Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Fisherman’s Canteen

Aberdeen Fish Market Canteen has two versions. The first version is its primary function as its name suggests, it serves as a canteen to the hardworking people that work at the fish market. It secondary function is a seafood restaurant that serves simply prepared fresh seafood.

I shall state the obvious: the seafood here is very fresh. Call ahead, state your budget, seafood preferences and if you want you can specify the way you want it cooked. The Canteen celebrates seafood. It applies simple cooking and it does little to mask the essential taste of all the different sea creatures on the plate.
Here’s what we had in no particular order –

eep fried abalone – very delicious. Unlike my imagined notions of a deep fried abalone, it wasn’t fried to a death but rather the quick cooking it kept it tender caramelizes the edges of the abalone.

Deep fried squid – lightly battered, tender and tasty

Steamed local lobster – not particularly sweet and a little chewy but dip the flesh into the brain, together it taste better.

Stir-fried prawns – sweet and fresh

Stir-fried clams with black bean sauce

Stir fried bamboo clams with black bean sauce – I’m not a big fan of black bean sauce in general on seafood but again still good tasting bamboo clams and clams

Steamed sea grouper

And we ended off with their double boiled seafood soup.


THE soup, which I am going to call the fisherman’s broth, is double boiled but unlike the traditional Cantonese soup which is clear is served to us looking a little cloudy. Who cares, it is probably the best damn soup I’ve had this year. It is hard to doubt why it is such a great soup once they lay the soul of the soup on the table - a small mount of crabs, bok choy and chopped up small fishes. It has a very different in flavour profile and cooking style to its Western cousins the cioppino and bouillabaisse but similar in spirit.
To catch a glimpse of the other version of the Canteen, finish off the meal with a cup of milk tea and their only ‘dessert’ offering - deep fried French toast drizzled with condensed milk. Don’t miss this either because the French toast fried just right, crisp on the outside and light and fluffy in the centre.
French toast
The art of simple is actually hard. Less is more. In this kitchen I suppose this translates as do less to taste more and this is the kind of food that I’ve come to fall in love with more and more.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

From Lab to Table - liquid nitrogen ice cream

Let’s face it, some nerds can be cool or are cool. Food nerds in my book are especially cool. Alton brown? Cool. Applying some science in our cooking make us better cooks by giving us better techniques.

So …
Science + cool food = cooler food

Translated into layman’s terms …
Chemistry and in this case liquid nitrogen + ice cream = nitrogen made ice cream

Why this is good ice cream? Because the faster the ice cream freezes means the small the ice crystals = smoother ice cream. Element one: texture, check.

Next important element: flavour. The flavours change daily but for that day I had toast, peanut butter and condensed milk, a play on the the local cha chaan teng dish.
I really liked the way they combined this. Peanut butter and condensed milk was the base of the ice cream and topped with crispy buttered toast bits, good crunch good flavor.

Good science, good eats.

Lab Made
Brown St,
Tai Hang, HK

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Off the City Track - Rustic Farm Luncheon with Marco

I’ve actually moved cities. About two months ago I packed a suitcase and moved up to Hong Kong and so here I am in a new city, living in a pretty small apartment with a tiny tiny  kitchen and a renewed appetite for eating out and with that I shall attempt to be back on the blog.

In the spirit of adventure and exploration of the foreign land that I am now in, I and two others signed up for a dining event called “Rustic Farm Luncheon with Marco”. Lunch promised to be something different:  rustic Italian cuisine, slow food style – where they serve a course every hour, set in the beauty of the Hong Kong countryside. A great escape and change of scenery from the concrete city centre that we live, eat and work in. And if you wish, you can also come early and help prepare the luncheon. We opted for the lazy route, which was to show up for just in time for lunch but we arrived a tad too early and I was recruited into the orecchiette production line. Well, my orechiette skills were “non so niente”. I’ve seen those Italian mamas make it on TV and it looks like a breeze and they gave me a quick demonstration but I’ll be honest and confess that the first twenty to fifty orechiettes rolled and pressed out were just utter ugly pieces orechiette wannabes, after which I got slightly better in understanding how much pressure I needed to apply to the dough but it was really not my best work.

The journey to lunch was also a good part of the adventure. It is hard to imagine that all we did was to ride the MTR for 45 minutes to an hour and we were out of our concrete jungle environment and in a farm land area with the romantic backdrop of the mountains. The only thing that spoilt it was the vicious mosquitoes that still took a few good bites at me even though I had periodically doused myself in repellent.
What should we expect from such a lunch? It is out in a co-operative farm area and the surroundings scream rustic. Well, it is. Everything is served family-style. To a very hungry crowd, lunch itself kicked off with a bang. Marco, Betty and their kitchen help laid out plates of antipasti – Roasted beetroot with goat cheese and avocado, octopus with broccoli and potatoes, seared tuna with herb salad, Parma ham with Italian rock melon, panzanella Tuscan bread, burratina cheese with tomatoes, served with bread, sun dried tomatoes and olives. All which were well received by the hungry crowd. 

The next few courses ...

homemade orecchiette with mussels and calamari and tomato sauce

Baked Italian sea bass Mediterranean style

Braised beef cheek with cauliflower puree and fresh garden salad

Italian fruit – no pictures but the figs were absolutely amazing

The cooking was simple and the food was and the ingredients spoke for themselves. The rock melon’s natural sweetness was more pronounced with the Parma Ham and the branzino was perfectly cooked and just coaxed with some lemon that allowed us to enjoy the natural subtle taste of the fish. The very unfortunately thing about this lunch was the heat. The heat zapped the energy and most of the appetite out of us. And although well intentioned in the nature of slow food, conversation and building community, the combination of the wait and the heat between courses made it the heat more uncomfortable than anticipated. It is a good afternoon out but wait a while till the weather gets cooler.

If you want more information on them ...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Yardbird - chicken & rice

Back at Yardbird and feeling the same about this place. Love the idea, love the space, love the set up. I’m still not too hot about the yakitori but discovering gems in the non-yakitori section of the menu. The scotch egg was a surprisingly good but I have a genuine weakness for runny egg yolks so this had half my vote even before I tasted it. The discovery of this meal, however, was the Chicken & Rice and his interpretation is whimsical and delicious. In this dish, chicken is actually rice stirred in chicken fat and stock and topped with twice fried chicken skin, and a 62 degree cooked egg. Break the yolk and it coats the rice to give it a layer of richness and the skin is a crisp indulgence. And there are also some peas for greens and a balanced meal.

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