Chiu Chow is a region of the eastern Guangdong province in southern China. It has its unique culture recognized as part of the world heritage. Chiu Chow cuisine uses the most expensive and the most mundane ingredients to create dishes that one can never forget.
I was invited to a banquet at the Chiu Chow Garden, which catered to the more high-end of Chiu Chow cuisine in Hong Kong on my recent visit. We were chatting over some tea and Chiu Chow pickles–tofu, pickled vegetables, peanuts and beans.
Then how I wished I had fasted for at least two days before this dinner when the dishes were brought in front of me one by one.
First of the roast pig. This is not exactly Chiu Chowese, but it speaks for the generosity of my hosts. Only the crackling and the tender layer of meat are served, and they are eaten on a thin piece of bread with hoi sin sauce. As if the pig is not extravagant enough, it is decorated with a tiny dots of edible gold leaves.
The four hors oeuvres are brought in with the carrot carving of a bird for decoration. It can sing! (This is food plating at its ultimate,) My plate consists of jelly fish with sesame oil, crab ball with plum sauce, goose breast, and stir fry beef. Each bite is a delicacy.
The legendary Chiu Chow shark fin soup is next. (At this point, I do have to apologize to any supporter of endangered species that this may not be a politically correct item on the menu. I would not order this item for myself, but in Hong Kong, it would also be outright impudence to decline what your hosts offer you.) This is an expensive soup. It is thicker and darker than the Cantonese shark fin soup and has a distinct flavour. One can add coriander and vinegar for extra taste. It is a very rich soup, and kung fu tea is called for to clean the palate before the next dish.
The star coral is a big fish. Its fillet is cooked in two ways: stir fried with broccoli and deep-fried with hot pepper and salt. Both dishes are delicious.
One of my favorite dishes is omelette with baby oysters. It is a traditional Chiu Chow dish because Chiu Chow is by the sea where seafood is plenty. The soft oyster meat is so tasty wrapped in egg. Since most dinner menus include a chicken dish, the steamed free range chicken is served.
Rice and noodles are served towards the end, in case the guests are not full when they finish the main menu. The rice came with roasted nuts, diced yam and chicken. All these are mixed into the rice before the rice is served into individual bowls.
The fried noodles Chiu Chow style is also my favorite. The noodles are soaked in a broth before they are fried in a very hot pan on both sides. The end product is a crunchy outside and a soft inside. My slice is served with sugar and dark vinegar. So tasty!.
Desserts are absolutely indulgent!
My platter includes:(from top left clockwise): thousand-layered cake, date cake, yam ball in puff pastry, yam stick dusted with sugar and egg crunch. Kung Fu tea is served again with the fruits. This is a meal that I shall talk about, blog about and continue to savor the memories of for a long time.
Chiu Chow Garden, Hutchinson House, Central, Hong Kong.