Monday, February 12, 2007

Reunion dinner

Traditionally, on the last day of the year, all the members of the family would gather together for a reunion dinner. Nowadays, it's not unusual to have the reunion dinner on a different day, due to modern days' hectic schedules. We had our family feast last night. My dad chose a seafood restaurant - and as usual, seafood is our main focus.

There are lots of seafood in the restaurant's fish tanks. The abalones from South Africa caught my dad's eyes - so he decided we should each have one. The abalones are fairly large - about 4 inches in length - HK$48 each - not bad. My nephew, Vincent, loves pink scallops - so naturally, my dad also ordered one per person. There was a rather large tiger grouper in the fish tank. It's one of my favourite fish. It weighed 4 catties - roughly 2kg - certainly big enough to make 2 dishes. Also, fish is a common dish for the reunion dinner, as the Chinese word for "fish" sounds like the word for "more than enough", or "extra". That's why it is considered lucky to have a fish dish.

First came the appetizer - pied de cochon a la chinoise! Then, we had a vegetarian stew, with sliced mushrooms, wood ear, and other vegetables. I thought the stew seemed a little too thick... too starchy. The abalones which followed definitely did not disappoint. They were prepared quite simply - nothing fancy - just steamed with some cilantro on top - oil and soy sauce to taste. As the Chinese would describe it - the meat "bounces off the teeth". I loved it! The pink scallops were equally delish. They were also steamed, but with green onions and garlic. Some people might add black beans, but I think that would overpower the sweetness of the scallops. The grouper was prepared 2 ways - the meat was stir fried with celeries, and the head was braised with salted pork. Personally, I prefer the stir fry - you can taste the freshness and the sweetness of the fish better than the braised version. My dad especially requested the fish fillets be stir fried with the fish skin. The fillets were soft and smooth, but the fish skin added a chewy texture, and they complemented each other perfectly. Aside from the seafood, my mom ordered Chinese mushrooms with tofu, Chicken with ginger, and some Chinese vegetables. We also had steamed buns. We couldn't finish the meal so we took some leftovers home. It is lucky to have leftovers, as it symbolizes that you have "extras" throughout the year.

Tiger grouper: HK$980 (+ $60 cooking fee)
7 abalones: HK$252
pink scallops: HK $168
Total: HK$2492 (for 8 people)

Thanks Dad! :)


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Adventure in Shenzhen...

We went to Shenzhen for foot massages - HK $66 for 2 hours (Cdn $10) - and afterwards, we decided to have dinner at a restaurant in Shenzhen before taking the train back to HK. Eating in Shenzhen is always an adventure... you never know what kind of things you will find...

Like most restaurant, there are some fish tanks inside the restaurant with lots of selections. My dad saw some soft shell turtles and decided they'd make a nice braised dish. I've seen soft shell turtles in restaurants before, so I wasn't surprised at all. However, when I saw a plastic container full of worms, I was a little taken aback. "Dad, is that for real?" "Sure," he replied. "They're not bad, wanna try?" I hesitated for a few seconds before nodding my head. I figure people eat ants and crickets... why not worm? Being Chinese myself, I have to represent well. I walked back to our table, still half dazed at what I had agreed to.

That night, we had 6 different dishes. Chicken, fish, parboiled worms, clay pot noodles, braised soft shell turtles, and a noodle roll-up (one stuffed with chopped veggies, the other peanut and coconut shreds). The only dish I had never tried before was the parboiled worms. I discovered that the worms do not have much of a taste... a little chewy - has a texture similar to squid. Not bad... but I don't think I will order that again.

Parboiled worms... (left)
(right) Braised soft shell turtle...

The quality of the meal is merely alright. Certainly there are much better restaurants in HK - even Shenzhen. However, kudos goes to the braised soft shell turtles. The meat was soft, but the shell chewy. It made a pleasant combination.

Our adventure in Shenzhen cost HK$428 for 5 people.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Chinese Hotpot in Hong Kong

(May is spending all of February in Hong Kong and reports her food discoveries)

Of course, we've had Chinese hotpot (or Chinese fondue) in Ottawa before, but the trick to any great food lies in having the freshest ingredients possible - whether they are prepared by the world renowned Jean-Georges, or by my humble self over a steaming pot of broth!

Chinese hot pot - or as we call it: "Da Been Lo" - which means literally "Hitting the side of the pot" - is best enjoyed with family and friends. My dad decided to treat me to such an affair after I muttered a passing comment about how "Da Been Lo" in Ottawa just doesn't compare to the HK version.

We went to a restaurant my parents used to frequent many years ago in Prince Edward (HK). We ordered a divided hotpot with 2 types of broths: Satay, and cilantro. We ordered some common hotpot accompaniment - beef balls, squid balls (stuffed with cheese), fatty beef, veggies...

Amongst the more exotic - the top part of duck intestines - definitely not for the fainthearted. Then my dad went to the fish tanks and picked out some seafood - big shrimps, fish, fish head (yes - fish head).

La piece de resistance is a king clam (also known as geoduck, or elephant trunk clam) - it weighed 3.5 catty (about 2 kg) - it was sliced paper thin, then presented on a bed of ice - ready for sashimi! Delicious - because it's so fresh. Also noteworthy are the chives dumplings - freshly made and very well seasoned. After 3 hours of eating, drinking, and merry making, we asked for some udon noodles to soak up the flavourful broths. What a satisfying evening!

The bill came to HK $2300 - 4 adults and 2 kids

Thanks Dad!