Enjoying various spices of life

City Talk | Terence Chang 21 Nov 2019

A lawyer friend asked if I would like to have Sichuan food at a private kitchen-style eatery where someone will talk about health-nurturing and seasonal tonic food. It sounded interesting, so I joined.

At the restaurant, I saw paintings on the wall that looked familiar.

Shop owner Wendy Wong Shuk-wan said I must have seen those paintings before, because she had inherited them from the previous owner. I remembered having visited the restaurant when it was operating on Pottinger Street. At the time, it charged HK$200 per head.

That evening a long time ago, I saw famous artistes "Fei Jeh" Lydia Shum Din-ha and "Student Prince" Alan Tang Kwong-wing at the next table. Shum talked in subdued tones while Tang was in an expansive mood, praising the mala taste of the Sichuan cuisine.

I also recalled the restaurant operator coming out from the kitchen to sing a folk number to the customers after dessert was served.

"Nine years ago," Wendy said, "the previous owner decided to return to her hometown and sold the business to me. I moved the shop to Graham Street one year ago. We still specialize in Sichuan cuisine, but we also offer non-hot choices now."

Wendy's friends filled three tables at our lunch gathering.

Frankly, Wendy said, business hasn't been good in recent months. But it gives her an opportunity to organize more cultural activities at the eatery.

"Those who have attended found the speakers of a high standard and the content of their talks solid."

Wendy is a solicitor by profession. The eatery is her hobby, a place to meet friends.

The conversation turned to antiques. Wendy produced the two-volume book set The Fei Chaoqi Collection of Ming and Qing Furniture.

Earlier, she invited expert collector Lau Chu-pak, who is also a medical doctor, to do a seminar on huanghuali - Chinese rosewood - furniture. Wendy said the talk was marvelous.

"We also had an expert here to talk about how to make huangjiu - yellow wine - also called Shao Hsing Hua Tiao Chiew," she said.

I think that is a perfect subject for the season of hairy crab as the delicacy goes perfectly with the jia fan variety of the wine.

I decided Wendy's "eat and learn" gatherings are fun, and promised myself I would come again when she organizes the next one.

Terence Chang Cheuk-cheung is the retired headmaster of Diocesan Boys School

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