A Chaozhou Oscar Dining Experience!
Just like every culture in the world is different, the cuisine is also very distinctive to its people, geographical map and weather conditions. We take a journey this time to the land of Guangdong Province in China to feature a truly unique cuisine of Chaozhou, Chiu Chow or Teo chew in other dialects, with the Han Chinese group that lives in the eastern coastal area of this province. Chaozhou is rich in culture, from its unique part of the world heritage and history to its music, opera, Ganghu tea and cuisine.
I have only savored Chiu Chou cuisine once when I was studying abroad where we accidentally stumbled into a Chiu Chow restaurant serving up delicate and unique flavors of the cuisine. Chiu Chow cuisine features a splendor of seafood and poultry coupled with its own distinctive cooking method which also leads to a healthier alternative. Famed for preparation using slow fire, stewed, steamed, stir-fried and pickled, the signature dishes of Chiu Chow makes a play on the importance of preserving the freshness and quality of the ingredients. The cuisine does use lavish ingredients like abalone, shark’s fin, bird’s nest, goose and lots of seafood.
Pak Loh Chiu Chow at Starhill Gallery is one of the very few restaurants in Malaysia that is serving Chiu Chow cuisine, echoing its renowned Pak Loh Chiu Chow in Hong Kong. A first visit for me, Pak Loh Chiu Chow is the epitome of elegance just like its cuisine served. The restaurant is design with an air of modern elegance filled with minimal décor. Holding everyone’s attention is the glass enclosed kitchen that sits on the front of the restaurant where between the kitchen action and sumptuous braised goose makes its attempt to lure one’s appetite.
This year, Pak Loh Chiu Chow has been garnering quite a buzz with its triple victory win with the Hospitality Asia Platinum Awards (HAPA) 2013 – 2015 Malaysia Series, taking home a total of three prestigious HAPA awards of HAPA Restaurant of the Year, HAPA Flavours of Asia and HAPA Masterchef (Asian Cuisine), Chef Alex Au. In honor of the win, Executive Chef Alex Au has created a special six-course set menu for Pak Loh Chiu Chow themed The Oscars of Hospitality Set Menu.
Executive Chef Alex Au is born and bred in Hong Kong. Since young, Chef Alex had learned to cook for himself and his siblings while his parents were at work. Chef Alex joined Hong Kong’s famous Pak Loh Chiu Chow restaurant 16 years ago where he learned the ropes from the famous Master Chef Chan Tung. He was selected to lead Pak Loh Chiu Chow’s opening in Malaysia in 2004 and has since then created a list of sumptuous Chiu Chow signature dishes like his Cold Flower Crab and mouth-watering Slow Braised Goose together with his own modern take dishes.
The Oscar of Hospitality Set Menu is available to the public throughout June and July 2014. Enjoy six- course set menu that starts with a combination cold platter, to a soup, a fish course, a seafood course, a rice course and a lavish dessert course. Two glasses of wine, Hunter’s Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and Grant Burge Chardonnay 2012 will be paired with the set menu.
Chiu Chow cuisine is known for its chilled dishes. Chef Alex has created a trio of Combination of Cold Platter to showcase the beauty of Chiu Chow chilled appetizers as its first course. From his passionate explanation of this course, I can truly see how much effort goes into the three dishes of Shredded Cuttlefish with Cucumber, Pork Jelly with Chinese Wine and Chilled Bitter Gourd with Plum.
It is truly a testament to the sharp knife skill with Shredded Cuttlefish with Cucumber. Finely julienned vegetables with cuttlefish is carefully seasoned and bundled for our enjoyment. The lightly dense texture of the savory cuttlefish is beautifully lifted by the crisp vegetables all nicely seasoned with a light hint of sweet and sour flavors.
The Chilled Bitter Gourd with Plum is refreshing and quite divine. Going through several processes to soften the bitterness of the bitter gourd, Chef Alex matched the gourd with vibrant flavors of the salty sweet pickled plum. One actually tastes the full-bodied plum notes while the gourd provides a light crunch and sweetness.
Pork Jelly with Chinese Wine is even more tedious to prepare. The small terrine like dish showed off Chiu Chow cuisine’s brilliant cooking method in preserving pork and using every park of the hog. This dish goes through hours of tedious boiling, marinating, soaking, chilling before it can be served. A little bite renders soft savory gelatinous pork flavor enhanced with the distinctive Chinese wine. The meaty bite is really unique. This dish goes really well with the white wine served.
I wouldn’t mind trying more…
Our second course of Fortune Parcels of Prawns in Double-Boiled Superior Almond Soup won many hearts that night. In fact, we were all very intrigued with this dish. Myself for one, throughout my gastronomical journey, have never even tasted something with a one-of-a-kind flavor.
Paper thin skin made from egg white encased prawns poached in superior broth, tied up into a bundle and crowned with bright orange fish roes. The dumpling sat in light cream bisque made from three kinds of almond imported from Hong Kong and blended with superior pork broth. Strips of crispy fried fish skin and black sesame completed the ensemble.
The Double-Boiled Superior Almond Soup or bisque is so silky and lusciously gorgeous. The hint of almonds is very controlled and I can still taste the pork essence in this soup. We break open the dumpling to reveal juicy firm sweet prawns to be enjoyed with the almond soup. Together, the dumpling and the almond soup is a brilliant masterpiece of a gastronomical dish. I also like how the richness of this dish is soothed out by the fruity Hunter’s Sauvignon Blanc.
The dish shouted elegance from every spoonful. If anyone were to ask me ‘what is the most unique dish that I have ever had in my gastronomical food journey?’ this would be it for now.
Now I have had Teochew style steamed fish which is pretty easily available but I never knew the dish can be so refine. At Pak Loh Chiu Chow, Chef Alex has carefully balanced the flavors of preserved salted vegetables with tomatoes, plums and superior broth in his creation of Steamed Fillet of Imperial Sea Grouper Rolled with Vegetables in ‘Chiu Chow’ Style. Using imperial sea grouper, the fish fillet is tightly rolled up with julienned vegetables and wrapped in Chinese Wong Ah Bak to protect the delicate fish.
The broth is pretty intense with a lovely sense of refine flavors of sour, savory and sweet. Bits of preserved salted vegetables, tomato, carrot, straw mushroom and scallion added texture and depth while crispy fried julienned ginger tops the fish. If only you can see, the carrot is cut into a little goldfish shape for presentation. The fish is cooked perfectly and flakes easily. It’s delicate and sweet too. I made sure to polish off all the broth of this dish because it is so delicious.
Our fourth course is almost too pretty to be eaten. Steamed Quail Egg Accompanied with Sun-Dried Scallops is like a little flower sitting prettily on a bed of vegetables. The base of the little flower is a prawn paste topped with quail egg and capped with dried scallops. It is steamed and accompanied with a lovely scallop sauce and soft baby Bak Choi. Little green frisee contributed to the presentation together with Ebiko.
The dried scallop flavor is very notable here and the texture varies with soft and bouncy sweetness. I would wish for the quail egg to be cooked just till the yolk is set but not firm so it can ooze out and add more lusciousness. Maybe it was but of course, my lens had to capture this hence by the time I ate this, it was set. It is still a very scrumptious dish to the sight and taste.
Our fifth course is rice, a must in every Chinese household. ‘Village Style’ Wok-Fried Fragrant Rice with Assorted Seafood, Duck Egg and Shrimp Paste is also beautifully presented. Using imported shrimp paste from Hong Kong simply because of its unique flavor, which is milder than our local version, the fried rice is lightly perfumed with a subtle flavor of the shrimp paste. The rice is studded with small chunks of prawns and fish, perfumed and seasoned with fried shallots and spring onion water. It is then wrapped with a thin net crepe made with duck eggs.
The duck egg flavor is fairly strong and provided a rich eggy note to the rice. I also like that there is a sprinkling of crushed peanuts with crisp lettuce served for more flavor and texture. I am also surprise at how well this rice paired up with the Grant Burge Chardonnay.
Dessert, the final course of the night, ended on a high note. Though it may be deemed simple, the Chilled Osmanthus Flower Jelly Served with Fresh Aloe Vera and Bird’s Nest is such a treat. Chef Alex personally selects the Osmanthus flower himself from Hong Kong and carries it back here to prepare this dish. Talk about going all the way…
The floral subtle hint of osmanthus is really enjoyable and aromatic. The jelly has a medium wobbliness to match the soft fresh aloe vera and the jellied texture of the bird’s nest. Wolfberries cooked in sweet syrup add color and flavor while mini cubes of strawberry and melons sat beneath the jelly. It fresh, sweet and provided a delicate ending to the courses.
The Oscars of Hospitality Set Menu is priced at RM138++ per person with two glasses of wine. Available from June to July 2014, make sure to check this promotion at Pak Loh Chiu Chow.
In addition to the set menu above, we had to have a taste of Chef Alex’s signature Slow Braised Goose. The goose is imported from Hong Kong due to its specific taste and texture. Using Chef Alex secret master stock which comprises of lots of spices and herbs and soy sauce, each goose is braised for an hour and half (depending on its weight) and carefully prepared to let the flavors infused thoroughly into the goose meat.
*The Slow Braised Goose is not part of the Oscars of Hospitality Set Menu
The goose breast meat is thinly sliced to let diners enjoy the texture of the goose meat. Beneath the goose meat is braised bean curd and other dark goose meat with a splash of the braised master stock.
A side of chili with garlic and vinegar added a different flavor dimension to the goose. I like it both in its original taste and with the garlic vinegar. The braising liquid is so good as it would make a bowl of rice or porridge really yummy. A Must-Order at Pak Loh Chiu Chow!
PAK LOH CHIU CHOW RESTAURANT
Feast Village, Feast Floor, Starhill Gallery
181 Jalan Bukit Bintang
55100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 603 2782 3856
Operating Hours: Daily 12 noon to 11pm
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