Monday, August 14, 2006

Nunchucked Nanxiang

Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant is famous for not for its namesake but for its “xiao long bao” (literally small steamer buns) or steamed pork buns, which are traditionally made with pork and jellied stock which is meant to melt when steamed to produce a mouthful of soup when the eater bites into the thin but sturdy dumpling wrapper.

The boy absolutely adores xiao long bao and due to its popularity and fame, we queued for 1 hour at Yu Yuan in Shanghai to buy a dozen of these buns. We were sorely disappointed. Despite its reputed deliciousness, they felt short of expectation. The dumpling wrapper was stodgy and gummy and the dumpling completely devoid of soup.

So when my Aunt suggested the Hong Kong branch of Nanxiang for dinner, I was skeptical but as it was her birthday, I agreed to try once again as neither she nor my Mom had been, despite its opening in October last year.

My Aunt, being very prepared, had waited in line so I managed to jump the enormous queue to get to our table by 7:30. The décor was quite nice, dark paneled wood with a modern Chinese feel that is favored by new restaurants, and I was lucky enough to be seated next to the window to the dumpling making part of the kitchen. I believe this is to mimic the Shanghai restaurant, which boasts a large window on the ground floor through which you can see dozens of cooks wrapping dumplings. Oddly, this was not near the entrance but on the small side of the restaurant so I assume it is not meant to tempt passersby.

We were asked what tea we wanted ($8) and I got chrysanthemum due to the ‘eet hei’ nature I had been experiencing lately. This was served in a glass cup with the chrysanthemums in a separate strainer and was refilled regularly.

Dishes were already decided by the time I got there but I managed to sneak in two more favorites after seeing the small nature of the dishes. We went for more of the famous dishes in order to taste what the masses were clamoring for. Prices were quite low but portions were quite small.

We had:

Braised Pork Belly in Soya Sauce ($36), which was very nicely done but they could have done with skimming off some of the oil resting in the bowl!

The meat was sweet, soft and succulent and the skin was chewy and rich.

We had these with steamed man tou ($?) which you could choose to have fried as well. These were served with a small dish of condensed milk but we preferred to eat them with the pork belly.

Hot and sour soup with noodles ($33) was extremely disappointing, it was lukewarm for one thing, which is definitely a turn off for these types of soup that is often thickened with cornstarch. The noodles were ok and not too mushy but added nothing to the flavorless soup.

The steamed vegetable buns ($24 for 4) were ok. My Mom liked them but I thought the bun itself was too think and spongy and the filling not flavorful enough. The ones I had for $0.80 in Shanghai had loads of vegetables and thin slivers of dried tofu.

We had to have the xiao long bao ($30 for 6), which were quite different than the ones I had in Shanghai. These had a beautiful think wrapper and tender, flavorful pork. Unfortunately for some reason, both of mine didn’t have any soup but my Mom and Aunt said that the soup was not greasy.

The steamed glutinous rice dumplings with Chinese ham ($20 for 4) came next. It was a dim sum dish of think rice paper wrappers wrapped around glutinous rice flavored with Chinese ham and then steamed. I didn’t like these. I found them gummy and again, flavorless.

I choose the dish of clear rice noodles with chicken in sesame dressing ($?). This is a simple dish I am usually quite fond of with thin julienned cukes and shredded chicken atop clear, think and chewy rice noodles. However, we were suspicious as it did not smell like sesame and with one mouthful, we realized they had used peanut butter instead of sesame sauce. It wouldn’t’ have been so bad had they at least used sesame oil to flavor the sauce but this was left out, as was the mustard which gives it a kick and sharpness. The rice noodles themselves, usually the disappointing factor, were actually decent but was too overwhelmed by the sauce.

I also choose a dish which, unknowingly, neither my Mom nor my Aunt is fond of. Drunken pigeon ($56). I adore drunken chicken, served cold and flavored with wine and thought that the pigeon would be a nice change. It was good. However, it was horrifyingly presented. Because of the cooking method, the skin looked gray and it was plated like a splayed corpse. Very unpleasant.

We finished off with steamed glutinous rice cake with Osmanthus ($20 for 4). This was quite chewy but very sugary with a flowery aftertaste. We could only finish 2 between the three of us.


Cheap but not worth the wait.

Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant
3/Fl. Causeway Bay Plaza 1,489 Hennessy Road,
Causeway Bay
Tel: 3690 2088
Reservations can only be made by ‘VIPs’
To become a VIP, collect 10 stamps of 100 each within 3 months.

In another saga of crazy Sui Mai family, while I was trying to take a photo of my Mom and Aunt with the birthday cake, but it turned out blurry due to the violent tug of war going on over the bill. While I sat there absolutely mortified, my blood relatives were pulling and pushing, knocking over cups of tea and trying to grab the waitress who stood there slightly shell shocked as my Aunt yelled at her to take her card. I couldn’t stand it and begged my Mom to let my Aunt pay and said we’d pay next time. We finally achieved peace as my Mom relented but I got berated for being rude the whole way home. Over a $300 restaurant bill.

1 comment:

rmklee said...

entirely agree with you. cheap but not worth the waiting! i too tried the xiao lung bao and the spicy & sour noodles. complete disappointment.

friend of sunday driver