Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hong Kong - 聯合興食館 Luen Hop Hing

Tennis buddies touted it as the Chiu Chow beer place.  Well, as it turns out, it was true.  Down and dirty in Lok Fu, the neighbouring enclave to Chiu Chow territory of Kowloon City, we ended up at a bustling (read 100 decibel noisy) place and this was past 10pm on a Saturday night.  Early for some I suppose but whatever it was, everyone who was seated was guzzling European lagers, draughts and stouts, and chomping down traditional Chiu Chow delicacies.

I ordered myself an Erdinger, as did the rest of the 12 of us.  So they loaded 20 bottles into a blue plastic pail filled with ice and plonked it table-side, complete with bottle opener.  Yes, help yourself to more...

We started of course with Chiu Chow essentials:

Coagulated Pigs' Blood with Chives 韭菜豬紅
This actually tastes better than it sounds or looks.  The texture is akin to a firm curdy tofu with a little bite, really what eating blood is all about.  Tasteless by itself, but immersed in a peppery soy gravy with chives, it's the quintessential starter to a get-down-and-dirty Chiu Chow meal.

Braised Phoenix claws with peanuts 花生鳳爪
Another staple but not my favourite way to eat chicken feet.  The Cantonese do a better job braising it in an abalone sauce.  In contrast, this version was a tad tasteless.

Steamed Grey Mullet 蒸烏頭
This was quite good and had enough salt rubbed over it to enhance the taste of the fish.  In any case, it is served with the Chinese version of Miso ie. a preserved yellow bean sauce, if you like a savory beany finish.

Braised Goose 鹵水鵝
Competently done, quite tender and juicy.

Braised Spring Vegetables with Pork 春菜煲
Until D introduced this to me, I never realised this was a Chiu Chow dish.  My Cantonese side generally doesn't like my vegetables cooked to death so I treat this more like a meat dish.  It's actually very tasty from braising with the garlic and pork.  Of course, I haven't figured out what "spring vegetables" are but am guessing it's the mustard green family just by looks alone.

The King of Stir Fries 小炒皇
This is a classic dish with no classic ingredients.  My theory is that it is really whatever in the good old days of the larder which had to be used up and so, clever housewives just threw everything in the wok and over a high heat, stir fried everything to a fragrant and glossy finish.  But whatever made it into the wok typically goes great with a piping bowl of Chiu Chow porridge.  This one had chives, with crispy silver fish and cashews.

Steamed Eel in Black Bean Sauce 豉汁蒸鱔
Unlike the Japanese variety, this eel when cooked is a crunchier texture and addictive with the very tasty black bean sauce.  Only snag is that this creature has a lot of tiny bones that you have to be careful of.

Deep fried Stuffed Pigs' Intestines 釀豬大腸
This one was a big let down.  I'm a huge fan of deep fried pigs' intestines especially those you see at street stalls since they are double deep fried (and yes, doubly unhealthy).  This one was a little chewy and not crispy enough but the use of a shrimp colloid stuffing was inventive although not enough to make it a winner.

For the benefit of the men, we ordered some meat even if these were by no means very Chiu Chow.

Grilled Cumin Pork Ribs 孜然排骨
I like Cumin grilled meats.  Reminds me of the new frontier.  This was a good attempt, but they overdid the bicarbonate on the meat.  A shame since all that was left was the taste of Cumin and little else.

Sweet and Sour Pork 咕撈肉
This was not the usual rendition since they gave it a Chiu Chow twist by using a sauce derived from salted sour plums.  Interesting but nothing to scream about.

Preserved Mustard Greens with Grass Carp Claypot Rice 梅菜鯇魚煲仔飯 
To finish, a little bit of carbs from a claypot rice.  A popular dish in winter but we figured the air-conditioning was strong enough.  Often times, fellow diners get too impatient and open up the pot too quickly.  This time, I watched it like a hawk and hit anyone with my chopsticks if anyone's fingers went near.  And we were all rewarded with ample rice crispies we scraped from the sides of the pot.  Perfect texture against the sweet vegetables, and smooth flesh of the fish.  Great way to finish.

The food ain't the best but there is enough variety so just stick with the staples.  The choice of beers is another novelty.  Overall, I would still say it's yet another successful down and dirty post tennis dinner.  Ace.

Shop 4, Lok Fu Shopping Centre
198 Junction Road
Lok Fu
Tel: +852-2337 2038

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