December 11, 2011

Indian beef curry

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Yes, you read the title correctly.  I had the words "Indian" and "beef" in the same sentence.  And yes, I did have that for lunch today.

About a year ago, the Rubberman created a fuss in Hong Kong when it awarded a macaron to a place called Hin Ho Curry Restaurant (恆河咖喱屋).  Many of us have never been to this place - I had never even heard of it - and there it was, with a coveted Michelin star.  No doubt it was part of the publication's effort to go downmarket and try to award some more "cheapest Michelin star on the planet"...  I, along with many others, uttered the usual "WTF" at the news.

One year on, and the restaurant received a star for a second year.  Thanks to the publicity and the additional business, the owner had made enough money to open a second branch.  And my friends and I collectively uttered another round of "WTF".

But, as we have been discussing for the last few months, one isn't entitled to criticize the food at a restaurant without trying it first.  As I was in town this weekend, I hollered on Facebook and rounded up a few friends so that we can all try it for the first time.  As people were replying to my call to have some "Indian beef brisket curry", one of my Indian ex-bosses from London chimed in with the comment that "Indians don't eat beef"...

Well of course they don't!  Any idiot who has ever been to India would have seen the way cows are allowed to roam the city streets, and cars have to dodge and make way for them.  When was the last time you saw beef on the menu at a real Indian restaurant?

To be fair, I'm not sure if the restaurant ever advertised itself as an "Indian" restaurant, although with the range of food they serve and the name 恆河 - the Chinese name for the Ganges River - one would be forgiven to see it as such.  The experts from Michelin have this to say in their 2012 Guide:

"Seeing the tandoor in the front window tells you that you're in for an authentic experience.  The chefs are from Nepal ad trained in Delhi so the cuisine has a north Indian bias; Gosht Rajala, lamb with nuts and spices, and Jeera Pullao, delicious buttery rice, are popular choices.  If you can't decide then the Nawabi Bhojan or "Royal Fare" menu offers a great selection of classic dishes.  The simple decor comes with a hint of Bollywood."

I guess the Rubberman convenient ignored the plethora of beef dishes on the menu when passing judgement on the authenticity of the cuisine.

But the most important thing for us, of course, is whether the food tastes good.  So we ordered a bunch of dishes for an early lunch - we got seated by 11am, when the place opened - and here's what we had:

Tandoori beef tongue - this was actually really good... The slices of tongue were tender, and the spices weren't half bad, either.  I had expected this to be a little more dry, but didn't mind the abundance of sauce.  Loved the onions.

Goa fish curry - this was OK.  There was a little fishy taste from the skin but this was mostly covered up by the spices.

Tandoori chicken - apparently the tandoori chicken and the tandoori baby chicken are actually the same item... Pretty decent and enjoyable.

Lamb knee masala - the lamb shank was OK, and came with a two-pronged spoon apparently designed to remove the meat from the bone.  Not as melt-in-your-mouth as some of the slow-cooked ones I've had elsewhere, but I wouldn't complain.

Beef flank bhuna - hmmm... it said 牛腩 in Chinese but it's actually short ribs.  Not bad, and the addition of tomato is a nice change from the usual masala, korma...etc

We shared a few types of naan to go along with our food.  I ordered the onion kulcha, which had curried onions inside.  There was also the special naan, which as it turned out was made with shredded coconut, sugar and diced pineapple.  I guess it was pretty special...

Verdict?  We all thought the food was pretty decent and tasty, and this was a good neighborhood joint.  Was it the best Indian meal I can have in town?  I'm pretty sure I can do better, and given the out-of-the-way location it is unlikely that I would go back.  Was it star-worthy?  Not in my mind.  Would other one-star chefs and owners in town be proud to tell customers that they are ranked at the same level as this place?  Not on your life...

We wandered around the area in search of more food... Unfortunately On Lee Noodle (安利魚蛋粉麵) had a huge line outside, as expected, so we passed it up and headed for 低調高手大街小食, a stall famous for their egg waffles (雞蛋仔).  I'm no connoisseur when it comes to this stuff, but these had to be the best egg waffles I've ever had in Hong Kong.  Dry and crisp on the outside, with perfectly moist interiors.  Yum.


Anonymous said...

came across you're post while hunting for HK food blogs and would like to clarify a few things.

I come from India and I have grown up on beef!!! Contrary to popular belief, India while being predominantly Hindu, also has a significant population of Muslims, Christians and many other religions. Due to religious beliefs MOST Hindus don't eat beef (there are some who do) but it is a very prominent feature in the Muslim and Christian diet and relished by the others as well. Not only does it feature in restaurant menus (we also have steak houses!!!) but is also openly available in the market and in certain pockets, is a popular form of street food as well! Not sure about the authenticity of Ho Hin, but Beef is used in curries among other ways of cooking it by people who do eat it.

Peech said...

Thank you for clarifying the matter. I guess once again, *I* am the idiot and assumed that Indian = Hindu = no beef... although a number of my Indian/Hindu friends shared the same sentiment.

I didn't see any beef on the menu while in northern India, and ordered the famous chicken Maharaja Mac at McD's...

Michelle Chin said...

Ugh. Speaking of Michelins... Some three star places can perform as good as the two star establishments which always gets me all the time!!!!

Unknown said...

One certainly don't see many Indians eating beef but I think there are still 6 Indian states which hasn't banned cows from being slaughtered or something along that line. I guess it is more religion/geographically based ?

Anonymous said...

Hindu accounted for around 80% of Indian population and the rest 20% will eat beef certainly.


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