Friday, October 1, 2021

Clubhouse Dinner Ep 2 - Private Chiuchow Kitchen

"The Hong Kong Chinese Importers and Exporters Association" was not exactly the type of sign you expect outside a restaurant, but that's where we were eating the other night at the clubhouse of this old trade union (still in operation, by the way). There were actually a few similar places around the area, with the clubhouse restaurants serving decent food to members and guests alike, and for this, their specialty is Chiuchow cuisine. 

Our friend P is a friend of their chef so we ended up having a feast of their signature dishes. We started with a few appetizers served at almost the same time. The pickled white radish was beautifully presented like flower petals, and the tint of green came from the wasabi paste which also gave it a slight kick. The small whiting fish reminded me of the kisu tempura, except it's done in traditional Chiuchow style with a thin batter and the smoky salt and pepper seasoning. It's a twist to the more conventional version using the softer Bombay Duck fish. The crispy fish skin and shelter-style fish balls were both excellent and made great bar snacks, or in our case, went well with a few bottles of wines we brought along. The candied tomatoes were delightful with the refreshingly sweet taste with the fragrant candied yuzu zest.  

"Bok Hok" 薄殼, or baby mussels, were one of the commonly-used ingredients in Chiuchow cuisine and came into the prime season at around summer time. It's done in the classic way sauteed with basil and a touch of chilies. I personally prefer the more meaty flavor of bigger mussels but I could see the charm of these tiny ones with the delicate flavor. The traditional pickled cabbage and pork tripe soup was enjoyable with a balanced pepper and herbal flavor. The Chiuchow marinate platter came in generous portion with quite a few items piled on the plate - other than the thin slices of goose, my other favorites included the pork belly with the fatty bit beneath the skin. 

A pair of cold threadfin fish was served on each table, poached and served with the Puning soy paste on the side. A bottle of chablis would have been perfect for this combining the mild umami flavor from the fish with a hint of mineral, earthy taste from the fermented soy beans. The steamed chicken was amazing, with nice, tender texture, the meat juicy and infused with the same soy paste. Then there were two "pancake" dishes - one done with baby oysters and egg, and the other with loofah and wheat starch. The loofah one was interesting with the more chewy texture.

To finish, a few more savory dishes including deep-fried shrimp meatballs served with the salivating sweet and sour sauce, fishballs in soup and the pan-fried Chiuchow noodles to be eaten with sugar and dark vinegar sprinkled on top. And three desserts - including the candied taro root, a classic dish which required constant turning of taro root slabs (think Pommes Pont-Neuf sized pieces) in a bed of hot sugar to cook it through and to be coated with a thin layer of sweet. We finished our first plate in no time and asked the kitchen to bring us more. Normally I am not a fan of these (think it's too starchy) but this time I had a couple pieces myself too. 

With 20 or so people sharing the tables and food we went for a all-magnum bottle line-up. Love the delicate Burg which went perfectly well with the goose, and the sake too, a junmai ginjo with a smooth body and hint of fruitiness. 

When? September 11 2021
Where? Chiu Ka Banquet at The Hong Kong Chinese Importers and Exporters Association, 8/F Champion Building, 287-289 Des Voeux Road Central, Sheung Wan
Menu Highlights? Chiuchow Style Pancakes with Loofah 潮州水瓜烙
2012 Domaine de la Vougeraie Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru (en Magnum)
2003 Luciano Sandrone "Le Vigne" Barolo
2008 R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Rioja
Shinrai Junmai Ginjo Senbon Nishiki Black Label - Miwa Shuzo, Hiroshima Prefecture
神雷黒ラベル千本錦純米吟醸 - 広島県三輪酒造

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