For folks who are familiar with beef noodles in Hong Kong, 華姐 and 九記 should immediately come to mind. Unlike their Taiwanese counterparts whose recipes originated from largely Szechuan and Zhejiang cuisine to become what is uniquely “Taiwanese Beef Noodles” as we know today, Beef Brisket Noodles in Hong Kong can be traced back to its ancestry in traditional Cantonese cuisine. Flavours wise, the two varieties couldn’t be more different. While Taiwanese Beef Noodles swear to be rich and robust in flavours through the liberal use of spices and condiments, the Cantonese rendition opts to occupy the other end of the spectrum where simplicity and clarity are the key notes highly played. But as most foodies would know, the simpler the dish may seem, the harder it is to get it right but I think 華姐清湯腩 Sister Wah Beef Brisket definitely nailed it. (more…)
If every country has their own “national dish”, Kimchi must surely be Korea’s. This spicy pickled Napa cabbage is so immensely popular, it is almost synonymously linked to Korean food culture. Its versatility deems it not only good to be eaten on its own, but also cooked in a large variety of ways from soups like kimchi jijae or kimchiguk, to kimchi fried rice (kimchi bokkeumbap) as well as flavouring the base of hotpots like dubu kimchi jeongol. Its versatility also means that it is eaten is in practically every Korean meal, be it casual street food on the go where one would find kimchi pancakes (kimchijeon), to very formal royal meals like the Susarang. Even if it is not eaten on its own, the paste for making kimchi is used as a dipping sauce, from hotpots to live octopuses!
In Korea, kimchi comes in a large variety of forms. From the spicy version which evokes the liberal use of chilli pepper powder to the non-spicy and thus milder versions like the “water kimchi“. A large variety of ingredients are also used for pickling from white radish to cucumber but by far, the most popular and thus most common form of kimchi is made from Napa cabbage which the Koreans call baechu, giving rise 배추김치 Baechu-kimchi, that is Korean Cabbage Kimchi.
大根のそぼろに Daikon no Soboroni, like 肉じゃが Nikujaga , is another signature dish in Japanese home-styled cooking. Ironically like many such dishes, Daikon no soboroni is unfamiliar to many who are accustomed to relating Japanese cuisine to the dishes which are available in Japanese restaurants and delis, not places where one would readily find dishes of the Japanese home, especially in Singapore. But I love these dishes for their simplicity in technique, yet so full of おふくろの味 “flavours of the home”, just what one needs to warm the stomach and the heart after being so tired of eating out. It is extremely easy to prepare and takes very little time to do so.
Over our numerous trips to Hong Kong, we’d tried quite a number of 雲吞麺 wantan mee joints. I remember vividly the first joint we’d visited eons back was 池記 in Causeway Bay. It was with a 拜碼頭 mentality that we went as they were purportedly very good. Or so said those who recommended the place to me. The experience was disappointing. The serving was too small to justify the price and the soup was laced with so much MSG we probably gulped down multiple times more water to ease our throats and clear it out of our system. And the price of one small bowl of wantan mee at 池記 Chee Kee was easily 2-3 times of what one would expect to pay in Singapore at that time. In short, the experience was pretty nasty. Oddly, the place was swarmed with tourists from across the border, Mainland China. As we watched those who shared the table with us slurp the noodles and down the soup with much relish, we couldn’t help wonder if there was something wrong with our tastebuds or theirs. in retrospect, I guess it was essentially not a case of one being inferior to the other but more of being different. Some aspects of Chinese cuisine have been dubbed as being liberal to a point of being relentless with their use of salt and MSG. Perhaps 池記 had changed their recipe to better suit the tastebuds of their comrades from the “Motherland”. All purely speculative…
Our experience at 池記 inhibited our sampling of many other wantan mee places. Most notable are amongst the 香港5大雲吞麺家 “Wantan Mee Famous Five” in Hong Kong, that is 麥奀雲吞麺家 “Mak An Kee” in Sheung Wan， 麥奀記 (忠記) 麵家 “Mak An Chung Kee” Noodle in Central， 麥文記麵家 “Mak Man Kee” in Jordan, 何洪記 “Ho Hung Kee” in Causeway Bay, and 正斗 “Tasty Congee and Noodles” in Happy Valley. Their roots can be traced back to the original 池記 “Chee Kee” in Guangzhou China, where all of the “founders” of the Famous Five apprenticed. Our “logic” then was if their grandmaster tasted crap to us, the disciples couldn’t stray too far from being unpalatable.
Woke up real late yesterday and missed the marketing hours of our local morning bazaar which is colloquialised as “pasar”. Not wanting to “succumb” to instant noodles, I prepared “instant” beef noodles with the beef brisket I braised couple of days back and some ingredients I had at home. Simple fanfare with a few ingredients for that extra touch! The gratification was instant as well oh yeah!
柱侯萝卜焖牛腩 Braised Beef Brisket with Daikon in Chu Hou Sauce is one of my favorite dishes from the 粤菜系 Cantonese cuisine. It is a must-order for me whenever I visit chinese restaurants, be it Hong Kong cafes, or traditional Cantonese restaurants. Succulent beef brisket, beef tendon and daikon braised to perfection, drawing in all the flavours from the condiments and spices added, making it a rare treat for me. And the sauce is simply out of this world, especially when left to mature overnight for the flavours to fully develop! Give me a bowl of the sauce and I could polish off 3 bowls of rice with it! Unfortunately not every Cantonese restaurant offers this, owing to the long cooking time required, and for those which do have it on their menu, not all of them do it well. Yes, it is a time-consuming dish to prepare but reassure that it is well worth the effort! Braise a huge pot of it, which is usually what I do, and it would keep me happy for days at ends!
This is going to be a long post given the long ingredients list and cooking method. So please bear with me as the details cannot be spared!