June 30, 2023

All about that pig

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I don't have a habit of dining at the same table with complete strangers, as the company and conversation over a meal can be just as important to me as what's on the plate. But every once in a while, my friend Gourmet KC will organize a meal that I know I couldn't put together myself. That's when I put my hand up and decide it's worthwhile to roll the dice on dining companions.

When he made the announcement about tonight's dinner at Sun Tung Lok Chinese Cuisine (新同樂) featuring the roast suckling pig stuffed with glutinous rice, it took me all of half a second to reply with "me me me!" That suckling pig - which was first created by Chef Joe Chan (陳勇) while he was still in the kitchen at the Kimberley Chinese Restaurant (君怡閣) at the Kimberley Hotel. This has been my absolute favorite roast suckling pig in the world since I first tasted it back in 2007. I think my friends and I probably still hold the record for having ordered FOUR pigs for my farewell dinner back in 2011...

I haven't stepped foot in the restaurant since 2016 as my dining habits have changed over time. I was glad to see our group was placed in the large private room at the back of the restaurant. No surprise that I didn't know anyone at our table except Chef Cheng Kam Fu (鄭錦富), although I quickly recognized the parents of one of my friends.

The good thing about tonight's menu was that at least half of the dishes are not on their regular menu. This is why it pays to come with KC.

Canadian spot prawn and fruit salad (加拿大特選牡丹蝦沙律) - it's probably been some time since I last had a dish like this... I have to admit that it's somewhat nostalgic. The fruit salad on the side came with mango, cucumber, capsicum, and chick peas - the last one being a real surprise.

Braised bird's nest (紅燒燕盞) - KC knows I don't eat shark's fin, so he very kindly swapped it for bird's nest but using the same broth. The flavors of ham in the broth was just really beautiful. In fact, it's been a long time since I last tasted ham broth like this.

Baked mushroom with cheese and Baked Miyagi oyster with leeks (芝士鮮磨菇釀大啡菇伴京蔥烤宮城縣生蠔) - not sure why the kitchen put these two parts together on the same plate, but...

The large button mushroom was stuffed with a mixture of diced mushroom and cheese on top. Pretty tasty.

The baked oyster was pretty decent.

Braised prime rib of beef with house gravy (燒汁乾煏牛肋骨) - WOW! This was HUGE! I think normally this would have been shared among a few people, but tonight this became an individual serving! I'll channel Luke Skywalker in A New Hope and utter the words: "Look at the size of that thing!" Just use the slice of zucchini on the side for reference.

And this was very, very good. The beef was very tender but retained a nice level of bite. It is ever so slightly dry on the outside to deliver a certain level of chewy texture. I'd be happy to eat this any day. But the portion was just too big, especially considering this was served right before the main event.

Roast whole suckling pig with glutinous rice (原隻金陵乳豬烤香苖) - BABY, THIS IS WHAT YOU CAME FOR! Quite literally this was the one dish I most wanted to have tonight. It's been YEARS since I last had this pig, and I was drooling at the sight of these two little tubes.

I watched as Chef Joe came to slice up the piggies with his cleaver, and I gotta say... I have missed hearing the beautiful sound of crunchy crackling literally cracking under pressure from the chef's knife.

And this was just as I remembered... the original version at Kimberley Hotel without the silly Chinese yam (淮山) that dries up after roasting. That thick ring of fat and tender meat just under the crackling is just so, sooooo satisfying. And the whole block of glutinous rice seasoned with spring onions and diced preserved meats brought me back to my happy place. I didn't even need the hoisin sauce (海鮮醬). I was a little bummed that, unlike in the old days, I only got to have one slice of the piggy. Then again, I would have been hard pressed to fit another slice in after shoving all that beef in mere minutes ago.

Steamed garoupa fillet and Napa cabbage stewed in matsutake and Jinhua ham (松茸金華火腿慢火燴高山菜伴海斑片) - I liked the cabbage and the broth that it was stewed in. I just didn't care for the piece of fish that was a little overcooked.

Bird's nest and iced papaya crème (冰鎮燕窩木瓜露) - my second bowl of bird's nest tonight, and I was very, very happy with it. I love papaya.

Crispy dumpling with mango (脆皮芒果角) - just like those savory deep-fried minced pork dumplings (咸水餃) except the filling was mango instead of minced pork.

I took a simple bottle to dinner:

2006 Clos des Papes - double-decanted 1½ hours before drinking. Still tannic at first, but smoother on the palate after the soup course. A bit of smoke on the nose.

I was so, soooo happy to be back here, and so glad I got to taste my favorite piggy again. I really need to come back more often and get the chef to make me that pig. I can't cope with not having it in my life, now that the fire has been rekindled. Thank you, KC!

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