Tag Archives: tofu

The Hungry Gecko

4 Mar

Supper clubs. While the idea may be relatively new in terms of its uptake, especially here in the North, already a lot of ink has been splashed and a lot of keyboards hammered to lay comment upon them. Before writing this I have read at least four other blogs and articles about supper clubs to get a feel for what’s been written. In all honesty some of them have probably already captured the essence of them more than I could, or certainly with a better vocabulary. So if I can’t depict the event like a journalist then the least I can do is tell a good story. I had booked two places for myself and my girlfriend at The Hungry Gecko supper club. The Hungry Gecko is the idea of Jackie Kearney, one of the finalists from 2011’s Masterchef. Already I felt a little intimidated heading to the home of a top class chef.

This is a jackfruit. It becomes relevant later on in the post.

We pulled up slowly outside the house having reversed back down the street looking for the right house number. A clump of change for the taxi driver in one hand and a steadily warming bottle of white wine in the other, I pushed the door open, paid the taxi driver and made my way to the door. At this point my nerves were still with me as I wondered if it was too late to just sack it off and dive in the taxi to pick up some fish and chips to go with the Savingon Blanc. No, just ring the bell and wait. This must be the right house and I’m sure everything will go fine. Ten seconds late and we were warmly greeted at the door. We shuffled in and hung up our coats by the door as we were shown to the dining room. The table was beautifully set with restaurant quality touches such as the rustic style water bottles and the script-fonted place cards. As we had arrived at exactly 7:30 we were the second group to arrive. As we chatted with the other two guests who had already arrived, we were slowly joined by more people, each going through the same arrival procedures as ourselves; greetings exchanged, coats deposited and seats taken closely followed by the rearranging of place cards to suit.

With everyone seated and nicely relaxed, service began. The amuse bouche was a sweet and sour popcorn tofu. The paprika in the coating was a great light spice flavour but it was the texture of the tofu providing the backdrop to the sweet and sour. My bouche was thoroughly amused.

The starter was a great little soup listed on the menu as ‘ Buddha’s Delight, Chinese noodle soup with exotic mushrooms & bean curds, Served with crispy kale & chilli cashews’. Not to seem to have missed the point this, but I really loved the chilli cashews on the side. They seemed to be encased in almost a caramel substance. Crunchy, chewy, chilli. I almost forgot to eat the soup, which was prepared with 14 ingredients and tasted exceptionally fresh.

The Chilli cashews are in the bottom left, oh and there's also the soup

Any food that comes on a stick is tops in my book, but smokey tempeh and tofu on lemongrass skewers kicks it up a notch. Again, as a regular meat-eater, the texture was the first thing I picked up on, being softer and more uniform. What this actually meant was that the flavour from the satay sauce was fully absorbed by the tofu. I also have to say that the portion sizes were certainly to my taste. The jasmine rice mopped up the remainder of the sauce and nicely filled any remaining holes.

Balinese Satay Sticks and jasmine rice

Fortunately, there was still plenty of room in my dessert stomach so the next course was great and also my favourite named course of a meal ever: Pre-dessert. A duo of jackfruit & mango sorbet and lime & coconut sorbet. I hadn’t come across a jackfruit before but the menu description described it as an earthy pineapple and that pretty much spot on. This mixed with pineapple and coconut didn’t just clear the palette but striped it clean and left it zingy fresh.

Finally, pre-dessert gave way to the main event, dessert. The dessert was (and to add impact, I’m copying straight from the menu)

Pear & frangipane tart with vanilla & star anise ice cream,

Served with salted almond praline & goji berry sauce

Best Dessert Ever. I tend to talk food up a lot but this honestly is the best dessert I’ve ever tasted despite the fact that I’m a massive chocoholic. The pear and frangiepane was sweet, slightly firm and casually delicious. The ice cream brough the star anise flavour through beautifully holding the aniseed’esqe flavour excellently inside that creamy ice cream. The salted almond praline gave it the deep flavour and the goji berry added the high notes. For me this dessert practically sang, giving me one of those rare moments in a meal where I actually sit back, stop and muse over the flavours I’m experiencing. This wasn’t just the end of the meal, it was a true show-stopper.

The dish to beat

A great evening spent with good people in a lovely home enjoying exceptional quality food. I’m amazed that I left. I’d like to extend my gratitude to Jackie for the evening. I know that for the time being there aren’t any more supper clubs in the diary coming up, but I would highly recommend keeping your eyes on The Hungry Gecko, as I’m sure there will be some great things to come.

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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.