I am lucky enough to be heading off on a wonderful trip to experience the Chinese New Year the way the locals do. The 5-day whirlwind tour will take in Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China.
I am so thrilled to be travelling with some of Australia’s well-loved members of the culinary world: presenter and author Maeve O’Meara, Delicious magazine editor Valli Little, Taste magazine editor Brodee Myers-Cook, TV presenter and author Fast Ed Hamalgyi, wine maker and judge Christian Gaffey, journalist Wendy Squires and Mary Morton of Spice and Soul PR. We are all the guests of Oriental Merchant, the major Asian food supplier to Australia.
The itinerary has been kept under wraps as a bit of a surprise. We are given an outline before we board the plane, but much remains a mystery as we wing our way north.
Besides some extended turbulence which creates a serious delay in the service of lunch, the flight is uneventful and we land in the Hong Kong winter. I have to say it is milder than I expected, and pretty humid too. We take a bus to the Excelsior hotel, quickly freshen up, and set off to our first surprise destination.
It is the Lee Kum Kee building! I would hazard a guess that anyone who has cooked any kind of Asian food at home would have at least one of their products in the pantry. We are given a tour of the facility which includes the history of the 126-year-old family company.
After a brief video about the products we are taken into a gorgeous room with an outdoor deck overlooking the vista of Victoria Harbour. It is breathtaking, and the photos don’t even come close to doing it justice.
We sit down to a wonderful 9-course meal. It begins with crispy silken tofu and a pan-fried tofu wrap. The silken tofu is absolutely delicious and the wrap is bursting with vegetables. It’s served with a range of the sauces, including XO sauce, Premium oyster sauce and Chilli Garlic sauce. It’s really delicious, especially to a group of hungry travellers.
This is followed by a parade of delicious morsels. I can’t pick a favourite between the tofu, a stuffed crab shell which is to die for, and a steamed fish with an amazing soy bean sauce.
There is also a really interesting soup with pork and sea coconut. I have never heard of sea coconut before. It’s a plant, it’s kind of crunchy and textural. Another thing I have never tried is the poached vegetables with bamboo pith. Bamboo pith is a fungus and it has a spongy texture. It takes on the flavour of the broth it is in.
All of this is washed down with Australian wines brought along by wine maker Christian Gaffey – a Jackson’s Hill 2005 reserve Semillon and a Jackson’s Hill claret, both from the Hunter Valley. Both are just lovely and I’m looking forward to picking Christian’s brains about wine in the next few days.
Add to that crispy skinned chicken, fried rice with abalone, and a hot dessert soup of papaya and white fungus with almonds, and it is truly a delicious and memorable meal. The company (including the executives of Oriental Merchant and Lee Kum Kee) is excellent, the hospitality is overwhelming and the food wonderful. We are given generous parting gifts and I return to the hotel full and happy.
Tomorrow we are hopping across to Macau for what promises to be another fantastic day!