March 11, 2009

An organic evening

Pin It

A gathering of local foodies took place tonight at a very down-market location. Tang Lung Street (登龍街) is pretty "local" as far as locations go on Hong Kong island, but it is known for good eats. We were introduced to Tam Keung's Congee (健味粥), run by Mr. Tam who made his name as a pig-farmer with 健味豬. The twelve of us had the entire space upstairs to ourselves, and we were treated to a very delicious special menu.

Due to heavy traffic (it's race day in Happy Valley) and other factors, I arrived very, very late, and faced a table-ful of hungry diners... Thankfully they found it in their hearts not to tear into me to satisfy their hunger.

The first dish was stir-fried pig's heart and preserved sweet and sour vegetables (潮式甜酸菜伴心心相印). Right off the bat, we're having something out of the ordinary. I can't say that I've ever had pig's heart before, but I got no problems with trying it. It's a bit chewy, like some ligaments or the pig's throat that I've had at various restaurants in Hong Kong. There were also some bits of fatty pork mixed in, along with with yummy preserved veggies, celery, red and green peppers. Great start.

Deep-fried freshwater eel (椒鹽脆鱓球) - actually pretty light and crispy. Mr. Tam talked about how he treats the eel with cloves and cinnamon to rid it of the fishy taste.

Fishhead soup with Chinese herbs (天麻燉大魚頭) - really heavy smell and taste of the tall gastrodia tuber (天麻), even though I swear the smell is actually Chinese angelica (當歸). The soup was also boiled with chunks of pork and chicken feet, in addition to the fishhead. Nice and healthy.

Braised pig's knee (柱候醬扣豬膝) - what an awesome dish! It came in a big claypot and the whole table just went "Ooooooh!!!" Looking at the pile of bones covered in skin and tendons, glistening under the lights from all the melted fat and collagen, my mouth just started to water... And it was yuuuuummmy! I couldn't get enough of it. We asked for bowls of rice, only to be told off by Mr. Tam (this is a congee shop, after all). But we reached a compromise and they agreed to take half the portion and stir-fried some rice vermicelli with it. Of course the vermicelli would soak up all the oily sauce and turn this into the best dish ever. A couple of us (myself included) had multiple servings of this.

Braised fishhead in claypot (麵醬優質魚嘴煲) - I'm not usually a fan of fishhead, but I had to have some of this. Made from the heads of 18-month old grass carp (草魚/鯇魚) farmed by Mr. Tam, these fish feed on grass imported from Taiwan. A miso-like soy bean sauce (麵醬) is used to cook the fish, along with some garlic, organic ginger and cilantro. The ginger gives the whole thing quite a kick, in addition to neutralizing the fishy smells and tastes.

Pan-fried prawns in superior soy sauce (頭抽皇煎中蝦) - Mr. Tam confessed that he actually used second-run soy sauce (二抽) instead of the virgin/first-run soy sauce (頭抽). But in any case the soy sauce is homemade and organic. I've always liked prawns fried with soy sauce.

Salt-baked chicken (古法鹽焗雞) - this is wrapped in banana leaves (again grown by Mr. Tam) and baked in coarse sea salt. The chicken was raised locally although it's not free range. There's still plenty of flavor here, especially the skin. Certainly doesn't taste like the typical factory chicken...

Blanched seasonal vegetables (白灼時蔬) - mushrooms and ridged gourd (絲瓜) in a milky fish soup. Yummy.

Finally we get to the carbs, although we had some earlier with the rice vermicelli.  We were served two dishes that constitute a typical Cantonese breakfast - thin noodles stir-fried in soy sauce (豉油皇炒麵) and plain congee (健味金牌粥). The noodles were great, albeit a tad salty thanks to the homemade soy sauce. The congee was cooked with fish stock, and with the addition of the usual condiments (roasted peanuts, spring onions and preserved vegetables) it was just delicious. I was really full by this point and didn't get around to trying some of the pig offal congee (豬雑粥).

We finished with plates of oranges and starfruit, but just couldn't fit anything more...

What a great meal! Must return another time to sample other dishes...or just ask for the pig's knee stir-fried with vermicelli. The proprietor is clearly very passionate about ensuring his customers get the best possible natural ingredients, although he definitely has an attitude there...

With this group of foodies/winos, of course there would be wine, even when we're eating in a congee shop! Given that the ingredients are all organic, most of the wines tonight were organic, too.

1988 Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Brut - toasty and yeasty nose with caramel notes. Smooth with a sweet mid-palate and a slightly acidic finish.

2005 Touchstone Chardonnay - nose of rubber, plastic and toasty oak. A bit ripe with nice acidity balance.

2006 De Villaine Bouzeron - this white wine from the estate in the Côte Chalonnaise is made from Aligoté, the "other white grape" of Burgundy. Serious wine buffs will no doubt recognize the name of the domaine as being that of the director of DRC. A clean, crisp nose with pear and banana notes. Again the acidity balance was nice. The best Aligoté I've tasted.

2004 Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon - lots of sweet fruit with vanilla and slight metallic nose. Very full-bodied, concentrated with a long finish.

Dewazakura Daiginjo (出羽桜大吟醸) - 2007 vintage with some banana notes. Very nice and smooth.

2006 Temple Breur Riesling - surprisingly big nose of smoke, petrol, minerals, urethane plastic - all typical of older Rieslings. Ripe on the palate but not overly sweet.

2006 Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon - fruity and concentrated, the wine is ripe and a bit "hot" with toffee notes. Fairly typical for the Cali Cab.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails

TripAdvisor Travel Map