The notion "Homely dishes" may well be different between cuisine of the East and the West. When it comes to Chinese cuisine, the communal sharing of numerous dishes among members of the family around a table can be as homely as the West's Thanksgiving meal. Yet more people have overlooked the power of homely dishes, not only undermining the varieties this concept stretches across the repertoire of Chinese cuisine, but also underestimating the popularity of homely dishes even outside of one's homes. What can we say? We do love homely food, especially when the stakes are high for non-skilled home cooks, sometimes eating out is a safer bet than re-creating some of the following homely dishes at home.
Fung Shing Restaurant in North Point has developed a reputation of serving traditional Cantonese, especially with classics from the town of Shunde. In the afternoon diners enjoy dim sums, particularly the real and original soup-filled dumplings filled with chicken, prawns, pork and a clear consommé. But a la carte dishes are also available for order to share. One particular diners' favorites is the "Pan-Fried Lotus-Root Patties". These patties are primarily made of carp, whose fillets are "scraped" into a rough paste, then mixed with chopped lotus roots, preserved Chinese sausage and coriander leaves. The mixture is formed into patties and pan-fried until both sides turn golden and crusty on the outside. These lotus root patties have a crusty exterior, following contrasting texture between soft fish and crunchy lotus root bits within. The addition of dried tangerine peel lets the fish flavor shines through.
Moving along comes a popular shop in Tai Hang, where diners from all over town visit because of a particular "tower of strength", otherwise known as "Steamed Minced Pork with Salted Egg Yolk". Unlike conventional practices where minced pork are flattened into a disc and steamed in a plate, Man Sing Café's version involves building the dish from the ground up, until the minced pork is stacked up into a tower topped with salted duck egg yolk. A stunning showpiece when served, the minced pork consists of well-proportioned fatty and lean pork, and is a juicy pile that makes it perfect when served alongside plain steamed rice.
While the steamed pork is a simple steamed dish, the "Thai Pork Ribs" are quite the opposite in style compared to the former. Ribs are cut and deep fried first, before they go back into a hot wok tossed with Thai sweet chili sauce. The heat from the wok helps the flavours in the chili sauce intensify and the texture thickened to coat the ribs evenly. The ribs, sticky and sweet with just the faintest of heat, is crispy and tender throughout.
With a strong reputation specializing in well-executed Chinese dishes, The Chairman has much more to offer than its signature "Steamed Flower Crab with HuaDiao Wine and Chicken Fat". One should never overlook the collection of homely dishes available at the restaurant, namely the Steamed Choy Sum with Pickled Chinese Vegetables". The pickled vegetables come from a town in the province of Canton. The "preserved Chinese vegetables" are peeled and cored, saving only the core for this dish, ensuring a sweeter and deeper combination of flavor that matches well with the natural sweet Choy sum.
Another signature at the The Chairman is "Fried Pork Patties with Salted Fish". This traditional homely dish requires not only by effort, but also by time management. The effort comes in with the chopping. The meat from the salted fish's back is firmer, which will be cut into small chunks for texture; while the softer bits from the belly will be chopped fine to blend into the minced pork, fatty pork and just enough of chopped waterchestnuts for crunch. The pork patties must be pan fried in a medium flame and they will slowly develop a golden brown crust that seals all flavorful juices within, as the seemingly unlikely combination of salted fish and pork fuse together forming yet another perfect pairing.
Traditionally a Western home-dish, "Slow-Cooked Oxtail Stew with Pork" demonstrates how the simplicity of home cooking can be presented in the finer dining setting, when all you need, is time. Here's why. The base of the stew is a mélange of vegetables, a lot of them. The chef sweats the onions in a hot pan until the vegetable releases its sweetness. Tomatoes are added, followed by oxtail and finally, port wine and this pot of stew will be put on the slowest possible flame and simmer for 2 whole days, with regular stirring. 2 days of slow simmer will break down all the vegetables into a chunky sauce, while the meat and tendon bits of the oxtail softens into tender meat and gelatinous bits. The sauce, is definitely not to miss, as all flavours harmoniously blend in together. This dish is certainly a prime example of home cooking, as in all of the aforementioned ones. Sometimes one may not feel like doing the hard work in the kitchen, but if you do feel like some homely dishes on these days, you'll know where to get them.