Chinese faves and new discoveries
There was a time in Manila when most of the Chinese restaurants had the same level of quality. Not that they weren’t any good—they just weren’t as authentic tasting as the ones we discovered later on in Hong Kong.
Not long after, taipans who put up hotels also brought in Hong Kong chefs, who not only upped the level and quality of Chinese cuisine in Manila, but also went beyond expectations.
But I know some very good Chinese restaurant owners who instead send their Filipino chefs to Hong Kong to study and learn the authentic way of Chinese cooking. One such restaurant with Hong Kong-trained staff is King Chef, which has branches in Binondo and Banawe.
Another place that has a similar practice is Hong Kong Street Food restaurant with branches in Banawe and San Juan. Attached to this name are restaurants like Tuen Mun and Shiok Shiok.
Owner Nancy So’s sister is married to an executive chef of a fine-dining Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong’s New Territories. That chef is the one who trains Nancy’s cooks.
Tuen Mun specializes in roasts like white chicken, soy chicken, roast pork, lechon kawali and roast duck. I go there regularly for the roast duck along with a side order of braised noodles with beef tendon.
Shiok Shiok is a Singaporean restaurant with the same kind of training for Nancy’s chefs. All of them were brought to Singapore to taste the food they were trying to duplicate and to train on the proper way of doing it.
In the case of hotels that bring in chefs from Hong Kong, chances are the food is good. Whenever I enter a dim-sum place that boasts a Hong Kong chef, the first thing I order is chicken feet—my barometer on a good dim-sum experience. For a full meal, my test is sweet and sour pork.
Recently we were booked in Alabang for four days of taping for the TV show “Casa Daza.”
One evening, Jenny, our producer, invited us to dinner at Bellevue Hotel’s Chinese restaurant Phoenix Court. Upon learning that it has a Hong Kong chef, I asked the head waiter to serve us what he thought were the bestsellers.
Of course, the first thing I ordered was my barometer dish. The pork was crispy with a well-made sweet and sour sauce. Then came hot prawn salad. Lately, this has become another favorite.
The roast suckling pig with jellyfish didn’t look that great in terms of presentation but the taste was very good—crispy skin with hardly any fat, dipped in hoisin sauce.
Other dishes we tried were the steamed pompano with taosi which was good, too. I loved the chicken with two varieties, stuffed and kong po. We also had salted fish fried rice that was delicious.
The dish of the evening for me was the spinach bean curd with crispy mushroom. It was not only different, the taste was new and outstanding. Mushrooms on top of the dish were fried crisp while the bean curd was creamy and flavorful.
We ended with chilled coconut pudding for dessert. So yummy!
My Fukuoka/Hiroshima tour is scheduled on Nov. 5-10. E-mail email@example.com.
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