All the tea in China

Mention afternoon tea and what comes to mind is often the three-tiered affair. But mid-afternoon snacks are not monopolized by the West and Chinese afternoon tea is also a much-loved tradition.

Compared to Shanghai cuisine, which emphasizes a heavy use of oil and red sauce enhanced by braising and stewing, Huaiyang, the cuisine of Chinese state banquets that highlights the original taste of the ingredients, is more for the Cantonese palate.

At 10 Shanghai, a classic Huaiyang afternoon tea set (HK$388) gathers some regional favorites into one, presented in two large bamboo steamers to satisfy both your taste buds and your eyes.

One of the steamers contains six chilled appetizers: marinated rosy jellyfish head, Jiangsu-style pork trotter aspic, Shanghai-style sweet and sour baby back ribs, sliced crunchy cucumber, roasted bran dough with peanuts and black fungus, and smoked soft-boiled egg with black truffle pearls – all typical Huaiyang appetizers requiring exquisite skills.

Executive chef Chen Xiaohe, who has worked in renowned restaurants and government organizations for more than 20 years, highlights the smoked soft-boiled egg with black truffle pearls.

“Gaoyou duck egg, which has a silkier white and denser yolk, is used. The egg has to be rolled in boiling water to achieve a soft-boiled effect in the center – a true test of patience,” said Chen.

The delicious appetizers are beautifully arranged around a serving of crispy smoked baby squab, one of 10 Shanghai’s most popular dishes that releases a tempting aroma of applewood and meat when served.

“I use the raw-fried method, which quickly fries the skin to wrap around the flesh so that the juice will not be lost,” said Chen. “The meat is juicy with its muscle tissue undamaged, while the skin is crispy.”

In the other steamer is a dim sum quartet, featuring two pieces each of steamed xiao long bao, scallop and shrimp dumplings, abalone and ham pastry, and steamed charcoal buns with melted custard.

The afternoon tea set also includes a bowl of stewed Shanghainese noodles with chicken or Shanghainese noodles with pickled cabbage, sliced bamboo shoots and shredded pork for every diner.

To go with the food are nourishing drinks such as mango pomelo sago – a new offering – yuzu honey with chrysanthemum and peach, jujube, longan and wolfberry tea and wheat berry and barley lemon.

At Holt’s Cafe in Rosewood, the new A Taste of Hong Kong afternoon tea menu offers an elevated take on the city’s beloved cha chaan tengs, or tea restaurants.

Available from Monday to Saturday from 2.30 to 5.30pm, it is perfect for a light mid-day bite.

New delicacies include instant noodles (HK$120) with top-quality Iberico luncheon meat and crispy fried Japanese egg with sesame oil, black truffle egg sandwich (HK$90), and finally, Hong Kong-style French toast (HK$90), served with a slice of butter and drizzles of maple syrup.

Wash it down with some Hong Kong-style milk tea (HK$80), made with a traditional mix of strong black tea and condensed milk, or a glass of yuan yang (HK$80), served at the golden ratio of milk tea to coffee.

Missing Taiwan’s night markets? KiKi Noodle Bar has launched a Light and Delight afternoon tea set (HK$48) of Taiwan night market favorites at its two flagship branches at IFC mall in Central and K11 Musea in Tsim Sha Tsui.

The great value set offers a choice from six street-stall specialties: fish cake tempura, braised pork chop, popcorn chicken with black truffle aioli, sausage and deep-fried chicken wings and two favorites also ideal as a late lunch – mini KiKi dan dan noodles and mini rice with crispy chicken fillet.

A choice of the popular winter melon or peach oolong Taiwanese tea is also served with the set, and a dessert of grass jelly with brown sugar pearls can be included for just an extra HK$10.

(This article was published at The Standard on May 21, 2021: Weekend Glitz: All the tea in China )

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