The Chinese restaurant at Hyatt furnished in cream, black and brown is very pleasant compared to the usual gaudy red and gold Chinese restaurants. Once in a while, they would have a promotion of some special dishes and this month's special is Peking Duck and Beggar's Chicken.
The first to enter, pushed on a trolley, was the Peking Duck, all shiny, golden-brown and crispy. As the waiter cut out the pieces of skin (we all agreed with Su that we want some meat attached), I had a quick chat with the head chef. It is such a priviledge to speak to a chef and in the process, draw out some tips on cooking. I've made taro ring twice this month, and am almost there except that the 'skin' of the ring is not light and fluffy-crisp. After some research in an old cookbook from the 60s (the same one I based my soy sauce chicken recipe from), I have narrowed the missing link to adding hot boiling water to the wheat starch (tang mien flour) before adding it into the taro. I was overjoyed when Head Chef confirmed this! I also asked him the other thing I've always wanted to know: how to make crystal prawns. But wait, this post is about Hyatt's Chinese food so let's leave that to some other day.
Peking Duck on crepes with a sweet hoisiny sauce and scallions. My only complain is the crepes were hard and dry like tortillas compared to regular crepes for Peking Duck.
In Beijing, none of us went for a second helping of Peking Duck because the skin was attached to a layer of fat about 1 cm thick. When I swallowed my morsel of duck and crepe, all I could feel was fat and oil gliding down my gullet and my mouth was squishy with oil. Truly scary gastronomic experience. In Shanghai, the fat layer was slightly thinner, but still thick by comparison to the lean ducks we get here. The Chinese love fat, and the ducks used for making Peking Duck are forced-fed until they are obese. I much much prefer Hyatt's Peking Duck even though it wasn't as crispy or aromatic as those in China.
Stir-fried duck meat with spring onions.
The ingenuous thing about Peking duck is that one duck is served in 3 ways: crispy skin on crepes, meat stir-fry and duck bones soup. I like Hyatt's way of stir-frying the meat with spring onions. It was light and refreshing although I wish it was less oily. If I wasn't so full (I had just eaten when Su called) I would be happy to eat this with a bowl of rice. In most restaurants that serve Peking duck here, the meat is minced and stir-fried with chopped up celery, carrots, mushrooms etc and lots of oil and black soy sauce that make the dish very unpalatable. Restaurants here will often give you a choice of either having the second dish as duck mince stir-fry or duck soup so that you only get 2 dishes from 1 duck. This often means you pay mainly for duck skin.
Three types of mushrooms.
I found this a bit bland, but I reminded myself that maybe it's because all hotels 4 stars and above do not use msg.
Deep-fried prawns with mayo dressing.
This was very good. The prawns were fresh, big and springy. However, a drizzle of mayo would've still made the prawns creamy and yummy but totally coating it in mayo was an overkill, and I couldn't eat as many as I had wanted. Have you noticed the big portion? Is it usual or is it because it was The-Lawyer-About-Town's birthday dinner?
Salt-baked beggar's chicken.
Beggar's chicken is usually encased in a layer of dough and baked but Hyatt's salt-wrapped version was very impressive-looking. A mallet was required to crack it.
After cracking the salt layer, cutting the baking-paper, then the lotus leaf, here's...
the beggar's chicken. I just noticed that the bishop's nose was not removed...
You'd think that with the chicken so insulated by three layers of wrapping, and it cooking in its own juice, the chicken will knock your tastebuds out. But it didn't because it was rather bland again. Or was it because I was too full?
Did not touch this at all. I had called it a day as far as eating was concerned.
Salt and chili deep-fried squid.
I ate one piece only and it didn't particularly impressed me. Maybe I should've eaten more but I was full. There was another dish, a spinach with wolfberries which was good. I made a mental note to try cooking that next time I buy spinach. Dessert was a so-so almond jelly tang sui.
What a luxurious meal! Su is a great cook with very refined tastebuds and we were joking that she should be writing a food blog too. Thanks, Su, and happy birthday! As I write this, I am craving for the Peking Duck. And the prawns. I wonder if Su believes in celebrating both her Roman-calendar and lunar-calendar birth days.