February 25, 2009

A hearty meal for two

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This was the last night that my friend would be in town, and I promised to take him to a Hong Kong institution - Sheung Hing Chiu Chow Restaurant (尚興潮州飯店). It's a well-known, local place (read: no decor nor service) which serves up simple and homey Chiuchow fare, together with some expensive seafood items.

We sat down on the ground floor at one of the three locations which are next to each other (No. 37), in full view of the chopping station. A couple of geese and a bunch of large crabs hung on the racks in front of the window, awaiting clients' orders.

We started with a cold crab (凍蟹) - one of the signatures of this place. We didn't get one of the big ones hanging in the window, since it wouldn't have made sense for the two of us. The captain was kind enough to persuade the guys at the chopping station to produce a smaller crab for us at half the price. A very straight forward dish - fresh seafood served cold so the texture and the sweetness of the flesh is just perfect. I didn't need to use the dipping sauce.

You can't come to a Chiuchow place without having some marinated mixed platter (鹵水拼盤). The goose was so-so today, with some pieces being a bit tough. The tofu was not bad - the skin was nice as it had been deep-fried before - but it was too salty from soaking up the soy sauce on the plate.

The big bowl of prawns with dishrag gourd (水瓜煮蝦) was very delicious. I never realized that there was a variant of my favorite ridged gourd (絲瓜), which is just as yummy. It's cooked in soup with minced pork and glass vermicelli along with some large prawns. The overall taste if very nice, and the addition of minced pork with the seafood seems like the classic Chiuchow touch.

One of the comments I had read online mentioned that this place doesn't know how to do fried oyster pancake (煎蠔餅) right, and I have to agree. It was simply too greasy and soggy. As soon as I had some of this, my stomach felt like it hit a brick wall and I felt really, really full. I wish it was more crispy and didn't soak up as much grease...

Despite being pretty full by this point, I decided to have some crispy pan-fried noodles (糖醋麵). The portion was HUGE. I guess since they want to charge HKD 50 and there's nothing but plain noodles (they throw in the vinegar and sugar for free), they need to make sure there's enough of it.... The noodle comes out in a giant "cake" and one side is crispy. Sprinkle some sugar and with a few drops of vinegar, you've got a pretty yummy product. I packed most of the noodles into a doggie bag so it won't go to waste.

Just when we thought we could fit nothing more into our stomachs, the waitress brought us bowls of mung bean soup (綠豆爽) as we were paying the bill. The husks have been removed so only the centers were used. Pretty decent.

Food was pretty good, but there were definitely some misses. Maybe I do need to come back with some friends with deep pockets to try the high-end dishes. Then I'll be able to judge whether it's worthwhile to spend money here. Service was non-existent as expected, but happily none of the staff was rude to us and chose to shout at each other instead. In fact the captain was pretty friendly to us, and gave us their business card so we could call ahead to book tables next time. Maybe I will...

6 comments:

susan said...

Yum, I love Chiu Chow food. My aunt is Chiu Chow but she never cooks it; instead, we go to a place (can't remember the name) in Kennedy Town.
you didn't have any baby oyster congee (ho jai jook)? I can never go to a Chiu chow place without having that.

Peech said...

I love baby oyster congee but I can get it at my neighborhood Chiuchow joint. Wanted to try more of their signature dishes.

FourSeasons said...

This is actually one of my favorite restaurants. I actually like the oyster omelet; yeah, it is greasy but this food is supposed to be greasy anyway. I actually would not like it to be crispy but I guess that is a matter of taste bud. If you want to splurge next time, try the 潮州翅, I think it is one of the best, if not the best braised shark fin, in town. Especially if you order for 10 persons instead of single pot, they really can do a good job. And the sauteed 螺 sea whelk, it is like $200 per piece, if I recall correctly, even more expensive than toro. But it is real good. And real expensive!!!

Peech said...

Well I'm kinda screwed with this place because 1) I don't eat shark's fin for environmental reason, and 2) I've never had whelk that wowed me enough to make me want to pay. Guess I'm sticking to cold crabs...

FourSeasons said...

Noted your comment. I go to Sheung Hing for more expensive Chiu Chow stuffs. For homey Chiu Chow food, I usually end up in Pak Loh at Causeway Bay, more convenient location and better ambiance. Food is just as good there for the comfort dishes. Don't forget about the Chiu Chow eel too!!!

Lambda said...

I love crispy pan-fried noodles (糖醋麵)!! Next lunch club!!

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