Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hong Kong - Miracle Cuisine 創潮樓

Deep down, half the Chiu Chow in me loves to seek out close-to-the-hometown Chiu Chow fare.  And this fairly new place in TST has the makings of a classic Chiu Chow place.  Thanks to half the Chiu Chow in D - this new discovery of his is quite a find. 

Of course, in trying a new Chiu Chow place, the classics have to be done right, otherwise there is no second time. 

Starters of braised pig trotters were juicy and tasty from the spice-laced soya sauce which was absorbed by the trotters.  This is perfect for those who like their beer or even something stronger to start the meal with.  By the way, Coke works too!

The cold crab was just the right temperature for yet another scorching day.  Cooler than is served at most other Chiu Chow places, but not too cold as to lose the flavour in the chill, the crab was firm to the bite and flick-off-the-shell fresh.  Eaten with accompanying Zhejiang vinegar, a perfect summer quencher!

The winner of the day was the politically incorrect bowl of braised shark's fin.  The thick broth it was swimming in is the result of countless hours of simmering stock that tasted like a whole lot of chicken and Yunnan ham goodness and probably a whole bunch of other decadent delicacies from the dried seafood larder of the restaurant.  Served with a dash of brandy, it needs nothing else, so don't reach for any vinegar or pepper.  Probably one of the best I've had.

The very bouncy prawn balls were literally prawns rolled into a ball - I exaggerate a little but there definitely wasn't much processing involved since you can still see the pink as you bite into one.  The crunch was therefore from the freshness of the prawns used and not because the colloid had been bounced around too much.  I would hazard to guess that it is hand-rolled because of the texture.

The Cantonese in me usually likes my veges quickly blanched to retain crunch and vitamins but the spring vegetable claypot was actually very good.  Sweetened with the pork and radish, this mustard green family member has none of the bitterness which I generally dislike.  And despite the roasted garlic and pork, it wasn't at all oily and really quite refreshing to eat, despite the heat.

The finale of pan fried egg noodles, a quintessential Chiu Chow staple served with Zhejiang vinegar and sugar was a fitting finish.  The chef took the trouble to seal both sides to a crisp - the usual is one - and kept the moisture of the noodles on the inside, making it a contrast in textures and with the contrasting sweet and sour of the condiments, it would be difficult to not like this.

To call this miracle cuisine might be a stretch but it comes pretty darn close. 

1/F, VIP Commercial Building,
120 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Kowloon, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2377 1698

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hong Kong - Wasakuraya 和櫻屋

Happiness is discovering new things, especially when they are food-related and worth sharing! Operating for about 3 months now, Wasakuraya specialises in Japanese desserts. Their packaging, in Japanese-styled English, sums it up. It is pretty darn excellent quality - especially the custard pudding.

I asked what the peoples' choice was and it was the custard pudding in original flavour, with Kuromitsu (black sugar) sauce. The smooth and creamy texture of the custard, given a layer of complexity with the black sugar, sat very well on the tongue, especially when served adequately chilled, in this summer heat.

The mochi balls with Azuki red beans and steamed chestnut bits were also good, even if not as spectacular as the custard pudding. The use of quality beans and chestnuts was what made the dessert. You could just eat those alone and still say dessert was wonderful.

The service was also Japanese grade - they add a little bag of ice in the box if you're going to be on the street for more than half hour to keep it freshly chilled all the way home.

With this sort of quality, I hope they stay in business a long time and still manage to keep it all up! I'm going to contribute by taking another walk there tomorrow, and try to exhaust all their flavours before the next weekend?

Shop A
1 Fung Fai Terrace
Happy Valley
Hong Kong
Tel: +852-2575 3328

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Orgasmic Omakase

The beauty of sitting at a sushi counter - watching the chefs working their knives with precision, chatting heartily and learning as the dinner progresses about our friends of the sea who sacrifice themselves for our gluttony. Of course, it is arguable that it is NOT gluttony if you appreciate these frutti de mare and not eat without appreciation. Last night was a borderline case.

My winners:

I haven't researched the name of this fish in English but the texture of the flesh, sweet with a slight crunch, and only my second time, was worth a more than just a mention. Does anyone know? I was too busy eating to take notes obviously...

Blow-torched (Aburi) Sanma was also good. Usually grilled (but detracting from the perfect fatty and smooth texture of the flseh), torching seals the skin, locking in the fattiness inside so it was melt-in-your-mouth with a smoky finish.

This piece of Maguro is not the best I've had but the combination of a mild lemongrass herb and spring onion, with light soya sauce was an interesting burst of flavours and a delight to savour.

The straight from the shell uni, laced with nothing but untreated seaweed and eaten neat, was also very good. Without the usual soya sauce and wasabi, this was natural taste from the ocean and right onto the palate. Unadulterated bliss.

As we were tucking into what was already a wonderful dinner, the captain arrived at the sushi counter with what was at least an 8-ounce slab of evenly marbled A5 Saga beef, saying that a private room requested sushi made from it. We were lucky to get samplings and boy, what a treat! After you taste this, it will be hard to eat anything lesser again.

Our parting shot was the tiny sweet shrimp served on a cool cucumber and garnished with salmon roe for taste. No other sauce required. Hmm...

All favourites available at Hana Sakazuki down in Causeway Bay.

2/F Ming An Plaza Phase II
8 Sunning Road,
Causeway Bay
Hong Kong
Tel: +852-2577-9799

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Beijing - Made in China Revisited

I haven't been back to Beijing since I left my last job in October 2008. And so my visit this week was a little bit of a homecoming, having spent much time there previously. Of course, the new construction continues in various pockets, but the familiarity of staying in the same place, eating the same food after such a long time, was a wonderful thing. So wonderful that I had 3 meals at the same place over 2 days - but I still haven't exhausted the menu!

Made in China is famous for its Peking Duck and in my opinion, still ranks right up there. It is the modernised, relatively grease-free version which has not detracted from its traditional roots. I had previously blogged about it - one of my early posts when I started this blog over a year ago. See
Although it wasn't convenient to capture shots of all 3 meals, I would add to my previous list of must tries there.

Appetisers of cold spinach in a sesame sauce (the wasabi-laced sauce is a modern rendition and gives it quite a bit of kick) and duck spring rolls (very crispy on the outside and fragrant on the inside.

And I always like my strange tasting chicken (a loose literal translation) but really chicken julienned and served swimming in a sesame and chilli oil sauce, and with the tingly Ma-La sensation from the Sichuan peppercorns used.

Of course I already tweeted about the magic of stir fried potatoes - looks and sounds boring but when quick-fried in fragrant hot oil with dried chillis and chinese celery, the experience is quite overwhelming.
Get some Kung pao chicken also (as authentic as you can get outside of Sichuan) and the pork and seafood pot-stickers are a sure winner at any table.
Of course, don't forget to order the duck in advance when you place your order - otherwise, you may not get to eat it. And Reservations are a Must, any season, any time.
Grand Hyatt Beijing
1 East Chang An Avenue
People's Republic of China 100738
+86 10 8518 1234 ext: 3822

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Grunt Fish

I like Grunt Fish - a sweet, slightly bouncy flesh with a subtle "crunch" makes for a good texture, whether sashimi-ed or grilled. So you can have one fish done 2 ways to get the best of this unusual fish.

The sashimi version is served with the skin slightly grilled to give it a subtle smokiness. You can choose to have it with the classic wasabi and soya sauce, or in a paste made from Ume plums - salty, sour and sweet to give it a different kick.

The grilled version in a light sea-salt crust seals in the sweet and juicy flesh. Pick up with a little bit of skin and freshly grated radish, just wonderful.
This season, you can enjoy Grunt at Wahiro.
Trivia: Did you know the fish is named for the piglike grunting sounds it produces with the teeth in its throat, which is amplified by their swim bladders?

Katong outlet
112 East Coast Road 01-27/28/29
Katong Mall Singapore 428802
Tel: +65-6342 2252

Hong Kong - Sushi Hiro

Excitement of Thursday! Finally getting to Sushi Hiro for lunch (only been to Causeway Bay outlet for dinner prior). And what a great place to have lunch. A good selection of combinations and at bargain prices for the quality you get. Of course, you won't get the best cuts (those are reserved for dinner or ala carte) but it's still pretty damn good.

My 9 piece sushi set came with Chawanmushi and Miso soup too. And to get decent quality and fresh uni, minced chutoro and other yummy pieces, I'd go again and again. Easily the best in the area.
G's set which came with a steak slapped with a buttercube on a bed of rice was fragrant when the cover was opened. I have to get that next time I'm there. And did I mention the rave reviews of their otoro rice?

And the fragrant smooth cuppa at the end will put any coffee chain to shame and well worth the caffeine. Who needs that post-lunch detour to Starbucks??

So naturally, we've planned already to do this regularly (I think once a week may not be out of the question!).
Very pleased... can you tell?

Sushi Hiro (TST branch)
7/F The Toy House
100 Canton Road
Hong Kong
Tel: +852-23779877

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Bad Yoghurt Karma

I miss waking up to you... I hope you are traveling safe on the Airbus all the way from France to our island. I've seen your peach, strawberry and other undesirable cousins but where oh where art thou?? I need you back...
Why hasn't City Super stocked Mamie Nova's honey yoghurt for 2 weeks now???

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hong Kong - ye Shanghai 夜上海

From what little I know about Shanghainese cuisine, Ye Shanghai could in my book, be considered one of the pioneers in modernising the cuisine for today's more health-conscious palates - little less sweet and a little leess oily. It's not going to classify as health food, but it certainly is going to leave you a little less heavy after a typical Shanghai dinner.

The smoked egg is possibly one of the better ones around - with a very moist centre and a subtle smokiness. If you're not an egg lover, you'd think it's just another hard boiled egg but if you appreciate eggs, the methodology behind it is something unique to the Shanghainese and a source of pride in getting it just right.

For the summer, a more luxurious version of the standard cold noodles - Seafood cold noodles. The generous toppings of shrimp, scallops, and clams added to the freshness of the appetising noodles, which comes with 4 sauces for you to add to taste, depending on what you fancy - sweet hoisin sauce, sesame sauce, soya sauce and chilli oil. The taste options are limitless. And you can add as you go along too!

The Shanghainese cabbage, made tastier with salted pork and ultra smooth tofu in a tasty superior stock, was better than most and although I don't ueually make a huge fuss about vegetables, I thought this was worth more than a mention.

The minced chicken and pine nuts served with sesame pockets is a huge winner with most although after you have had the hairy crab version in the autumn, this becomes ordinary. But worth a try if you've never had it but remember to eat it as soon as it arrives at your table since the pockets go flacid pretty quickly.

The usual winner of stir fried river shrimps with Long Jing tea leaves was a tad oily last night and therefore disappointing.

The other dish of Jin Hua ham with a crispy bean curd sheet served between a steamed Chinese bun in an osthmantus honey did not taste as good as it looked. But if they had used better cut of the ham and bean curd sheets, this is usually a great sandwich to dig into also.

Desserts were very mediocre - so while the glutinous rice balls in fermented rice wine and osthmantus was decent, the red bean pancakes were not fried in the freshest of oil. Edible but not worth the calories to finish.

I still perfer the Pacific Place branch and have had better experiences there but if you're shoping in the Harbour City complex and crave Shanghainese in a comfortable setting, the HongKong hotel branch is still worth a visit.

6/F, The Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel,
Kowloon, Hong Kong
Tel: +852-2376 3322