In the ancient world, olive oil was used for lighting, in the preparation of food, and as an anointing oil for both ritual and cosmetic purposes.
Golden Olive Restaurant, the first in the capital to prepare all dishes in olive oil, is now open in west Beijing.
Located on Xizhimenwai Dajie, Golden Olive Restaurant is a Guangdong-style eatery that pays homage to the history and culture of olive oil.
Olive oil is one of the most digestible of the edible oils. To make the finest, or extra-virgin, olive oil, the fruit is harvested when fully ripened, ground to a paste under granite or steel millstones, layered over straw mats, and put through a hydraulic press. Although olive oil occupies a relatively minor place in world food consumption, it has, in recent years, become a stronger export item.
Olive oil is now one of the best-selling cooking oils in the United States, but is unknown to many Chinese people.
To introduce olive oil to China, Golden Olive Restaurant has invited chefs trained in Hong Kong and western countries to prepare authentic food for Beijing's customers.
Both gourmets and health professionals have praised the qualities of olive oil, contributing to its growing popularity, according to Golden Olive's manager.
Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat and, unlike butter, lard, and other fats, contains a large proportion of easily digested fats and no cholesterol, she said.
Olive oil is also a good source of vitamin E, which is thought to help protect against cancer and heart disease. The principal fat in the diet of countries where it has long been cultivated, olive oil is often used in place of cream and butter and as cooking fat and salad oil.
Used throughout the ages to anoint kings and religious leaders, olive oil is an ancient symbol of strength and longevity. The leaves from the olive tree crowned the first Olympic athletes. According to the bible, Noah plucked an olive branch from a dove's beak symbolizing peace restored to earth.
Olive oil is earthy, it is complex, and it will be used as a culinary partner for foods served at Golden Olive Restaurant.
To celebrate the opening of Golden Olive Restaurant, customers who spend more than 120 yuan (US$15) on their meal can share a free fried crab (cost 88 yuan/US$10) from October 26 to December 31.
Location: First floor of Kaixuan Plaza, A143 Xizhimenwai Dajie.
(Beijing Weekend October 31, 2003)