September 2, 2018

Eating with chefs: Peruvian Chairman

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I woke up uncharacteristically early for a Sunday morning, checked my phone and found a message from Virgilio Martinez.  Besides confirming the invitation to a preview at his new place tomorrow, he also expressed his wish to have lunch at The Chairman (大班樓).  Today.

That was gonna be a tall order...

I waited till a respectable hour before thickening my skin and calling Danny.  I knew that he would be very happy to have Virgilio at his restaurant, but they were obviously fully booked today.  After checking the available ingredients and the booking situation, we were seated at a late hour.

Pickled mid-summer ginger root (大班樓子薑) - these are always good to whet our appetites with.  Only the hearts of the young ginger is used to ensure a tender texture that's not too fibrous.  Virgilio remarked that people in Peru are very familiar with ginger as it was brought over by Chinese immigrants long ago.  In fact, the Peruvian word for ginger is kión - as it was adapted from the Cantonese pronunciation.

Home brown sugar pickled roses on figs (荼薇無花果) - I had the pleasure of having this just a few days ago, and this one tasted just as good.  The Provence rose variant have been pickled for 4 years in sugar, and both the fragrances as well as the flavors were really good.

Stir-fried kuruma shrimp and sweet peas (九節蝦炒甜豆) - these small kuruma shrimps were so tender and tasty... and made better by being stir-fried with goodies from their own heads - which delivered wonderful, oily fragrance.  Of course, we've also got young and tender sugar snap peas

Steamed flowery crab with aged Chinese wine and rice noodles (雞油花雕蟹) - this was an opportunity for our visitors to try the signature dish of the restaurant.  For me... I'm happy to chomp on this any day!

Salted fish in fragmented tofu with Szechuan chilli (麻辣咸魚臭豆腐) - I asked the staff not to divide this up into individual portions so that everyone could take as much (or in reality, as little) as they wanted.  What I did not expect was to see all the visitors taking seconds.  I do have to say, though, that the pungent flavors and smell of the fermented stinky tofu was fairly mild, especially once the lightly spicy and numbing sauce coated the deep-fried cubes.

Pan-fried dumplings (香煎粽) - these were some of the smallest I have ever come across, stuffed with salted duck egg and pork.  Unusually, these were pan-fried after having been steamed to deliver a crispy exterior, and dipped in a little bit of soy paste (醬油膏).

One-bite sweet and sour pork (一口咕嚕肉) - when Danny mentioned this as one of the possibilities, my eyes grew wide with excitement.  I have had this only once, and surprisingly The Man in White T-shirt had never tasted it.  He jokingly called it "molecular cuisine", and I described this as "unlike any other sweet and sour pork you have ever had" to Virgilio.

And yes, this little mouthful of deep-fried lard with a sweet and sour glaze - topped with thin slices of young ginger - melted in the mouth.  Absolutely awesome.

Stir fried Chinese vegetables with ginger (薑汁芥蘭)

Steamed crab rice sticky rice (蟹肉糯米飯) - always happy to have this, but today Danny added some of the extremely fragrant ganbajun (乾巴菌) mushrooms into the mix.

The mushroom comes looking like pieces of dead coral, and chefs will tell you that they're a real bitch to clean.  But the fragrance is just so amazing... and we took the advice from The Man in White T-shirt and had a sip of the 2014 Josmeyer Fleur de Lotus before tasting the mushroom.  Sure enough, the flavors were magnified by the wine.

Desserts trio (甜品三味) - the first of the trio was a peach resin and hawthorn jelly with osmanthus (桂花桃膠山楂糕).

Coconut and jujube pudding (椰汁紅棗糕)

Almond cream (杏仁茶)

Another excellent meal, and I was extremely grateful to Danny and the staff for being so accommodating on such short notice.  Now I only had 3 hours till dinner...

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