February 23, 2019

Piggy feast

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We don't usually drag our asses out of bed early on weekends, but we made an exception today.  My friend KC had organized a lunar new year feast to usher in the Year of the Pig, and where better than a place that's famous for their roast pig?  So we crossed the harbor to the meeting point, and a bunch of us boarded two coaches for the journey to the northwestern side of the New Territories.

We disembarked roughly an hour later in Lam Tei (藍地), and followed our intrepid leader to Wing Hing Yee Kee (榮興儀記), which has been around since 1954 and had supplied roast pigs to many restaurants around town until a hostile takeover by Food Idea Holdings Limited (新煮意控股) in 2016.  The factory now supplies their famous roast pigs exclusively to restaurants within the same group - such as the restaurant where we would be having lunch shortly.

What is special about the roast pigs that come out of this place is that only fresh, local pigs are used - they don't use frozen imports - and the pigs are roasted in large, underground wood-fired ovens.  The wood for these ovens come from the wooden pallets used in the shipment of cargo.

The process started long before we got off the buses for this tour.  Salt rub is applied to the inside of the pigs for seasoning, then the skin is brushed with a maltose-based marinade.  Since Cantonese-style roast pig calls for a thick and crunchy crackling, the skin is then punctured with needles before a salt rub is applied to the skin.  After giving the marinade and salt time to be absorbed, a three-step roasting process begins.

After observing the staff go through the roasting process, we walked down the road to Red Seasons Aroma Restaurant (季季紅風味餐廳) and sat down to lunch.  A feast awaits us.

Deep-fried spring rolls (炸春卷) - unfortunately my first bite was not a good one.  There was something off and unpleasant in the one I picked up.

Deep-fried glutinous rice dumplings (咸水角) - this, on the other hand, was pretty decent.

Double-boiled soup with whelk, pig's lungs, and butterfly brisket (响螺豬肺頂蝴蝶腩金銀菜湯) - this was actually pretty nice, although I kept to having just one bowl.  Others at the table seemed eager to pick at the dregs (湯渣), and some people had up to three bowls of the soup.

Honey-glazed barbecued pork (蜜餞叉燒) - something to whet our appetites with before the main event.

There was plenty of honey glaze here, which had a hint of orange flavor.

Steamed shrimp dumplings (蝦餃) - not bad.  The wrapper was thinner than I had expected.

Steamed pork and shrimp dumplings (燒賣)

Steamed buns with barbecued pork (叉燒包) - these were surprisingly good!  We had plenty of leftovers and I kinda regret not taking a couple of them home.

Goose roasted in stone oven (石爐燒响鵝) - this was one large goose!  Just look at those drumsticks!  The geese were apparently roasted in the same underground ovens as the pigs, and had been resting for the last 3 hours.

This was pretty good, even if the skin wasn't as crispy as I would have liked.  There was plenty of fat underneath the skin, and that made the meat really, really tasty.

Steamed grey mullet with black bean sauce (豉汁蒸烏頭) - the black fermented soy beans added a lot of depth to the fish.

Finally, the main event of the day!  Golden roast pigs from New Territories Farms (新界農場大金豬).  The pigs were ready after roasting for about an hour.  Five of them.  Just for our party of nearly 200 hungry diners.

Given that this was served towards the end of the lunch, there was more than enough roast pork for everyone.  In fact, most of us couldn't handle more than 2 or 3 pieces...

But I had some capacity in reserve, having been pretty restrained when it came to the dishes served before this.  And I made very sure to pick out the very best pieces, with enough of that wonderful crackling - what is referred to as "sesame skin (芝麻皮)" - and of course, a generous layer of fat beneath the crackling.  The crackling came with a nice smokiness, while the salt rub had been well-absorbed into the crunchy layer of fat.  I was in heaven.

Stir-fried kailan in garlic (蒜茸炒玉蘭)

Fujian fried rice with scallops (瑤柱福建炒飯) - by now most people have hit their limits, and even I only scooped two spoonfuls into my bowl.  Not bad, and there's a decent amount of garlic here.

Red bean purée with aged mandarin peel and lotus seeds (枝蓮陳皮紅豆沙) - surprisingly light, with the unmistakable fragrance of young citrus peel.

We were totally defeated.  There was just way, way too much food.  A few of us packed the leftovers to take home, and Hello Kitty picked out a few pieces of roast pork and roast goose and put them in the collapsable silicone box we brought along with us.  I was pretty happy that we made the trek, and look forward to joining KC on another outing.

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