Jasmine tea smoked poussin
Moving on from the previous five courses in our ten course culinary tour of China at HKK, we would now try jasmine tea smoked poussin. The Anhui area, located inland from Shanghai, is known for its tea and wild herbs, both of which were incorporated into this recipe, along with more black truffle, creating a dish that was of the land in both content and taste. Even better than the supple bird meat was its liquid partner: the Dewazakura brewery’s Izumi Judan or Tenth Degree sake from Japan’s Yamagata region. This was a cold, dry sake, with such a smooth, refreshing effect on my mouth that it felt like silk slinking down my throat.
Braised King soy Wagyu beef with Merlot
Sorry to see the last of the sake disappear from my glass, we started the seventh course: braised soy Wagyu beef with Merlot. This was served as a single small cube drenched in a rich red wine reduction. The beef fell apart on first exploratory nibble, a sign of successful braising, and the sauce made me want to lick every last smidgen off my fork as a five year-old might with chocolate cake. We had just demolished our example of Zhe cuisine from the Zheziang province bordering the East China Sea to the south of Shanghai.
The wine paired with this and the final savoury course was a Château Simone red blend from Provence. It was a little light for the beef, which was dense with flavour and required something full-bodied to counteract this, however, where the meat somewhat eclipsed it, the Château Simone did great work with the Szechuan char-grilled New Zealand scampi.
Szechuan char-grilled New Zealand scampi
Here was the dish I’d been looking forward to all evening: New Zealand seafood; a taste of home. Faithful to my imagination the scampi was luscious on a plate. Served with Ma La sauce, which is based on Szechuan pepper but also contains dry chilli, ginger and sesame paste, this is a taste that I will be attempting to replicate at home. Szechuan pepper is commonly used in the region of the same name in south-western China and can produce a numbing effect on the mouth when eaten, but in my case there was no tongue-tingling to speak of; just a thoroughly pleasant warmth as prepared to journey on to the land of Chinese things sweet.
Trio of dark chocolate dumplings with yuzu and ginger infusion
The penultimate dish on our culinary tour arrived in a covered bowl: three little white balls whose benign appearance bore no resemblance to what hid within. Before we could resume and consume our waiter poured a yuzu and ginger infusion over the Lilliputian dumplings. Then, ready for a sugar hit I bit into the first sphere, which oozed with chocolate lava. Wu Lei Wong Ka has been to China. This, the first of two desserts, incorporated two classic matches with the chocolate: citrus and ginger, contributing tastes at once tart and hot. It was Chef Tong’s first nod to the Chinese New Year, as the tradition of dim sum forms a key component of any celebratory meal. The second nod would come with the final stop on our trip, where that woolly wonder, the sheep, would finally take her bow.
Here was the sheep’s milk mousse, pandan curd and caramelized puff rice. This was an unusual mix of tart softness, with the welcome crunch of Rice Bubbles. Go, sheep! This blend of textures had a cleansing effect to the end of the tour, whilst giving the sheep its overdue reverence within the menu: saving the best for last. The pairing for the sugary end to our tour was a Moscato d’Asti – as pleasantly bubbly as the puff rice, with a subtle sweetness. What a pleasant end to a whirl about China and its regions.
My husband and I were now by no means stuffed to the gunnels; merely happily satisfied. The entire evening had given us a gustatory experience, whilst educating us in the various culinary regions of China. What a combo! We talked about our courses all the way home.
And so, to you all, HAPPY (CHINESE) NEW YEAR! GONG XI FA CAI! I wish you all the best for a happy and prosperous Year of the Sheep.
Huge thanks to Chef Tong Chee Hwee and all the staff of HKK, both during our meal, when they fielded my numerous queries with patient knowledge, and also after the fact, when I needed to double-check some kitchen ingredients and methods. People: you are the BEST at your game. Keep going.
88 Worship Street, Broadgate Quarter, London EC2A 2BE
I was a guest of Hakkasan Group and the views expressed in this post are my own.