Friday, June 8, 2018

Plant-based Tasting Menu

I was at Man Ho at JW Marriott in Pacific Place last week when their chef Jayson Tang was tasked with creating a tasting menu using Omnipork, the new plant-based “meat” developed and marketed by the Hong Kong-based Green Monday team. Most other plant-based products launched recently (Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods etc) have been focusing their marketing effort in western cuisine – burger in particular – but it’s good to know there are ones like Omnipork targeting Asian palate and cooking. That's actually a sensible business move given the large Chinese market (twice as big as United States for food consumption), and pork has traditionally been the preferred meat choice in most Chinese cuisine and still formed the majority of all meat consumed in China by a comfortable distance (in fact, 3 times more than poultry which is the second most, as I found out from research reports)

But for me, I care more about how it tastes than anything else, and I trust Chef Jayson would do a fine job transforming the product (promised to have the similar texture, color and to a lesser extent, taste as the real thing) into a few nice dishes, and he did, while using a few different preparation methods to showcase Omnipork’s versatility (or in Green Monday founder David’s words, “bringing characters into something (Omnipork) character-less”)

We began with a pair of dimsum items, made and presented just like the traditional version. Inside the xiaolongbao (the Shanghainese soup dumpling) was the steamed Omnipork with the broth made of matsutake mushrooms; while the deep-fried dumpling (a.k.a. ham sui gok 咸水角 in Cantonese) came with the filling of diced yam and Omnipork inside the chewy deep-fried dough shell made with sticky rice flour. While both were delicious just as the original version with the juicy and soft “meat” inside, I thought they were a tad bit too strong in seasonings – the mushroom flavor in the xiaolongbao broth and the five spice powder in the ham sui gok filling - as if they were used to distract.

I enjoyed our next course of shiitake mushrooms stuffed with Omnipork. Diced lotus roots were mixed into the “meat”, stuffed into the shiitake mushrooms, coated with corn-flour and panko batter than deep-fried. It’s finished with drizzle of balsamic vinegar reduction underneath. I love the contrast of different textures in the dish (crunchy batter, soft filling and bouncy mushroom), and punchy but balanced flavor as well. Plus it’s beautifully presented.

Soup has always been Chef Jayson’s specialty and this vegetarian one we had at the lunch didn’t disappoint. Served inside a young coconut shell, inside was a soup made of honey locust fruits (also known as snow lotus seeds 雪蓮子), coconut water and bamboo pith. It was comforting with the refreshing flavor from the coconut and the soft and chewy honey locust fruits which were said to be good for the skin (with its high collagen content).

Three more savory dishes were brought in, with Omnipork served in dishes that were baked, braised and steamed. Of those my favorite was the baked one with yam and egg yolk. It’s an re-interpreation of the homestyle dish of Lo Siu Ping On 老少平安, using a mixture of Omnipork, yam and scrambled egg rather than tofu and mashed fish meat, then baked rather than steamed, and served in a pumpkin puree. On top was grated salted egg yolk and stalks of shiso flower, added to the colorful presentation and extra kick of flavor too.

No “pork” (thank God!), but both the desserts were amazing. Love the warm pastry of the baked red date “cake” with macadamia nut, and the soothing, mildly sweet lotus seed cream with the black, bouncy pearl algae. Not the easiest job using one single ingredient to be the main theme of the menu, let alone one that’s new and unfamiliar, but kudos to chef for a delightful meal with six delicious meatless courses plus the dessert for this afternoon.

(Meal was by invitation and courtesy of JW Marriott and Green Common)

When? May 28 2018
Where? Man Ho, Level 3, JW Marriott, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Deep-fried Omnipork cake stuffed with mushroom and lotus roots
Man Ho:
Green Monday:

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