WHILE working at a hotel in the Anhui province in China, chef Michael Chew discovered how the locals loved savouring dishes cooked in claypots.
The 38-year-old chef said claypot cooking was a favourite especially in spring when the weather was chilly and wet as the pots helped keep the food warmer for a longer period of time.
“All the Chinese homes will prepare various meat dishes in claypots with lots of peppercorns, oil and chilli in them.
“When you eat it, the spiciness just spills all over your tongue and you have a sudden numbing sensation that is just crazy,” said Chew who is currently attached to the Zuan Yuan Chinese Restaurant in One World Hotel.
Chew, who has worked as a Chinese cuisine chef in various hotels around the world, said cooking in claypots was still commonly practised in Malaysia as it is a good way to retain the ingredients’ natural flavours.
For this month, Chew is introducing five varieties of claypot dishes at the hotel for the first time.
In case you are thinking of Claypot Chicken Rice as one of the items, then you will be pleasantly surprised as Chew has more complicated dishes up his sleeves.
We were first greeted with the Braised Chicken with Dried Chilli and Salted Fish (RM26 per portion) which is a popular delicacy in authentic Chinese restaurants and usually prepared with pork but Chew had replaced it with chicken instead. However, the dish tasted just as good.
For the Braised Traditional Lamb (RM48 per portion), Chew said he did not chop the meat into cubes prior to cooking as he wanted to maintain the juices in the meat.
The delicacy needed an hour or two to cook depending on the size of the meat with preserved Chinese beancurd (lamyu and fooyu), soya bean sauce, ginger, onion and water.
“We also have to braise the lamb a day ahead as it will taste much better with all the flavours absorbed into the meat,” said Chew.
For prawn lovers, the Poached Grass Prawn with Chinese Wine (RM38 per portion) is a must-try. Not only were the prawns cooked to perfection but the soup accompanying it received praise from others on the table during the review.
“It is just a very simple soup made out of ginger, sesame oil, Chinese wine, fish sauce, chicken powder and Chinese herbs including wolfberries and dong guai,” he said.
While the other dish offered is the Braised Beef Brisket with Radish (RM48 per portion) which is prepared with the Hong Kong Soya Bean Sauce, Cinnamon, Star Anise and Radish.
We did not manage to try the Braised Crab with Black Pepper and Glass Vermicelli at the time of the review as the item was not yet available then. The price of this dish is based on its current market price.
All the five claypot dishes are available during lunch and dinner until March 31.
This is the writer’s personal observation and not an endorsement by StarMetro