Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Pop-up Weekend Part 1: Sook x Fly by Jing

I began the "weekend of speakeasy" with a short hop to my friend Mina's kitchen studio in Chaiwan for a one-night only "Sichuan Seoul Food" dinner, a collaboration between her and Jenny from Shanghai.

I had the chance to enjoy Mina's fabulous cooking a few times at one of her pop-up dinner events in the past year - even got my hands-on experience at her kitchen studio Sook when she hosted a kimchi making class a few months ago. And I have been following the writer-turned-chef Jenny's culinary business ventures in social media, from the starting of her online site Jing Theory to the founding of Baoism restaurant in China, and now with her second dining concept of Fly by Jing, inspired by the cooking of her hometown Chengdu in Sichuan Province.

The kitchen was in full action when we arrived after work with Mina and Jenny on double duty, getting things ready in the kitchen and welcoming other arriving guests, and on the side at the makeshift bar counter, bartender Raphael was busy mixing our first drink while we were waiting for others to arrive and dinner to start. With 14 dishes served in one night to feed more than 30 hungry and eager souls it was past midnight when we departed after dessert, but at the end I think it was worth the wait.

The team put together an interesting menu, tracing back to the traditional Korean and Sichuan cooking using unique spices and techniques, then mixed and matched for an array of dishes unique in their own sense and well executed.

Most of the dishes were served family-style around the table. Soondubu, the classic Korean spicy seafood and tofu stew, was given a makeover with the addition of Sichuan "mala" spices, giving it a numbing sensation on the palate to this soupy stew steeped with lobster shells and scores of other seafood being put in. Similarly, sliced raw abalones served on the shell was served with Sichuan huajiao sauce with lettuce and kkaennip as part of this new interpretation of the Korean Jeonbok Saam.

Black egg custard was my favorite dish of the evening. Served in a small glass cup, the slightly darkened egg custard (with the addition of century egg?) was cooked like a Japanese chawanmushi with an umami-rich dashi taste, bits of scallops inside and topped with salmon roes. It's silky and tasty. I liked the concept of Mapo Lobster - making use of the lobster meat after the shells went into the Soondubu earlier. The lobster was sautéed with Mapo Tofu – the traditional Sichuanese dish made with the thick soy chili paste – and in this version, was served with crispy wo-ba, cooked rice press thin in a pan and fried until crisp. I personally could live with crispier rice – perhaps done in an oven instead – but the rice took on the rich Mapo Lobster well.

We finished the meal with more starchy courses before our dessert. “Sweet Water Noodles” (Tian Shui Mian) is the traditional Chengdu dish made with thick and square rice noodles with sesame-chili sauce (and it's not sweet despite the name, by the way). Then there were dumpling two-ways – Jenny’s version was based on the Sichuan “Zhong Dumpling” (鐘水餃), a pot-sticker dumplings with scallions and a sweet soy glaze, while Mina’s version was a bowl of steamed dumplings made with beef and black garlic yogurt. Both were good in their own different ways.

Overall it was a great and hugely successful event with good food and good crowd – kudos to our hosts and I look forward to trying more of their food in the future.

When? December 9 2016
Where? Sook, Chaiwan, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Black Egg Custard with Salmon Roes and Scallops
Sook: www.sook.hk
Fly by Jing: www.flybyjing.com

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