Long-boiled Soup with Dried Chinese Flowery Mushrooms, Sun-dried Oysters and Pork Loin. Yum!
Double-boiled Cordyceps with 10 Bean Soup.
“Cordyceps” is a truly unusual Chinese ingredient; it’s basically a mummified caterpillar that has been killed by infection with the fungus, which grows out of the animal’s head. It’s then collected for food and medicinal purposes. As Wikipedia explains:
Ophiocordyceps sinensis is a fungus that parasitizes larvae of ghost moths and produces a fruiting body valued as an herbal remedy found in mountainous regions of India, Nepal and Tibet.
The fungus germinates in the living larva, kills and mummifies it, and then the stalk-like fruiting body emerges from the corpse. It is known in English colloquially as caterpillar fungus, or by its more prominent names Yartsa Gunbu (Tibetan: དབྱར་རྩྭ་དགུན་འབུ་, Wylie: dbyar rtswa dgun ‘bu, literally “winter worm, summer grass”), or Dōng chóng xià cǎo (Chinese: 冬虫夏草). Of the various entomopathogenic fungi, Ophiocordyceps sinensis is one that has been used for at least 2000 years for its reputed abilities to treat many diseases related to lungs, kidney, and erectile dysfunction. This fungus is not yet cultivated commercially, despite the fact that several fermentable strains of Ophiocordyceps sinensis have been isolated by Chinese scientists. Overharvesting and overexploitation have led to the classification of O. sinensis as an endangered species in China. Additional research needs to be carried out in order to understand its morphology and growth habits for conservation and optimum utilization.
I don’t have a picture of the soup, which was brown like diluted soy sauce, but it had an unusual and lovely flavor. Here are the dried fungus-and-caterpillars, and a photo of a box of them that I saw in one of the ritzy casino shops in Macau. The combination of “animal and plant” (well, fungi aren’t really plants) is taken as very rare and efficacious by the Chinese:
A box for sale in Macao. VERY expensive! (The yellowish bits are reflection from the overhead lights.)
Smoked Baby Pigeon with Longjing Tea Leaves & Chrysanthemum. Here’s half the pigeon. It doesn’t look like much, but the smoking and cooking made it taste very special. With all the dishes we had both rice and congee (rice gruel):
Wild Clams Stir Fried with Chilli Jam and Basil. Another fabulous dish, cooked with a complex mixture of ingredients that produced a wonderful sauce to mop up with rice:
Two main courses:
Steamed Fresh Flowery Crab with Aged ShaoXing Wine, Fragrant Chicken Oil & Homemade Flat Rice Noodles. This dish, for which the restaurant is famous, was the highlight for me, and one of the best Chinese dishes I’ve ever had. The noodles (foreground), said cooked with chicken fat, were big, chewy, and delicious, and the fatty/winey sauce was perfect for dunking the fresh sweet crab.
The Chairman’s Soy Sauce Chicken: free-range chicken from the New Territories, braised in a sauce of eighteen different spices and premium soy sauce. Believe me, you could taste all those spices. This dish again looks like a regular Chinese chicken dish, but it was absolutely spectacular. This is the restaurant’s other signature dish, and is justly famous. The restaurant had one Michelin star, but it was removed a few years ago. I think it should be restored.
We eschewed dessert to go to the market for mango mochi, a sweet consisting of a big slice of fresh, ripe mango around which is wrapped a sweet glutinous rice shell. Terrific!
After a bite:
And as a postprandial treat, Winnie produced a bottle of Austrian Trockenbeerenauslese that a friend had given her. It’s made from two grapes: Welschriesling and Scheurebe, with the grapes not picked until they’re almost dried out by infection with Botrytis fungus. That concentrates the flavor to make a rich, honeyed wine (10% alcohol), similar to the great French Sauternes. We looked up this half bottle, which turned out to be worth $90 and was highly rated by wine experts. Winnie discovered that she liked sweet wine; she’d never had one of this quality.
If you like wine, you’ll find that the sweet wines are terrific values (even though, like this one, they can be pricey): most Americans don’t like sweet wine and so it often sells for far less than it’s worth. Check out the Australian “stickies” and the many sweet sherries like Pedro Ximenez.
A man full of good food and wine is a happy man:
And, on the way back from the restaurant, we saw a beautiful kitty, which looked like an Abyssinian. Like “little bowl” whom I met the other day, it was friendly and meowy: