Thursday, March 1, 2012

Eating well in Spring: Putien

Eating well on in spring: Putien

Spring is often viewed by our friend living in temperate countries as the emergence of life. For those of us in always sunny Singapore, spring is less meaningful, except that some restaurants, especially those who specialize in ensuring seasonal delicacies, roll out their spring menus. Putien is one such jewel, whose menu changes to reflect the seasons. Chef Larry Li has created an interesting menu, which I tasted today, and which will be offered from March 1.

The tidbits as appetizer shown above is deep fried Putian seeweed served with roasted peanuts. Quite addictive, and truly excellent. Though deep fried, the seaweed shows no sign of grease, and is light and very crispy with a beautiful flavour.

We began the tasting with fresh, chilled abalone:

Abalone from the Putian area is air flown, and is one of the region's delicacies. Nutritious, succulent, the abalone is reputed to be untouched by pollution in the province's deep waters.

The abalone is tender...very tender and sweet tasting. The rubbery texture one often encounters is totally absent. The fresh abalone in its shell is braised in a rich chicken stock. And served chilled. Very refreshing, and delicious.

Next course was the spring sprouts with enoki mushrooms

This is an interesting dish. I don't think I have ever eaten spring sprouts before. Also known as toon sprouts, it is bright green and has an ever so slight bitter foretaste which melts into a sweetness in the palate. The enoki mushrooms were nicely cooked, still a bit crunchy and full flavoured.

An interesting soup was served:

The fragrance of the soup, hinting at a sourness within hits the nostrils early. But this is not a pungent sour note which assaults the nostrils, but a gentle, sweet sour-ness which permeates into a refreshing taste in the mouth. The dish doesn't look good at all, but served cold, it is delightfull in cutting grease and opening up the appetite. Tender shoots of newly harvested bamboo with picked mustard greens complete the soup.

Pockets of treasure, as it is literally translated was served next:

This is a home made bean curd skin, stuffed with fish paste, chives and an oyster, deep fried to a crisp perfection. I found this dish to be absolutely wonderful. The bean curd skin, being home made by Putien is light, and crisp, though slightly oily through the deep frying, but retains the flavour and taste of bean without the characteristic saltiness one often gets with commercial factory made skins.

Next, the interesting, almost molecular styled braised chicken with dou miao

If the dish does not look like a chicken dish, I don't blame you. I couldn't tell either. Chicken fillet and egg white are blended into a puree and boiled with dou miao. The chicken is the white dusting on the vegetable, and looked like snow on the greens. Tastewise, I can hardly taste the chicken. The dou miao was excellent. Well cooked, and the broth which accompanies is bursting full of flavour.

We next had braised bamboo clam with mustard green.

I am not a big fan of mustard greens...especially the stems they used in this dish. And though this serving did not change my mind on mustard greens, I kind of liked it for its simple flavours. The clams were braised and very sweet, and the stock used was delicious. I understand, when available, instead of clams, they will use mantis prawns.

Their famous Putien Lor Mee rounds the lunch

Unlike the typical lor mee with a dark sauce, this was light, and the chef told us that the base was made from at least 10 hours of boiling pork bones to produce the thick, rich stock. As there were more than 15 ingredients used in the mee, each mouthful brings forth a different the mix of ingredients show themself with each spoon. One of my favourites.

And for desserts, Putian loquat in herbal jelly

Loquat, a fruit which is indigneous to Putian, is most tender and juicy in spring. The loquat sits on top of a home made herbal jelly fortified with a bit of Putian honey to sweeten the concoction. I found it to be very agreeable. The loquat provides a sweet, tinge of sourness to the bitter jelly. And of course the honey making everything sweet.

I think an admirable new menu from chef Larry Li of Putien. Commendable.

p.s. This is an invited tasting. My thanks to Geri of Linea for the invitation and to Ringo and Melissa of Putien for hosting us.

127 Kitchener Road, but also at many locations around the city

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