What is Hunan Cuisine? Our first experience into Hunan.

Me and my sister have a disturbing Mala Addiction. For those in the Know it’s a beautiful balance of Chillies – Spicy – Sichuan Peppercorns – Numbing – Garlic – MSG – Salt – Sesame – and alot of other herbs and spices depending on the menu. Stuck in a Traffic Jam in a really quiet awkward area of Condos, Roads and pretty much nothing else we noticed some restaurants in front of the Entrance to several Condominiums. We were surprised by the amount of Chinese Restaurants within a few meters of each other. Our eyes widen as we saw pictures of fish swimming in red colored oil. Szechuan FOOD!!! Without any hesitation we walked in and was greeted by that familiar smell of pungent mala oil.

Upon opening the menu and trying to communicate with the waitress we found out that we stumbled into a rather big Hunan Community in Bangkok. All the restaurants and people eating here were Hunan. I’ve never really had an experience with Hunan Food but it looked and smelled like Sichuan Cuisine. So where is Hunan?

Credit: Wikipedia

Just on the upper right is Chongqing and Sichuan so i believe that’s why the close proximity has the influence in the cuisine. Will try to learn more but lets take a look at the food. First we ordered the popular and everybody’s favorite Mapo Tofu.

Mapu Tofu Hunan Style is more Spicy than Sichuan Mapo Tofu
Less Gravy but waaay Spicer!

Nice firm chunks of tofu with bits of minced pork – The star really was tofu and what i noticed was there was really less sauce or oil / gravy. I didn’t feel so much of the bean paste here because usually you taste bean paste with the mala but this one was very very spicy. Less emphasis on the MA or the numb but a lot of heat. I do think it was still nicely flavored although intensely hot, you need to eat it with rice and my spice level is quite high. Then the next craving we had was for boiled fish in Mala. They actually had like 3 types so we just picked one. I guess we picked the less spicy one or the Mapo Tofu was just like a nuclear blast of spicy.

Boiled Fish Slices in Mala Oil Hunan Style
Boiled Fish Sliced in Mala Oil & Broth

The fish was perfectly cooked delicate and not over at all – Strangely it was quite brothy and with the oil it was a nice balance of oily and spicy. Underneath there was enoki mushrooms and the sesame provided a nice creaminess to the overall dish. I can’t put my finger on it yet but there is a definite difference to the Szechuan Style and the Hunan Style. I feel that this dish had a more simpler flavor than the usual Szechuan Style. I feel there’s more layers to the Szechuan style.

In “some” chinese restaurants they have these cold salty chicken feet. I’m really not sure which province is the heritage but they would be a bit yellow and mostly served cold. If anyone knows please let me know. It’s rally fun to nibble on the cold and salty gelatinous feet however here they serve it warm and very plump and juicy not dry and chewy like i mostly have had it. For those who have never tried chicken feet it’s quite a yummy snack. It’s like nibbling on a jerky that’s paper thing with tiny bones. A jellyish jerky.

cold salty chicken feet
Cold, Salty and quite yummy! Have to try at least once!

Since we are on feet and gelatinous food – I had to order non spicy food for my parents who my dad’s strictly cantonese – He doesn’t really like spicy food as Cantonese food is quite bland compared to other chinese cuisine and my palate actually leans to the Cantonese Side (Aside from Mala) The Pigs trotters was full of gelatin the and sauce was thick with porky flavours and sticky from all the collagen and marrow that boiled in the sauce. Quite similiar to many trotters i had before with a slight spice which we all thought it was white pepper as we can’t see much in the sauce. Good with piping hot rice as it came with ample sauce.

Juicy Pigs Trotters
Peanuts gave a lovely crunch!

Definitely a must for every table is vegetables. This dish is also popular in many Chinese Restaurants not sure of the heritage although it came with smoked ham and sausage which i’ve never seen before. I did read that Hunan cuisine involved alot of these ingredients so it could be a signature twist to the normal Spinach, Salted Egg, Century Egg and soupy vegetable dish. The taste wasn’t really different elsewhere due the the power of the salted egg and century egg flavors but this dish was definitely milder (Again maby the mapo tofu was so strong) I like this vegetables as it’s a good stepping stone to those wanting to try Century Egg .

Century & Salted Egg spinach Chinese Cuisine
Garlicky, delicate flavours!

Last but not least every Cantonese meal cannot start, last and end without soup. I have never seen a chinese soup with a kombu like seaweed before. It didn’t have the same strong taste but somehow the soup was actually a creamy mouthfeel and a umami taste of the sea flavour with the creaminess of pork “fat”? It was quite a good bowl of soup. The pork spareribs were falling off the bone. It was really good mixed with rice and chinese level boiling hot soup. A really good meal and a great introduction into the world of Hunan Food. Maybe next time we will try those skewers not in the menu that other people were eating.

Hunan Pork Bone and Kelp Seaweed Soup
Really delicious hearty soup!

Please leave any comments and more knowledge for me would love to learn more about Hunan Cuisine. Thank you!

Yum Cha @ TST — Cute – Cheerful -Pricey

On a work trip to Hongkong and seeing so many cute bloggers eating the most adorable dim sum i was determined to give it a go myself.

Yum Cha means to drink tea which is sort of a slang for let’s have dim sum or lunch.  This quaintly cute restaurant is on top a hotel in the TST granville road.  Perfect for girfriend chatting, first date and maybe a sibling day. 

Here is what we ate:

Cute Looking custard Buns!
Too cute to eat!

Even the menu is cute and cheerful.

There’s a little fake fish in the bowl! Tooo cute!
Char Siu Bao? Pork Bun!
Lo Pa Ko – Savory Turnip Cake

Served in a different version from what i’m used to here it’s served in little cubes with a chilli sauce and fried lotus root. Very pretty to look at and quite delicious.

Savory Rice Rolls
Piping hot, garlicky calamari – Delicious
Boiled fish in Mala – Deliciously Spicy
Interesting Green Bean with Light battered Coating – A bit oily but yum

All in all this is a pricey little establishment but maybe not for Hongkong standards but food is decent and ambiance is quite cute.

Stir Fried Beef in a hot metal pan. Tender chunks of beet in oyster sauce. Quite good.
Tumeric fried rice with beef. Interesting small grained rice but not sticky like japanese rice.

Yum Cha TST – 3rd Floor (On top of the hotel) 20 – 22 Granville Road Tsim Tsah Shui

Fiery Spicy Szechuan Cuisine

My knowledge of Szechuan Cuisine or Sichuan Food is actually limited to Ma La Hot Pot, the bubbling stock with hot oil, szechuan peppercorns, garlic, five spice ingredients and extreme amount of dried chillies.  It is actually my favorite type of hot pot.  Going to a szechuan restaurant was interested or so i thought.  Would it actually be the same approach?  All food just topped with the spicy oil / spices?  I was in for a treat.

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Waste Nothing!

Organ meat is a very chinese thing, we eat everything.  Most likely it’s a waste not mentality.  If i’m not istaken this is the stomach from a cow.  It’s got a chewy crispyish texture more than any taste actually but the spicy garlicy oil made it a nice appetizer to whet your appetite before the fire starts.  I appreciated the green cirpsy and watery thin celery stalk to help add some coolness to my poor tongue.

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Decadent Pork Belly

This was not spicy at all, i think it was great over piping hot rice.  I’m not entirely sure how they made that sauce but it was more sesame in taste, i’m sure there’s ginger in there somewhere.  I understand it looks oily but it doesn’t feel too oily, it doesn’t coat your tongue like when you chew on a blob of butter or margarine.  It seems to melt away leaving this comforting taste.  Really good.  Too salty to eat alone although i preferred it with some rice.

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Nice hit of crispy greens

In Thailand food we usually stir fry cabage with fish sauce, over thre it’s oyster sauce i presume with a few dried chillies thrown in for good measure.  Done correctly cabbage shouldn’t soggy but  with a nice crisp texture and juicy freshness.  This helped balace out all the rich meats so far.

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Ma La Craziness!

My absolute favorite is the Ma La spices, this arrived smoking hot and you can actually feel the dried chillies sizzling in the hot oil.  It’s probably palm oil, with dried chillies, garlic, szechuan peppercorns and other crazy goodness. There is a thick vermicelli noodle which is sticky and chewy in texture and sliced beef.  It was a bomb of chillies, numbness and savory saltiness in every bite.  The beef was tender and the soup underneath was quite delicious.  However you do have to sort your way through the pool of oil.  People may cringe at the amount of oil, but i’m actually ok, it’s not like we eat this every single day.

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Chilli Power!

Now this is everyone’s favorite, the MAPO TOFU.  You see in japanese restaurants but you dont really find it in every chinese restaurant.  Chinese food is quite vast with different regions serving totally different food.  This was like bolder MA LA crazy version, it was so spicy, a hint of sweet with a bit of minced prok thrown in for good measure.  It was so delicious over piping hot rice.  You can’t really eat it on it’s own, it starts to burn after the third bite.

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Best Potato I have ever Tasted!!!!

This potato dish arrived and i though it was just short strands of spaghetti stir fried.  To my amazement it was round strands of potato, stir fried.  Its so hard to explain, it was mushy, but it was al dente but not under cooked.  It was salty, savory, not too oily.  It was very interesting.  It was the highlight of the night, it seemed so normal but the taste and texture was just so interesting and delicious.  I must find out how they cooked this dish.

Szechuan cuisine is really more than just the hot pot but i do believe it’s an acquired taste, it’s very different from my day to day chinese food but it’s a great lift to a cold gloomy day washed with some cold beer.  Definitely for people who love spice, and dont mind a bit of oiliness.  Only warning is for your stomach and it’s a scary addiction.

 

Old Fashioned Chinese Food at IATA (Bangkok)

Once in a while you feel like having traditional Chinese foods, you know the ones you grew up with when it’s a special occasion. Peking Duck, Chinese Jujube pancakes, Shanghai Noodles etc.  I had this craving for Peking Duck and last sunday i asked if everyone in the family would be willing to go for a nice lunch.  Luckily they agreed and so we set off, no traffic and we reached in ample time.  Now a history lesson, this restaurant has been open for ever since i’m a little girl maybe before, the doorman used to be in his early 20’s now he’s got grey hair so go figure!  They have limited menu but the ingredients are top notch and so is the pricing!  Here’s what we had…

Egg noodles with Shrimp
Egg noodles with Shrimp

Must say, the noodles were cooked great!  Sometimes the egg noodles (bamee) comes over done and mushy.  It was very yummy with the juicy spicy shrimp.

Shanghai Noodles
Shanghai Noodles

I admit, you must think what is that weird green goo on top?  The best explanation is like a salsa verde, but the Chinese use a pickled mustard green i think.  There will be transparent rolled up noodle sheets and at some places are flat (imagine rolled up paper) chewy, topped with sliced pork.  Now this shows the talent of the old chefs here, the sliced pork was moist and juicy.  Right???  I  mean it’s very hard to even get it right at a shabu shabu and they didn’t even use belly pork, it was all loin and very yummy.  The green goo on top was spicy, savory and sourish.  A pickled yummy goodness.  Hard to find nowadays.

Hoisin Sauce & Spring Onions & Cucumber
Hoisin Sauce & Spring Onions & Cucumber

Piping Hot Chinese Roti/Tortilla
Piping Hot Chinese Roti/Tortilla

 Now for the highlight of the lunch, Peking Duck.  Crispy, yummy paperthin slices of roasted duck skin on our roti, with chillies, spring onion, crunchy cucumber and sweet hoisin sauce.  Roll it up and eat eat eat.  A duck is too small!!!!  Usually when you order Pekin duck they will ask whether you will use the remaining duck as a soup or fried with black pepper and garlic.  We chose the latter.  Usually we wrap it up and keep to eat the next morning with plain congee. It works amazingly well that way.  Salty and plain hot congee. YUM!

Moreish!
Moreish!

Very yummy!
Very yummy!

We also ordered a 4 Chinese Veggie dish.  It’s not all veggies, it comes with a sauteed Chinese savoy cabbage, mustard green, mushrooms and Chinese moss seaweed in a light pale gravy.  The different textures work well together, it’s good topped over hot rice.

This was more than enough for 4 people, it was delicious and comforting.  A blast to the past really.  The Chinese jujube pancakes were nice, hot, crispy, savory and sweet at the same time.  Many shops are not able to get the ratio of filling to the crunchy flour right, think quesadilla, 2 thin flour pancakes and a sweet filling crunchy crispy soft oozy filling.  Very good.