August 13, 2023

How to feed a village

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A friend is back in town and the Great One has decided to take her to the Chairman (大班樓). This time around I'm lucky enough to be invited to join them, and it's always good to be able to spend some time with Sweetheart, too. It was an opportune moment to ask him how he felt about the Spurs losing the best striker around.

One of the guest of honor tonight was a no-show, so we ended up with waaaay more food than we knew what to do with. And our host is well-known for her habit of over-ordering. In fact, it came to light that she had no idea that the menu for us mere mortals normally consists of three starters, three main courses (one of which is seafood while the other two are meats), one vegetable, and one carb dish. As I scanned the menu tonight, we were to be served five starters (apparently Danny has already nixed one, on account of there being too much food) and four main courses (of which three were seafood) - plus the usual veg and clay pot rice. Someone remarked that there was enough food to feed an entire village, and I can't disagree...

Lily bulb and wintermelon marinated in young ginger vinegar and rose wine (蘭州百合,玫瑰露子薑醋漬冬瓜) - the winter melon really had been soaking in vinegar for a while, as the acidity was pretty strong and made for a sensible amuse bouche. The rose flavor in the vinegar was relatively mild but noticeable. Love the starchy crunch in the lily bulb.

Cold soy marinated baby squid flavored with Sichuan pepper oil and stuffed with dried squid (凍鹵水花椒小吊桶釀土魷) - this was definitely the upgraded and improved version. The fragrance of Sichuan peppercorns combined with the soy sauce was still as alluring as I remembered, but now the stuffing of jicama and dried squid (土魷) gave us extra depths of flavors.

Deep fried fermented beancurd filled with salted fish and Taiwanese preserved tofu (台式老腐乳鹹魚臭豆腐) - this is one of only two stinky tofus that I would eat, and while the smell was still reasonably pungent, the taste was within my tolerance levels. I do prefer the sauce with bits of salted fish.

Cleaning soup (一口湯) - arrowroot, mud carp, and sugar cane (粉葛鯪魚竹蔗湯). Very nice.

To no one's surprise, dishes were served out of sequence tonight. I was, however, not expecting that the crab would come before the char siu...

Steamed fresh flowery crab with aged Shaoxing wine, fragrant chicken oil and flat rice noodles (雞油花雕蒸花蟹配陳村粉) - the usual...

Thick cut Chairman style char siu (炭火厚切叉燒) - oh yes... always happy to have this char siu. So fatty. So tasty.

Grilled skewered fatty lamb belly slices (羊腩片叉燒) - was this even better than what I remembered? The fat from the lamb was just so, sooo fragrant... and together with the charring, they create some real fireworks in the mouth.

Pepper mud crab (胡椒泥蟹) - OF COURSE we would be getting a second crab dish when the Great One does the ordering. It seems the restaurant has decided one crab is good enough for four guests, so we got 2 more crabs for our table. With one person short, we didn't have much of a chance of finishing them.

But this was really, really delicious. I'm assuming that they use a mélange of peppers, and the end result was a love fragrance which went beyond the usual white pepper. Really brought out the sweetness of the crab meat.

Steamed grouper fish head with fermented chilli (剁椒鹹肉蒸龍躉頭) - so... how did we end up with the whole head of the giant grouper (龍躉) and not just half of it?! Well... of course this was just beautifully delicious as usual, with the presence of three types of chilis - fresh as well as fermented - along with green Sichuan peppercorns (藤椒) and garlic making for the clichéd "party in my mouth". Even those of us who normally don't hanker for spicy food are big fans of this dish. Normally I would complain about only getting one of the optional dumplings in my bowl, but given the amount of food we have tonight, I would have been OK with skipping this one...

Camphor wood smoked black foot goose (樟木煙燻黑腳鵝) - many of us do love this smoked goose, but unfortunately we were already full by now and no one really wanted to touch it. The situation wasn't helped by the early departure of Sweetheart, which left us with 6 mouths at the table.

In order not to waste this delicious goose, we chose to nibble on some of the more treasured pieces - such as a drumstick or a wing - but ended up packing about 80% of it.

Gourd juliennes and white wood ear fungus cooked in homemade fish broth (魚湯白木耳浸瓜絲) - the funny thing about many Chinese people is that, even after we've told you we're full, there's still room for veggies. I do love hairy gourd (絲瓜) and the julienned veg came with sliced wood ear fungus, in a thickened broth with bits of fish. Very good.

Smoked threadfin and baby sardines steamed rice (煙燻馬友銀魚窩飯) - the clay pot rice is always a good way to finish up the meal, but usually we are a little full at this point. Tonight, though, it was even worse than usual, so I'm glad that this particlar option was chosen, as it does not come with the second serving of soupy rice. I do love the crunchy baby sardines!

Finally, the dessert trio (甜品三味):

Almond cream (杏仁茶)

Black sesame mochi (黑芝麻麻糬)

Wolfberry ice cream (杞子雪糕)

We took it easy and just had 2 bottles of German riesling:

2015 Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett - good acidity together with some sweetness on the palate, which also came with some fairly strong polyurethane. Nice nose of white flowers.

2009 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett - lots of the usual petrol and polyurethane on the nose. Slightly sweet on the palate but medium-dry.

Always happy to see everyone and enjoy the tasty dishes, but maybe next time we need to stick a little closer to the "standard" menu...

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