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International Food Porn

13 Jan

Everytime I travel somewhere I come back meaning to immediately do a post showcasing the fine foods I have sampled, however I’ve never got around to it so here is a roundup of some of my food highlights of 2012:

Yang Sing – Gastro Club (Chinatown, Manchester)

21 Jun

Have a look around the dining room

Tucked away on the edge of Chinatown is a bedrock of the Chinese restaurant community since 1977. Yang Sing is a restaurant that’s often mentioned yet never have I visited. I’ve got my favourites in Chinatown: my favourite Cantonese restaurant, favourite Sichuan, favourite bakery, so why do I need another restaurant? In hindsight that’s a bit like saying “I’ve already got this block of gold, what the hell do I need another other one for?’

Yang Sing appears palatial upon entering through the entrance of rich dark woods into a dining room decorated in ornate wall paper and seemingly intimidating aura. The reality couldn’t have been further from the truth. Even after turning up (fashionably) late thus forcing the staff to put an extra seat at the table, the service was nothing short of delightful. Polite but still friendly and our host for the evening Bonnie was accommodating to a level I’ve rarely seen from a restaurant, especially considering the number of people in the group. 

My first visit to Yang Sing was as part of the Gastro Club and as such, a fine banquet of a meal. To see how fine, I’ve included the menu below:

Menu from the Gastro Club evening at Yang Sing

 

Now before you get too swept up in the pageantry of this menu (easily done), just take not of one interesting part of it. Specifically the part that says: ‘Our ostrich comes from a farm in Preston

A Preston based Ostrich farm? Really? Really! And here it is – Preston Ostrich Farm

But we’ll come back to that in due course. Firstly, you need an overview of this seemingly overfacing menu, so let talk about some of the highlights on offer here. First and foremost is a great dish, the Steamed razor clams crowned with vermicelli, golden garlic and premium soy.

Steamed razor clams crowned with vermicelli, golden garlic and premium soy

On being presented with this dish, it looks like it’s just washed up on the beach and been scooped up onto your plate. I mean that in a good way of course; the noodles and the soy make this look like an assortment of seafood fare that’s been caught up in a razor clam in the tide. Great presentation and thankfully backed up with great flavour. The clams were excellently cooked with a good bite but soft texture. The soy adding the salt that the slightly seafood sweet clam balanced and the vermicelli giving the final substance to the dish. You could probably have a whole plate of these, but whose got room for that when you’ve got more dishes on the way.

From the mains there were two great dishes, the King Prawns in Saffron had a wonderful flavour of fresh garden peas. Considering the vibrant colour and mildly creamy texture of the sauce this was the last flavour I would have expected which led to me spouting the sentence ‘ It tastes like peas’ with a level of amazement that might suggest that I had just discovered the taste of peas for the first time and needed to inform the others. The prawns kept up their end of the deal in this dish to being plump and just the right amount of meatiness. The colour that the saffron infused into the sauce to give it a brilliant yellow without fear that you may be about to swallow a small chemistry sets worth of food colouring and e-numbers (I hope).

King prawns with saffron sauce

Can you see any of the garlic in there? Trust me, its there.

The Stir Fried Cheshire Pak Choi acompanied by longevity, prosperity and garlic cloves gets top marks for a poetically pleasing name but also for its taste. Pak Choi was crisp in a broth base with the flavour of garlic and duck eggs mildly seasoned and spiced to give this dish a refreshing quality typically only found in chinese dishes. The part I particularly enjoyed was the whole garlic cloves which had been mellowed by the broth leaving them with just the subtle undertone of garlic as you bit through them.

Tjhe one dish I wouldn’t have expected to be talking about by the end of the night was the dessert. When someone says to you strawberries and popping candy, it doesn’t put you in mind of a Heston Blumenthal classic. Having said that though, this dish prompted more conversation around the table than any other. The strawberries were perfectly ripe and packed with the sweet, moreish fruit juice that you hope for but never get in supermarket strawberries. The popping candy melted into the side of the soft strawberry flesh and was already partially popping before you got it in your mouth. Then you just sit back and let the popping candy do the work. The simplicity of this dessert was such a great decision at the end of this lavish meal that it felt refreshing and reinvigorated the room. Wouldn’t have traded it for any other dessert at that point.

Strawberry and popping candy mash-up

By the end of the meal, that seemingly intimidated dinning room seemed a lot cosier and a more relaxing place to be. I think that’s part of the charm to this restaurant, that beneath the imposing appearance is a warm inviting place to eat. You may even want to just drop in for some dim sum and a sit down, but should you want the full banquet experience, there’s enough here to satisfy.

Yang Sing on Urbanspoon

Our Man in Hong Kong – unknown restaurant

22 Jan

In preparation for the Chinese New Year celebrations, I’ve put together one or two posts about some of the best meals from a recent trip to Hong Kong and China

I’m in Hong Kong on a trip / holiday but my secret mission is to taste the best Hong Kong has to offer.

First up is a little canteen opposite the Metropark Hotel Mongkok, directly opposite the garage entrance at 634 Portland Street. The reason I haven’t named the place is that its name is only in Chinese and I can’t read it.

If someone can tell me what this place is called, I'd love to know

An unassuming place. Lit to within an inch of its life and with 40 bamboo steamers going on the outside cooker, this place looks the business. The inside just got better; excessive use of mirrors, TV screens with local TV for those not inclined to talk and a frantic pace of staff flooding into and out of the kitchen. It is also open 24 hours a day, as I later found out from a friend who wandered over to pick up some char sui buns at 4 o’clock in the morning. The menu is typical Hong Kong fair of dim sum and Cantonese dishes, but with some noteworthy points to be mentioned.

My kind of menu - point & order

Firstly the two teas I tried. I initially tried the local Hong Kong tea which is a half/half mix of sweet tea and coffee brought about by the use of condensed milk in place of milk (common in former British colonies). It will certainly keep you awake with its sharp injection of caffeine and sugar. The second tea was the lemon and honey tea. I’ve had lemon and honey tea but not like this. No bitterness from the lemon or honey and the sugar level was perfectly balanced to make it easily drinkable.

Hong Kong Milk tea

The food was all fresh, which was the main selling point for me. Simple dishes but the quality of ingredients was what made it. The Gai lan and the prawns & scrambled egg dish we’re my favourites. Prawn and scrambled egg doesn’t seem to be ground breaking combination, but the adddition of sesame oil gives it a whole new dimension, putting the mild seafood flavour with the hint of egg in a slick sesame coating. Delicious.

Top notch prawn and scrambled egg

I didn’t get the names of all the dishes but with pictures to help, it’s easy enough to order.

For the vegetarians, there were excellent choices. The mushroom and bok choi dish was amazing. Thick, juicy shiitake mushrooms (or something similar) had the satisfying meaty chew that could replace any steak. Coated in the semi-translucent cantonese sauce with a distinct Cantonese spice it carries a mild sweet spice flavour. The same sauce coated the mushroom and fired beancurd as it satisfies the need for mixed textures of chewy, crispy and spongy with a great gusto of flavour.

Mushroom mountain in Cantonese sauce

Mushroom and beancurd. Get stuck in my good man

In the end with drinks, dishes and rice coming in at about HK$40 (£3.50 approx.) it was ten steps beyond the airplane food and definitely worth popping to again. The true joy here was the full-on Hong Kong canteen experience which made it worth every penny.