Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Chan Mali Chan

Hua Ting Restaurant
Orchard Hotel
Address:442 Orchard Road
Singapore 238879
Contact Details: (65) 6734 3880 or (65) 6734 3872

There are two well known Chef Chans in the Chinese culinary circle in Singapore. Both have been around for more than 20 years and have a fair share of merits and signature dishes. The two that I am referring to here is Chef Chan Chen Hei from Chef Chan’s Cantonese Kitchen 神厨三绝and Chef Chan Kwok from Orchard Hotel’s renowned Hua Ting Restaurant. Both chefs specialize in Cantonese Cuisines and my personal experience with them in culinary workshops and projects have found them to be very humble and down to earth culinary personalities despite their fame and celebrity status. Sadly one of them, Chef Chan Chen Hei is closing his restaurant to fulfill the other dream of his life. That is to write a bible on Chinese regional cuisines. We will miss his three signature dishes but let’s talk about them in a future blog.

The other chef, Chan Kwok is also a well known Masterchef with a long list of signature items and an equal long list of culinary accolades. A well respected veteran in the Chinese restaurant industry, Chef Chan has been garnering different awards since 1997 with the peak at last year,s World Gourmet Summit event where he was conferred the title of Best Asian Ethnic Chef Award. Still despite the various resounding achievements, Chef Chan Kwok has always remained a soft spoken man of immeasurable humility. Always so ever accommodating with a warm smile, inviting Chef Chan Kwok as a guest chef and demo speaker for some of the projects that I have done has never been easier than with other big ego Chinese Chefs in town who do not even match his experience and culinary prowess. His signature dishes have achieved much public recognition for finesse in execution and refinement in taste. Ask the restaurant captains when you are at the restaurant for their daily specialties which seldom disappoint unless you do not have a taste for it. Some of my favourites dishes include:

Braised King Eel with Roast Pork and Caramelised Garlic
One of their daily specialties not listed in the menu, the chunky fresh king eel is first deep fried to seal in the juices before being braised in a light oyster flavoured sauce with caramelized garlic, superior shitake mushrooms and roast pork. The accompanying blanched Beijing cabbage soak up the extra sauce and the roasted pork provide an extra depth of richness to the sauce which went down very well with plain rice.

Stewed Mee Pok in XO Sauce
I tried this dish during one of Chef Chan’s presentation for a Professional Chefs Workshop and fell in love with it immediately. The all luxurious gourmet XO sauce paired with a humble Mee Pok is like a Cinderella and Prince Charming inspired culinary story. Instantly elevated to a different level of sophistication, the Mee Pok carried very well the taste of the XO sauce on the palate and it was so good that you can even just leave the accompanying prawns out.

Crispy Skin Roast Pork Belly
An intensive skill and patience required recipe, Chef Chan executes it really well with good quality pork belly with a nice balance of fat and lean meat that keeps the meat juicy with a good bite. The benchmark is to get the skin really crisp without be brittle and lovely moist meat with no unpleasant greasy aftertaste. Dip into spicy mustard; it is overwhelmingly delicious for every bite.

Traditional Honey Glazed Charsiew
Another merit to Chef Chan’s expertise in the art of roasting meats, the well marinated Charsiew with fragrance of Chinese five spice and a subtle hint of fermented red bean curd makes this mouth watering maroon red coloured roast pork a must try on its own or as part of Hua Ting’s Deluxe Cold Appetisers Combination.

Wok Fried Grass Carp Fillets with Asparagus
A subtle stir fry of velvety smooth fish fillets given a flash in the pan to retain its moist taste and wonderful texture. The dish relies heavy on the Chef’s ability to control the strength of the fire during sautéing in order to maintain the harmonious synergy of the fresh crunchy asparagus and the delicate fish fillets with light touch of seasoning and stock.,

Soya Braised Chicken with Ginger and Spring Onion Confit
My wife, N proclaimed this to be one of the best she has tasted during her recent cravings for soya braised chicken. The well braised chicken in superior soy had a very appetizing colour and delicious aroma. The meat was very flavourful and tender and N remarked that the next time we come by again, we should just order the chicken alone which is good enough to satisfy her.
The accompanying Ginger and Spring Onion Confit was a pleasure to eat even on its own with plain rice. This is one of the best sauces in Chinese cuisine as it has a wide affinity for many different ingredients.

Deep Fried Sliver Bait with Chilies and Salt
The ultimate beer accompaniment that is so light and crispy, it’s impossible to stop once you get started. Mum commented this was one of the best and Lei Garden’s version doesn’t even come close. An excellent batter is the secret to the success to this simple and humble dish.

Fresh Prawn and Seaweed Rolls
Offered for Dim Sum as well, these plump juicy rolls of marinated fresh prawns in beancurd skin and seaweed are fried to a lovely golden brown accompanied with regular Worcestershire sauce. I would have preferred something more exciting like wasabi mayonnaise but the lovely house made chili dipping sauce with fermented yellow beans made up for the lackluster Worcestershire sauce. Simple yet elegant ly prepared.

Homemade Tofu on Watercress with trio of Eggs ,Dried Scallop Broth
This is a classic Cantonese home style recipe elevated to elegance with Chef Chan’s creativity. Using a piece of nice smooth homemade tofu deep fried with a light egg batter, the chef places it on top of a bed of sauteed watercress, pairing it with a superlative broth of dried scallop and rich stock. Three kinds of eggs, fresh, salted and preserve eggs provide colour and delicious umami flavours to this lovely light dish.

Pan Fried Gindara with Honey Soy Glaze

Gindara or black cod as it is known in Japan is considered to be one notch more superior than Chilean Sea Bass that we commonly see nowadays. The piece that I had prepared by Chef Chan was very succulent and moist, accompanied by a lovely honey soy glaze with subtle notes of mushrooms on the background. It was so good that I finished in three bites and was so tempted to ask for a deep fried mantou to mop up the extra sauce.

Shark Bone Cartilage Soup with Superior Sharks Fin, Jin Hua Ham and Wolfberries.
Chef Chan’s ultimate signature dish that showcases his culinary prowess, this creamy gelatinous broth has everything that it takes to make except cream. Shark bone cartilage is well known for giving soups a gelatinous silky smooth texture, but it takes a real skilful chef to understand the necessary steps and techniques to achieve that. The fins are always cooked to a delectable slightly crunchy tenderness with generous portion sizes in the accompanying superior broth. A small piece of Jin Hua Ham provides the necessary umami deliciousness dimension to the soup, balanced by subtle sweetness of a few wolf berries. For the ultimate experience, this is a must have

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