Sunday, February 6, 2011

Singapore - Man Fu Yuan 满福苑

As previously prophesied, reunion dinners cannot be solely about the food, especially if you eat on the actual day itself.  There's just too much volume in customer flows, for chefs to be able to deliver a perfect score.  Our family's dinner this year at the Intercontinental Hotel's Man Fu Yuan was no exception.  While there were definitely "misses", there were some memorable hits, aside from spending time with family once again, and enjoying dinner as one large extended family.  Of course, we also welcomed Dylan, our newest addition to the family - such a bundle of joy.

Sharks' Fin in a shark bone and cartillage broth
This was probably the best course of the evening.  I am usually hesitant about this because the broth is very difficult to get right.  The right balance of dissolved collagen from the bone and cartilage (so that it's milky but not like eating glue), the right amount of heat from the ginger and pepper to take out the fishiness of shark but not lose the taste of the sea in the process, and the right amount of sweetness from the herbs so as to give it a nice finish and aftertaste.  This bowl that I was served had the right combination and add to that a generous portion of sharks' fin, that was tasty from the broth, and added a nice bite to the soup, for an added dimension in texture .  It wasn't the prized dorsal but this was good enough since it also suggests to me that the whole shark was fished, and not just for the dorsal, which is terribly cruel.

好事当头 Stewed Abalone and Dried oysters with mushrooms and lettuce
This was by no means a wow, but I hadn't had this in a while and wanted to introduce it especially to non-Chinese readers.  The use of abalones and dried oysters during the lunar new year, and other festive occasions are a must since the play on the Chinese names for these signify good things.  As an example, oysters are pronounced "ho see" which in a slightly different tone, means good tidings!  And abalone, prized for the number of heads, is my educated guess for "leading the way" and therefore the dish "ho see tong tau" which literally means good tidings lead the way.  Rather clever.  If only the abalone was less chewy..

Raw fried glutinous rice
Cantonese like to fry their glutinous rice from the raw grains as it lends a firm bite to the grains when cooked.  Much like risotto being poured into broth and cooked from raw.  This method of cooking however requires a lot of skill so that the rice does not burn in the wok, and if fried to a dry and ungreasy finish, it's even more of a feat.  This sticky grain is also popular during the cold months as it's more filling than normal rice and so keeps people from getting hungry too fast.  This version was rather good and was only let down by the quality of the waxed sausages, which were much too sweet.

香煎年糕 Pan fried "Nin Go"
This is yet another new year treat.  Made from glutinous rice flour, this rice cake is subtly sweet from the palm sugar used, and as an added treat, pan fried after dunking in an egg wash, to give it an added fragrance.  If you want to make this from scratch, check out Wok With Nana and her Episode 10 on how to do this. Again, its name "nin go" is pronounced to also mean "year high" to mean improvements year on year.  Man Fu Yuan's version was surprisingly very good and my second favourite of the evening after the soup.  The consistency was perfect as it was a sticky but unchewy cake, that was surprisingly light and almost fluffy to the bite.  Add the egg wash and memories of my childhood came flooding back.

Although the other dishes were less than memorable (not that they were bad but they were just average and nothing to write home about), dinner was still enjoyable.  The time for reuniting as a family, enjoying what the culture loves best ie. eat, catching up with each others' lives and just spending an evening together as a family unit is what this holiday is all about, and the primary reason we've been celebrating it all these centuries.  May tradition live on.

80 Middle Road
2/F Intercontinental Hotel

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