Monday, February 15, 2016

Meal #06: Heading to Hong Kong

Last week the Food Explorers went to Hong Kong, by way of Tim Ho Wan, the Michelin-starred dim sum restaurant. From a small hole in the wall in Hong Kong, Tim Ho Wan has grown to several restaurants around the world, and Bangkok has a branch right in Terminal 21.

Despite the Michelin star and the accompanying fame and popularity, Tim Ho Wan remains a fairly casual place. They don't take reservations, but service is brisk. For a party of ten, they asked us to wait until we had a full party in place. We didn't have to wait long though - perhaps 20 minutes - and they ushered us in with 6 people present.

Eventually we were nine - Y.Y. (Japan), Bep (Netherlands), Vera (Brazil), Lynette (Philippines), Joan (Netherlands), Josh (US), Kim (Australia), Maria (Russia) and myself (Singapore).

Being familiar with Dim Sum, the ordering was left to me and I ordered one or two Dim Sum's greatest hits. Tim Ho Wan's dim sum menu is pretty standard - in fact, I've seen larger menus with more variety - but they definitely have all the classics. Ordering is easy with no frills. Your placemat doubles as your menu. They give you a ticket at the start where you put the amount beside each dish you want and then you hand it the the waiter. The food comes rather quickly - a side effect of having the kitchen churning out dishes at breakneck speed.

One of the two signature dishes we ordered: the char siew bao, or barbecue pork bun. Char siew baos are usually steamed white buns (often marked with a red dot), but Tim Ho Wan's signature innovation is that these buns are baked, not steamed. The bread is crusty, soft, slightly sweet and complements the sweet savoury filling inside. The other dish, the pan fried radish cake had a rich umami flavour.

The other classic dim sum dishes include har gow (shrimp dumplings), siew mai (pork dumplings), chee chong fun (thick rice noodles filled with barbecue pork or shrimp - we ordered both).

Other dishes we ordered: the glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaf, shrimp dumplings with wasabi sauce, and braised chicken feet.

Chicken feet, or more poetically called Phoenix Claws, are a classic dim sum dish, and to me is the barometer for any dim sum restaurant. Tim Ho Wan's is competent, although not the best I've had.

Lunch for the nine of us, including drinks, cost us slightly over THB 400. Tim Ho Wan was one of the first places I had in mind when I started this group, and I'm glad we finally got to visit.

Rat fund: THB 260, bringing the total to THB 1,460.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Meal #05.1: Yemen, yet again

Because Yemen was such a rare cuisine, there was a lot of interest in trying it and so I did a second visit a week after. Armed with the firsthand experience from the previous visit, how did this second trip to Yemen fare?

This meal's food explorers: Marie, Josh, Lynette, Kim, Joan, Bep, Noel and Jim. Hailing from the US, Philippines, Thailand, Australia, the Netherlands and Singapore.

Having had trouble trying to get service from the private room, we sat at a long table in the middle of the second floor. Service was easier to get this time. Our waiter, the same Arab man from the last time recognised me - "You back for Yemen food?", he asked with a smirk. We sure were!

Ordering this time was much simpler. Two serves of fatah (a bread salad) one with chicken and one with vegetables. Unlike the previous week, lamb was off the menu, so all the mains were chicken only. Having learnt from the last time that the mains were huge and enough for two, we ordered four different mains: mandy (rice with roasted chicken), matbi (rice with grilled chicken), zorbean (rice with chicken baked inside it) and mahagoat (roast chicken on rice, but differently spiced than the mandy).

The fatah chicken (top) and fatah veg (bottom).

All the mains were some variation of rice and chicken. I think this might have been the zorbean.

Besides the mains and fatahs, some tabbouleh, hummus and bread to round us off.

Second meal was definitely an easier time - knowing what not to order certainly helped. Some foods such as the saltah were beyond our reach and I'm wondering now if that's because they only serve it on certain days, like on the weekend or whenever the Yemeni community goes for a taste of home.

Rat fund: we collected THB 140, bringing the total to THB 1,200.