February 24, 2009

Revisiting an old friend

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Tonight was the much-delayed gathering of a group of bankers, all of whom worked together more than 10 years ago, at a beloved institution which sadly no longer exists. As "round table Chinese" was requested I made a reservation at Liu Yuan Pavilion (留園雅敍) - an old favorite of mine that I've neglected for quite a while. A bit of Shanghainese would be a welcome change from all the Cantonese that I've been having this month.

I didn't have to do the ordering, so I just sat back and enjoyed as the food kept coming through the door. We started with a quartet of appetizers:
vegetarian goose (素鵝, deep-fried tofu skin), kaofu (烤麩, another tofu variant) with mushrooms, celtuce stem slices (萵筍) and deep-fried freshwater eel (炸鱔魚). These are all comfort food for me, and things that I'd order at any Shanghainese meal.

There was a request for smoked chicken (燻雞) so we ordered one. I thought it was deliciously sweet while the smoky flavors were kinda nice.

The crab stir-fried with egg yolk and rice crispies (蛋黃鍋巴炒蟹) was really nice. The crab was covered with a layer of salty, mushy egg yolk, as were the blocks of rice crispies. This is a very classic Shanghainese preparation.

We had a large pot of chicken soup with wontons (雞湯餛飩) - again a classic Shanghainese dish. I liked the wontons because they were a bit different - flatter than normal and a bit like the Taiwanese variety (扁食).

I ate very little of the sweet and sour fish (松子魚) because it really isn't my favorite. I must admit that the execution here was pretty good, even though I always found the dish to be very "gweilo/angmo."  Instead I chose to save my stomach for some stir-fried leaf amaranth (清炒莧菜).

We then had a series of savory dim sums that loaded us up with carbs. First there was the deep-fried scallion cake (炸蔥油餅), which was of the chubby variety (instead of the flat, pancake-like variety.) This was deeped to be overly salty and therefore inedible, and was sent back to the kitchen.

We got some homestyle pancakes (家常薄餅) as replacement, which were much more to my tastes. 

There was also a basket of xiao long bao (小籠包, steamed pork buns). These looked really good, with the skins being very thin and the interior filled with natural juice from the pork. I said "looked really good" instead of "tasted really good" because I didn't have one. Someone (who shall remain nameless) decided to have two of these wonderful things, thereby depriving me of one in the process. Oh well...

The puff pastry stuffed with turnip (蘿蔔絲餅) was excellent. The exterior was perfectly crispy, while the shredded turnip inside were moist and not too salty.

The pan-fried potstickers (鍋貼) were pretty good, again with good amount of juice sealed inside.

I think the bunch of dim sums really put us over the edge, so that we were too stuffed to have dessert. But I was happy...and glad to have gone back "home."

1 comment:

susan said...

I really like Liu Yuan Pavilion but haven't been there for ages. At first I thought it had closed down; the original branch did, but then I realised the second branch is still there. Must go again...

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