A month of eats in Hong Kong, with illustrations

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A month of eats in Hong Kong, with illustrations

Postby WWLL » Wed Dec 27, 2006 5:25 pm

* Two Chinese Banquets

1. Photographs of this banquet are at

http://www.pbase.com/wwll/banquet

Teresa and I went to a banquet at the Conrad Hong Kong Hotel, one of the swankest. The occasion is the wedding of Antonia, the daughter of one of Teresa's friends.

We skipped the wedding itself, which was at the Catholic cathedral. Guests were invited to arrive as early as five o'clock, to play mah jong. The games usually last until after nine, when the eating begins. But in this case at 7:15 guests were invited to line up and take photographs with the newlyweds and to eat the wedding cake. At around 8:30 every one got seated and there was a lengthy slide show. The bride and groom were shown as babies and with their families and friends. Even Teresa appeared in the slide show. The bride and groom thanked their parents and presented flowers to them. The dinner began at around 9:20 pm. There were over 30 tables of 12 guests each.

The tables were dominated by a centerpiece, a bowl with eight red roses and two floating candles.

The first course was roast suckling pig. Here only the crispy skin of the pig was served. At this banquet the servers doled out the food into individual portions. Service was formal, brisk and professional. Teresa and I were the only oddballs that wanted white wine. Wine flowed the entire evening.

Next came Baked Fresh Sea Whelks with Abalone. The filling had abalone, crabmeat, and other delicacies. A spoon was provided. Teresa said this dish is rarely done for a banquet of this size. First one has to get the shells. Then in most Chinese restaurants there is no oven like in western restaurants. The filling was delicious and this dish was probably the highlight of the meal.

Sautéed King Prawns with Hawthorn Sauce with 3 pieces of scallops perfectly stir-fried with one shrimp that was deep-fried and dyed red. Pieces of American broccoli provided a color contrast.

Braised Whole Conpoy with Garlic was next. Conpoy or dried scallop is made from the adductor muscle of scallops.

The centerpiece of any banquet is the Shark's Fin Soup and this one came with lots of shark's fin and crab meat.

The next dish was braised fresh sliced abalone with in-season greens.

Nowadays in Hong Kong they serve the fish before the chicken. In the USA, the fish is served last with the rhyme of fish with plenty. The Steamed Fresh Spotted Garoupa was slightly overcooked and the sauce was too salty.

Chicken is the main meat in a banquet and this Crispy Chicken came with a slight hint of Preserved Bean Curd Sauce. That’s the end of the eight main dishes.

With the fried rice came a rather unique dish, twin pan-fried shrimp dumplings in chicken essence.

From what I saw, most people were full by the time dessert rolled around: Sweetened Walnut Cream with Rice Dumplings and Chinese Petit Fours.

The names of the dishes I listed above were given on the menu. I wish you can see the poetic names in Chinese.

The bride changed into three different gowns in the course of the meal and came around each table to offer toasts. Only one table had the North American practice of hitting the glasses to make the newly weds kiss. By the way, the bride and groom met while students in the USA.

There is an interesting story about the bride's family. The mother was one of four daughters and one brother. The brother, obviously the youngest, is now a prominent physician and was the beau of Julia, Teresa's sister who died in a car collision. Their mother, a widow, raised the five kids writing letters on street corners. Fifty years ago there were illiterate and poor people who needed this type of service.

We got a ride home in a Mercedes.

2. Photographs from this banquet are at

http://www.pbase.com/wwll/tck61

The other banquet was Teresa's birthday party. This was only a mini-celebration with most of the guests her former underlings. The guests had been promised an opportunity to meet this stranger from the USA. The venue was a restaurant in Teresa's home complex. As usual, Teresa was late, even for her own party and I had to stand in as host. The guests greeted me as if they had known me for years.

After an extended period of admiring and scaring Teresa's grandson, the dinner began. I had provided a bottle of white wine but two bottles of reds were consumed during a meal of mostly seafood.

The first course was roasted suckling pig. Instead of serving only the crispy skin, Teresa insisted on serving the skin and meat together. This resulted in a more substantial course. The crispy skin is still there, but there is a thin layer of meat too. A suckling pig is only about 10 pounds when alive.

The next course is Australian lobster on a bed of E Fu noodles. An Atlantic lobster would have more meat but they are rare in Hong Kong.

Then came a stir-fry of scallops, mushrooms and octopus rounds.

The Shark's fin soup was quite excellent.

The dish of abalone and goose web with greens was very well received although I did not eat the goose feet.

Then came a dish Teresa made for me in South Pasadena. Sections of melons were hollowed out, a piece of conpoy or dried scallops put in and steamed. If you know the price of dried scallops, you would appreciate this dish.

The steamed fish was perfectly done, with a sauce that I thought was wonderful.

The final dish was roasted chicken. Even I was full by then.

Then came FooZhou fried rice and noodles. At a birthday party everyone has to have some noodles which stand for longevity. Dessert was red bean soup and longevity buns. The birthday cake had been consumed before the meal started.

It was at the restaurant at Royal Ascot mall, behind the race track in ShaTin.

* Two western meals

Hong Kong used to be British so western food is not hard to come by, but a good deal is much harder. I had two nice experiences

When I invited some friends to join me at lunch at the YMCA, they feared the worst. All our expectations were blown away. This YMCA, which is adjacent to the Peninsular Hotel, is squarely in tourist territory.

There was unlimited prime rib from Australia. The beef was as good as any I have ever had. You get a choice of au jus or black pepper sauce. There was sashimi, Mediterranean salad of olives and feta cheese, along with the regular salad selections. There was a Korean noodle station where your request is made up to order. Teresa got some big shrimp and fat beef in hers. Other entrees include curry, Japanese pork chops, lamb chops, roast chicken.

Teresa worked at the YMCA for several years and she was greeted warmly.

One of the hits was strange flavors of ice cream: red bean anyone?

At HK$98 (US$12) per person it was a very good deal. We went twice.

Marco is a restaurant in the Hotel San Diego just north of Austin Road. (There are two hotels by the same name within a short distance.) We had this set meal

Lobster bisque
Crostini with salmon mouse and caviar
Filet Magnon and Foie Gras with spaghetti Alfredo
Dessert
Coffee

The foie gras was absolutely wonderful.

The meal was HK$128 (US$17) but it is not on any menu. You have to ask for it. I thought it was a very good deal.

A huge glass of wine was HK$45 but corkage is HK$100.
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Re: A month of eats in Hong Kong, with illustrations

Postby Robin Garr » Wed Dec 27, 2006 7:18 pm

Thanks for the mouth-watering report and the links to the pictures, WWLL. I would love to visit (and eat in) Hong Kong some day!

As for red bean ice cream, this is quite common in Vietnamese cuisine, and I've had it often - along with other red bean desserts - at Vietnamese eateries in the US. I don't know if they borrowed it from the Chinese or vice versa. It's pretty good, once you get used to the idea.
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