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Exploring Macau’s Fusion Cuisine at A Wong

Londoners, here’s a chance to Taste Macau. We get to experience this unique centuries old fusion cuisine at  A Wong where Macanese Foopd Ambassador Florita Alves has collaboration with Andrew Wong to create an 8 course tasting menu.

Florita Alves and Andrew Wong at A Wong

Florita Alves and Andrew Wong

The Macau Tourism Board held a lunch to preview this menu recently.  At A Wong, the main dining room is packed and oddly,  I catch a few odd snatches of Cantonese conversations. It appears that among the guests at this lunch to launch the Macanese menu are some transplanted Macanese and representatives of the Macau community. For a moment there, I thought I was back in Hong Kong.

When I lived in Hong Kong, I used to visit Macau just to play golf. I don’t remember ever having a typical Macanese meal when I visited Macau. This would be a new experience for me.

About Macanese cuisine

Macanese food a true fusion cuisine, a result of the Portuguese explorers making strategic trading ports en route from Europe in Goa, Melaka and Macau during the spice trade. Macau was a Portuguese colony for several centuries and was one of the last remaining ones until their handover back to China on 20 December 1999.  The first Macanese woman was a Malaysian woman from Melaka. The influences can be seen in some of these dishes on the lunch menu. There is still a strong Portuguese slant to some of the dishes and the liberal use of olive oil for cooking.

Macau does not have a large population but their community keeps their old cultures and traditions alive with many festivals. A lot of the locals left prior to the handover back to China but like Hong Kong, many have returned. Macanese cooking is kept alive by grandmas and mothers cooking with their daughters for these events. Recipes are still passed down by word of mouth through the generations.

The 8 course tasting menu was designed to showcase dishes which epitomise Macau and is served tapas style. The highlight of the lunch menu at A Wong was the African Chicken dish, a richly flavoured succulent chicken. It is usually marinaded in the spicy sauce for over 24 hours before being cooked.

The Bacalha married a Potruguese ingredient with Chinese Dim Sum techniques, resulting in a very tasty dumpling. Gambas a Macau, smothered in garlic was an easy winner.

Loved the pudding of the Pasteis des nata wiht flaky pastry and the coffee jelly with coconut pudding was a great combination.

Blinhos des bacalhau and Chillicote

Blinhos des bacalhau

Gambas a Macau

Gambas a Macau, grilled prawns with garlic and spices glazed with white wine

Shanghai dumpling wuth Glazed Dried Pork

Shanghai dumpling wuth Glazed Dried Pork

Grilled Portuguese Sausage with Beef Mince Minchi

Grilled Portuguese Sausage with Beef Mince Minci

African Chicken

African Chicken

Pasteis des nata egg custard tart with a Bebinca inspired coconut pudding with coffee jelly and Kahlua

Pasteis des nata egg custard tart with a Bebinca inspired coconut pudding with coffee jelly and Kahlua

Malaysian Influences in Macanese cuisine

On chatting to Florita, I found out that there is a lot Malaysian influence Macau cuisine. Of all the dishes on the menu, the one that most Macanese would identify with and is most representative of the Macanese cuisine is the Minchi, a minced beef dish. Every family has their own recipe for this but Florita gave me her recipe which I will reproduce on this blog soon.  This is normally served with rice as a typical home cooking dish but here it was served with some cubed fried potatoes. There is a very similar dish in Malay cuisine too.

Another example of Malaysian influence is the use of an ingredient called Balichao which used to made with tiny silver shrimps, a flavouring in many of their dishes. Florita sometimes enhances this with a splash of Portugese brandy. Balichao is not unlike the Malaysian Belacan (fermented shrump paste). The Macau version is less pungent. A balichao sauce is served alongside a Portugese meat stew called Tachuchauchau, not dissimilar to our Nyonya Tau Eu Bak (stewed pork belly) and sambal belacan.

There is a soupy noodle dish called Lakasa with shrimps and vermicelli which they have during Christmas. We have Laksa a spicy noodle soup. Their famous African Chicken is usually served with a sambal sauce which is very similar to our Malaysian condiment.

Am fascinated by this cuisine as the melding of the many different food influences has created a food culture that has evolved through the centuries. This has reminded me to investigate our own Malaysian Portuguese fusion cuisine (Kristang)  in Melaka on my next trip there.

If you like to explore different cuisines, don’t miss this  Macanese Food event. The 8 course Macanese tasting menu will be available from the 17th – 29th November at A Wong. 

A Wong

70 Wilton Rd,
Victoria,
London SW1V 1DE
020 7828 8931

A. Wong on Urbanspoon

For more information on Macau visit: www.macautourism.gov.mo

EatCookExplore was a guest of the Macau Government Tourist Office.

Mandarin Kitchen – Lobster Noodles Still Great

Mandarin Kitchen is one of the handful of places that we used to frequent for a decent Chinese meal in the Bayswater area. When we were students, a lot of friends had flat in the area and we used to congregate at a long closed restaurant called Hung Toa where the Roast Duck was famous. This used to be like a clubhouse, as all the gang would show up there sometime on a Sunday after a late night in the clubs on Saturday. We would almost always have the Roast Duck on rice. You would always see someone you knew in there, regardless of the time of day. Some of the staff from here left to open the now very popular Four Seasons.

For more formal Chinese meals or when the parents were in town, we would go to Mandarin Kitchen or Fortune Cookie (the old incarnation), both along Queensway.

After all these years, we still like to go to Mandarin Kitchen, especially when old friends visit London. Its nostalgic. The rather dated decor hasn’t changed much as they still have the cave like alcoves and walls covered in the strange plaster texture. There are still long queues for tables. There are big round tables to cater for big family meals and some smaller tables along the wall. When it’s busy, it’s frenetic.

The one thing we always order here is the Lobster Noodles. It looked like most of the customers in the restaurant on the night we were there ordered this too. This is the dish that they are the most famous for. On this occassion, we ordered Lobster Noodles with ginger and spring onions with a Yee Mein base. I prefer to order it with the crispy egg noodles base and a double portion of that too.

Mandarin Kitchen

Lobster Noodles with ginger and spring onion 

Mandarin Kitchen serves great seafood as the husband of the boss runs a seafood wholesale company. You can order the regular favourites like Crispy Duck too but that is just a distraction from the other choices. As they mainly do Cantonese Cuisine, there are a lot of familiar dishes on the menu for you to choose from if seafood is not your thing.

 

Mandarin Kitchen Queensway

Steamed Bamboo clams

On this visit, we ordered an array of dishes to make up a casual Chinese dinner. All dishes were for sharing as the Chinese don’t really do “order your own main course” thing. Of the other seafood dishes we ordered were steamed bamboo clams with a soya sauce based dressing, prawn stuffed tofu soup, fried crab claws, some stuffed Japanese tofu and some fried green beans.

Mandarin Kitchen Queensway

Crab Claws

 

Mandarin Kitchen Queensway

Braised Japanese Tofu

Mandarin Kitchen Queensway

Stir Fried Green Beans

Service was brisk and efficient. No superfluous fawning. The place was busy and buzzing. Not a place to have a romantic date but go with a group of friends for some great seafood.

It is comforting to know that the quality of the cooking has remained consistently above average, even after so many years. If you are around Bayswater, this is definitely a great choice for a very good Chinese meal.

 

Mandarin Kitchen
14-16 Queensway
London W2 3RX
020 7727 9012

(opposite Queensway tube station)
Mandarin Kitchen on Urbanspoon

 

Dim Sum at Royal China Queensway

This has been one of our favourite dim sum places in London for the longest time. It was one of the first Chinese restaurants that started serving dim sum in a nicer environment and with better service than the brusque approach in most Chinatown places.

Royal China in Queensway has a very big dining room, with space for many family sized round tables, each with their own lazy susans. The walls are lined with black lacquer screens which is their signature look that is replicated across the chain.

Royal China Queensway Dim Sum

I was there with my friend Fiona to review their dim sum menu which they serve daily. For those who are not too familiar with dim sum and how to order, they have pictures on their menus that help. Fiona asked me to order and this is what we had.

Dim sum being a Cantonese tradition, we had to have a soup as they do make really good soups- a nourishing Seafood coriander soup. As customary, we also ordered a pot of Oolong tea to go with our lunch.

Seafood Coriander Soup

Seafood Coriander Soup

Followed by an appetiser portion of crispy soft shell crab.

crispy soft shell crab

Crispy soft shell crab

We had an array of dim sum, most were done well but I found that the cheung fun was not fine enough nor was the skin of the Shanghai dumplings. It does take a very skilled dim sum chef to execute these dumplings perfectly and unfortunately in London we don’t seem to have many that are trained. Besides this, everything else was delightful.

I did like their variation on crispy duck with their crispy duck rolls.

Royal China Queensway Dim Sum

Prawn Cheung Fun, Crispy duck rolls, spicy dumplings, roast pork puffs, Shanghai Xiao Long Bao

Our other assortment of steamed and fried dim sum dishes arrived including my favourite, the prawn and chive dumplings. Fiona rather gamely tried the chicken’s feet which a lot of other English friends have balked at. It really is an acquired taste as Chinese people like to chew on the bones which is more flavourful, rather than opting for a large chunk of meat.

Royal China Queensway Dim Sum

Prawn and chives dumpling, chicken’s feet, Vietnamese spring rolls

We had lovely dim sum even though we probably ordered too much for two people. Since it was her first dim sum meal in a long time, it would have been wrong not to have a breadth of dishes. One of the comments was that everything came in multiple of 3 and that made it difficult for 2 people dining.

Dim sum always works better in a bigger crowd as you can order more varieties.  On the weekends, they serve a few more special dishes than the menu we had. Dishes like crispy suckling pig is available as a dim sum dish and if you see it on the menu when you visit, you should try it. Don’t forget to get there early on the weekends to beat the crowds.

Royal China Queensway
13 Queensway
London
W2 4QJ
020 7221 2535

 

Royal China on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Eat Cook Explore was a guest of Royal China

Grand Imperial Victoria – express lunches

The Grand Imperial Chinese Restaurant launched last year to great fanfare. It’s housed in a corner of the Grosvenor Hotel in Victoria, one of the grand old railway hotels. There are 2 entrances, either via Victoria Station or by a side entrance next to the bus station. They have transformed the high ceilinged rooms into an elegant contempary dining room with a section partitioned off for a private dining room.

Grand Imperial Chinese Restaurant Victoria

This restaurant is part the same family as the Grand Imperial from Kuala Lumpur. They even shipped over their executive chef to head up the kitchen. He has since been replaced at the beginning of this year with a chef from Hong Kong.

On the day we landed here for lunch we were hoping for some dim sum but the dim sum kitchen was closed and they had a one week old dim sum chef who was not up to speed yet.

We ended up opting for the Express Lunch menu. There was a choice of several starters, noodles or rice dish and a pudding. At £12.80 or £16 for 2 or 3 courses respectively, quite a good deal. On the ala carte menu, couldn’t help but notice some nouveau Chinese dishes like Stir Fried Lobster with Foie Gras. Hmmm?

The dining room was not very busy, even for a Friday lunch service. I guess people either don’t know that they exist or they haven’t endeared themselves too well to the neighbouring office workers. This part of Victoria is not exactly brimming with decent places to eat.

For starters, we had the dim sum platter,  4 pieces of very average dim sum. Not terribly refined as I expected.  I had heard good thing but I guess the new chef was not in charge yet.We also had the double boiled chicken soup with wolfberries. Nice clear soup as only the Cantonese can do really well.

Grand Imperial Chinese Restaurant Victoria

For mains, there were several choices of noodle and rice dishes. I had the Singapore noodle, sans curry powder. The portions were enormous, the noodles were too greasy.

Grand Imperial Chinese Restaurant Victoria

For pudding there were 2 choices, green tea creme brulee or strawberry lychee pudding. I had the creme brulee which was very thick and heavy. Really not the right texture for creme brulee, had a couple of spoonfuls and left it. Wasn’t worth the calories.

Grand Imperial Chinese Restaurant Victoria Green Tea Creme Brulee

The service was very attentive although they did get our tea order wrong. They did try.

Not the best Chinese meal and did not live up the the expectations nor the decor of the place and on the whole thge food was not much better than the local takeaway.How unfortunate as I was really wanting to like it and to find somewhere new in London with decent Cantonese food. Maybe dishes from the ala carte menu might have been better.

Grand Imperial

101 Buckingham Palace Road

London, UK SW1W

Grand Imperial on Urbanspoon

 

Jai Yun for Authentic Shanghainese food in San Francisco

This is the restaurant that triggered me to start a food blog. We went to Jai Yun on the edge of Chinatown in San Franciscoe as it was a bit of a cult in San Francisco. It is where all the chefs go to eat when they get off work. It is run by chef/owner Nei Chia Ji who has been described as both an artist and a genius. There is no menu, you just tell them how much you want to pay and they food starts arriving. The decor is sparse and but not dingy.

This was the beginning of a 22 course meal and for our $40 budget. Every dish was cooked fresh, was totally unique, cooked in a different style and every flavour was distinct and quite amazing.

Jai Yun San Francisco

Starters: Lotus root, Vegetarian chicken, duck, imperial vegetable, jelly fish, beef, pickled cucumbers

Jai Yun San Francisco

Jai Yun San Francisco

Stir Fried Prawns with chickpeas

Jai Yun San Francisco

Soyabean, goji berry, fu chuk and spring onions

Jai Yun San Francisco

Squid in garlic, chilli and pepper garnish

Jai Yun San Francisco

Fan pei, shanghainese noodles

Jai Yun San Francisco

Deep fried crispy beef

Jai Yun San Francisco

Yin choi with tofu and chives

Jai Yun San Francisco

Stewed pork knuckle

Jai Yun San Francisco

Spicy chicken with nuts

Jai Yun San Francisco

Double fried egg plant

There was plenty to eat but we felt a bit cheated when the table of 10 next to us got a fish dish as well. We were a smaller table so maybe that was our ration.

Of all the chinese places that I have eaten at in San Francisco Chinatown, this was the best by a mile. The food was not like the Americanised chinese food that is in most of the restaurants in Chinatown. Not  chop suey to be seen. I have not been back in while so am not sure if it is still there. Definitely worth a visit, if you want an authentic chinese food experience.

Jai Yun on Urbanspoon

Dim Sum at Golden Dragon

Dim Sum or sometimes called Yum Cha is originally a Cantonese snack which has now been raised to be a full blown meal. Dim sum was usually served as a breakfast or brunch over a leisurely pot of tea, hence the Yum Cha which is to drink tea. One would have just one small dish at a time, slowly whiling away the morning, reading the paper. Dim Sum today is a noisy hurried meal with a whole table laden with almost the entire dim sum menu of a restaurant.

In Hong Kong and parts of Asia, some larger dim sum restaurants would serve dim sum from heated carts where you can pick the dishes fresh from the kitchen as they come around your table. In London, the New World Restaurant still does this but the food is really is inedible.

As much of the original Chinese immigrants to London who opened restaurants in Chinatown were from Southern China or Hakka or Cantonese origin. They brought along some expertise in cooking and some respectable dim sum places opened up in London. Dim Sum chefs are usually quite well trained as it requires a lot of skill to make the skins and wraps thin enough to make fine dim sum. Nowadays, much of the dim sum places in Chinatown serve warmed up frozen dim sum.

Golden Dragon is one of the better ones in Chinatown for dim sum. We regularly meet here on Sundays where you see a lot of big groups of Chinese families. If you are visiting London, don’t expect dim sum to the standards of Hong Kong or Vancouver.

What to order at a Dim Sum restaurant?
Some of my non Chinese friends and some twitter friends have asked me for a list of what to order as they can never get the same things when I don’t order for them so here goes. We usually have a mixture of steamed dishes, dumplings and fried dishes.

XO Sauce Cheung Fun

XO Sauce Cheung Fun

Cheung fun is a steamed rice noodle and is sometimes filled with either prawns, roast pork, beef, scallop or a fried dough stick. All quite delicious.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Har Gau Prawn Dumpling

Har Gau Prawn Dumpling

Stewed Tripe

Stewed Tripe

I might give this a miss if you don’t like offal.

Glutinous Rice wrapped in Lotus Leaf

Glutinous Rice wrapped in Lotus Leaf

This is glutinous rice with some meat, chinese sausages and mushrooms. Just unwrap the parcel and dig in.

Roast Pork Puffs and Yam Croquettes

Roast Pork Puffs and Yam Croquettes

There are other fried dishes like prawn toast and spring rolls, or the pan fried radish cake,  the varieties are endless.

Prawn and Chives Dumpling

Prawn and Chives Dumpling

There are quite a few more dishes that are on the steamed menu like beef balls, spare ribs, chicken feet, vegetarian dumplings and snails.

Salted Fish and Chicken Claypot Rice

Salted Fish and Chicken Claypot Rice

This is a very fragrant rice dish which I want to introduce to my Brazillian friends who recently fed me several delicious salt cod dishes. They might like the Chinese salted fish dishes too.

Sometimes instead of a rice dish, we order some fried noodles or a soup noodle like Rice Vermicelli with Shredded Duck and Snow Vegetables in Soup.

Crispy Suckling Pig and Roast Duck

Crispy Suckling Pig and Roast Duck

Do try the suckling pig as the skin is super crispy with a plum sauce dip.

Stir Fried Pea Shoots

Stir Fried Pea Shoots

We always order a vegetable dish as well and do ask them what veg they have on that day. This is not on the menu usually.

For pudding, most restaurants don’t have many choices but sometimes have desserts that are off the menu like red bean soup or Tau Fu Fa which is a soft soya bean jelly served sweet.

Mango Pudding

Mango Pudding

Mango pudding has a jelly like consitency and curiously served swimming in evaporated milk. Not my favourite.

Black Sesame Glutinous Rice Balls

Black Sesame Glutinous Rice Balls

If you have never tried these, you should try to order them. Make sure you tell them before the end of your meal as it takes about 20 minutes to make. These are made with glutinous rice flour and filled with a black sesame paste which oozes when you bite into it. Sometimes comes rolled in crushed peanuts of coconut (non traditional). Not many places do this but you can try it here.

Other Dim Sum Restaurants in London

Gerrards Corner – Best dish is the stir fried radish cake

Royal China Bayswater, Bake St – Very average and expensive for what it is

Plum Valley – Very expensive and not very good food, very expensive tea

Superstar – Surprisingly, not bad

Yauatcha – higher quality and much more expensive dim sum

Phoenix Palace – Busy but really not very good dim sum

Min Jiang – Totally overpriced but I guess you are paying for the view over Hyde Park

Pearl Liang – Not bad for West London, nice decor, decent service

Royal China Putney – Not part of the Royal China group, good dim sum, better than most in London and well worth the trek out there.

Places to avoid – Ping Pong, New World, Chuen Cheng Ku

Golden Dragon may not serve the most refined dim sum and the service is the typlical nonchalant Chinatown restaurant service but the dim sum is quite decent by London standards and the prices are very reasonable. Your meal should not cost more than £15 per person, (not including any drinks).

Golden Dragon on Urbanspoon

Review – Congee at Leong’s Legend

When you are feeling under the weather the best thing to have is something light. I remember being force fed congee when I was younger and hated it. Things have changed, I can now appreciate all the different types of congee there is and it is a sort of comfort food.

Congee is chinese rice porridge which is made by boiling rice in a  lot of water for a while until it resembles a thick soup. This is usually a breakfast dish or sometimes for supper. The little shops in Hong Kong do this really well and you can usually find a couple of choices of congee on a dim sum menu. Some of the favourite flavours are raw fish congee, pork with salted ducks egg and thousand year old egg and dried oysters and dried scallops.

In London Chinatown, Dragon’s Inn used to have a massive cauldron of white congee bubbling away at the entrance next to their cheong fun steamer which was really popular for supper. Sadly, this place is gone and we have to look around for a good alternative. The Taiwanese serve congee plain, with a lot of little dishes of accompaniments like omelletes, crispy anchovies, fried fish, picked cabbage and stewed pork to name a few,  not unlike the Teochew people.

On a friend’s suggestion, we ended up at Leong’s Legend. They had 2 flavours on the menu, Oyster Congee (made with dried oysters)  or the Salty Pork and Black  egg (Thousand Year old egg) congee (£4.20). We had the pork congee with an essential side order of fried dough sticks (£2.00).

Pork and Thousand Year old egg congee The congee was nice and smooth with large chunks of the thousand year old egg and slithers of pork. Could have done with a bit of salted egg in there but not in this recipe. Disappointingly, the dough sticks were really soggy, like they were just microwaved, when they should have been crispy. For a quick meal, that hit the spot and at £6.20 was a real bargain.

Here’s a quick recipe if you want to try this at home.

Congee Recipe

150ml plain white rice, soaked in cold water for at least an hour or overnight

700ml liquid, water for the plain version or stock for a flavoured version

Add meat as required. Suggested flavours:

  • Raw fish slices added at the end of into the hot congee with julienne of ginger
  • Raw beef slice, as above
  • Minced pork meatballs
  • Pork ribs

Garnishes:

  • sliced spring onions
  • garlic oil
  • cripy fried dough cut into bite size pieces like croutons

Method

Bring to boil and then turn down heat to let it simmer. Continue boiling until the rice becomes a creamy texture, usually about 30 – 40 minutes. Alternatively, the easy route is to use the porridge setting in your rice cooker or use a slow cooker and leave it in all day. Serve hot with some soya sauce on the side.

Leong's Legends Continue on Urbanspoon

Review China City: Great Cantonese Home Cooking

Poons Restaurants in London used to be where we went for consistently good home style Cantonese food. In 2005, the China City group took over the chain and kept this branch and the one in Russel square. Thankfully they have maintained both the menu and the high  standard of cooking.

London Chinatown used to have a massive choice of medium priced Chinese restaurants serving good Cantonese food. In recent years, the numbers have dwindled, new trendier places with sometimes worse and more expensive food have been introduced. A recent trend is the opening of Szechuan and Shanghainese restaurants and none of these cuisines are done that well. Most of the cooking is done by non native chefs and only approximate good regional Chinese cooking.

I heard from a restauranter that quite of a few of the decent remaining places are going to be shutting down or have their menus drastically transformed due to a 30% increase in business rates by the council in 2009 and a vastly decreasing influx of diners. The restaurants that are supposed to be struggling are Fung Shing (one of the best chefs in Chinatown) and the Empress of China.

On a recent night out with some friends, we went to China City for some home cooking. The place was very quiet and the waitresses seems to have been replaced by some mainland Chinese workers like most other restaurants in London Chinatown. Unfortunately, I can’t order Cantonese dishes in Mandarin very well and although the waitress did speak Cantonese, albeit with a strong Mandarin accent, she misheard my order 5 times and brought us a wrong dish. This was duly rectified by the manager who replaced the dish without hesitation.

Bitter Gourd and Turbot in black bean sauce

Bitter Gourd and Turbot in black bean sauce

Poons was famous for it’s wax meat rice cooked in clay pot ( Lap Mei Fan)  which is normally a winter dish. However, my friend from out of town wanted to order it for sentimental reasons. We started with a mix waxed meat rice which consisted of waxed duck, liver sausage and chinese sausage, cooked in fragantly  flavoured rice in the clay pot. They serve this with a cooked soy sauce which you then add to your own portion in the bowl. Chinese wax meats is a type of preserved food that has been salted and cured, but not with wax as the name suggest.

Clay pot wax meat rice

Clay pot wax meat rice

Chinese Sausages and wax meat

Chinese Sausages and wax meat

As we were doing a home style meal, the other dishes to share were Bitter Gourd and Turbot in black bean sauce, stir fried baby pak choi, peipa tofu, steamed mince pork with salted fish. We were also offered the complimentary house soup which is usually a soup with either the roast duck carcass, ribs or miscellaneous cuts of meat, some dates, vegetables to sweeten it. Most Cantonese meals are incomplete without one of these soups served either with the meal or at the end of a meal and is also one of the anti ageing secrets to Chinese cuisine.

Peipa Tofu

Peipa Tofu

Stir Fried Baby Pak Choi

Stir Fried Baby Pak Choi

Steamed mince pork with salted fish

Steamed mince pork with salted fish

House soup

House soup

Every Chinese meal is meant to a balanced, hence we will have a bit of meat, fish and vegetables. We almost never have just one dish each as this would be so boring and also not nutritionally balanced. All the dishes were done very well and the portions are quite substantial and definitely needs to be shared and would be a bit too much for an individual portion. Average costs -£15 per head.

Cantonese Home Cooking

Cantonese Home Cooking

China City on Urbanspoon