An emperor’s fish
2.01, 2nd floor
Podium Block, Menara Hap Seng
Jalan P. Ramlee
Tel: 03-2070 9399
16, Jalan Waras 1
Cheras, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-9130 2626
(Friday to Sunday)
The sturgeon is not just about caviar. This fish, which used to be served only to Chinese emperors, has been successfully bred for the table. A sturgeon feast can now be enjoyed at a Kuala Lumpur restaurant.
AN impromptu call recently led me to a late night feast of sturgeon at the Elegant Inn in Kuala Lumpur.
I was intrigued. I only know of the fish in connection with caviar, but I quickly got acquainted with the facts.
What we had in different cooking styles at the restaurant featured different parts of the 3.8kg sturgeon, which can grow up to 8kg in weight!
The belly is lined generously with fat, of the highly valued Omega 3, eight times more than salmon. In Chinese, it’s variously called the Chum Loong Yue, or Wong Yue (Emperor fish), both referring to olden imperial times in China where the fish was exclusively for the Emperor’s table. During the Ching Dynasty, the sturgeon was the star of a Manchu banquet that lasted three days and featured 108 courses!
This long, sleek and silvery fish of the Acipenser genera dates back to the dinosaur age, and left to its own in the wilds, its stock has been depleting. But technology and expertise in aquatic farming have enabled it to be bred in China and Taiwan, in the most pristine freshwater sources. Sensitive to the minutest pollution, and vagaries of the weather, it’s starting to be bred in West Malaysia.
Wesley Ng, Elegant Inn’s head chef, prepared for us six courses using various parts of the sturgeon. First was a striking dome of shaved ice, draped with thin, orangey slices of sturgeon fillet, sashimi style.
The smooth fillet delivered a light crunch, with a slight resistance to the bite, and a natural sweetness filled the mouth. I had just touched the fish in a fine soya sauce, and even though wasabi was served with it, I was reluctant to overwhelm its subtle flavour. You could also have the sashimi with a sesame oil, spring onion and ginger dip.
We moved on to the Chiu Yim Fried Sturgeon Bones. This is from the soft cartilage in its centre bone that has a little fat attached to it.
The bones were rendered crunchy and scrumptious in this salt and pepper style fry-up, with bits of fat bursting in the mouth. You could still strip a little meat off the bones.
Thin fillets of stir fried fish with asparagus and black fungus were sweet and velvety. Some wolfberries and a dash of flavourful Hong Kong bean paste brought everything together.
This offered a distinct contrast to the Golden Fried Sturgeon Tail topped with crispy ginger shreds. It’s the skill of the chef to deliver a superb crispiness to the skin before lifting the tail off the oil, in this foong cheen style. A delicious aroma pervades at the bite, as you savour the smooth, gelatinous meat of the fish which sits on a light, fine sauce, pairing it with some ginger and spring onion shreds.
We came to the Steamed Sturgeon Belly. When we had it at this maiden sturgeon feast, we thought the belly was too thick and didn’t compare well with the other perfectly steamed fish we have had at this restaurant. But I’m told the chef has done much better steaming this sturgeon belly since then.
In the next dish, we had strips of sturgeon belly fat stirfried with scallops, sweet peas and celery in the chef’s spiced sauce. These had a firm, springy texture and a feel-good vibe – just think of all the Omega 3 flowing through!
Braised Sturgeon Belly in a Claypot with special red dates, waterchestnut, bamboo shoot, fu pei or soy skin, mushrooms and roast pork was a luscious assembly of ingredients that enhanced the creamy chunks of fish belly.
I love fish – and the fat interweaved with the flesh in this part of the sturgeon was just scrumptious. You could also have the sturgeon belly braised with wild matsutake mushroom in a claypot.
We finished with Sturgeon Slices in Congee. All the essence of the fish is released into the hot broth cooked with organic rice, which is already laced with superior stock.
Chef Wesley said he likes the challenge of cooking such a high-value, precious fish.
“It’s unlike any other fish in texture and flavour. I can do so much with it – from the head to the tail, from the fat to the liver. I double-boil the fishhead for soup, fry the cartilage, steam the belly or sashimi it, deepfry the tail and braise the fillet with matsutake mushrooms.
“I can fry the fish fat into crispy bits and use the oil to cook fragrant rice, together with ginger and wine.
“Even the sturgeon liver has no fishy aroma at all. The sturgeon skin, which has no scales, can have its sandy bits scraped off and deep-fried.”
The sturgeon offers a lot of health benefits. It is packed with antioxidants, vitamin B, amino acids (three to five times higher than any other fish), and essential fatty acids EPA and DHA. It is also high in calcium and collagen.
Elegant Inn is offering a RM3,333++ menu for a Whole Sturgeon Fish Feast for a table of 10 for four weeks, beginning June 13 in celebration of its third anniversary.
The nine-course menu includes Sashimi Fillet, Salt and Pepper Fried Sturgeon Cartilage, Double-Boiled Sturgeon Head with Chinese Herbs, Golden Fried Sturgeon Tail and Sturgeon Fillet Stirfried with Chef’s Sauce or HK Bean Paste, Steamed Sturgeon Belly or Braised Sturgeon with Wild Matsutake Mushroom, Braised Abalone and Sea Cucumber or Japanese Kobe Beef Garlic Style and Twin Sturgeon Claypots: Congee with Sturgeon Slices and Rice with Sturgeon Oil.
It ends with Double-Boiled Hasma and Imperial Dates, and Bird’s Nest Tartlettes and Premium Seasonal Fresh Fruits.
There are also other anniversary treats such as dim sum at RM3++ each, RM33++ for weekly dinner specials Twin Delights (two dishes), and RM333++ for a Live Boston Lobster meal for three.