March 3, 2009

HK Chowdown episode 1: a downmarket start

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Tonight a group of Chowhounds met up for dinner. I had never met any of my fellow diners in person before, but we have all come across each other in cyberspace, and we all have one thing in common: our love of food. We gathered at the Shanghai Fraternity Association (上海總會) where some local hounds met up with fellow hounds from Singapore and Toronto.

Once again I was thankful for not having had to order the food. The downside of being a foodie - and having grown up with a Shanghainese grandma - is that you are expected to know what to order at Shanghainese restaurants. Fortunately the responsibility fell to our organizer for the evening. I always find it interesting to see how many of the dishes ordered by others would actually be the same ones that I would have ordered myself...

We started with a number of appetizers, and actually had to cancel one or two for fear of over-ordering.

Malantou (馬蘭頭, chopped Indian aster and tofu) - I thought it would be interesting to introduce this dish to people who aren't Shanghainese, as it's really not easy to find this outside of Hong Kong. The flavors are so distinctive and refreshing.

Smoked duck egg (薰蛋) - halved with wonderful yolk, the smoky flavor was a bit lighter than I would have preferred. But it's been a while since I've had this so I was pretty happy.

Pig trotter jelly (肴肉) - this was pretty good since it's not as salty. The trotter meat was delicious and there was enough gelatin to make the texture interesting.

Drunken pigeon (醉鴿) - very nicely done here, both in terms of the presentation as well as the taste. The meat was very tender, and the taste of the Huadiao (花雕) wine was good without being overwhelming.

Strange flavor chicken (怪味雞) - spicy and very much atypical in terms of Shanghainese tastes.

Stir-fried freshwater shrimp (清炒蝦仁) - the shrimps were medium-sized and not as small as some of the ones you'd find at other restaurants, but it was still nicely done.

Honey-soaked ham (蜜汁火腿) - now this is something I haven't had for ages! The slice of ham was paired with a piece of deep-fried tofu skin, then sandwiched between the two halves of a steamed bun. Not bad at all. We should probably have had left the plate on the table, so that I could dip the bun into the sweet and sticky syrup...

Stir-fried freshwater eel (炒鱓糊) - the classic Shanghainese dish where the eel is shredded and stir-fried with yellowed garlic chives (韭黃).

Fish fillet in rice wine (糟溜魚片) - one of my favorite fish courses in Shanghainese cuisine, this is prepared with lots of starch (which both coats the slices of fish and makes up the sauce) and some Chinese wine. The accompanying jelly ear fungus (黑木耳) adds a contrasting texture to the fish.

Stir-fried crab with rice cake and edamame (毛豆年糕炒蟹) - the sweet taste of the sauce and the sweet crab went very well together.

Raw-fried buns (生煎包) - a nice way to finish the meal, and I couldn't resist having two of these...

For dessert we had the usual glutinous rice balls in fermented rice wine (酒釀丸子), and much to my surprise my stomach wasn't on the verge of bursting. I think our host ordered very well.

I did bring along a couple of bottles of wine, but we only managed to consume two of these... A weak performance from this crew, I must say!

2002 Kongsgaard VioRus at first wasn't exactly what I expected. A hint of petrol, with minerals, oxidation, toasty oak and floral notes. Ripe and sweet on the nose as well as on the palate, the alcohol level was perceptibly high.

1999 Selbach-Oster Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese - huge nose of plastic, acetone and petrol masking any fruity notes. Reasonably sweet on the palate but with good balance of acidity and a hint of carbonation dancing on the tongue.

We bid farewell to each other at the end of a good meal, knowing that some of us would see each other for a highly-anticipated lunch in two days' time...

After dinner I joined my house guest and my favorite food columnist at Nino's Cozinha, who (unbeknownst to me) actually know each other. Upon sitting down, I was force-fed some of the delicious arroz de pato, frango assado com piri piri and some tripe with chickpeas. As if I needed more food in my stomach... but I must admit that they all tasted pretty good, especially that piri piri chicken!


Sher.eats said...

hey Peter, do you want pics of the other dishes?

Anonymous said...

you are so wrong! You weren't forcefed, we just put the food on your plate and it somehow got inhaled!

Lambda said...

how was the fried buns? Was the skin thick? I like the bottom slightly thicker and the side thin. Xiao Yang on the street in the Winter is still the best I've ever had.


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