July 20, 2011 § 2 Comments
If there is once in my life when I feel like fainting from the richness of a meal before sundown, it would be this time. The other time was perhaps some seven, eight years ago, when I was 11. We were in Macau, at Westin (still my favorite place to stay at in the region after all these years despite the bloom of many new hotels that often stink slightly of newfound money). I was in love with their buffet breakfast back then – I loved the variety, I loved the freshness of everything, I loved the tinkling sound of glassware and silverware against the sunlit marble of the hotel lobby. So one morning, I decided I would eat a portion of everything and not bother eating for the rest of the day. I remember mom had to stay behind to wait for me to finish while dad goes up and freshen up or something. I had croissants, danishes, sunny-side-ups, dim sum, fruits, cereal, yoghurt, sausages, smoked salmon, bagels, muffins, a mixture of different fresh juices which I fancied to call my signature morning cocktail, cold cuts of every shade of pink…
By the end of it… I felt like a juvenile mom whose fetus mutated into a meteorite.
The story did not end there. Two hours later, we went to Dad’s favorite spot for suckling pig, Fernando, a down to earth restaurant on the beachside. It was that period when my parents would insist on me having a healthy diet and a regular eating pattern, so when Dad heard that I was skipping lunch, he looked as if I just asked if I could be a prostitute when graduate. Braving the situation with a smile and slowly, slowly swallowing one chunk of pork after another (which normally tastes drop dead excellent), I could honestly feel some brain cells dying.
And that, for me, was the start of a life-long resentment towards the anything that has the word ‘buffet’ associated with it.
But back to lunch in question. Have you seen heart attacks in pyramidal forms?
So it starts off like this…
And ends up like this.
DO YOU GET IT???? IT’S BACON STACKED INTO A PYRAMID.
Okay, wait. Before Chinese chef’s start an uproar and the rest of the world faint from visual shock, let me clarify something. In chinese, it is called ‘扣肉’ – pork belly. It is one of the most famous dishes in Wei Zhou (惠州) cuisine, and is always a terrible guilty pleasure of mine at Guangdong restaurants. The choice of pork is of utmost importance – it is called 五花肉 (literal translation: five flower meat… but literal translations never make sense), and should have a perfect proportion of skin, subcutaneous fat and lean meat. When placed in the mouth, it should not disgust you, but instead should melt instantly into a fragrant liquid and marry beautifully with the sauce, the herbs and the pillow of bun that usually comes along with it.
To prepare it, the chunk of meat is first deep fried. Then it is sliced up and steamed under a bed of herbs and dried vegetables (梅菜) before being topped off with a typical red sauce. In ‘normal’ circumstances, it looks like this:
In this case, the meat is sliced into JAW-DROPPINGLY thin strips, constructed into a pyramid, and in the hollow center – a stuffing of fungi and dried vegetables and lean meat that was apparently slow-cooked in the broth of the meat.
I actually felt some christmas lights lighting up at the roof of my mouth. It didn’t taste fattening and nor oily at all. It just tastes… like an extramarital affair.
I don’t know… but isn’t this a bit more elegant than its American diner counterpart? (Big Toothy Smile)
Jumping back to the first dish. I know this post would end up a bit long, but the pork and the following dish – a roast duck – are so, so SINFUL I just have moast (moan + boast) them out like Sylvia Plath writes about her attempted suicides. The duck was first glazed with oil and roasted in a stone oven. Then it is rushed to the table as quickly as possible and sliced in front of five hungry audiences. No time spared, come along duck, come along…
You know we force feed birds too? Yes, unfortunately, it’s not just a Frenchie thing…
Again one of the China’s national dishes – the Peking Roast Duck, but served in a never-seen-before manner – in three ways: the skin, the lean meat, and the combination of the two. The browned skin, (this time sprinkled with crystals of sugar instead of with the usual hoisin sauce), glistening hot and crispy, practically dissolves upon landing on the tongue.
So. Ridiculously. Good.
You know I was nicknamed hamster in junior secondary school? I am still not too sure of the physical resemblance, but there is one thing that probably explains it – hamsters never know how to stop eating. They would actually die from getting overfed, that’s why you are not supposed to put a huge dish of food in its cage – it would actually not stop eating.
And so yes, I came close to fainting today.
One more thing, pretty irrelevant to food.
You know how painful it is to not get on Facebook properly? Save for one or two odd pages at random times?
Well, I do. So does the girl who has 27 more odd days on the dark side.
Shanghai’s looking bright otherwise.
Xindalu, China Kitchen – Hyatt On The Bund, 199 Huang Pu Road, Shanghai, People’s Republic Of China 200080
Five years from now, I’m going to remember: The Beijing Duck, The Pork Tower.