Monday, November 1, 2010

Shanghainese food in HK

While we were in HK, one of our family friends booked in a Private Dining experience for us. In HK, in addition to your normal cafes and restaurants, there are what we call "si fong choi" (private home cooking) where you go to some dude's house and they cook you their specialties.

This particular "si fong choi" was in an art gallery. We walked there (for a little while) from Tai Koo to a slightly isolated place. I think we were like 1 minute late and the dude called us, just to make sure we were actually coming (I don't think they're used to people coming anything but early). The art gallery was tranquil and quiet. They offer pottery lessons during the day, and they serve all their food on their own home-made pottery dishes and bowls. In the gallery, there were also two birds perched on their stand (no cage) quietly picking at their food and their own feathers. For the night, there was a table of Japanese people next to us, and us - a table of four.

art gallery private dining

I believe that this "si fong choi" was a Shanghainese fusion. We had four appetisers to start off with. The purple dish was eggplant. I'm not an eggplant eater, but my partner thought that it was pretty nice - soft but not mushy, tasty with a vinegary thing on it. The bowl of light green stuff was thinly sliced cucumbers. I have to say - it didn't taste like very much, but it was definitely refreshing - which, when you have the constant flavour overload and msg in Honky restaurants, is not a bad change. There was also a vegetarian tofu roll - with carrots and cucumber (I think). Again, subtle in taste, but I liked it. Last of the four was ... more cucumber! This time, with sesame and lightly chilli. When the waiter (who was extremely friendly - maybe a bit too friendly) talked to us, what they do is they get the freshest ingredients and make a menu out of that. So my guess is, well, cucumber must be in season in HK! :)


Another dish on the menu (which is a set menu - you don't even sight the menu, it's all a surprise), was the marinated sliced beef gravy. Usually served cold, but from memory, this time, it was served kind of warm ish, super subtly wasabi flavoured sauce and sliced wasabi roots below which didn't taste like wasabi at all. In fact the wasabi roots were kind of like a cross between apples and cucumber in texture.

beef gravy with wasabi roots

There was also a simple tofu - cold. Full of soy flavour, slightly bland until you eat it with the preserved veges on top and the savoury sweet sauce. Quite nice and healthy tasting I think.


Next came something a little bit less healthy looking. These were deep fried lobster balls. Ooooo soooo super tender and chewy and tasty and sweet and crunchy and everything, all at once. Not bad. However, the waiter advised that the highlight of the dish is actually what the lobster balls are sitting on - deep fried enoki, subtly salt flavoured. I have to agree, the enoki was pretty interesting. It's also kind of addictive - kind of like munching on chips - but it's actually mushroom. LOL

lobster balls with deep fried enoki

Next was clams cooked in a sake broth. Like all other clams cooked in sake, this cooking method makes the clams taste pretty damn awesome. Soft and faintly sake ish in flavour, aromatic when you smell it, just to get all the taste buds working ... however - don't drink the broth. It's normally too strong or just odd. :)

clams in sake broth

Next dish was a pork and mushies and veges stir-fry. Nothing too special but as the waiter explained before, I guess they are cooking the best and freshest ingredients available to them for the day. It wasn't bad either - just none too interesting as it just tasted like a normal stir fry.

mushroom stir fry

The corn soup which came was much appreciated. Not the cream of sweet corn that you get at some western restaurants, but lighter - the Chinese style - but with no corn in sight. Where did the corn all go? Must have melted or something as it was very corny tasting indeed haha. I believe that my partner and I both enjoyed this corn soup muchly (but we both normally like all corn soups in general).

sweet corn soup

The next dish was interesting. There was a crab in really strong crab broth. I think it's a blue-swimmer crab but I'm not entirely sure. The crab meat was sweet and stringy and YUM but like all crabs, slightly hard to eat without making a mess everywhere. The sauce though... omg wow! Very rich and artery cloggingly good. In fact, you get these special white noodles to make sure you don't waste the sauce. The white noodles are not 'ho fun' - it's some special noodles which have a tougher texture than rice noodles... but when you pull the big sheet of noodles into strings, and then place spoonfuls of the sauce on it and mix it up... it's superbly delicious! I think I kept eating this even when I was full.

noodles to soak up the sauce

There was more on the menu. There was a crispy skin chicken with homemade ginger and shallot mix. The chicken was without bone for the most part. However, tasted pretty average - like a crispy skinned chicken.

crispy skinned chicken

There was another stirfry - zucchini with fungi and these nuts (which you normally put into chinese sweet soup). Again, this was fresh tasting but nothing too overly special.

zucchini stir fry

An interesting and slightly weird dish for the night was the fried rice. Cooked with 'nam yu', it made the fried rice black ish. Kind of like black bean in flavour but supposedly more healthy. It was dry and umm... didn't taste like too much to be honest.

fried rice

Last but not least, a sweet finish to the meal. Almond sweet soup. This was extremely aromatic and quite decent. I would prefer this to red bean soup any day :)

almond sweet soup

Another Shanghainese experience took us to Wang Jia Sha (王家沙). This is a popular Shanghainese chain located in many places throughout HK. The one we went to was inside APM, a larger shopping center in Kwun Tong on the Kowloon side. Being inside a busy shopping center meant that this place is packed out, noisy and probably not the most comfy dining experience.

We ordered LOTS on this occasion. Luckily, we were trying to feed 6 people (and not just my partner and I). There was the mixed pork meat. Kind of like thick style ham or meat loaf (many sorts mixed into one), served cold, and usually with some pork broth jelly on top, it is quite nice and appetising.

pork meatloaf

The cold radish and jellyfish salad was average. You get lots of radish compared to jellyfish ratio, but all up, it made for refreshingness on a hot summers night after hectic shopping.

radish and jellyfish salad

My favourite - the cold green bean starch sheets with chicken, ham and cucumber and lots of peanutty sesame sauce on top. I don't think my company appreciated this as much as I did - which suited me well as I got to eat lots of it! Quality-wise, it was similar to Australian standards, but price wise... well... need I get into that?

green bean starch noodle salad

A popular Shang favourite (which I don't think too many people eat in Sydney) is the marinated fish "fun yu". I grew up with my aunties and uncles making this for me - and as they're full shang, they make it really really really good. This one was decent. It's got a sweet marinade on it and it is crunchy ish on the outside. However, some people dislike this fish because it is also full of bones.

marinated fish

My mum ordered this one. It's deep fried rice cakes with a tomato- based sauce or "wo ba". Again, traditionally Shanghainese, the way you eat it is you take the rice cake, then you drench it in the sauce. Some people may dislike this... you are soggifying the crunchy rice cakes. But if you have a good sauce - rice cake ratio, it turns out pretty good. Still crunchy yet with lots of flavour.

deep fried rice cakes with tomato sauce

The pan-fried pork buns were also ordered. Similar in standard to the ones we get in Sydney - super hot soup with pork inside, nicely brown tongue-burning base, and soft bun on top.

pan-fried pork buns

Shanghainese fried noodles. These were average. Not as oily as I expected - but I expected it to be super super oily.

shanghainese fried noodles

My auntie chose this. It's like a milky noodle soup. Very flavoursome but when you let the noodles soak in the broth for more than a minute, you end up with rather mushy noodles. However, as a fan of slightly soft mushy noodles, this dish sat well with me.

noodle soup

Steamed vegetable dumplings and the steamed pork buns were both average. The floury skin was a good thickness. Encased the fillings well, but weren't too thick to make it gluggy. The soup and the pork inside was likewise good and not too oily.

vegetable dumplings
steamed mini pork buns

These might look like noodles, but they are more like dried tofu in texture. Soy-based noodle sheets with beans. My mum calls them "mo mo dou". I'm not entirely sure what the actual name for the beans are. I think they are just edamame hehe :) The dish was nice and plain though.

tofu sheet noodles with edamame

This is the pork meat balls drenched in sauce. In chinese, we call it a "shi zi tou" (or a lion's head). The pork balls were HUGE. The sauce was sweet ish, and the overcooked veges were like, the best because they soaked in all the unhealthy sauce :)


So that was my Shanghainese experience for our short HK trip. One in a private dining place, and one at a common franchise. Being half-Shang, it worked well with my taste buds. However, there were some interesting dishes, especially at the private dining place, which I thought was rather odd.


Kit Yee said...

Some clarification re: Your Shanghainese experience in Hong Kong (Private Dining)

1. The Si Fong Choi place is called Gitone – It is at Soho East, Lei King Wan. Its official web site is
2. You had their relatively new House Gitone Asian Cuisine rather than the famous Shanghainess menu. It features mainly Canton dishes. The starters were the famous Shanghainese four small plates though.
3. The bowl of light green starter was green celery mixed with dry shrimp.
4. The white noodles you had with the steamed crabs’ sauce were also a kind of Ho Fun. It is called Chan Chuan Ho Fun. The people of the Chan Village like their Ho Fun to be chewier. That is why they put in some wheat flour on top of the rice flour when making it.
5. It was Sheng Melon they used to sauté with black fungus. It is a very traditional Cantonese kind of melon for the summer season. The white nuts were actually Gingko (silver apricot). Its middle stem is, in fact, slightly poisonous and bitter in taste. It is not advised to consume it in large quantity. That is why they ask their kitchen hand to get rid of it by using a tooth pick. It is a very time consuming job.
6. The blackish stuff found in the fried rice was black Chinese olives (Nam Kok). Some Cantonese people like to put it in their steamed fish dish.

bbsnoopy said...

I should make you a fellow blogger on our blog site - U know much more about it than me!!! hehehe :)