It’s frankly embarrassing how little I knew about Chiu Chow cuisine and culture until a recent dinner at Pak Loh Chiu Chow in Causeway Bay. Chaozhou – the capital – is on the far eastern border of Guangdong province, only a few hundred kms from Hong Kong.
Famous Teochew (the adjective) people include our favourite billionaire Li Ka-Shing and Michael Chang, he of the extraordinary French Open victory against Ivan Lendl where he served underarm:
Their cuisine is renowned for its seafood and sauces, while crab and soy goose feature prominently, as I was to find out at a recent media dinner. It was held partly because Pak Loh is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
They have branches across Hong Kong, but none can be as beautiful as the branch in Times Square. It’s difficult to say this without sounding rude, but by and large contemporary Chinese restaurants built in the last twenty years share in Hong Kong seem to share unforgivingly bright interiors and surfaces off which every single sound seems amplified a hundredfold. Pak Loh is different, a beautiful interior where the pillars are roots of trees, designed to show the family trees of the Chiu Chow community.
The steamed flower crab served with plum sauce in the title photo was followed by Pomfret stuffed with prawns, a maritime double whammy if ever there was one:
Signature chicken Fried basil was next with a Thai feel, unsurprisingly given the ingredients – and incidentally Thailand has had 3 Prime Ministers of Teochew origins.
Fish head was served crunchy, but the crunch-o-meter was owned by the ‘fried crispy E-Fu noodles’. These bad boys are meant to be dipped first in sugar and then vinegar, a joyous combination if ever there was one.
“Chiu Chow Soyed Goose Meat Platter” may not have looked the prettiest, but marinated with 50-year-old master stock, this was sensationally deep in flavour. Hipsters can take their five year old yeast starter and weep – half a century of adding to the same stock surely beats all comers.