After months of procrastination, I finally signed up for Makansutra's makankakis dinner for the month of May at the invitation of Sam and June.
Dinner was organised by Andrew (good job!) at Whampoa Food Street (Keng) Fish Head Steamboat Eating House's new Rangoon Road Branch. And about 50 people attended. Really no joke. I didn't get to know all 50 of the people there but I at least made new friends with the other nine people at my table. :)
Dinner that evening had nine courses ($30/person). The first course to start the ball rolling was the Hae Cho with "Golden Sand" Crispy Beancurd. A big plate with pieces of fried beancurd, fried Hae Cho (Prawn & Pork Roll) and thankfuly, non-fried jellyfish.
The Hae Cho was delicious with its roughly minced pork and bits of prawns and chestnuts giving it a chunky bite. It was comforting to note that the Ngoh Hiang skin used to wrap the Hae Cho was tasty without being too salty. That meant people at the restaurant had actually bothered to wipe down the skin with a damp cloth.
A bite into the "Golden Sand" Crispy Beancurd revealed a silky soft interior encased in a crispy skin. The "Golden Sand" probably referred to the savoury crispy bits on the beancurd.
I didn't taste the jellyfish as I was busy adjusting camera settings and snapping away but it should be good as all that remained of it was the lettuce leaf on which the mound of jellyfish sat.
Next up was the Batang Fish Steamboat which had charcoal heating the metal pot. The smell of burning charcoal was all inviting and tempting. I really like Batang fish, which is also known as Spanish Mackeral, for its slightly oily, soft yet firm white flesh. The amount of Batang fish slices was generous and the fish was fresh.
Tastewise, I didn't like the salty coat on the surface of the fish. In fact the soup stock with all the Tang-O, ginger, long cabbage and seaweed, while tasty, was also too salty for my taste. I would have preferred something more cheng (light).
This is my favourite dish of the night. The Salted Egg Yolk Prawns had prawns coated with salted egg yolk and fried with chilli and curry leaves. The salted egg yolk gave it a savoury, salty (duh!) taste while the chilli and curry leaves imparted a spicy aromatic lift. Fantastic!
When I saw the name of this dish on the menu, I hadn't the slightest thing of what to expect. Four Treasures in Nonya Sauce was kinda mind-boggling. The four treasures turned out to be scallops, prawns, sea cucumber and cured cuttlefish. These 'treasures' were then slathered in a sauce that tasted like laksa to me. There was a coconut milk richness to it and the farmilar taste of laksa leaves. Quite unusual and interesting.
The Claypot Chicken Indonesian Style was disappointing. Yes, it came in a claypot (the above pic was taken off my plate) but each chicken piece had an uninviting thick slimey coating which didn't taste exactly nice. CJ quipped that he wasn't even sure which part of this dish made it 'Indonesian'. I couldn't agree more.
Braised Pork Ribs also came in a claypot which at that time gave me negative vibes. The meat was really fall-off-the-bone tender and had hints of garlic but the meat was relatively bland. The marinate and sauce somehow had not penetrated the meat. A pity.
The Deep Fried Venison with Minced Garlic and Hae Bee (dried shrimp) fared a just a bit better with the bits of Hae Bee adding a different dimension of flavour. Although I still remain sceptical whenever the word 'venison' pops up on a menu.
This dish made most already full people sit up. The sight of two fairly large crabs seemed like a welcome reprieve after all the meat. The Baked Crabs in Superior Stock were fresh but could be a little more meaty. I would have personally preferred chilli crabs or pepper crabs.
Eight courses of meat and seafood needed a vegetable component (No, sea cucumber does not count.) This was in the form of Asparagus in XO Sauce. The thick asparagus was a bit fibrous, indicative that the asparagus was most likely to be too old. The XO sauce was the Lee Kum Kee kind with strands of dried scallops in it. The best dish I've eaten using it was Salmon Mee Sua (Flour Vermicelli) with XO Sauce.
The final course was Fried Tang Hoon (Glass Noodles). The tang hoon was flavourful and had really absorbed the flavours of the cooking sauces. Beansprouts and spring onions added a nice cleansing crunch.
A complementary plate of fruits ended the dinner.
By now, most people were already filled to the brim (with food, wine and laughter) and one even went around telling dirty jokes at much applause from us floggers. Opps.
Foodwise, I find most meat dishes coated with too much corn starch and the sauces and flavours soon began feeling much like a repetition. Overall the food was too salty for me. The above dishes would go very well with rice which would have helped cut the saltiness.
Winewise, it was great. The people there are generous with their wines and there was much drinking and merry-making. No snobbish flair at all. So in a dinner setting such as this one, one would have tasted at least six or seven, if not more, wines. Yay. Thank you all.
After a while and after all the wine, the food didn't seem that important anymore as it faded into oblivion while loud laughter and clinking of glasses echoed through the night. Schedule permitting, I'll be signing up for the next makankakis dinner in June! *hic*
116/118 Rangoon Road
Tel: 9127 6550 (Doris)
Chew On This: Apparently the chef and bosses of this restaurant (including the Rangoon branch) all have dyed blonde hair! So maybe Miss Hilton may wanna consider a stint here after her release. That'll make a good show to watch.