Gourmet Trip

Five Days Gourmet Trip -Culinary Exchange Tour
from Catherine's diary
40 participants from Malaysia and our neighbouring country, Singapore visited Guang Zhou, Dongguan, Poonyee, Hong Kong for a gastronomic trip. 12 other participants from Hong Kong joined us at a later stage in Guang Zhou.

It was no mean feat, planning for the above trip but the overwhelming response received, surpassed all the taxing tasks. The main organizer had to place all remaining participants on the waiting list for a future gourmet trip in December. Our local group had a total of 40 participants and another 12 from Hong Kong who will meet up with us in Guang Zhou.

1/9/2002 - A day prior to departure, we were invited to a Bon-Voyage dinner at Loon Sing Restaurant, Nilai. After a warm reception, we were served dinned. The list of appetizers included a four-variety dish. Jellyfish with red glutinous rice wine residue, was served with Soo Zhou Ku-Tien Cake, Teochew braised duck and Jelly Sharksfin curd.

Our next course was a fresh abalone delicacy followed by the popular soup, Monk jump over the wall. Taste was a precise wonder. Dong-Po meat was served with steamed buns and next-in-line was the Superior Fookchow meat balls. The next entry was Braised turnip with scallops. We were nearly filled to the brim but everyone was attracted to these little goodie bags. It was hemp strings woven baskets containing Fried glutinous rice. We ate heartily and had little room for the nice dish of Spicy and sourish sea cucumbers. The final curtain came down as a special dessert was presented. Each person had a tureen of Boiled hasma, dried longans and peanut stuffed glutinous rice balls, which we all thoroughly enjoyed.

We left with a happy heart and an extremely contented stomach. On a lighter note, it was a memorable evening of wonderful food, good conversation flowed and many new friendship nurtured.

Day 1 - 2/9/2002

Early morning, we joined fellow participants for the flight to Guang Zhou from KLIA, by Malaysian Airline System. Departed at 9.30a.m. and the total time taken was 3 hours 35 minutes. With excitement, we anticipated what was in store for us.

A luxurious coach ferried us direct from the airport to this Guang Zhou famous Sar-hor-fun restaurant, established since 1954. We savoured the remarkable Bai-Yun pig's trotters. This dish had the trotters blanched, pickled in a white vinegar and sugar solution. The result was a tangy, sweetish, crunchy textured meat. We had a serious brew of chicken soup and it was a perfect match.

Signature dishes continued to roll in. A special Ching Yean chicken was prepared and this was a winner. It is a range of chicken well-known for its sweet meat as the birds are fed on first-grade corn. Red-cooked tender bamboo shoots was presented. It was unique as it has no bitter taste at all.

The fame of this restaurant ride on their four varities of sar-hor-fun. We began with a fire-coloured hor-fun and then moved onto another one, named three shredded varities hor-fun. The later was made from various vegetable like por choy, carrots and sweet potatoes.

The next two varieties came in the form of Fish-flavoured Vegetable's Juice Hor-Fun and Bitter gourd minced Chicken Hor-Fun. The noodles had this transparency and a chewy texture unlike the normal limpy stuff. According to our participant, Mr.Ting from Sarawak, who specializes in noodle making, he guessed the rice grains have to be aged for at least one year before milling and blending it with fine, soft, river water to obtain this texture. There is no room to debate why a restaurant close to half a century is still in action. We thanked them for the lovely reception received.

It was close to 3pm after the wonderful hor-fun meal. The coach took us to Dongguan, a journey one hour away. The China tour guide, Mr.Liang described the local scenery to us. We were placed in a 4-star hotel for the night. Dinner would be served at 7pm in the hotel's restaurant itself.

At dinner time, it was a five tables affair as our Hong Kong participants have arrived too. I went one step further and had a privilege of a sneak-preview of what goes on behind the kitchen. The main chef was in boisterous action commanding his juniors in a bustling cooking act. It was a noisy settlement as I observed the sound of non-stop chopping, plates dragging, food siggling. I returned to my seat and noticed everyone was feeling refreshed after a short rest.

Let the tasting begin. A glistening dish of crispy suckling pig was served with condiments of century egg slices and preserved young ginger. These complimented the pork perfectly. We had the next serving of ham, fresh lotus in a melon pot. The next presentation was baked Gui-Hua sparrows with ginger and spring onion. This tasted very much like miniature pigeons. Stir-fried lamb with red dates and peanuts were served. Surprisingly, it has no gamy taste and the vibrant flavours flowed through.

The highlight of the meal was the Xun Long fish. This particular fish first made its appearance on the NTV7 series 'Happily Ever After', aired early this year, 2002. It is a protected species and is breed in a unique combination of freshwater and river-mouth salt water.

The fish body is rather transparent and even the soft bones are edible. Master David Tsui skillfully filleted the flesh which was stir-fried with vegetable juice, leaving the head and belly portion steamed. It was delicious as it's texture was wonderful. This is what you would call combing the globe for delicious treats.

Not feeling adventurous enough, many people opted out for the next dish. You can list this under China's strange food as we were served Baked Padi Maggots with eggs. I tried a little and felt it was like eating fish intestine. Well, this was considered to be a delicacy. One man's repulsion is another man's dinner.

The carving master had artfully carved a pumpkin, hollowing the centre. In it's place was some wild game meat. After savouring the contents, you can use a spoon to scoop up the sweet pumpkin flesh.

Yunnan ham, bamboo piths were braised together with baby Chinese white cabbages. It was nothing much to shout about but the dessert made up for this. Cheesy puffs were a real delight. It is guaranteed to satisfy even the most discriminating palate. After dinner, Chef Tsui held a question and answers forum. This was a rare chance to have a chef with such a sharing attitude, imparting his knowledge to society. We left the restaurant in an exuberant mood as everyone enjoyed an evening of gratifying superb Chinese cuisine. It may be a 4-star hotel but the food served, deserved a 5-star rating.

Day 2 (3/9/2002)

The scene is set, after breakfast at Dongguang's hotel. We, the nomads had to move on again. Our coach ferried us to catch glimpses of Fumen Bridge, Ling Zhenxu Muzium, Opium War Musuem, a shopping spree for clothes at a huge retailer's centre.
The famous Bones Restaurant at Poonyee's Clifford Foodcourt

The lunch date at Poonyee's Clifford Foodcourt had us debating on what will it be? The rather Western incorporated name of the foodcourt had nothing to do with what was in store. This is the famous Bones Restaurant. Nothing classically delicate. Fascinatingly, a pile of 10 inches lengthy pig's bones were served. It is no standing joke as ringing peals of laughter were heard everywhere. No one had an idea on how to begin, if not for the kind foresight of waiters who handed us sets of transparent gloves. Our travelling companions had a jolly good time, brushing away all social etiquette as we digged into the various types of bones served. I was made to understand the difficult process in extracting the mass layers of soft, lean meat in between the tendons. This meat was further braised in a special gravy for two hours. Wait till you hear this! This gravy consisting of a fair range of herbs, fragrant leaves, nutmeg, cinnamon barks, mandarin peels, is an-aged marinade of nothing less than two years. Like fine wine, the more matured it is, the better it gets. This is not the end to the bony story yet. Huge bones eaten were taken to the kitchen-yard to be hacked into halves. Each patron had a big drinking straw to sip, slurp, gulped down the marrow extracts. Robust shouts of 'Yam Seng' were exchanged. I am sure I am drinking in a healthy concoction of calcium and iron nutrients. The next splendid fare was the Roasted Rack of Ribs and it was a thumbs up selection. I am sharing this sound bite tip with everyone, this Bones Restaurant is truly a viand for any food writers or gourmet lovers. It serves as an eye-opener to what others would have discarded, they serve such redolent concotions and the surprises never cease.

It was nearly 2p.m. after the wonderful lunch. We adjourn to a foot reflexology centre where our tired and sore feet were pampered. The masseuses immersed our feet in a warm, herbal foot-bath. Soothing traditional music played on. It was a relaxing moment to de-stress. After a two hours of foot pampering, we felt glowingly refreshed.

White Swan Hotel, a very luxurious place was arranged for our night's rest. The bathroom faucets were seemingly gold plated. We felt like big lords surrounded with trappings of gold.

Awards winning Chef Aw Kam Wo of Regent Pearl (centre), Catherine & Chef Sia Say Tee.
Dinner at Regent Pearl was imparted by awards winning Chef Aw Kam Wo. It was a frenzy night for the local media who had been kept waiting-at-bay for our entourage's arrival. They had their assignment to write and this was the moment. Chef Aw and our Malaysian Food Ambassador, Chef Sia Say Tee of Loon Sing Restaurant, Nilai were encumbrance in formal introductory customs, promotional programmes. This cordial link boosts a bridge adjoining the China and the Malaysian food culture ties.

The waiting game was over. The simply irresistible Wah-Wah fish was presented. This dish has been double-boiled for six hours with herb, Tien-mah, (Rhijoma Gastrodia Elatabi) ribs, chicken meat and feet. This is a protected species and only three restaurants in the whole nation are provided with a licence to sell this fishy dish. This fish has a beastly look but a beauty to savour. It is what one can call it beauty and the beast in a single form!

Yunnan minature cucumbers were stir-fried with sliced camel's hump. Don't fret, it tastes like dried cuttlefish. Not so pleasing dishes was presented, another rustic dish of fried goose intestines did not go down well with generally everyone. We felt a slight disappointment with the fare. Half of the battle could have been won, if Chef Aw had cooked up a storm on his house specialities of abalones (pronounced as aba-loh-nees). This was not the treat we had pinned our hopes on.

Day 3 (4/9/2002)

Special Sauna Prawns of DaKeYi Restaurant, Guang Zhou
Lunch was served at DaKeYi restaurant. The two young chefs cum restaurateurs have visited Malaysia many times. They showed us their special skill acquired from Malaysia at making roti chanai. It was a flying magic carpet to their own country man.

A speacial cooking material was heated up with river stones. Meat was roasted on this hot bed and so did the drunken prawns and fish. The stones were heated to a temperature of 200 for 2-3 hours. They were moved to a clay casserole and in goes all the ingredients, salt, beer or stock. Cover the pot, reposing them in a hot sauna bath. There is a danger here as the stones can crack up at times due to the intense heat. Hairy crabs were in season and we feasted on them. Fresh abalones were delicious but nothing can replace the freshness and quality of a good river fish simply steamed. The chicken marinated with a right combination of a special gravy proves good. Thirteen days old pigeons were grilled to a crunchy, crisp. The steps in preparing this dish was supervised under very strict stringent sequence. Don't expect too much emphasis on ambience in Chinese restaurants but I am impressed by these two young men's business philosophy and their pro-active approach in the day-to-day running of an eatery. They are swiftly aware of how a dish should look and taste at its best. At constant times, they are virtually adapting to keeping a food art alive.

Unforgettable Man Han Quan Xi meal
One of the exceptional feature of today is the intense moment of attending an Imperior Court meal. This is a feast recorded in history during the reign of Emperor Chien Lung of the Qing Dynasty, who was born a Manchurian. In order to maintain peace between his keepers and China's counterpart, what could be better than cultural influence spells on the gastronomic front in the form of a huge banquet. This was named as 'An Exchange of Manchurian and Chinese Culture'. Comprising 108 dishes and a feasting that lasted three days, everything edible from land, sea or fresh water was sourced and combined cooking tecniques like braised, stewed, deep-fried, stir-fried, simmered,roasted were all recorded.

Waiters wore chifu, imperial court attendants' garments ushered us in with shouts of, 'Here comes the king and queen!' Oh yes, we do feel majestic for that split second. It was a thrilling moment. Waitresses clad in the old court long flowing cheongsams served us a glass of wine each. Longevity ginsheng soup was the order in range. The four varieties appetizer followed.

Abalone was braised with fish maws and the dish, Peach of Immortality consisted of walnuts, paddy frogs and crabmeat. Next course was fresh scallops with deep-fried crab pincers. The highlight had arrived, it was a crispy suckling pig, a delectable crackling sensation. Deer's tail and duck was double-boiled into a delicious soup. Grouper Haddock fish was steamed, complimented with carrots, cured ham and pickled Szechuan mustard shreds. Next on roll was a top-notch delicacy. Heavenly mushrooms, goose webbed-feet, green turtle, sea cucumbers, chicken wings were fused together in a satisfying manner. A superior vegetarian dish of Shanghai flat cabbages, baby corns, bamboo pith, black moss, mushrooms and button mushrooms were themed together. This was rather refreshing. The Emperor's rice had scallops, fresh prawns and chicken meat. Last but not least, no great meal is complete without desserts. There is a grain of truth that traditionally, desserts do take a backseat to other courses and are never seen as the highlight. We had Hasma with egg flip, sweet buns, sweet jellies and a platter of locally grown fruits.

Though we had no chance to sample the full range of 108 dishes but as we are an immigrant society, food forms a big part of our history, our culture. We are glad to have come this far to continue to explore the food legacy.

Day 4 (5/9/2002)

Dim-Sum, these literally translate, 'dainty-morsels that touch your hearts', really did touched mine. We had a treat of these snacks at the breakfast tables before our departure from Guang Zhou to Hong Kong. This was at Dao Xiang Restaurant where you eat to your content on their Fragrant Steamed Prawn Patties, Flaky Pastry Minature Egg Tarts, Mock Vegetarian Chitterings, Honey Sauce Char-Siew Buns. Trendy attraction is Flaky Pastry Tarts Encased With Aromatic Radish Shreds. It is deep-fried but is so light and crispy. The filling is real sweet and moist.

After this 'yum-char' session, we were taken to explore a suburb, brimming with wholesale tea leaves establishments. The assortment of Oo-Loong, Loong-Jing, Jasmine and hundreds more superior varieties left me in a dazzle. International tea merchants mingled with tourists with one common interest, purchasing fine tea. Our tour guide had a difficult time trying to congregate everyone to board the coach. Frankly, everyone was caught up with the 'tea-fever' not being able to resist temptations, shopping for more tea treasures.

Lunch at Xin Xing Restaurant was a welcome change for those who want something substantial. It was a fulfilling meal of mountain goat. The meat is actually quite low in cholesterol, opposed to what many thought! This restaurant had a good rating written by Hong Kong famous food critic, Choy Lan. Other dishes of lamb were served. We savoured White Steamed Lamb, Casserole Of Lamb Meat Balls, Crispy Nuts Lamb Chops, Dried Rose Petals With Baby Lamb, Braised Lamb's Ears, Stewed Lamb's Belly and an Assorted Dish Of Lamb Delights. It was surprisingly easy to handle as the meat had no strong, gamey taste.

Mr. Hugo Leung Man To (centre), Catherine & Chef Sia Say Tee.
Our Journey to Hong Kong continued and we reached Kowloon in the early evening. Our hotel had an unparalleled view of the 'Fragrant Harbour'. The Harbour Plaza Hotel, owned by the local tycoon, Mr. Lee Kah Sing was posh. Dinner arranged in Yuen Long, New Territories would be headed by no ordinary chef but by Mr. Hugo Leung Man To, who makes appearances on Hong Kong television gourmet series, stands at under five feet and has a waistline of 42 inches. He commands good respect in the culinary circle and had us enthralled with his vast knowledge on the 'Walled Village Food'. Mr. Leung runs Tai Wing Wah Restaurant, designed a premier menu for Hong Kong Chief executive Mr. Tung Chee-Hwa, to commemorate his official position. We tried thsi menu and I can describe it as 'once eaten, forever smitten'. Would you believed this, the most unforgettable dish is Plain Steamed Rice Smothered With Lard. Strange, but the flavours lingers on long after.

Plain Steamed Rice Smothered With Lard
Mr. Leung does not compromise on freshness of ingredients, correct flame control and of course clever cooking skills.

Day 5 (6/9/2002)

The famous Porky Buns
The enterprising Hong Kong Tourist Association had helped to coincide our breakfast at Macau Restaurant, owned by one of the wives of Macau Casino King, Stanley Ho. his is a special arrangement as they generally do not serve breakfast. Located in busy Tsimshatsui, it serves the famous Porky Buns. Their record was a whopping sale of 2,000 buns in a single day. Later, we had a little time to breeze through this fascinating shopping area. We wandered around, gawking at fantastic shops. Oh yes, we tried the famous Sham Tseng Roast Goose for lunch, recognised as an oriental delicacy. It was time to go home as we bade adieu to Hong Kong.

Thanks to Mr. Sia of Restoran Loon Sing Sdn Bhd, Nilai, who with his sense of adventure and appreciation of good food had detailed out a good itinerary for gourmets. From food to entertainment, another big thank you to Mar Sin Thai Travel & Tours Sdn Bhd for their coordination. Everyone in the programming team had translated the visual of a food trip into a real vision.

Join us on another highlight, sometime, somewhere.


Jane Kaylor said...

Thanks for the recipe!!! Love it. Fresh or frozen local abalone is cheaper but will never give the same taste, flavor and texture as canned abalone. I love the flavor and taste of canned abalone and one day I want to eat abalone like 'abalone kings' do: braised in sauce and served whole, like a steak, washed down with a good white wine. Cut with a knife and fork of course. Meantime, it's still cheaper to slice abalone thinly and share with the family. I love this dish. It's such a special treat

Y3K food & travel said...

Jane, Thank you for your comment.