch, and was topped with plenty of cashews.
The cashews, in combination with the chicken, complemented the texture of the dish. It went really well with the fried rice too; the sauce worked magically with all the elements of the rice. We had another Jasmine Song favourite; the prawns in hot garlic sauce. I’m a huge fan of anything garlicky so I particularly loved this dish.
The rich, buttery flavour notes just dance together in perfect harmony to create an absolutely delectable dish. We also tried the green beans with dry prawns and chillie. I’m generally not a fan of beans, but these were coated in a lovely soy-based sauce; the salty flavour notes really brought out the best in the beans. Even though they’d been soaking in the sauce, the beans were still crunchy and fresh.
In Chinese cuisine, dried shrimp is used quite frequently for its sweet and unique flavour that is very different from fresh shrimp. The prawns in this dish had the coveted Umami flavour, which we enjoyed.
All the side dishes went extremely well with the rice that was chosen for us. Kalen tells us that the chefs currently at Jasmine Song, previously all worked at Flower Drum, so the recipes have been passed down many generations. She explains that she grew up with cooking Chinese food and brings that into the very essence of Jasmine Song.
Kalen and her family, in keeping with ancient Chinese traditions, warmly invite you to dine at Jasmine Song and experience Chinese cuisine at its finest, where the Flower Drum culture has remained unchanged.
(Pix by Udesh Ranasiha)