Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cooking with Brassiers

One of the best things of having your own food blog is the delightful places that friends keep recommending you to.

Yesterday I was invited by a friend to hotpot. It was near TST East and called Tai Fong Lau and she raved about the food. I can't say that I met her suggestion with enthousiasm. After all, she is not local and hotpot during summer?? But obviously the lure of her sparkling company and that of her new husband plus the promise of foods worthy a try couldn't be resisted.

So after finding a clothing shop at exact address I was given, I text a "help" message to my friend before looking up and seeing the huge neon green sign pointing to a place around the corner.


I walked in and immediately asked if there were any Westerners in the house (hey-ay!). They were easily identified, greetings given and hotpot ordered.

I have to admit. I was confused. My lovely friend kept going on about this is the only place which had hotpot in a brassier. Hmm.... I wondered how that would work. I've never cooked anything in my brassier and to be honest, besides holding the girls up, didn't think they had any other function in life. It turned out, quite obviously to those English speaking natives reading this, that it was a braZier. Something in which to hold charcoal. Ah ha. It was all coming together now....

A tray of sauces were given and instructions to mix to our heart's content. We were told that the base of our sauce should contain the peanut paste which is featured on the upper right, looking like runny poo (not my words, I swear!) and the others to be mixed in according to preference. Going clockwise, there was vinegar, soy sauce, chili oil, rice wine, fish sauce, sesame oil, the whites of Chinese leeks, cilantro and ending with the bright red preserved spicy, fishy tofu (fu-yue). In the middle was sugar and preserved olive leaves.

We then ordered a plate of lamb, beef, shitake, enoki, dried beancurd sheets, tofu, water spinach, a plate of dumplings (handmade so I couldn't resist) and finally glass noodles. I was seriously worried it wouldn't be enough but as you can see, the plates of meat were piled up very high and it turned out to be just the right amount for all of us (with me eating the lion's share) except we couldn't finish the water spinach.

It was different because I had never eaten hotpot with a huge steaming kettle of charcoal heating my soup before and I loved making my own sauces and sharing with friends. The staff were friendly enough and gave us deep fried balls of dough stuffed with red bean and sprinkled with sugar for dessert.

Would I go back? Yes but probably more for the Peking duck, of which we saw more than half a dozen rolled out to be skinned at the table.

The brazier is different butI felt that the soup base could be more flavorful and the side effect is that my hair, even after two washes, still smells of burning charcoal.

That being said, cooking with the brazier is getting rare in HK and is worth doing at least once, especially if you had the fabulous company I had.

Tai Fong Lau
Official address to be provided later but here are the 'directions' to restaurant:

Go to 29-31 Chatham Road South, look above your head and see the Tai Fong Lau big ass neon sign, turn into Hart Avenue and it's on your left, upstairs on the 2nd floor.


Labhaoise said...

This is probably huger for nonlocals like me due to the novelty factor. I still stink too! However it is definitely worth taking a fab local like Sui Mai who can recommend accompaniments and complementary tastes. I like it for the feel of ye olde Chinese style utensils, fishing with baby nets, and freshness of delivery (brazier to plate!).

chaxiubao said...

the brazier is the most traditional and authentic way to do Beijing mutton hotpot right and TFL's probably the only one in HK still do in this fashion with this. but then, it's getting few and far between even in Beijing these days for the brazier. ah, did I mention how much I love the generousity for the condiments?

Anonymous said...

I remember back in Canada where alot of the original places doing hotpot would use charcoal.

It actually makes the food taste better IMHO.

If you find a place that does congee based hotpot...please post.