Sunday, February 2, 2014

Hong Kong Poon Choi (香港盆菜) - (AFF - HK / Macau #4)

In conjunction with Chinese New Year and this month's Asian Food Fest, I decided to cook up a storm for my family! Haha! It's the well-known Hong Kong Poon Choi (盆菜) a.k.a. Big Bowl Feast, or some called it Basin Feast. This dish is typically a combination of many dishes, stacked all the dishes in wooden, porcelain or metal basins layer by layer.


Poon Choi is a traditional type of dish originating from Hong Kong New-Territory (新界), there's a place called Wai Chuen (围村) a.k.a. Walled Village. This is where Poon Choi invented by early settlers in New Territories, and residents in villages regarded Poon Choi as their village's traditional dish. But now, Poon Choi can be found everywhere in different parts of Hong Kong. You can even find it in Malaysia and Singapore too. But even so, most of the Poon Choi's promoted by fellow restaurants and hotels are already modernized and commercialized. Not surprisingly, urban people likes to eat commercial food. Where else that serves traditional Poon Choi other than Wai Chuen (围村)?

.... cook it at home! :D

Poon Choi is a large portioned dish which suitable for a communal meal. You won't see people eating Poon Choi in just 3 to 4 pax. This unique dish is usually served whenever there are rituals, weddings, festivals, ancestor worships, and other local events as a village dining culture. This is how Poon Choi becomes traditional dish of walled village, because this one-pot dish makes people gather together. And because of this, people regard Poon Choi as a great idea for Chinese New Year reunion dinner too. Because this is the day the family gathers.

Although there's no strict rules on what to serve in Poon Choi, but traditionally, the basic (white radish, bean sticks, pig skins, braised pork belly, braised mushrooms, chicken, hand-made fishballs, and fried fish) are there. But people nowadays mixed up both Poon Choi and Treasure Pot. They literally put whatever they like in there. If I didn't add abalone and roasted duck in the pot, I'd consider my Poon Choi is fits the name of "traditional walled village Poon Choi".

Poon Choi is about fresh ingredients found in the village. They don't have abalone and roast duck. This dish supposed to be dry at the top, and wet at the bottom. While Treasure Pot is about braising expensive dried seafood together and make it a pot treasure. Braised treasure pot is a whole pot of dish drenched with thick and flavorful sauce.

Now, you hardly could differentiate between Poon Choi and Treasure pot already. Simply because they are commercialized.


It is indeed a crazy quest for me. But, after I gathered some info from my fellow Hong Kong friend Sara who grew up in walled village, my chef friend, and some reading about Poon Choi, I go ahead with it courageously. But this is really alot alot alot of preparation and work. Tedious!

There are 12 dishes in the basin. Counting from the bottom, we have white radish, fried bean sticks (tau kee 豆支), fried yam, braised pig skin, braised pork belly, braised mushrooms, steamed chicken, roasted duck, hand-made fish balls, fried fish fillet, pan-fried prawns and abalone. If I count in the blanched broccoli, it would be 13 of course.

This recipe makes a portions of medium sized Poon Choi. This portion of Poon Choi can serve 5 monsters, and 6 to 7 comfortably. If you are serving some additional dishes and a pot of soup on the table too, go ahead! You can serve 10 pax. No problem :)

Ingredients and Method
(Source : Info gathered from Hong Kong friends, chef, and some online reading)

White Radish (1) and Bean Sticks (2) (鸡汤烩萝卜+支竹)
  • 1 White Radish (白萝卜), about cut into big chunks, about 500g
  • 400ml Superior Chicken Stock (鸡上汤), see recipe here. If not fussy, use pre-packed one.
  • 1 pack Pre-Fried bean sticks (支竹), locally we called it as tau-kee (豆支), snip into pieces
Method : In a saucepot, add chicken stock and white radish, bring to a boil. Once it is boiled, lower heat to medium low heat and slowly simmer until the radish is half tender. About 15 to 18mins. Add in bean sticks, cook until all bean sticks just turned soft. Add more chicken stock if required.


* * * * *
Fried Yam (3) (炸芋头)
  • 300g Yam (芋头), cut into pieces.
Method : In a saucepot, heat up enough oil for deep frying. Fry the yam pieces until brownish at the side and the yam is soft enough.

* * * * *
Braised Pork Belly (4) & Pig Skin (5) (焖三层肉+猪皮)
  • 500g Pork Belly (三层肉), cut into big chunks
  • a few pieces of pig skins, not raw pig skins, but those yong-tau-foo kind of pig skins.
  • 50g Fermented Red Beancurd (nam-yu 南乳) 
  • 3 cloves Garlic (蒜头), minced
  • 2 tsp Red Sweet Sauce (红甜酱)
  • 350ml Water (水)
  • 1 tsp Sugar (糖), depends on individual tastebud. So, this is optional 
Method : In a wok, heat up some oil, add in minced garlic and fermented red beancurd. Fry till fragrant. Add in pork belly, fry for 2 minutes. Add water, sugar, red sweet sauce, stir and bring it to boil. Once it is boiled, turn to very low heat, slowly simmer the pork for 25 to 30mins until the pork is tender. This can be done a day in advance. Once braised pork cooled, pack well, keep it in the freezer. When ready to serve, heat it up, add in pig skins, simmer for 2 minutes, and it is ready.


* * * * *
Braised Mushrooms in Chicken Broth (6) (鸡汁烩冬菇)
  • 8 to 10pcs Chinese Mushrooms (冬菇), soaked well, drained
  • 2 cloves Garlic (蒜头), minced
  • 600ml Superior Chicken Stock (鸡上汤)
Method : In a saucepot, add some oil, fry garlic till fragrant. Add in mushrooms, fry for a minute. Add in chicken stock, bring to a boil. Once it is boiled, turn to very low heat, slowly simmer the mushrooms for 30 to 40mins or until the mushrooms is tender. Add more chicken stock if required. This also can be done a day in advance. Once mushrooms cooled, pack well, keep it in the freezer. When ready to serve, heat it up.

* * * * *
Hand-Made Fish Balls (7) (特制手打鱼蛋)
  • 150g Fish Paste (鱼肉), shop-bought
  • 100g Minced Pork (猪肉碎)
  • 1 to 2 Water Chestnuts (马蹄), chopped
  • ¼ thumb sized Mandarin Peel (果皮/陈皮), soaked till soft, scrapped away the white part, finely chopped
  • some Spring Onions (青葱), chopped
  • ¼ tsp Fine Salt (盐)
  • ¼ tsp Pepper (胡椒粉)
  • ¼ tbsp Tapioca Flour (木薯粉)
  • 3 to 4 pcs Ice Cubes (冰块)
Method : In a big bowl, add in fish paste, minced pork and ice cubes. Using a pair of fork, give it a good mix vigorously, until the mixture turned gluey. Add in the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Prepare a big bowl of ice water with ice cubes. One hand grabbing the fish paste at one side, and holding a spoon at another side, form fish paste into fish balls, place it on the plate. Once plate is full, gently soak the whole plate of fish balls into the ice cold water. Let it soak for 30mins, and remove from water. Boil a pot of water and cook the fish balls. Once fish balls floats up, and they are done. Soak fish balls in cold water will make the fish balls more bouncy.


* * * * *
Steamed Chicken (8) (白切鸡)
  • ½ Kampung Chicken (甘榜鸡)
  • 1½ tbsp Salt (盐)
  • 1½ tbsp Rose Wine (玫瑰露) 
Method : Clean chicken, pat dry with kitchen towel. Rub chicken with 1 tbsp salt and 1 tbsp rose wine. Let it marinade for 30mins. Steam the chicken for 20mins. Let the chicken cool for 10mins. Rub the chicken with another ½ tbsp salt and ½ tbsp rose wine.


* * * * *
Pan-Fried Fresh Big Prawns (9) (干煎新鲜大虾)
  • 4 to 6 pcs Fresh Big Prawns (新鲜大虾)
  • pinch of Salt (盐)
  • dash of Pepper (胡椒粉)
Method : Clean prawns, deveined, pat dry with kitchen towel. Add a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper. Heat up some oil, pan fry the prawns under medium low fire until cooked.

Fried Fish Fillet (10) (香炸鱼柳)
  • 1 piece Halibut or Dory Fish Fillet (鱼柳), you can choose frozen fillet.
  • 2 tbsp Plain Flour (面粉)
  • 1 tbsp Tapioca Flour (木薯粉)
  • ¼ tsp Fine Salt (盐)
  • ¼ tsp Pepper (胡椒粉)
Method : Clean fish fillet, pat dry with kitchen towel. Cut into big pieces. Rub with salt and pepper. Mix Plain flour and tapioca flour together. Coat fish fillet pieces with flour and deep fry till golden brown.

* * * * *
Abalone (11) (鲍鱼)
  • 1 canned abalone (罐头鲍鱼), or you can use mini abalone. 
  • ½ tbsp Abalone Sauce or Oyster Sauce (鲍鱼酱 / 耗油)
  • ½ tbsp Tapioca Flour (木薯粉) 

Method : There are two ways. If you are not fussy, just open the can, take out the abalone, slightly heat it up, slice, and put it on top of the Poon Choi. If you are fussy, like me, peel off the label from the can. Put the can into a pot of hot water, bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 5 hours. Slow cooker is a good help for that. If you are dealing with mini abalone, 3 hours is good enough. When ready to serve, use half of abalone brine water from the can, add ½ tbsp Abalone Sauce or Oyster sauce, in a sauce pan, bring to a boil. Use another 2 tbsp abalone brine water, mix with tapioca flour, pour in and cook until the sauce thickened. This is to drizzle over the abalone later.


* * * * *
Roast Duck (12) (烧鸭)
¼ Roast Duck (烧鸭), cut into pieces.

Method : Shop-bought will do. I don't feel guilty about it.

and optional.... Some blanched Broccoli (野菜花)as garnishing.

Poon Choi's appearance is attractive. They are eaten layer by layer instead. But usually impatient diners may "stir up everything" in the middle of dining. For assembling the dish, radishes, bean sticks, is at the 1st layer. Yam and pig skin is at the 2nd. Braised pork is the 3rd. Braised mushrooms is 4th. And the final top layer would be meat, seafood and expensive ingredients such as abalone. This contributes to the attractiveness of the Poon Choi appearance. Garnish using broccoli has become common, and I did that too. It gives the Poon Choi a better color appearance.


The top ingredients are relatively dry. Such as seafood and meat are placed on top, while other wet ingredients, which can absorb sauce well, are assigned in the bottom of the basin. This allows sauces to flow down to the bottom of the basin as people starts eating from the top. This attentive design of layering the ingredients also contributes to the taste of the whole dish.

When the Poon Choi is ready to serve, put it at the stove, using the LOWEST heat, slowly heat up the Poon Choi while eating, to keep the entire dish warm.


Damn!!!

This is one of the longest recipe EVER! I feels so stressed when I'm writing this post. Haha.

You know what? Poon Choi was considered a test for chefs during olden days, because it requires long cooking time, standing in that wooden stove (now kitchen), it requires a great deal of patience, fire control and the cooking taste too. Now I finally understand...


Other than the Treasure Pot (Braised Mushrooms and Pig Trotter with Sea Cucumber) that I did last year, this is probably one of the best Chinese New Year Dish that I've ever prepared. It is tedious, but it is not mission impossible. All you need to do is to get it well planned ahead.

My family loves it! My parents in law eat like a monster. My husband have no time to respond to me when I talk to him because he's too busy eating. And my mother, she totally changed the way she think about commercialized Poon Choi that she always saw at the flyers given out by restaurants.

I have to thank my fellow Hong Kong friend and my chef friend who had guided me alot to make this a success. Thanks buddy! I'm glad that I did it and I'm feelin' accomplished! :)

Do try it out!

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest ( Hong Kong + Macau ) – Jan+Feb Month hosted by Annie of Annielicious Food

3 comments:

  1. good job - Annie - we watched this menu from Vancouver, BC, Canada and mouth is already watering. There are so many Chinese at West Coast of North America - for sure your blog really help us to make our own meal at Canada !

    感谢分享
    D
    :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you can whip this up at home too :)

      Delete
  2. Greetings from Washington D.C.! Thank you very much for this recipe. Husband and I are going to try this and we're very grateful for your elaborate directions and generous tips and tricks!

    ReplyDelete

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