May 21, 2024

The Hungry Hungarian Chairman

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The Hungry Hungarian was back in town and has been eating his way through Hong Kong where just about every place he visited had been arranged by PR8. One of the few meals where he wasn't led by the nose happened to be at The Chairman (大班樓), as he was fortunate enough to take over a booking from a mutual friend who was out of town. He had 2 Hungarian friends with him - one of whom wouldn't touch any seafood - and I thought they might need a "local" with them, so I agreed to join him at dinner tonight. After all, while we have had a few coffees together in the last 2 years, it has been a few years since we last shared a meal together.

I had come up with a choice of dishes - taking our Hungarian guest's preferences into consideration - and chosen what would normally be the maximum recommended number of dishes. But of course there was an intervention, and the menu we actually got - let's call it "the Margaret menu" - ended up with lots more food... and a lot more seafood than I had planned for.

We were a table of 7 tonight, as the Hungry Hungarian had local fans here, too, so maybe I wasn't needed after all...

Ginger and vinegar pig trotter terrine (甜醋子薑豬手豬耳凍) - I really love having this as the first course of the meal, since it really does whet the appetite and, in my opinion, is a much better way to go than the traditional pickled young ginger that the restaurant used to serve. Because how many pieces of ginger can an average diner eat before getting tired of it? Anyway, I loooove pig trotters, and I love 豬腳薑, too! So this is just PERFECT.

Char grill sun cured pigeon in soybean BBQ sauce (醬燒生晒臘乳鴿) - I do enjoy this newer pigeon dish, as the flavors are similar to those cured ducks (臘鴨) that I grew up with. I do think, though, that for many people's palate this may be a little too salty and heavy-handed.

Thick cut Chairman style char siu (炭火厚切叉燒) - this was an eye-opener for the first-timers, but that's no surprise to me. How could anyone NOT love this very tender, fatty, and very tasty pork?! Especially with that charring!

Crispy aged eel, chargrilled (炭燒脆皮熟成鱔) - another first for many people, perhaps even for the Hungry Hungarian. I do like the fermented flavors from the bean paste that's been brushed on it, and of course the crispy skin was nice.

Crispy pig tails with plum sauce (山楂梅子脆皮豬尾) - most people have probably never tasted pig tails before, and I love to see their reactions when they first try this dish. The skin was just nice and crispy, holding all that collagen in, which then gets released and ends up coating one's lips... There's also that fruity acidity from the hawthorn (山楂) and plum. Slurp!

Geoduck poached in rice broth (魚米粥蝦籽象拔蚌) - it has been a while since I last had the rice broth here, and I still like the silky smooth texture. Sweet and crunchy geoduck works well here, and the shrimp eggs and shrimp oil add a dose of umami to an otherwise lightly sweet dish.

So... my original plan was for NO CRABS tonight, especially not the signature flower crab. To be honest, it's a dish I enjoy but don't want to have every single time I'm here. I was, of course, overruled by a higher power, which was why we ended up with not one, but TWO crab dishes.

Wok seared mud crabs with premium soy, preserved black beans and preserved olive greens (豉油王豆豉欖菜煎泥蟹) - I didn't ask how big the crabs were, but the wine glasses kinda provide reference, and there were TWO on this plate.

Pepper mud crab (胡椒泥蟹) - and another two giant mud crabs on this plate...

While the flavors from the soy sauce, black beans, and black olive greens could be strong, it would still be wise to tackle that one first, as the pepper was too strong and would overwhelm the palate. Amazingly, the 7 of us just about finished all 4 crabs!

Cleansing soup (一口湯) - tonight it was jointed wax gourd (節瓜) and octopus.

Steamed grouper fish head with fermented chili (剁椒鹹肉蒸龍躉魚頭) - this was a dish that the Hungry Hungarian insisted on having, which was just as well. I haven't had it myself in a while, and have been missing it. While I'm normally not someone who has a high tolerance for spicy food, I do enjoy the sensation of getting a runny nose from the combination of fresh chilis, fermented chilis, and green Sichuan peppercorns (藤椒).

Thankfully, this came not just with strips of cured lard but also with dumplings stuffed with whole shrimp. Soooo good. So happy to have tasted this again. No, this isn't really traditional Cantonese cuisine, but I don't give a fuck. I love it.

Crispy skin chicken with red bean curd marinate (南乳麵醬炸子雞) - after enduring 5 courses where he sat around while the rest of us dug into our food with fury, our Hungarian friend was ready to pounce! I was surprised, though, that he didn't eat half the chicken by himself. I did think that he enjoyed the red bean curd sauce (南乳麵醬) that was served on the side.

Pork belly slow cooked in preserved Chinese vegetables with Chinese bun (梅乾菜陳皮扣肉配夾包) - this is always a good idea. What's not to like about fatty pork that melts in your mouth?! And that steamed bun is there to catch all the liquefied fat and tasty sauce oozing out.

Double boiled vegetables with fried pork skin and dried cherry blossom shrimps (豬皮櫻花蝦燉時菜) - a vegetable dish that isn't vegetarian, thanks to the presence of both dried sakura shrimp (桜海老) and the braised pork skin.

Beef short ribs Chinese cured liver sausages claypot rice (薑絲肥牛膶腸窩蛋煲仔飯) - I chose this particular clay pot rice because there was no seafood in it... all meat protein!

I do enjoy how the liver sausages get crushed and mixed in with the rice.

As always, the extra rice crispies get served up so we can chomp on them.

One benefit of choosing this particular pot is that we get a second service with some of the rice crispies cooked in broth.

Unfortunately, this serving contains some delicious clams, which meant our Hungarian friend would have to skip it.

Desserts trio (甜品三味):

Wolfberry ice cream (杞子雪糕)

Millet and red bean cake (小米紅豆糕)

Mung bean cake (綠豆糕)

I was surprised that it was a non-drinking crowd tonight, as we had trouble finishing the three bottles I brought...

2009 Joh.Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett - pretty fragrant nose with white flowers and some petrol. There is some residual sugar on the palate, but it's got acidity to balance things out.

2000 Barnett Cabernet Sauvignon Rattlesnake Vineyard - drank after 30 minutes in the decanter. Nose showed earthy notes, fragrant, with sweet fruits, mint, and a little smoke. The palate changed almost an hour after opening, and became less sweet with additional aeration.

This was a ridiculous amount of food. I've sat through dinners where The Great One has tried to feed a whole village, but the menu was actually bigger tonight. Thankfully we had some first-timers who were happy enough to take the leftovers home. But... I may need to reconsider the next time I get invited to dinner by the Hungry Hungarian...


Anonymous said...

Fun and insightful read, as usual! But what is PR8? Google couldn’t tell me 😄

Anonymous said...

Is it right to assume that the Hungry Hungarian is of Alexander the Guest fame?

If so, he completely dissed Forum and Ta Vie. He sounds a bit of a picky eater.

Markus Schmidt said...

By all reasonable accounts, the Hungry Hungarian would be Budapest-based food blogger and gastronomic globetrotter Andras Jokuti. iF indeed he has left out Ta Vie and Forum of his Hong Kong foRays, that would indeed be a little puzzling.

Peech said...

PR8 is a friend, kind of, who asked me to refer to him as a 'cunt'. No joke.

This country bumpkin had never heard of anyone named Alexander the Guest. Maybe just as well.

Not sure that the Hungry Hungarian has actually been to Ta Vie or Forum...


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