Well I have a story for you! I recently returned from an amazing trip with my dad. We went to Beijing, Hong Kong, and Sydney. My dad grew up in Hong Kong for about 25-ish years. You can imagine my excitement for everything we were going to see plus the memories my dad and I were going to build together.
But, the food! It was so fun to experiment over there. One highlight was dinner with my dad’s colleague, David.
David, my dad, and I walked from the hotel and went to a giant shopping center. We got to the elevators and went up to the 18th floor. The top 3 floors (17-19) are just restaurants. We walked into Kyo-Shun, a Japanese restaurant that has teppanyaki, which is the true Bennihana and Kobe’s Steak House.
We met David’s wife, Amina, and daughter, Jojo. The last I’ve seen them was 10 or so years in Wichita. Apparently, I went ice-skating with Jojo though I don’t remember it. Doesn’t surprise me. I can’t remember much from that far back.
Anyway, we chose this teppanyaki restaurant because my dad doesn’t like Chinese food. Yup, he says he lived off of fried rice for 25 years. This place had steak and rib eye as options so he was happy. He ordered a rib eye and prawns and rice.
The biggest difference about China and their meat they cook is the fat. Their meat is very fatty. The fat sometimes catches the best flavor they say, but not being much of a carnivore, you can imagine my reaction to this chewy texture in each bite.
Also, at the restaurant there was sushi and sashimi. Jojo warned me that it is true sushi and there would be no presence of “cream cheese.” (Which is just fine since I don’t care for rolls like that). This ended up not mattering since we just ordered sashimi.
At these types of restaurants, there is a chef with the table surrounding him. Much like in the States. Our chef’s name was something I couldn’t repeat (let alone spell), but written on his jacket was his chef nickname, Hippo.
Hippo was amazing. He spoke very good English. He warned (yes, another warning to adjust our expectation) that Americans added in a show for these dinners and it’s not how the dinner is made there. Specifically, he explained no eggshell was being flipped into his hat. Though, he did juggle the salt and pepper shakers for about 4 seconds before dropping one. (Longer than I could probably so it was good).
He then worked with Jojo and Amina to help me order. Beginning with the sashimi, he started by asking if I like sea urchin. I replied, “probably not.” Then they decided to go with ‘something easy’ like, “Tuna? Yellow tail?” Yes to both. We added in a prawn (shrimp), scallops, and a last minute decision, sea urchin! And this was just the appetizer.
The sea urchin was… Good. I liked it, I did! It had some flavor I wasn’t expecting. Like a fish flavor, but nothing I could try to explain. Well, I ate about half of the pieces. Good enough to check it off the list!
With the sashimi’s prawn, we get the head as well. A battered fried shrimp head. “The legs taste like French fries!” Jojo hyped. Ok so about that. Yes, I can see the reference, though a French fry it was not. It definitely wasn’t bad, but I didn’t eat much of it, just a couple of legs.
Next, they asked about the meat, I gave my standard reply of “fish and chicken.” Guess which one they chose for me… Yup, fish. They added in another appetizer of clams in a white wine sauce. Fairly familiar with this one. Through it’s a real bitch to get a clam out of a shell with chopsticks.
Speaking of chopsticks, everyone kept complementing me on my chopstick skills. I kept getting really happy to hear this from multiple people, including Hippo! I credit Hiro 88 restaurant in Omaha to this. But each person, after complementing me, completed their thought with the fact I was using my left hand. Ok, so being that I am left-handed, it may not have been a real compliment on my skills.
At this point Hippo, who I viewed as my best friend in the place now, explained that he wants give all of his focus on the current dish cooking at the time. To make it the best it could be. Then move on to the next. Versus serving every element at once. What a concept!
So my dad got his prawns first. They started the way they should start to ensure freshness: In the shell.
Next my dad got what he was waiting for, his rib eye. Hippo said he added in some veggies because he was afraid my dad wouldn’t have enough to eat. Of course, I ate them. Zucchini, squash, eggplant and okra (my favorite!). How could I resist that combination?!
Then came the rice. With the fatty meat these Chinese love and my dad’s many years of experience with it, he asked Hippo to cut off the fat and cook it well done. Almost so it’s crispy. Then to add it into the rice. Good in theory, but for me, still tasted like meat.
Us seafood lovers finished with the best of it all. Tile fish with a pumpkin cream sauce. O. M. G. Loved it. Hippo cooked it most the way over charcoal, which was an option for all meats they serve. Hippo likes this way better because the charcoal flavor and no oils to keep it from sticking give it the best taste.
Back to the fish. So the fish cooked most of the way over the charcoal but before that they prepped the fish’s scales.
Basically (and I say ‘basically’ lightly cause I’m sure this is a technique much more difficult than this explanation) Hippo said that if you put oil on the scales and heat them up they stand up and curl.
You know in the States how we have nut (insert nut type here)-encrusted fish? Well, that adds some crunch to the texture of the fish. This is the same effect, but in this case, it just so happens to be a scale-encrusted fish, also known as a fish. Utilizing the scales cooks the fish at a purer state, which is very important to Asian chefs.
The tile fish was served with a pumpkin cream sauce and some spinach. I definitely need to figure out what all went in that sauce. I didn’t even have room for dessert! Though could have been a good thing, since I’m not sure what it would have been. The dinner was an amazing time!
There was such a sampling of good foods cooked in an Asian way. While it wasn’t the weirdest food I encountered during my trip, it’s still worth telling you about! A sampling of what I did NOT try: