Monday, November 27, 2017

Family Style Shunde Dinner

When our friend H and A asked whether we were free to join the dinner at Shun Tak Fraternal Association, we didn’t hesitate to say yes. It’s one of those private, members-only places in town that has quite a reputation in delivering authentic regional Chinese cuisine, with this one specializing in Shunde Cantonese cuisine.

While the place was technically not a restaurant but a social club originally established for people of Shun Tak/Shunde origin, it’s set up exactly like those upstairs speakeasy-style restaurants with private room facilities inside one of the non-descript commercial buildings in Central. Menu has been sorted out before-hand so dinner started once everyone arrived.

We began with the Shunde-style Mandarin Fish Soup, one of the signature dishes of the place. Many ingredients went into the bowl of soup cooked to potage consistency, with shredded carp fish meat, julienned ginger, carrots and loofah, tofu and tofu skin and more. It was umami-rich and hearty – I could totally live with just that and a bowl of rice on any cold winter days. The braised pomelo skins with goose feet was another traditional Cantonese dish and one of those that is simple and yet hard to perfect. Here the pomelo skins were not the thickest type but taken in all the flavor from the gravy-like sauce mixed with shrimp roes, with perfect texture – just soft but not mushy. The goose feet has good size and cooked well too with lots of collagen for that soft texture.

The crystal king prawn was amazing and definitely the best course of the meal. We had this dish a few times in other places and I always pointed to the ones we had at the Pottinger private kitchen as the benchmark, and I think the version here was as close as that perfect one. It’s a complicated dish involving many steps, starting with sourcing the giant king prawns, then it’s de-shelled, de-veined, butterflied, then poached in oil and coated with a light, clear gravy. It has just the right, slightly bouncy texture and clean flavor with minimal seasoning and in beautiful presentation too. Underneath was steamed egg white custard which was soft and silky.

Sweet and sour pork was another example of simple dish cooked to perfection here. Chunks of pork loins were dipped in batter, deep-fried and coated with a thin layer of caramelized sweet and sour gravy. Mixed in underneath was slices of pineapples and bell peppers. That’s a common dish found in almost every single Cantonese restaurant but this one stood out with the well-balanced sweet and sour flavor. I reckon not a lot of places in town could do that as good as this.

The roast baby pigeon was a tad bit too lean for me, but they were cooked well with the crispy skin and tasty meat well brined and marinated before roasting – I hardly need any additional seasonings before finishing the whole half with my hands. Then a plate of sautéed vegetables with ginger, a bowl of sticky rice with dried Chinese sausage and shrimps, plus the dessert of sweet almond soup completed our meal.

Another example of simple, family-style food done well.

When? November 3 2017
Where? Shun Tak Fraternal Association, 2/F, United Building, 17-19 Jubilee Street, Central
Menu Highlights? Crystal King Prawn with Steamed Egg White Custard
2012 Louis Latour Meursault
2009 Chateau Lascombes "Chevalier de Lascombes"

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