The Club braved the cold yesterday & headed over to Pete's house for the first meal of 2009. We had all seen the menu the day before & I was really excited as Chinese cuisine is not something I typically try at home (aside from the occasional dodgy fried rice). Upon arrival we were greeted with prawn crackers & a delicious Thai-inspired peanut & cilantro dipping sauce.
1) Maine Shrimp served 3 ways.
Pete decided to throw in an extra course, so while we were munching on crackers & downing beers, he was busy peeling shrimp & plating. Soon enough, we were at the table & getting ready to eat. The raw shrimp was insanely creamy, with an amazing texture & sweet taste.
The first one was topped simply with lime juice & zest. Simple yet very effective. Next was something that I've never seen or heard of before; Pork Sung. According to the geniuses at Wikipedia, it's basically shredded & dried pork. it was like pork cotton candy & tasted awesome with the shrimp. Finally, a tiny fried anchovy with a spicy (really spicy) hot sauce. Call me a wuss, but I downed my beer after this one - really good though! An excellent start to the night!
2) Golden Purse Pork Dumplings & Vegetarian Roast Duck Rolls.
The pork dumplings were probably the best I've ever had. Crispy on the outside & the pork inside was amazing. I'll admit that I was a bit skeptical when I saw 'veggie roast duck' on the menu, but again, Pete served up an ingredient that I'd never heard of; Seitan. 'Wheat gluten commonly used as a meat substitute', ah, it all makes sense (& tastes great). Along with our 'duck' in the rolls were shrimp and vegetables. This dish came with 2 dipping sauces, the peanut/cilantro one & basil/chili sauce; both delicious.
3) Vietnamese Spare Ribs.
More pork, YES! I never met a part of a pig that I didn't like, but these ribs were insanely good. Tender, well seasoned & awesome with a delicious, light dipping sauce. I needed to take some time to reposition my expanded belly after this course, so we took a little break while Pete worked on the final course.
4) Gen. Tso's Chicken, Yangzhou Fried Rice & Pea Shoots.
Pete whipped out the biggest wok that I've ever seen outside of a Chinese restaurant & taunted his stove top to get hot enough so he could properly cook all 3 dishes (more on that later). Normally, I'd just talk about the flavors of the dish, but I have to mention the entire cooking process as well as Pete's skill with a wok was a sight to behold.
The chicken had been seasoned & deep fried earlier (while we were eating our prawn crackers), so all they needed was a light stir fry & sauce. Pete added ginger & garlic to peanut oil, then the chicken was stir fried, followed by hoisin sauce, dark soy, sugar & other ingredients. This gave them a far darker color & a less syrupy sauce than I'm normally used to when ordering from restaurants. It wasn't as sweet either & in my opinion, tasted far better.
Again, the pea shoots were stir fried in the wok with garlic & ginger. A bit of oyster sauce was added mid stir fry & the shoots gave off a lot of liquid, making a delicious sauce. They had a slightly bitter aftertaste which I liked. Teddy was ecstatic though & couldn't stop eating them. Great stuff!
Finally, onto my personal favorite of this course, the Yangzhou (or Young Chow) fried rice. Pete had done all of his prep, so he had all of the ingredients ready to go; garlic, ginger, Chinese sausage, Berkshire pork, chicken, shrimp, peas, onions, cabbage & cold (very important) rice.
By this time, it was really hard to get the wok hot enough, so Pete decided to move outdoors & power up his jet engine of a turkey fryer. Needless to say, the rice stir fried quite nicely! Basically, I couldn't get enough of this stuff. I'd have eating the entire platter if given half a chance! There's no way to describe how good it was!
5) Honey Crisp Apple Tart Tatin with Creme Fraiche.
Totally not Chinese, but by this time I really couldn't care less. Pete could have served up his shoe & I would have been happy. Simple yet delicious, I really enjoyed the crust.
We decided to skip the coffee & go with something with a little more bite. As you can see, Teddy approves! This was a really memorable meal & a great way to start the 2009 culinary season, Bravo Pete! I'm up next week & I have no idea how to top this one, or if it's even possible. We'll have to wait & see!