Seasonal Almanac

Major cold: pheasant hens brood (4 of 5)

January 24th, 2009

Major cold 4 of 15At long last the weather puts on something that resembles ‘major cold’. A northeast winter moonsoon brings cold and dry weather to southern China resulting in a drop of the maximum temperature from low 20s to somewhere around 12 to 14 degrees Celsius. Finally a chance to wear a jumper, jacket, and a scarf – and an excuse to eat more.

Last night I read some super-enthusiastic food blogs (whose authors are always excited, eat heaps but are invariably thin – where do they put the stuff?), which put Mak’s famous wontons in our sight. We hopped on a ferry and headed for Central.

There are several noodles stores in Wellington Street, but Mak’s Noodles is by far the star attraction. That said, rival Tsim Chai Kee across the road has many more customers and is always packed in comparison. My research tells me that the newcomer Tsim Chai Kee serves a healthy helping and it’s a third cheaper than Mak’s. So we decided to give the new kid a try. Indeed the wontons are big, noodles fresh and elastic, broth tasty. We left the shop satistfied.

Yet as we looked across the road we were still intriqued by Mak’s. Unlike Tsim Chai Kee, its deco is much more straight-forwardly old-fashioned: it has fluro lighting (instead of mood lighting), the walls are a no fuss white (not the trendy palette of black and metallic gold), its tables and chairs are your standard laminex affair (rather than the classy new ‘old-world’ wooden stools and tables). Plus Mak’s kitchen is at the front of the shop where pedestrians can watch the chefs at work through the large picture window.

We decided that having two lunches is perfectly acceptable when you are on holidays, so we went in and ordered one bowl of wontons each (no noodles). Although smaller than Tsim Chai Kee’s, Mak’s wontons are more the standard size. The prawn-filling was crisp and flavoursome, the ‘pastry’ wrapping smooth and silky, the broth clear and deep – it had a slight heat of peppercorns, an ever-so-light scent of seasame, married with the subtle taste of garlic chives. So who has found favour with the flavour? Judges uanimously declared that Mak’s wontons reign supreme.

4 Responses to “Major cold: pheasant hens brood (4 of 5)”

  1. 1 Lucas in Austinmer
    January 26th, 2009 at 11:10 am

    you crack me up Jo, this made me laugh, all the fine descriptions on your wonton “pepsi challenge”:

    “The prawn-filling was crisp and flavoursome, the ‘pastry’ wrapping smooth and silky, the broth clear and deep – it had a slight heat of peppercorns, an ever-so-light scent of sesame, married with the subtle taste of garlic chives.”

    With language like that, it won’t be long before you join the ranks of those food blogs you mention.

    Here’s a question for you:

    knowing in advance that you were going to write a blog entry about your food experience, do you feel like your tastebuds were extra sensitive, your nostrils sharpened, your appetite enlarged? In other words, was the aesthetic experience of eating intensified by the framing device of the blog?

  2. 2 lizzie
    January 26th, 2009 at 11:30 am

    You two really know how to savour a double lunch! And you are really getting the gormand’s skill in describing food flavours and textures. I think there might be a second career for you in this!

    Am writing about smell and taste in art today – Shusterman would be pleased with how you are developing all your perceptual skills to appreciate the aesthetic in all aspects of life!

  3. 3 jolaw
    January 26th, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    Lucas, You know, people here – whoever they are, whatever they do, seem to have an opinion on the food they eat. Sooner or later, their kind of knowledge and vocabulary rub off. Food has criteria. For example, a prawn dumpling, should have a’pastry’ that is translucent, elastic, holds together well, but not tough; the filling should be flavoursome, smooth, and crisp. This kind of knowledge or words doesn’t so much sharpen your senses as help you focus your attention to the experience.

  4. 4 jolaw
    January 26th, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Lizzie, You might be interested to know that all sorts of particular terms are used here to describe experiences of eating food, like: ‘bounces off your teeth’, ‘has the breath of the wok’, ‘has freshness to the bite’, ‘fragant to taste’, etc. etc.