Saturday, September 22, 2007

When the menu has a name

When a menu does not contain the word menu, we at the table all patiently await our 'Perfect Moments'. As with all other family events, an aunt had a funny story to tell about how our uncle's puzzlement at the pretty gold embossed dinner invitation, and why he felt it was unnecessary since the dinner was going to be held at 'her house'. For a 'humble' house, My Humble House sure spares no expense with the fancy names for their dishes.

Life is Good fresh mini octopus, spicy crab rolls with Jellyfish, Top Shells in Thai Style, Seafood Roll, Crispy Eel in Chef's Blended Sauce

The highly anticipated dinner started with a platter of cold dishes called 'Life is Good'. Well.. according to that platter i'd have to say life is only so-so. Only one item on the plate was worth its salt, the blandest sounding, but tastiest seafood roll. Crunchy sweet prawns in a crisp deep fried beancurd skin, I was glad i saved the best for last. My pet peeve was with the octopus. They looked and tasted exactly like the seasoned baby octopus used in supermarket sushi, probably fresh out of a nice food service sized carton. Also, the crab roll was actually shredded crabsticks. It was rather sad that the starter plate consisted of so many processed things, each little portion was so highly seasoned that towards the end it was kind of hard to tell the difference. Thank goodness there was more to look forward to.

Blessed Treasure Double-boiled Soup with Scallops, Fish Maw, and Bamboo Mushroom Consomme in Young Coconut

Being Cantonese, and totally weary (and wary) of shark fin soup, any soup course would get me excited. This tantalised both with glowing pre-dinner reports from a person who attended the sampling dinner, and the incredible sweet coconut scent that wafted through the room as waiters walked by with massive trays of the hot steaming coconuts. For the uninitiated, double boiling is by far one of the best ways to make chinese soup. A vessel with the ingredients for the soup is prepared and placed in a steamer. The vessel is then steamed for hours until the solid ingredients and liquid inside meld to form a harmonious whole. The relatively slow cooking method extracts the flavour of the ingredients without messing up their protein structures, so solids achieve tenderness without disintegrating and the broth remains sweet and clear. This soup tasted beautiful, except maybe it was seasoned a little too much for my liking, because halfway through, it began to feel really salty. The fish maw and dried scallop were real treasures to find and eat, somehow making you feel delicate and precious. (But dried scallops and the like also trigger my allergies so it's really a love hate relationship). The coconut flesh was fun to scrape off and eat, and had the characteristic coconutty milkiness with an added salty umami dimension. Definitely something to remember.

That Warm Feeling Wok Grilled Half Lobster in Superior Stock

Lobster for some reason is one of those things that never fails to impress. Maybe because its got all the juicy sweetness of prawns exept in a bigger chunk and with greater ease of extraction (from the diner's point of view of course) Consequently however, its bigger chunk means a much higher chance of too much or too little heat and makes for an altogether riskier experience for the cook since lobsters do cost substantiially more. Of course this half lobster was done perfectly, and the rich stock sauce enhanced the sweetness of the tender lobster meat. Pity the bride has a lobster allergy. Lucky those whose diner next chair had lobster allergies. Happy me to have some delicious lobster!

The Sea Calls with Good Fortune Steamed Marble Goby in Foie Gras infused Sauce

Somehow Steamed Marble Goby sounds so much more exotic than steamed Soon Hock. But of course the fish was very well done, moist and tender, a very generous sized chunk, and the light fois gras tasting sauce complemented perfectly. Definitely a great way to do steamed fish. Definitely.

Luck Aplenty, Fortune Found Stewed Sliced Abalone With Sea Cucumber and Spinach

Wedding Dinner dish, the abalone with spinach, except this came along with a lovely tender gelatinous hunk of stewed sea cucumber. Need I say more? my skin feels smoother already.

Little Wonders Crispy Spring Chicken wiith Fermented Bean Curd

hicken Little Wonders what happened to his best friend you mean... Well.. He/She was marinated in those little fermented bean curd/also known as bean cheese/fu yu wondercubes. The end result, fragrant with a crispy skin yet tender meat. It even had some of its bones in. Very very Chinese. By this course I was struggling to pack it in, so the lucky brother and cousin got some extra. The frisee I enjoyed because it balanced the salty flavours of the chicken's marinade coating. (Yes I am one off those Garnish eaters... Can't help it since they're mostly some greens or aromatics..)

The pictures for the next two courses disappeared... I don't know but maybe they were deleted.

Country Musings Stir-fried Fragrant Mushroom Rice with Chinese Sausage and Assorted Mushrooms came encased in a lotus leaf package so the rice opened up with a gush of lotus scented steam. Otherwise I was not too impressed. It was good and addictive because I'm a rice lover, but the rice was once again rather heavily seasoned, and I always prefer my rice a little plainer so the sweetness of good rice can come through to balance the rich flavours of the ingredients that were mixed in.

Perfect Harmony Chilled Hashima with Cheng Teng was a sweet dessert soup, nothing too special except for the Hashima. Now Hashima is one of those weird Chinese food thingys, purportedly good for your health/complexion/vitality, but of where it originates is pety hard to fathom. First cousin declared it was frog intestines. I remembered the guy at the Chinese herbal shop telling me something about egg nutrition. First Aunt said its definitely not the intestines but some kind of body fat. Internet research has turned up 'hasma is from the snow frog and it is the reproductive gland of this forest frog. Specifically, it is the oviduct of Rana temporaria cheninensis, family Ranidae. So says the Atlas of the Chinese Materia Medica Pharmacopoeia of 1995.' Apparently it is also known as Hasma. I've seen it dried in medicnal shops, very expensive indeed and they look like large yellowish granules. Prepared, it turns into jellylike clouds, completely clear and smooth, slipping down your throat like some elixir.

Ah... Wedded Bliss indeed. now I understand the need to share some of this bliss in the form of an excellent wedding dinner for family and friends.

To an everlasting Love, dearest Cousin J and Cousin-in-law H, and thanks for the Dinner experience at your humble house. :D


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