Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Heritage Breed Masterclass

"Eat less of the wrong meat" advocated Bennet Lee, founder of the Hong Kong-based Heritage Meat, when someone in our group asked a question about the global trend of putting less reliance on meat as our daily diet. We were at his shop in Repulse Bay as part of the masterclass/dinner organized by Slow Food Hong Kong. 

One might treat Bennet's comments with a grain of salt given he owns a successful business built on meat purveying, but he did have a point that we should focus more on how animals were raised rather than the meaningless debate of one's dietary preference in order to solve the global food crisis, and the evening was meant to provide more food for thoughts on this very subject. 

We began our evening not in the beautiful sight of Hong Kong's Repulse Bay but in equally breathtaking Lake District of England, and through the documentary Bennet shared, introduced us to the concept of regenerative farming, the sustainable practice said to benefit both the land and the animals. It's important because learning more about how the animals were farmed gave us more information about the meat they yielded more so than asking where they came from. 

Apart from that, "Eat Whole" and "Eat Rare" were another practices Bennet felt strongly about, utilizing every part of an animal in our daily diet and celebrate "heritage breeds", primitive livestock breeds the existed pre-industrial era, as the way to sustain bio-diversity and land health. And the menu we had that evening reflected exactly that with a few rare breeds and head-to-tail being showcased in the dishes prepared in the small kitchen behind the shop. 

Next to the retail floor and its row of refrigerated with all the products they sold was the butcher room turned private dining area where we were introduced to a few dishes prepared with some of the heritage breeds Bennet carried.  We started with the charcuterie platter served on a wooden board, with a few different cured meat ranging from Mangalica smoked ham to Grey Longhorn Cattle Kolbasz, both rare and protected breeds from Hungary, along with aged cheddar from Guernsey. Took me a few bites to really appreciate the strong and gamey flavor but they were much enjoyable. 

Our next course was Mangalica Nigiri, a twist to the traditional Japanese sushi using thin slices of pancetta made from the Hungarian Mangalica pork. The oily taste was well-balanced with the hint of acidity and sweetness from the rice underneath. The beef tartare was the star, prepared in the unconventional way of using the heart from Hereford cattle raised in an Australian farm, coarsely chopped, mildly seasoned and served as is (without the egg yolk), and on the side was the toast and a few pickles. The taste was much richer and I like the bouncy texture. 

The kitchen team took the "head to tail" philosophy to the heart with our next course making use of a pig's head and turned that into three different dishes (which Bennet called this the "Pig's Head Experience". Middle White Pig was used, coming from a farm in England's Herefordshire, with the ear turned into a salad with pickled vegetables, top meat turned into croquette and the cheek was roasted and sliced and served "Peking Duck" style, served with steamed gua-bao, housemade hoisin sauce, cucumbers and scallions. Among the three different preparations the Croquette was my favorite, with the pungent, gamey flavor. 

We finished with steak served in sharing portions, with two different cuts coming from two different breeds. I prefer the Grey Longhorn ribeye from Hungary over the sirloin from British's Shetland cattle this time for the fattier texture, but both were excellent. The sides were outstanding too, especially the triple-cooked heirloom, ash-colored potatoes finished with a generous tossing of lard. 

Everyone around the table contributed some wines so we had an interesting flight of reds from different regions - two from Spain and one from Italy. The Super Tuscan was perhaps one of the more complex, with the new release of 2018 Serre Nuove (second label of Ornellaia) showing some promises even at its youth, open up nicely with floral aroma, and ripe red fruits and some dried herbs.

It was quite a challenge trekking all the way down south after work - we were stuck in traffic and arrived late - but it's well worth the journey for the unique experience of learning and tasting, and be surrounded by passionate foodies for a satisfying and enlightening evening.

When? October 29 2021
Where? Heritage Meats, Shop 102/103 The Repulse Bay, 109 Repulse Bay Road, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Middle White Pig's Head Experience
2014 Bodega Tandem Macula Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, Navarra, Spain
2017 Cellers de Scala Dei Prior Priorat DOQ, Catalonia, Spain
2018 Le Serre Nuove Dell'Ornellaia, Bolgheri, Italy
Slow Food Hong Kong: slowfood.com.hk
Heritage Meats: heritagemeats.com.hk

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