ZUAN YUAN CHINESE RESTAURANT
Lobby Level One World Hotel
First Avenue Bandar Utama
Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Tel: 03–7681 1159
Prices are subject to 10% service charge
and 6% government tax.
Chef Michael Chew of Zuan Yuan restaurant unveils a selection of Hong Kong dishes inspired by his whirlwind tour of the Fragrant Harbour.
IN the Chinese culinary world, Hong Kong still reigns as the culinary capital. Its exciting food scene serves as a beacon of inspiration for both chefs and foodies alike, near and far.
One World Hotel’s Chinese chef Michael Chew is no exception. A recent gastronomic tour to the cosmopolitan city-state saw him checking out everything Hong Kong had to offer, from the humblest dai pai dong (hawker stalls) to the priciest eateries.
“All those dining experiences form the basis for our ‘I Love Hong Kong’ promotional menu this month,” he says.
According to Chew, even a simple dish like braised chicken varies greatly from restaurant to restaurant in Hong Kong.
“That’s because each chef would have their version of lou sui, braising liquid concocted from light and thick soya sauces, and assorted seasonings. The master chefs are very discerning when it comes selecting types and grades of soya sauce for their cooking.
“Aside from the usual sang chau (light soya sauce), there’s lou chau, dark or aged soya sauce which has thicker viscosity but diverse taste profiles – some are briny-sweet, while others boast sweet caramelised accents. And then there’s tau chau or ‘head brew’, a premium-grade soya sauce with a superior, refined flavour,” Chew explains.
After sampling his Braised Chicken with King Soya Sauce Served in Claypot (RM20++ for half a chicken), we are pretty confident that the Malaysian chef’s version can compete with Hong Kong’s best. The chef’s signature lou sui lends a briny-sweet overtone to the tender and juicy meat while the dark and glossy chicken skin is satin smooth.
Even the sliced onion rings that lined the claypot are scrumptious, having soaked up all the flavourful juices pooled at the bottom.
Soup is a Hong Kong staple, but how does one elevate it beyond the tried-and-tested? Chew was spot on when he chose to include chong cao hua (cordyceps militaris) into the Double Boiled Black Chicken Soup with Dried Scallop (RM20++ per person). We find the cultivated fungus’s woody aroma gives the clear, wholesome broth a deep rustic tinge.
Happily, it also has similar medicinal value and chemical composition as the costlier tung chong cao (cordyceps sinensis).
Like any chef worth his salt in Hong Kong, Chew proves he is a dab hand when it comes to preparing seafood. The Braised Cod Fish with Morel Mushroom (RM32++ per portion) is such a simple but sublime dish that it beggars belief that no chef has thought of matching the musky earthiness of the mushroom with the creamy richness of the white fish. Till now, that is.
His Wok Fried Tiger Prawn with Special Sauce (RM28++ per piece) is memorable for its sweet and rich sauce made from ground dried shrimps, fresh milk and whipping cream. Textural contrast comes to the fore in the Assorted Diced Sea Food with Crispy Rice in Lobster Soup (RM13++ per person). I recall enjoying a similar speciality in Shanghai years ago but Chew’s divine lobster-based broth laden with seafood is far more indulgent.
Another trend that has caught on in Hong Kong is cold appetisers, a customary practice in many parts of mainland China. This prompted Chew to offer Poached Bitter Cucumber “Sze Chuan” Style (RM12++ per portion) and Sea Conch with Cucumber in Wasabi Sauce (RM18++ per portion) as palate primers for the month-long promotion.
Although the bittergourd’s refreshing astringent aftertaste is well-tempered by the piquancy of the Sichuanese sauce, I suspect that this appetiser will mostly only appeal to fans of vegetables and people who are health-conscious. The Japanese-inspired palate primer in the menu may fare better.
The Hong Kong classic of omelette with tomatoes appears in a new incarnation with Chew’s Braised Bean Curd with Egg and Tomato Sauce (RM22++ per portion). Cut into thin, delicate slices, the bland, smooth beancurd serves as the perfect foil for the moist, custard-soft egg in tomato sauce.
Dessert veers between the rather ho-hum Mango and Avocado “Ying Yang” Style (RM12++ per portion) and the notable Black and White Sesame Glutinous Rice Cake (RM12++ per serving of four pieces). The rice cake strikes a chord with its bouncy texture and sinful richness.
For me, Zuan Yuan’s “I Love Hong Kong” fare is a good way as any to savour the culinary trends holding sway in Hong Kong right now without leaving the country. The promotion ends Oct 31, 2011.