November 26, 2009

Another fragrant Thanksgiving

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For the second year in a row, I spent Thanksgiving evening at Tien Heung Lau (天香樓).  Me thinks this might become a tradition going forward...

It was a busy day.  Bibendum had put out a press release regarding the 2009 version of his Red Guide to tourists visiting Hong Kong/Macau, and there had already been some chatter among my friends about some of the choices.  Then we kicked off the evening by attending the launch party for the 5th edition of the WOM Guide. The editors are dining buddies so we showed our support, and some of us relived college days by taking a few sips from the vodka luge... wonder why Fergus thought it'd be a fun party trick...

But the main event was dinner in Jordan.  As soon as we walked in, I saw Chua Lan (蔡瀾) seated at the table next to us.  We know how much he loves this restaurant, and so do we!  Probably should have asked the restaurant to give us the same menu that he was having...  I didn't do the ordering this time, but most of the dishes would have been on my list anyway.

For cold starters, we had malantou (馬蘭頭, chopped Indian aster and tofu), soy-marinated duck (醬鴨), and drunken pigeon (醉鴿).  Everyone loved the malantou and the plate was cleaned up in no time.  The duck was salty as usual, and half of it remained untouched.  The pigeon, however, was very delish.  There was just enough flavors of the wine, and the meat was moist (with all that wine!) and tender.

Next came a plate of stir-fried freshwater shrimps (清炒蝦仁).  The shrimps were rather large by our standards, and my friend were disappointed that he didn't order the version with tea leaves.

Deep-fried frog legs (炸田雞腿) showed up, and we all happily dug into them.  Very light as usual, although just a liiiittle off the usual level.  Our Resident Froggie suffered an accident, however, when she dropped it on the floor after taking just a couple of bites.  I think she was a little traumatized...

My favorite dish - the smoked yellow croaker (煙薰黃魚) - followed and the smoky fragrance immediately filled the space around our table.  It's still my favorite fish and the Taiwanese contingent absolutely loved it.  We even had someone take spoonfuls of white rice and scrape the smoky flavors off the lotus leaf...

The very fragrant beggar's chicken (富貴雞) always seem to follow the croaker, seemingly wanting to compete for the title of the most fragrant dish.  Despite its detractors at the table, I still love this chicken.  It's true that this isn't the most succulent chicken in town - although the breast meat today was reasonably soft and juicy thanks to a friend's handling - but the fragrance is hard to beat.  I think I ended up eating the most chicken.

It's apparently still not the season for 塌窩菜 (for the second Thanksgiving in a row!) so we had to settle for stir-fried bamboo and pea shoots (冬筍炒豆苗).  Both were pretty yummy as they're in season.

The Dong Po Pork (東坡肉) was as I expected - the lean section was tough and a bit chewy.  But for those who were here for the first time, it was natural that they wanted to try the dish.  This is consistently one of the sub-par dishes here.  The crowd ignored this dish for the longest time because they were all busy chowing down the other highlight of the evening...

...which was of course the stir-fried crab roe over noodles (蟹粉撈面)!  This is hairy crab season, and of course we'd come for the crab roe.  It was as good as it always has been, and we had brought along our own silicone spatula so that we could scrape every last drop of the crab fat off the plate!

For the first time ever, I was not offered the complimentary dessert.  Apparently they had run out of this, which I find incredulous because I've always managed to close down the restaurant and had always enjoyed the dessert on previous visits.  Oh well.  Maybe they got upset with us since we brought along our own pandan chiffon cake from Bengawan Solo.

It was another happy meal for Thanksgiving.  The more capable members of the group went in search of some Taiwanese shaved ice for dessert, but I decided to call it a night and go home, knowing what is still to come over the next two days...

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