Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Highlight #283: When all things fail, there is Bo Yang Tang

I am by no means health obsessed, but it is a fact that I NEVER get sick. I can't remember catching a cold in recent years. My mother confirmed that I've actually never had the flu or gotten sick enough to go to the hospital. Even when hubby came back from China and spread a nasty cold to all his employees, from the tall and strong to the fit and lean, I remained just fine.

J, however, is not as lucky. Work stress and constant travel bring him down sometimes. During his most recent cold, my homemade chicken soup just didn't quite go far enough. So on the second night of the lingering chill, I took him to eat Bo Yang Tang.

Normally, hubby's heaty body type makes black goat meat, one of the most extreme on the Chinese heat scale, unsuitable to consume (he breaks out almost immediately upon consumption). But this time his cold had all the signs (cold sweat, lingering cough, etc.) of what the Chinese call depleted heat. So for once, he was ready for Bo Yang Tang.

Bubbling hot in its stone pot and full of potent ripe green onions, slices of black goat meat, black mustard seeds and spices, the steamy Bo Yang Tang got J sweating within minutes. J particularly enjoyed the plentiful tender goat slices. By the time we left the restaurant, J felt well enough to sing in the car.

I on the other hand needed something a little more mild that night and there was nothing more perfect than gingseng chicken, an unseasoned hot pot in which a whole smallish chicken stuffed with rice and jujube is cooked in a gingseng base. Liking things less salty than normal Korean level, I am very happy to play with the salt on the side. I felt healthy just smelling this.

There aren't too many places around Atlanta serving both of these dishes, so we are very happy to have this dependable one to go to despite the longish drive.

Bang Ga Nae
3312 Peachtree Industrial Blvd., Suite B
Duluth, GA 30096
(678) 417-7769

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Highlight #282: Better late than never - Happy Lunar New Year

Nothing beats home food during Chinese New Year. A little snow in the yard didn't hurt either. As the Chinese saying goes "a good snow shower foretells a bountiful year." Let's hope so.
Mom cooked so I brought along some champagne and a box of dried persimmons, her favorite. With nothing added, these natural "gummy bears" (coined by my friend Erica) are delightfully sweet, chewy, and healthy.
Mom, who loves to invent new dishes, created her own five spice flavored bean curd in the oven. It had a really lovely nuttiness and deep five spice flavor.
My travels continued on New Years day. In between meetings, we caught a break to dine on some extremely excellent Shan Dong dumplings at the appropriately named Shan Dong in the Oakland, Ca Chinatown. The northern Shan Dong folks, unlike the perfectionist southerners, prefer their food filling and less manipulated. As such, these dumplings are gigantic and not at all meticulously constructed (in comparison to those made by my guests during my last dumpling party here or these at Ding Tai Feng here.)
But boy was the pork and cabbage filling juicy. Even the thick dough was baby bottom soft and faintly sweet. We couldn't help but stuff our faces! What a way to start the year!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Highlight #281: Regal Cantonese - Restaurant: Regal Palace (Hong Kong)

Hong Kong is full of five star hotels and I dare say that every one of them has a good if not excellent anchoring restaurant. Being the only place in the region pegged to the US dollar, the Hong Kong's five star hotels are actually quite affordable to dollar wielding folks.

Our temp home, the Regal Hotel Hong Kong, has a Michelin one star, Regal Palace, which specializes in Cantonese food. Before our drive to the airport, we had a last meal here starting the with requisite Cantonese "old fire soup."

For the Cantonese, dinner also properly begins with a soup. And by soup, they mean a long and slow cooked clay pot creation started early in the day.

While the soup is chock full of goodies such as chicken, beef, pork, ribs, gingseng and other Chinese herbs, the soup is served without these things inside. Rather, the solids are separately presented on a plate (see middle of table), more for viewing (so you know what went into the soup), than for eating. It is believed that all the goodness had already seeped into the liquid, which is very mildly seasoned and drank for health and awakening of appetite. When herbs are used, it is especially important to choose the type of "old fire soup" suitable for ones particular temperament. So not only making of the soup is an art, the same goes for the choosing and drinking of the soup.

After our chicken and gingseng soup, we moved on to the tasty matters. I ordered some classic dishes to send off our friend. That included a juicy plate of roast pork, which our friend claimed to be the best he ever had, a plate of cold braised beef brisket, and a palate purifying fish and mushroom stew.

One restaurant speciality that took us by surprise was this fried white fish in a slightly tangy sauce. The coating was so light, it was virtually grease less. Rather than flaky, the fish inside was as moist as tender tofu.

Before I could stop her, our server cut up this whole piece of soy braised pork. To give us a visual of how tender the meat is, she did this not with a knife, but with the edge of a small plate. See how neat the cut edges are? This was one piece of tender meat.

While the egg tarts may attract your attention here, what I really want to talk about is the "ginger juice collision milk" in the foreground. The unique name is a literal description of this dessert in the making. Fresh ginger is roughly stumped in a mortar to produce a small amount a juice for the bottom of the bowl. Milk is then slow boiled with some sugar to just shy of boiling. The control of temperature is super important here as it determines whether and how well the milk will congeal. Slightly cooled (again temp important), the milk is fast poured into the bowl with a flourish, causing the collision with the ginger juice. How the collision happens is apparently also important to ensure consistency of the final product. Once poured, the bowl is not touch to disturbed the cooling. The cooled bowl is then chilled until service. It is said that the proper texture is achieved for this dessert if a porcelain soup spoon placed on top will not break the surface. It's one of my very favorite things to eat for both the creamy texture and the unexpected hint of heat from the ginger juice. This one was texturally very good, but a little muted in terms of the ginger.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Highlight #280: Early last century meets early this century - Restaurnt: Fu 1088

If this looks like someone's home, well it was. Specifically, it was the Shanghai home of 李鸿章's (one of the most influential government figure during the time of the last emperor. He was in charge of international affairs) youngest son. There are three billionaires among Li's descendants. I am not sure if this youngest son is one of them, but I know for sure that he is wealthy.

This Shanghai home is now transformed into a restaurant named after its auspicious address (1088). The Fu in front of the number refers to happiness and prosperity. Prosperous, the restaurant certainly is, although it is difficult to tell from the street (there is no main dining room and the entrance is very private with only a few black uniformed valet drivers.) But all of its private rooms, renovated from the former mansion's bedrooms and sitting rooms, are always booked during meal hours.

The menu is a study in refined dining rooted in Shanghainese cuisine.

Even the street fare dishes, such as this drunken chicken, is dressed up here with a fine shaving of soy and yellow wine flavored ice.

The vegetarian goose received major praise from my father-in-law. Indeed, the crispy soy skin nicely approximate the crackling of the real thing and the savory filling held massive flavor.

This simple shrimp dish was all about texture. Each little shrimp was bouncy and slippery. I enjoyed popping them one at a time with just a few drops of the light vinegar.

The hairy crab cream was served here out of the shell. It definitely saved one from all the digging and judging by the amount of roe, lot of crab died for this cause. A bit of western influence took form in the toasted soldiers on the side.

This is hands down the most refined way to serve the humble red cooked pork I've ever seen. Each glistening piece was equal part lean, fat, and skin. The ones who like to pick off the lean should just skip this excellent dish, because eating anything less than the whole is an insult to the heritage, the chef, and the establishment.

The baked cod is very much a Chinese interpretation of the miso cod. I enjoyed it, but no more than the Japanese version.

The fish soup noodle, on the other hand, was magnificent. Judging by the milkiness of the soup, you might think that some sort of cream product was involved in its making. Nope. It's all from the fish. I've learned the trick from quite a few failed attempt to make a similar fish soup at home. The key is to sear the whole fish at the right temperature with its skin on, then adding water directly to the pan. Just a few minutes of simmering releases the milky liquid from the fish. If the fish was boiled without searing, you'd end up with a clear fishy soup even after hours of boiling. This one is not just creamy and sticky, it's also intensely umami, almost like a curry. The hand pulled noodles soaked up the soup nicely.

We also had a number of very fresh veggie dishes, but they were as special to show.

The meal ended with a passion fruit ice cream that melted into a layer of black sesame paste. Quite nice and refreshing.