Monday, December 14, 2009

Two Fabulous Meals at Tai Woo (TST, Hong Kong)

My dinners at Tai Woo Restaurant (太湖海鮮城) was so memorably good that it deserves it own post. At least I can refer to this post until the next time I return to Hong Kong and you bet I'll be visiting Tai Woo again.

I had been to Tai Woo two years ago with a local friend and Tai Woo really impressed me with their simple dishes so this time I made sure I returned to try some of their famous / award-winning dishes. The dinner was so amazing that I immediately returned the second night for my "farewell to Hong Kong" dinner.


"Tai Bak" Drunken Pigeon (金獎太白醉乳鴿)

This is one of their most popular dishes and it's often sold out. It was sold out the first time I went two years ago so I made sure I ordered one right away this time. Boy, I was not disappointed. I've had fried pigeon (squab) before and it was good but that pales in comparison to the Drunken Pigeon. It was marinated in Tai Bak Wine which is a very smooth and fragrant wine. I forgot to ask how long the pigeon was marinated but I bet it was at least 24 hours ; the meat was tender and oozed delicious game and wine flavors and the skin had a beautiful wine-soaked layer of fat on it and for once, I ate the skin. (No worries, you walk everywhere in Hong Kong so calories will be burned!)

The Drunken Pigeon was so good I even ate the head - sucked out all the brainy bits and discarded the beak. Yeah, a friend recently warned me that I should stop admitting that I eat brains, etc. because that'll scare people away...

Lettuce Stir-Fried with Shrimp Paste (蝦醬炒生菜)

This is a simple dish but it was so good. I'm not a huge fan of Western raw salad but I eat it because I should. Chinese people don't really like their vegetables raw. We love to stir-fry and we love to use wonderful stuff like shrimp paste, black bean sauce or "fu yu" (soy bean paste - 腐乳).

Shrimp Eggs & Pomelo Skin Clay Pot (蝦子柚皮)

The deliciousness and creativity of this dish blew me away. Who would of thought that the thick, pudgy white rind of the pomelo could be stewed in soup overnight and then sprinkled with tiny dried shrimp eggs and turned into a fabulous dish? The pomelo rind is similar to the rind of a grapefruit which I thought was inedible but the soup completely transformed the rind into a spongy soup bomb in my mouth and the dried shrimp eggs were a wonderful fragrant touch. After one bite, I immediately ordered a bowl of rice to soak up that extra rich soup/sauce and shrimp eggs.

Fried Anchovy Taro Pork Patties (馬友咸魚鮮肉藕)

Another very creative and delicious entree. I love Chinese anchovy and the saltiness was a perfect compliment to the taro and fresh pork patty. Plus, it was fried. How perfect is that? I think I'll try to make this at home.

Chinese Mitten Crab (大閘蟹)

This was my first time trying Mitten Crab. I can only say that I wish I could have it more often but I don't think it'd be good for my LDLs. Why? Because Mitten Crabs are small, hand-sized crabs known for its rich crab roe which I believe is not good for bad cholesterol levels.

Plus, Mitten Crabs are considered an invasive species in the States so I don't see it often in LA restaurants. But really, to control an invasive species, they should just give it all to Chinese restaurants and we'll take care of the problem.

The golden yellow crab roe is best mixed with hot, steamed rice. The Mitten Crab's roe is distinct; it's a lot richer than say the roe from dungeness crabs. Note that the Mitten Crab doesn't have a lot of actual crab meat since it's so small.


Wine-Marinated Duck Gizzards with Salted Bok Choy Roots.

This was a small complimentary appetizer. It was so good, I could have eaten a whole big plate of it. I love duck gizzards.

Baked Sesame Salted Chicken (芝麻鹽焗雞)

This award-winning chicken should be reserved in advance when making reservations. It's another dish that's often sold-out. The toasted sesame gave the chicken a nice aroma and made the fatty skin crunchy. And like I always say, chicken just tastes better in Asia.

Crispy Juicy Stewed Beef (三弄回味牛肉)

This was good but the least memorable of all the dishes I tried at Tai Woo. The beef was tender and well marinated in soy but I didn't really like the slices of cucumber wedged between the beef. The crispy part of the dish came from the fried pastry sheets so that was kind of cheating.

Scrambled Egg Whites with Crab Meat, Fried Prawns and Salted Duck Egg Yolk (西施伴霸王)

This was really, really good. My descriptive translation of the name says it all. The salted duck egg yolk gave all that seafood a nice savory touch.

Fried Rice with Fresh Fish & Ginger (薑米鮮魚炒飯)

I love ginger fried rice and this fried rice was perfect on every level. The rice had a delicious aroma. The egg was scrambled just right (no rubbery eggs here) with fresh fine-grated ginger and the de-boned meat of a fresh fish. All seafood restaurants in Hong Kong (and often in Los Angeles) have tanks of live fish to show customers they're really getting a fresh fish. The meat of fresh versus frozen fish is a world of difference; fresh fish is sweet, not fishy at all, and the texture of the meat is "alive" in your mouth.

Haha, I love that the dish came with the fried head and tail of the fish too. I think I had 3 bowls of fried rice that night. A record! That's the most I ate during my entire trip in Hong Kong.

This was my third time visiting Hong Kong. Hong Kong is not a huge place and after using my first visit to check out all the famous sites, I've pretty much concentrated my second and third trip on exploring the produce markets and random side streets and shopping. My fluency in Cantonese really comes in handy in Hong Kong. And of course, each time I have my "hit list" of restaurants to revisit or try. Hong Kong, after all, is known as a the heaven of dining and shopping.

And you know what the best part is? You walk everywhere in Hong Kong (don't cheat too much with taxis) and it really helps burn off everything you eat. I actually lost weight coming back from my trip!

Next Stop: Tokyo! Yes, from one crowded city to an even more crowded city. I swear my next vacation will be mountains and rivers.

Tai Woo Restaurant (太湖海鮮城)
3 locations in Hong Kong and Kowloon (I went to the Tsim Sha Tsui location
every time)

14-16 Hillwood Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Tel: 2368-5420

27 Percival St., Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, Tel: 2893-0822

192-198 Shau Kei Wan Road, Shau Kei Wan, Hong Kong, Tel: 2569-5144

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