August 11, 2014

The search for General Tso

Pin It

No, this isn't about the documentary that I'm absolutely dying to watch, although I'm borrowing the title because it fits.

I remember getting some culture shock when I first moved to the US to start college.  The Chinese food I encountered in Spittsbush was nothing like most of the food I grew up eating.  What the hell was "chop suey"?!  "Lo mein" was clearly some kind of noodle dish, but why were these stupid Americans putting it on top of rice and eating it in the same mouthful?!

But soon I found myself getting pretty fond of General Tso's chicken, thanks to the chicken being deep-fried and covered in a sweetish brown sauce.  I ate a lot of it.  I had never heard of it growing up, but my uncle told me that it's actually called 左宗堂雞 and Hunanese in origin, and a little less sweet and a little spicier in its original form.

Well, I haven't had much American Chinese food since I moved to Hong Kong before the Handover, and on most of my early trips back to the US, getting American Chinese food wasn't exactly at the top of my list.  But eventually I grew to miss it, and even tried in vain to look for it all over San Francisco's Chinatown on my last trip in 2008.  No go.  During my trip to Chicago and New York this past June, I was again too interested in the local cuisine... and for the one meal where I thought about having Chinese on the fly, even Panda Express was closed...

So you can imagine my excitement when I heard that someone actually wanted to serve gweilo Chinese food in Hong Kong.  And tonight, my friend who grew up in the US decided that we should check out Fu Lu Shou for ourselves.

Our visit started with a little bit of annoyance.  When I booked our table last week, I was told that the access code to enter the metal gates would be given to us when they called us to reconfirm the reservation today.  We had a 6:30 p.m. booking, but by 5:50 p.m. no one had bothered to call me.  After a couple of tries I finally got through to the restaurant, but the person who answered the phone had to ask someone else for the code... Oh well, at least we got in.

I had spent some time combing through the write ups in blogosphere, so I had some idea about the kind of food on offer.  Someone had mentioned that everything they had was deep-fried, and a quick scan through the menu shows that easily 70% of the dishes are indeed battered and fried... and all the dishes we ordered turned out to be deep-fried, too...  A healthy meal, it was not.

I had read somewhere that the restaurant does not allow BYO, so we ended up each ordering a cocktail.  How could I imagine starting the meal with anything other than a drink called fook yu?!  In fact, I looked for noodles called fook mi on the menu, but alas it was nowhere to be found.  Well, this Hennessy VSOP-based drink was kinda tasty, but what the hell were they thinking when they put chunks of chocolate into a drink with ice cubes?!  I also found it a little expensive since it cost the same or more as all but one of our dishes.

Sesame prawn toast - nice and fragrant with all those sesame seeds.  Unfortunately this was very bland, and really needed the sweet chili sauce.

Sweet and sour pork - drenched in sauce, unlike the classic versions from top Cantonese restaurants in town.  This was OK.

General "FLS" Tso's chicken - the only dish that I insisted on having.  Turned out to be the best dish of the evening, and the only dish we finished thanks to yours truly.  OMG how I missed these battered and deep-fried chunks of chicken... with that "brown sauce" which wasn't as sweet as I remembered but a little more spicier than I remembered - thanks to the abundance of chili peppers which didn't seem to be in the American versions.  Dare I say that this was more "authentic" as it bears some resemblance to dishes with Hunanese roots?  Anyway, I came, I ate, I was happy.

Crispy honey chilli beef "rusty nails" - well... this was pretty much mostly batter and that sweet sauce drizzled on top.  We couldn't tell whether it's beef or something else on the inside because it didn't particularly taste like anything.  But hey, it's deep-fried and it's sweet...

Battered fish in corn and egg sauce - a dish often found in cha chaan tengs (茶餐廳) and even some old school Cantonese restaurants.  This was actually pretty decent, and my second favorite after the chicken.  I didn't find the batter too heavy, and it retained a reasonable degree of crispiness.

Wok fried broccoli with ginger and garlic - overcooked, but I actually didn't mind too much.

Well, that was a lot of food for the three of us, and we certainly couldn't finish it all.  While the food wasn't perfect, I went in with pretty low expectations so I guess I wasn't too disappointed.  At least I know where I can go for General Tso's chicken if I ever had the craving again.

Since we were done with dinner by 7:30 p.m. and the night was still young, I suggested that we go have dessert somewhere else.  So we hopped into a cab and headed for the Traders Hotel, so we can have a taste of my new favorite dessert at Café Malacca.

Yes, boys and girls.  I'm back for that amazing durian pudding made with Malaysian D24 durians.  It was sooo full of rich durian flavors, and I loved the thick and creamy texture.  The fragrance of the durian simply lingered in my mouth for a very, very long time. Oh yes, I was burping up durian again...  Had I lived anywhere close to this place, I would have picked up a few of these to go.  As I am a considerate person, I decided not to upset any cab or bus drivers and passengers...  Until next time, then!

For another take on the same meal, here's the review on South China Morning Post's 48 Hours.


Anonymous said...

I love your writeup. I spent my formative years in a small city in the Upper Midwest in the 70's. There were less than ten Chinese families in town.
Chinese restaurant food was indeed deep fried meats with mysterious sweet gravy. I loved the "chinatown" version of hot and sour soup. Very sour, salty and starchy.
Fine cuisine it is not but I got addicted to it.

Peech said...

the ubiquitous "brown sauce"


Related Posts with Thumbnails

TripAdvisor Travel Map