Thursday, July 20, 2017

Spicy Feast

Among this particular group of friends I am probably not the one with the highest tolerance to spicy food, but that doesn't mean I can't join them for a spicy feast, like the one we had recently at Dong Lai Shun of Royal Garden Hotel in TST East. The restaurant specializes in Northern Chinese cuisine which I love, and I figured  even if the dish became too spicy to handle, there’s always a glass of beer (or wine) that could tame the heat.

The set of "appetizers" – all eight of them presented at the same time – did look like a meal on its own. On one end there were the milder dishes such as baby radishes candied in pickled plum juice or the chicken wings marinated in Shaoxing wine, then on the other side of the spectrum there’s a fearsome-looking skewers of Babylon Shells dipped in a bowl of red-hot chili oil. And I also liked the braised chicken feet in the tongue-tingling “mala” sauce with the jelly noodles underneath taking in all the complex spicy flavor.

Soon we realized it was only the beginning of the feast as more and more dishes came our way, each stepping up in terms of spiciness. First dish was the baby hairy crabs with deep-fried soybean crumbles. While the prime hairy crab season won’t start until a few months later, baby hairy crabs – which are in season now – have delicate meat, creamy soft roes and a milder taste, albeit smaller in size than the mature ones. It was followed by steamed freshwater eels served in chunks with chopped chilies on top.

We thought the description of “baby abalones” in our next dish was deceiving when it arrived at our table next, served on top of mala tofu sauce in a giant platter. The abalones were almost as big as our fists with excellent taste and bouncy texture, and the tofu has all the balanced spicy flavor going well with the abalone. That was my favorite dish of the evening.

Two equally sumptuous dishes were then served in generous portion. The Szechuan-style lamp ribs were served with the bones attached and plenty of spices on top, then it’s the pile of spicy deep-fried prawns with tofu and cashews. Both were rich in flavor and salivating, with just the right spiciness, at least to the level I am okay with. We finished with sautéed vegetables in broth and the tea-smoked chicken casserole in rice, both not spicy at all just to cool us down.

The bowl of sweet soup as our last course was pleasing too – with candied winter-melon and osmanthus jelly served in cold syrup. The combination of sweet, fragrant and cold ingredients did make this the perfect summer dessert, especially after all the spice-loaded dishes.

And before the night ended, we were already talking about where to go for the next spicy feast…

(Dinner was by invitation of the hotel and restaurant)

When? July 5 2017
Where? Dong Lai Shun, Level B2, The Royal Garden Hong Kong, 69 Mody Road, Tsimshatsui East, Kowloon
Menu Highlights? Baby Abalones with Mala Sauce
2016 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
2012 Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto Toscana IGT

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