Thursday, August 28, 2014

Eating in... Hong Kong

When I discovered that the cheapest way to get from the Philippines to Malaysia was via Hong Kong, I was ecstatic. Long on the list of my desired stopovers, I have been wanting to eat in the former British city for years for its Chinese traditions. Specifically for the dim sum and the famous open-air dai pai dong restaurants and hawker stalls, which have since declined in number due to various reasons, including a sanitisation movement enacted by local regulatory bodies (however not without protest). A formerly prominent feature of the city's culinary scene, we were lucky to have visited two of the remaining dai pai dong areas, one at the Temple Street Night Market (famous for seafood) on the Kowloon/mainland side and the other on Stanley Street on Hong Kong Island.

Stanley Street dai pai dong, January 2014

Every evening on the northern end of Stanley Street, a handful of dai pai dong come to life, lining the street with their foldaway/makeshift tables and plastic stools in preparation for an always bustling crowd of locals, expats, and tourists who know an opportunity for good food when they see it. English menus are available, however at our stall spoken English was tricky. So stringing some of my basic Mandarin together to exchange with their Cantonese (the local dialect), we ordered a braised eggplant and chilli hotpot, a grouper and tofu hotpot, and salt and pepper squid.

The aftermath of our meal after being too excited/hungry to take photos prior

While their was no fault on the squid, it was the hotpots that provided a blinding reminder about how good Chinese food can be. The eggplant melted in the mouth within its punchy, slightly sticky yet unctuous braising sauce; while the large meaty chunks of grouper were perfectly seasoned, moist and complemented by soft tofu which lightened the otherwise rich and salty dish. These with a bowl of simply steamed white rice - to ensure not an ounce of sauce was left unenjoyed - resulted in a complete, satisfying and enriching meal to finish off a night of drinking craft beers.

Exterior of Yat Lok restaurant, 34-38 Stanley Street, Central

Down the road was the only eatery we visited twice during our three day stay in Hong Kong: Yat Lok restaurant. Their specialty is roast goose, and special it is. Not unlike the more common roast duck, their amazingness arises from ultra crispy skin, given life by a combination of seasonings that I'm not privy to, and succulent, tender, equally-seasoned meat. On the first visit, I ordered roast goose on rice, allowing the meat to sing for itself.

Roast goose (below), Barbecue roast pork (above) and Chinese greens with oyster sauce

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

5-Spice Beef and Carrot Dumplings

I've been craving dumplings. A few days ago I tried making pierogi, the Polish version, which I filled with a potato, bacon, kale and onion mix pepped up by some toasted cumin and fennel seeds. I wasn't entirely happy with how the dough came out (I'll try this recipe next time) but the overall result was still pretty delicious.

Today, I made Chinese-style dumplings. As I'm currently out of range from an Asian grocer, I thought I'd try my hand at making the wrappers from scratch. I found this recipe and was stoked with how easy it was to make. For my first attempt, they turned out okay but I'll need to work on rolling them out. They say to never blame your tools but on this occasion, I regret using my ridged vintage chappati rolling pin. It's important to roll these out right and the ridges didn't allow me to roll the edges out thinly so that when pressed together, the dumpling wrapper isn't too thick.

I'm still pleased with how they came out though, especially the filling, but I'll be giving the homemade dumplings wrappers another attempt soon.


5-spice Beef and Carrot Dumplings makes 36 with above dumpling wrapper recipe

If you're not fussed about making the dumpling wrappers from scratch, visit your local Asian supermarket and find the pre-made jiao zi dumpling wrappers in the freezer. You may be faced with two types/shapes: circular or square. I prefer the circular ones as the square wrappers are actually for wontons and are made with egg (instead of just flour and water). They would work fine, but the square shape creates 'excess' pastry ideal for deep-fried wontons, for the extra crispiness, or in soup, for aesthetics and the egg noodle-like texture.

Fresh/defrosted pre-made dumpling wrappers

300 g quality beef mince
1 medium sized carrot, grated
1 tsp five spice powder
1 Tbsp ginger, finely chopped or grated
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or minced
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1 dried Thai bird's eye chilli, crushed/chopped including seeds (or 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes)
1 green onion/scallion, sliced finely from tip to root
1 tsp sesame oil (optional)
1 Tbsp sesame seeds (optional)