Monday, March 7, 2011

Hong Kong - Tea Pairing Dinner

MingCha teas on display
This week, ChaXiuBao managed to gather a group of like-minded foodies to enjoy Lingnan cuisine paired with different Chinese teas.  While most of us are probably not alien to either, the experience was made rewarding and educational with tea expert Vivian Mak from MingCha, teaching us to sniff, gargle, slurp, taste the essence of the variety of teas she showcased. 

Martini glasses of Chrysanthemum to be splashed with White Peony Supreme
For "cocktails", we were served a concoction of Chrysanthemum with White Peony Tea, from Fuding, Fujian, in a Martini glass.  Even Vivian admitted it's a first but she thought the depth of the glass and how it opens up allowed the two to infuse, evaporate up the nose, and cool adequately for optimal enjoyment.  It all seemed to make sense.  The fragrance of the 2 was pleasant, ethereal lightness, while the subtle taste cleaned the palate for a wondrous evening of traditional Lingnan cuisine.

露筍欖油煎扇貝 Pan Fried Scallop with Olive Oil and Asparagus
The starter was probably the most underwhelming of the evening in terms of taste.  Perhaps I'm not a huge fan of this shellfish but even then, the scallop was obviously very fresh, and naturally sweet.  I thought the garlic oil killed it a little given it is not usual olive oil consistency but a little gooey like a Chinese gravy.

花膠花菇燉雙鴿 Fish Maw and Mushroom doubled boiled with Pigeon
Next up, the fish maw and Chinese mushroom soup doubled boiled with pigeon.  Now we're getting down to business.  The essence of each ingredient came together in this soup.  Even though it was ever so slightly oily, it was a great Cantonese way to warm the palate up.

Tea Pairing with Seafood: a first flush LongJing from Hangzhou.  Grassy, almost fishy, this was certainly an extension of the seafood, and did well to complement.

白雪藏龍 Steamed and scrambled egg white with sauteed lobster
Easily one of the grand winners of the evening.  Made even better with Annette's generous sprinkling of black truffles from Teruel in Spain.  The fragrance of the egg whites with the truffles are a match made in culinary heaven, and as Annette was sprinkling, our mouths were watering.  The lobster was in the grand scheme, an expensive accompaniment but did not disappoint.  The chef's deft timing ensured that the meat of the crustacean was adequately cooked to get rid of nasties and keep us safe, but still bouncy and tasty.  Add Annette's gorgeous gift of Maldon sea salt flakes, and it was bliss.

豉椒炒聖子皇 Stir Fried Bamboo Clams in black bean sauce
Another Canto classic, this was competently done although I've had similar elsewhere.  So unfortunately, this got overshadowed.

三鮮桂魚球 Stir Fried Mandarin Fish with Asparagus, Gingko and Lily Bulbs
This looked really blah when it was served but biting into it, you realise quickly this was not your usual grouper slices but a sweeter, more cottony Mandarin fish.  Aside from the little bones, this was much tastier than it looked.

Tea-pairing with the Meats: Wuyi Dark Rock from Wuyi Mountains in Fujian.  A slightly darker and robust Oolong tea, this was effective in cleansing the palate from heavier cuisine, while not delivering overly powerful tannins to detract from the flavors of the food.

琥珀嶺南一口牛 Stir fried beef cubes with walnuts Lingnan style
The tea went very well with this dish, another of my favorites from the evening.  The beef was surprisingly tender but unlike the overly bicarbonate-infused beef from the old days.  This one retained a nice beefy flavor complemented by a light soy-based marinade.  The crunchy walnuts added a nice nutty flavor to the beef and went well together in the same bite.

蘿蔔清湯牛爽腩 Beef brisket and radish in a clear consomme
This second beef dish was a nice contrast to the first.  The consomme was extremely tasty from the 2 main ingredients, a classic Chiu Chow dish.  While available all over Hong Kong, it's difficult to find a really good one, and this one did not disappoint.  The pieces of brisket I had were tender, and yet had the springiness from the tendon, so that with each chew, more beefy goodness is released.  The use of celery over the top was a nice change from the usual spring onions and gave the dish a freshness that was welcome.

Tea-pairing break from the meats: we took a minor break from Wuyi Dark Rock to enjoy an intermission of Phoenix Supreme from Guangdong (a DanCong 單叢).  This was almost sweet like a lychee and fragrant.  Very pleasant to the nose and the palate, it is a classic Oolong tea that's not easy to obtain.  It was only my second time.

竹笙百合芥蘭度 Stir fried kale with bamboo pith and lily bulbs
Another Canto classic vegetable dish with all the vitamins from the Kale, beautifying properties of the lily bulbs, and high fibre from the pith.

脆皮炸子雞 Deep fried Crispy Chicken
You can't get away with calling yourselves a Cantonese restaurant if you can't get this dish right.  To be able to dispose of the layer of yellow fat between the skin and the meat in the cooking process is a science and an art achieved only in the very best and this one did not fail us.  The end result was a very crispy skin encasing a succulent bird, which we enjoyed with Maldon sea salt flakes, and Annette's other treasure, freshly ground pepper from Kerala.  And she means fresh as in freshly plucked, then ground.  Awesome.

瓦鐺臘味油鴨飯 Assorted waxed meats
Waxed meats are a winter delicacy for people in the Canton region, the oil and salt content supposedly defends folks from the season's chills.  Also, it was the only way to keep meats throughout the cold spell without fridges, and so the Cantonese steamed this over rice, giving the rice a fragrance from the meats' oils.  And doing so in a traditional claypot meant that we get slightly charred bits of rice.  The waxed meats of duck, pork sausage, duck liver sausage and pork slices were very good.  Not overly salty but still tasting of what it might have been pre-waxing meant that it kept its original state pretty well.  And yes, we got the charred bits of rice delivered, then snap, crackle and pop we went happily.

上湯水餃生麵 Shrimp dumpling with noodles in superior broth
This was also very decent but I really had more important things to focus on and so didn't finish up, not because it wasn't good but also I was reaching my food limit and just had to hang in there till dessert came.

生磨合桃露湯丸 Pair of sesame and peanut dumplings in a walnut puree
Dessert was surprisingly lighter than most and not as cloyingly sweet.  Dumplings were firm but soft and chewy with smooth fillings coming through as you bite into them.

Tie Guanyin Classic from Western Anxi, Fujian
To end, this Tie Guanyin (or Iron Buddha as some might call it) was an unusual smoky variant.  Although smoky, it wasn't bitter and had a smooth aromatic finish.  A great finale to send us all home packing on a real caffeine high.

Thanks again @.  It was loads of fun with Vivian from Mingcha, Annette, Charlotte, Arnaut, Amy and Alex.  And of course fellow tweetie birds @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @.  Let's do it again soon.

Lingnan Club
12 & 13/F, On Lok Yuen Buildling, 25 Des Vouex Road, Central
Tel: +852-2522 3339


Tel: +852 25202116


  1. thanks for documenting the tea pairing dinner with so much details. i am glad that you enjoyed the combination of tea and food. let's do it again.

  2. You're welcome Vivian! Hope I got everything accurate and of course, thanks for visiting EdEats! It was definitely a highly enjoyable and educational evening. I hope to be able to find some time to visit you in Quarry Bay soon to be educated again!

  3. I went and visited MingCha this weekend and was excellent - glad I finally made it there!

  4. @Tom, I saw your tweet! Would be good to see what Vivian recommended to you! Do share. I regret that I've yet to make it over yet.

    Sorry Vivian, but it's definitely on my list of to-dos!