Sunday, November 2, 2008

Old Hong Kong: traditional Cantonese cuisine

with family

Edward already blogged about Crystal Jade as a family favourite. We decided to try out new restaurants for the weekly Saturday lunch, and chanced upon Old Hong Kong at Square 2...a shopping centre which have more than a passing specialization with Korean-ana...kind of like The Central has a strong affinity with Japanese eateries.



There was a queue when we arrived, but we were the first in line. The maitre d' seemed a bit flustered, and not as pleasant as he could have been. We stood there for a good 5 minutes, and nobody offered us any seats...even though it was plain that my 76 year old mother could use a chair. The maitre d' merely handed out a menu to Kin, and told her to order.

But soon, they did find us a table. We were hungry, so we ordered a mix of tim sum and some of their specialities.

First the tim sum.



The har kow skin could have been finer, but the stuffing was quite nice. The prawn was fresh, crunchy and very tasty. My mother remarked that the dishes were not very salty which is good...and she repeated this several times during lunch.



The siew mai was quite large, much larger than Crystal Jade's and about the same size of those served by Lao Beijing. Each siew mai was the size of a golf ball...perhaps a bit larger, and was filled with a piece of rather fatty pork. Not my best siew mai.

A dab on the chilli oil sauce, which provided more kick than most found in Hong Kong completes the taste. Of course, this is Singapore...:-), chilli is powerful, pungent and spicy. Interestingly the chilli sauce in Crystal Jade seemed to contain hard peppers...either seeds or corns, but the ones served here was softer, which is how I prefer chilli sauce..



The prawn chee cheong fun, another standard in Cantonese tim sum was also very pleasant. The picture looked like somebody took a piece off the foreground, but this was taken of the dish as it was served, maybe the noodles moved a bit and slid towards one side which ended up being the background of the picture. This was, indeed a reasonable sized serving. The taste was quite good. The prawns succulent and juicy. It had a good crunch.

We also had the Fish Maw and Angle Luffas with minced meat.



A thick broth, full of collagen, provided a beautiful base and tasty foundation for the fish maw, angle luffas (a kind of gourd) and minced pork bits. The soup was a winner. I loved the taste, the mouth feel was extraordinary. There was no fishy taste or smell, but a beautiful fragrance of great complexity - reminiscent of fish, maw, herbs, chicken, seafood. The fish maw, usually tasteless on its own but absorbs the flavours of the ingredients. The more superior the ingredients, the better the taste of the maw. I don't know what they put in as ingredients, but the taste was excellent.

The angle luffas (Hokkien chwee kua) is soft, the gourd was sliced into bite sized pieces. And bits of pork floating in the soup was made from lean meat, and tasted good. A camphor flame kept the whole dish hot, and just at the edge of boiling, but not quite.



Roast duck and roast pork is often used as a standard to judge a traditional Hong Kong style restaurant. Generally, goose is preferred in Hong Kong, but in Singapore, we make do without goose and live with the duck variety.



The duck was quite superb. The skin was crispy, with a little bit of duck fat clinging to the skin provided a burst of umami with each bite. The meat was tender, and a bit powdery consistency when you chew on it. Good duck flavour.

The roast pork, on the other hand was forgettable. The skin, which should be light and crispy was hard. My mother, wearing dentures, had to give up on the skin. The meat was ok tasting, but a bit too fat. My reference standard for roast pork is the little cubes served by the original Lei Garden in Wanchai. The Hong Kong variety is famous, and for good reason..the meat was tender...very flavourful, a very thin layer of fat adorns the part between the meat and the super crispy skin. No Singapore restaurant has produced any roast pork which comes even close.

A scoop of sliced jelly adorned one corner. Not great, but not lousy either.

We also had the tofu.



Typically spinach tofu is served using home made cubed tofu. But this one looks like it is made with the tubed Japanese egg tofu...richer tasting, and eggy. A layer of spinach coats one side. And a rich, savoury sauce smothers the tofu, with a generous serving of golden straw mushrooms. For me, this was an excellent dish. Everything falls together. The mushroom provided a nice contrast, yet complements the tofu and sauce.

Oh, instead of the usual peanuts served as an appetizer, this restaurant serves an amouse bouche type dish in the beginning...this was a combination of tofu, roasted peanuts, cut long beans and silverfish. Quite a good tasting appetizer.



Not a bad place...taste good. Service after the initial encounter was actually quite good...our waitress was attentive, knowledgable, and it was easy to catch here attention.

Before I finish, here is a peek in to the display kitchen, and to rant about a favourite of mine...powerful stoves.



The kitchen reveals a fairly common sight in many Cantonese kitchen. Cauldrons of boiling stock and soup were almost everywhere. Stock is the base and foundation of any dish, and very important to get right.

Also, there were many huge, powerful flames providing the high heat to the wok for great wok hei. The flames are fanned by compressed air, and ignited like a jet engine...the flame roars like a jet engine, and provides the power...a typical home stove puts out perhaps 10,000 BTU/hr of flame power, a commercial home ranges like the Viking Ranges puts out some 30,000 BTU/hr, but a compress air fired stove can put up 150,000 BTU/hr. For a flame that powerful, food cooks very fast, and requires a strong chef to toss and flip to prevent charring. No wonder many Chinese chefs are stocky characters. The powerful flame provides wok hei, especially when the chef tilts the wok at an angle, and the high heat flambes the contents.



Old Hong Kong Kitchen
#02-20 Square 2
10 Sinaran Drive
S'pore 307506

Photo notes. White balance was custom...using a shot of the white plates as a reference. No further touchups on Photoshop.
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