By Wendy Chan
My husband and I both find cooking recreational and therapeutic. But we are fundamentally driven by the love of good food. So imagine our joy when we were both invited to join a small group of friends and chefs for an intimate Chinese Spring Feast prepared by “Red Cook” Chef Kian, whose day job is in technology and engineering. The four-hour dinner was a full blown lavish 13-course meal, meticulously prepared and lovingly served in his new two-bedroom apartment in Harlem. Among the lucky benefactors of this epicurean endeavor were Chef Simpson Wong and Chef Scott Barton.
Upon arrival, we were pleasantly surprised to see the table completely well set. True to Chinese tradition, tea was served in a traditional tea cup with lid. Delicate and subtle flavors from the chrysanthemum, red date, goji berries in the tea essentially cleansed our palate, and whet our appetite for what’s to come.
I was delighted to see an assortment of cold plates already laid out. Cold dishes play an important role in traditional Chinese banquets, but are generally under-appreciated by American diners. One particular dish popped out – Sweet and Sour Watermelon Radish Salad. It was tasty and quite an eye candy as well.
The hot dishes that were brought to the table were a variety of different regional cuisines. Steamed Silken Tofu with Dried Scallop was followed by Stir-fry Prawn with Dragon Well Tea accompanied by baby bokchoy cooked al dente. I love tea used in cuisine, so it was exciting to see this dish on the menu. The chef’s signature Red Cooked Pork Belly with Steamed Buns was delicious. This is meant to be a decadent dish, one that gives us guilty pleasure.
I personally like soups, due to my Cantonese heritage. I think this is one of those soups that promise health and beauty. So I enjoyed the savory Papaya and White Fungus Soup. I suspect a dessert version using the same ingredients would have worked well too.
If any dish would set off the smoke alarm, the Crispy Fried Whole Chicken would. And it did. With practiced ease, the alarm was taken care of promptly and we did not miss a beat to enjoy this flawless dish as soon as it was served.
The Spinach with Superior Stock was tasty, and the Steamed Pomfret with Preserved Cabbage was delightful. It is always tricky to get good Chinese preserved cabbage, one with the right balance of sweetness and saltiness and not saturated with sand. I love the fried rice dish, even although I’m not usually a great fan of dried shrimp. The asparagus was perfectly done, giving color and texture to the rice. The use of egg white is a reflection of how refined the cooking was.
And, WHAT A FINISH. The finale was Deep Fried Meringue with Red Bean Paste, something that has disappeared from restaurant menus. It was simply superb, piping hot from stove to table. I was able to eat one and a half, even after the full meal – which is testimony of how exceptionally wonderful the dessert was. I think the last time I had this was at least some 5 years ago, so I was thrilled to see this lovely dessert.
Overall, the dinner was really satisfying, as it was seasoned with TLC. The meal was yin-yan balanced as well. Even the tableware was well-chosen, and I believe Martha Stewart would approve! If you wish to learn more about these dishes directly from Red Cook himself, please visit his blog. He promised to post thoughts and recipes, and even answer questions.
Check out the Red Cook cooking his Deep Fried Meringue with Red Bean Paste!