Ok ... so we celebrated Chap Goh Mei on Sunday by schlepping out to Glen Waverly (noice Victorian name like ...) to sample the nostalgic delights of Hakka Tea House.
Now how do I describe Hakka food - and exactly what is Hakka in the first place.
Well Hakka people are Han chinese, originating from central china but eventually settling down south and beyond! (Yes I wikkied for you). Now my impressions of Hakka food are quite different from Hakka cuisine in its purest form.
I remember Hakka food as being dark and gelatinous and full of offal. My father's particular favourite was the braised belly pork steeped in dark soya sauce. It was a flavour too intense for my youthful tastebids, but a flavour I now strive to replicate every time I cook my version of this dish. To this day I am still nervous fronting up to a Hakka stall; there's always a bit of a communication breakdown and so it sometimes ends up being potluck on what you get ... and I invariably get white rice instead of porridge!!
Anyhoo, I did my homework this time and FB'd a hurried list of wants to D before we got there. Unfortunately, despite some favourable reviews, our final opinion was that it was not worth the trip. If you were local, then yes, the prices are reasonably low and the portions big. It also provides a slightly different take on what westerners would normally consider chinese food. And don't get me wrong, this is a popular restaurant. Book or otherwise be prepared to wait.
Our meal started off with complimentary chicken soup - be warned - this contains bits of chicken's feet:
Now this is what chinese broth actually tastes like ... not something that I'm entirely au fait with ... but there you go.
Everybody else was being a little wierd, so the ordering was left to D & me and unfortunately D pretty much aquieseced to each of my enthusiastic whims. My first pick was for the salt-baked chicken, which is a quintessential Hakka dish:
You see that little bit of green which is the spring onion-ey sauce ... that was good ... the chicken actually had a reasonable flavour but the meet was tough ... this felt like an really old bird without any muscle tone or fat ... perhaps this is the way its meant to be, but it seemed lacking somehow.
We also had the another typical Hakka dish which is Sliced Pork with Pickled Mustard Greens:
Again, something lacking. The preserved mustard greens should have provided a strong acrid counterpoint to the sweet braised pork, but it was limpid and without any punch whatsoever.
D was interested in the Pork stomach dish so we had one of those, which was pretty much one of the highlights for me ... but whats with all the capsicum and celery - that shit is too old skool ... I'm pretty sure Aussies are sophisticated enough to deal with the real thing ...!!
I also wanted to try the Abacus Beads which is basically noisettes of yam and tapioca - this is the dish that Poh auditioned with on Masterchef.
And again, underwhelming is the word. Although the flavour of the minced pork was pretty nice ... it had the ole wok hei ... smoky wok flavour, and sadly I actually preferred the crispy noodle bits to the actual abacus beads ...
Both me and D were looking for a typical tofu dish and all we knew was that it was stuffed and flat ... so we thought (mistakenly) that it would be crispy fried tofu ... I don't have a photo of this but it was basically fried tofu drenched in mixed vegetables ... and was one of the best examples of watered down chinese food ... so an absolute crime in our books.
So my apologies to my good friends, particularly CC, for a poor show of an ending to the CNY festivities. I will defer on venue and dish choices in the future. Oh CC if you're reading this, I am actually very excited about Bulleen!!
dan cope wrote:
oh dear.. fair but oh no... :P