So You Think You Know Cantonese
Full-blooded Cantonese chef, Chef Fei, makes his way from Guangzhou, China to partake in a Cantonese culinary showcase as a guest chef at Lai Po Heen, Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur from July 17 till 23, with a unique menu of his own creation, prepared using ingredients sourced from all corners of the world. Despite the origins of the cooking on show, there is nothing parochial about the taste profiles.
Marinated turnips and foie gras cherries
The chef will advise you to start with the foie gras cherries which aren’t cherries at all. The foie gras is made in such a way to mimic real cherries and they are indeed very convincing. There is no rich and buttery creaminess that bursts in the mouth like a normal foie gras, instead the flavour is finely controlled and balanced with a hint of freshness that a real cherry emits when it dissolves.
The marinated turnips provide a sharp contrast with its pickled notes accompanied by a mild saltiness, minus any pungency. The crunchiness juxtaposes well with the velvety texture of the foie gras cherries.
Chicken broth with matsutake mushroom
Everyone can become a notable chef if they turn off their taps and pour in bottles of Acqua Panna as a base for their soups. As Chef Fei says, 7/10 goes to ingredients, the rest comes from skills. So you can’t go wrong with Tuscan spring water. The mushroom emanates mild floral fragrance. The soup is light and clear, without a layer of greasiness that coats the tongue like other chicken soups. The bottom layer consists of minced chicken, similarly to home-cooked steamed egg with minced meat. It’s a comforting dish that reminds diners much of home.
Roast Wenchang chicken with flaxseeds
Wenchang is a city in Hainan. The chicken is raised on the island where it is free to roam for 130 days before it is kept in the coop for another 30 days. The customary way to cook it is to boil it, hence the “white cut chicken” at your nearest Hainanese chicken rice stall. However, Chef Fei goes down the road less travelled and has it roasted. The result is highly crispy. The skin is also paper thin without exhibiting much animal fat. The meat is firm yet it isn’t dry and fatty.
Stir-fried crayfish with homemade garlic sauce
The meaty and juicy crayfish is cooked with condensed milk, hence the saltiness. The crustacean comes from Xisha, or Paracel Islands, a disputed region claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam. A good history lesson is learnt as you tuck into its slightly chewy texture.
Seared Australian wagyu beef sirloin with pepper and chilli
For those who can’t take the heat, it’s advisable that you remove the dried chilli slices garnished on top. If you can, however, the chilli provides a unique approach to the wagyu, unlike Western and Japanese preparations. The wagyu cube is finely balanced between firm and tender, without being too soft that it melts upon contact like many wagyu steaks out there. The heat from the chilli when blended with the fat content from the beef leads to a slow burn of intense beef flavour that unfurls and lingers in the mouth for a long time.
Other noteworthy items on the menu include poached asparagus with crab meat and braised abalone with Japanese rice and superior soy sauce, before the meal concludes with a whimsical dim sum platter. The star of the platter is undeniably the swan, which is a deep-fried savoury dumpling moulded to resemble the bird. Which begs the question: Which body part will you dissect first?