By Tsz on August 11, 2011
The challenge was to create and cook a 5-course, innovative Cantonese dinner for 8 that features sous vide techniques. Innovation was emphasized as a number of the diners were the owner and staff from a prominent Chinese restaurant in the SGV area so cooking traditional Cantonese dishes were definitely out of the equation. Time frame: 2 days from start to finish. Ok, bring it!
Fortunately, my friend was there to help and he knows his way around the kitchen. Actually more so as he is a proud owner of a sous vide machine and have a penchant for brewing teas and making gelato. He also recruited his classmate from college, a bread enthusiast and fellow foodie to help as well.
With a team of 3, the tables turned in our favor. Since time was limited, I created a menu starring familiar Cantonese dishes I grew up with. Titled “Come Fly with Me” (a Sinatra reference, hee), the concept is what if all my favorite childhood dishes took a summer vacation in Europe?
Here are the dishes:
Hainan chicken. Almost a perfect dish in taste so how can we improve upon a beloved national favorite? My answer is textures. The traditional dish pairs poached chicken with steamed rice, which are both soft in texture, so we mixed things up by introducing new textures.
The steam rice was made into cakes and pan fried in chicken fat for crunch and topped with a smear of homemade green onion ginger relish. We then placed slices of sous vide chicken thighs that was finished with a quick sear on the skin side and shreds of green onion. To serve, we poured consommé tableside made with the rest of the chicken.
This was my homage to Italy as I absolutely adore Carbonara. I mean, who can resist bacon, eggs and cheese? To Asian-fy the dish, we tossed shrimp roe noodles with homemade XO sauce and paired it with fried shallots, red Tobiko caviar, fried scallop and a sous vided 62 degrees egg. Mix and enjoy!
While I enjoy the ubiquitous walnut shrimp, my weird food neurosis prevents me from fully loving the dish. To explain, I’m not a fan of cold, creamy sauces covering food items. Because of this, potato salad, tartar sauce as well as salads in general makes me uneasy. I shudder at the thought even as I’m typing this…
Instead of the cringe-inducing classic preparation, we contained the mayo by turning it into a yuzu and Togarashi aioli stripe on the plate. Then we sprinkled honey walnuts and top it with walnut dusted fried Santa Barbara pawns for minimal sauce to food fraternizing.
This was our version of steak frites. We first sous vided the duck breasts with Oolong tea leaves, then pan seared them to render off the fat and crispen the skin. It was a crucial step for taste as well as for appearances as the freshly SV’ed breasts looked like murder victims from a horror film!
After the meat had a chance to rest, we carved it and plated it with a Oolong gastrique, crispy shoestring taro for crunch and pea shoots sautéed with garlic.
I love custards made with black sticky rice and coconut milk found in dim sum restaurants and eateries such as Phoenix Food Boutique so we married those flavors with French preparations. The black sticky rice was toasted and made into ice cream. Coconut milk became coconut Crème Anglaise. To top things off, we served it with warm black sesame Gènoise for a play in temperature.
If it wasn’t enough, my friend created different sparkling tea pairings for each course.
The verdict? Proud to report 8 satisfied diners! Mission accomplished.