Masterly flavor in the marinade

| Siu Sai-wo 11 Sep 2018

I went to a school reunion at the Greater China Club at D2 Place in Cheung Sha Wan.

I'd been to the place a few years ago for a Hong Kong Federation of Industries party and had been quite impressed with it.

The reunion was held in the evening on a weekday, so I was a bit surprised to see the place full.

I found out later it was the venue for a chiu chow month promotion, featuring five master chefs from the mainland. One was Chen Zejia, who has been invited by the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse to demonstrate his skills to state leaders including Deng Xiaoping and Li Ruihuan.

General manager Jack Wong designed our menu, which included chiu chow delicacies as well as the club's signature dishes, including marinaded goose meat with goose liver and intestine, steamed cabbage rolls stuffed with minced pork and olive and conch soup.

Wong used to head the team at the Sheraton Hotel's Celestial Court Chinese Restaurant, and he often adds new elements to the menu to keep it fresh.

Marinaded dishes are a famous feature of chiu chow cuisine. Our goose dish was very tasty, with the liver smooth and tender and the intestine delightfully crunchy.

Chiu chow and French chefs are the best in the world at making goose liver dishes. But I personally favor the style that's closer to home.

The liver was aromatic and wasn't fatty like the French version. I tried a small piece and took two sips of red wine. It was very satisfying.

I don't often have olive and conch soup, but I found this one refreshing and delicious. I chewed on a half olive and found it fibrous and bland at first, but then I noticed the cooling aftertaste.

Naturally, all of the dishes we had were of a high standard, but a chiu chow friend in our party was especially impressed by the puning bean paste stir-fried maye and awarded it full marks.

Bean paste and maye are inexpensive ingredients for grassroots people, and this friend often had them in his childhood. Maye are the tender leaves of the kenaf plant, which is also used for making ropes.

As you'd expect, maye is rich in fiber and has a slightly coarse texture. Traditionally, it is cooked a little on the salty side to go with plain congee.

What I appreciated most is how the bean paste set off the strong aroma of the maye, which gave me a feeling of simple country life even as I was sitting in the comfort of an air-conditioned room.

Siu Sai-wo is publisher of Sing Tao Daily

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