Hooked on classics

Hong Kong has an impressive variety of global cuisines, but of course nothing beats its own Cantonese cuisine.

At the revamped Man Wah at the Mandarin Oriental in Central, a new menu allows diners to enjoy culinary gems surrounded by Chinese embroidered brass-inlaid art panels and a breathtaking view of Victoria Harbour.

Guided by executive Chinese chef Wong Wing-keung, the menu continues to pay homage to Cantonese cuisine traditions with a bit of the chef’s innovation.

Kick off with the chef’s favorite deep-fried matsutake mushroom pudding (HK$360), which is fried until the egg yolk and cornflour coat is golden. Bursting to reveal smooth custard with an earthy, pine-like fragrance in each bite, the signature dish is Wong’s vegetarian rendition of a recipe by Qing Dynasty epicurean Jiang Taishi.

Wong said: “I am honored to be one of the few to have learned the original recipe from Jiang’s granddaughter, Theresa Yiu, who always encouraged me to add my own personality and create my own version.”

Another must-try is the chilled marinated abalone (HK$148), braised in a Shanghainese sauce and paired with cucumber and winter melon.

Prawns are another staple of Cantonese cuisine and Wong’s take is a deep-fried and braised prawn (HK$188), cooked with a salted-fish sauce and balanced out with Korean rice cake and eggplant.

“In Cantonese cuisine, prawns are often served with noodles to soak up the juices,” said Wong. “I chose Korean rice cakes over noodles to cook in the stock because I like its consistent chewy texture.”

Another signature dish is the braised pork belly with taro (HK$168). Its appetizing aroma is achieved by a complicated cooking process involving the use of various sauces.

Just down the road from Man Wah, the much-loved Ying Jee Club is launching its first Michelin Degustation Menu of six (HK$1,380) or eight courses (HK$1,780) to celebrate its third year with two Michelin stars.

The menu showcases chef Siu Hin-chi’s 37 years of culinary expertise.

After an appetizer selection of four guest-favorite small dishes, the sauteed lobster – which uses local live lobsters and seasonal ingredients such as water chestnuts, crispy conpoy and some greens – is a light and refreshing dish to match the season.

Braised sea cucumber is another highlight dish that is challenging to prepare. After being stuffed with minced pork, shrimp paste, mushroom and conpoy, the sea cucumber is pan-seared to give it extra texture and flavor, before being steamed and braised in an umami-filled homemade abalone sauce.

The wok-fired Kagoshima A4 wagyu beef with leeks and wasabi is given a modern touch. The meat is prepared Cantonese style with sugar and oyster and soy sauces and sugar but pan-fried to medium-rare before being stir-fried for a soft texture.

You can’t talk about Cantonese cuisine without mentioning dim sum. At Moon Palace in Kowloon Tong, guests can enjoy delicacies offered by a formidable chef duo, Lee Chi-kwong and Chan Sai-fai, who focus on authentic Cantonese cuisine and dim sum.

One of Chan’s creations, stuffed crab claws with minced shrimp (HK$58), is a flavorful combination of an entire claw, prawns, bamboo shoots and crab roe.

A Cafe de Coral-style thick-cut pork chop rice is not what we usually expect in a Cantonese restaurant, but Lee takes the dish up a notch. Coated in a sauce made with fresh tomatoes, sweet and sour sauce culminate and onion, the baked tomato pork chop rice (HK$198) is saturated with onion aroma and goes exceptionally well with cheese on top.

Soup is another Cantonese staple. Moon Palace’s double-boiled chicken soup with black garlic and polygonatum root (HK$488) is prepared with top-grade ingredients from Yunnan and Taiwan. Bearded chicken, homemade meat stock and fresh chicken feet ensure the soup is packed with nourishment to boost the immune system.

The deep-fried baby pigeon wrapped in taro (HK$168) is one of the most satisfying dishes. Taro serves the dual purpose of sealing in the pigeon juices as well as giving the dish an added crunch.

(This article was published at The Standard on March 19, 2021: Weekend Glitz: Hooked on classics )

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