Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Feast of Mushrooms

With pictures of mushroom dishes flooding my social media feed, I don’t need further reminder that late summer/early fall marked the prime season for Chinese mushrooms. And I had the first taste of them this year at a recent dinner at Ming Court of The Cordis, with a series of vegetarian dishes by chef Yuet-faat Li using many kinds of seasonal fungus imported from Yunnan Province, as well as plant-based “meat” Omnipork introduced by the Green Monday team in Hong Kong.

I had a chance to taste Omnipork a couple months ago at another occasion, and it’s good to see how different chefs made use of this innovative meat substitute into their cooking. This time, I was most impressed with the Xiaolongbao, or Shanghainese dumplings. Compared to the traditional version, the one made with Omnipork was a tad bit firmer in texture, but that’s about the only difference one could tell. Chef Li mixed in with some agar into a mild mushroom and sea-weed broth which was added to the filling, which brought in the flavor similar to what meat jus traditionally does to this dish and to give it a softer bite to compensate for the lack of fatty meat for the texture (agar became jelly-like when mixed with liquid and retained its form regardless of temperature)

“Symphony of Mushrooms”, our first course, was an original creation by Chef Li and it was beautifully presented and mouth-watering. A handful of different types of Yunnan mushrooms such as silver fungus (白木耳), swollen-stalked catathelasma (老人頭菌), and morel mushrooms (羊肚菌) were featured as a chilled appetizer platter, accompanied by other vegetables and a rich dressing with Sichuan pepper kick. Of course, mushrooms were commonly used in Cantonese cuisine as ingredients for soup, and this time, termite mushrooms and bamboo pith were used along with Chinese cabbage, which combined for this soothing, comforting flavor in this double-boiled clear soup.

There were a couple more Omnipork dishes made their way over, and both were based on classic family-style meat dish given a vegetarian twist. The sweet and sour Omnipork arrived in the familiar vinegar aroma in the red sweet and sour gravy, with cubes of Omnipork coated in batter and deep-fried, along with chunks of pineapple giving the dish a balancing sweet taste. Then it was the pan-fried Omnipork patty mixed with bits of lotus roots giving it a slightly crunchy texture, plus a thin slice of deep-fried lotus room on the side – I think it’s as good as ones made with pork and with a tad bit less oil needed.

Towards the end of the meal there were more mushroom dishes being introduced, including the braised baby spinach with elm fungus (榆耳) and yellow fungus (黃耳), all said to have soothing medicinal effect, plus the steamed rice wrapped in lotus leaf along with morel, enoki, reishi mushroom and bits of Omnipork, gingko and carrot and the double-boiled papaya and snow fungus sweet soup as our final course. They were all well-prepared and satisfying.

Been on a run of a few heavy meals lately so I felt cutting down on meat for once with such amazing vegetarian dishes was exactly what I needed.

(Dinner by Invitation - more pictures in my Flickr album:

When? August 20 2018
Where? Ming Court, Level 6, The Cordis Hong Kong, 555 Shanghai Street, Mongkok, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Steamed Shanghainese Omnipork Dumplings
2016 Opawa Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
2013 Moss Wood Pinot Noir, Margaret River, Australia

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