I struggled for days over whether I should write a review of this dish.
My family and friends often criticize me for not tipping them off in advance before my reviews are published.
They say if I were to give them a bit of advance notice, they wouldn’t have to compete with so many of my readers for reservations.
Attending the tasting of a new dish on Monday this week, I thought I had plenty of time to tell my friends about it, since it is due to be unveiled to the public on Monday next week.
However, I was told it was sold out even before it was announced that preorders were available.
I’m sorry, my friends. I really am.
What is this dish that is in such high demand?
It is a bowl of Cantonese barbecued pork (char siu), with an egg, on rice.
This dish was made famous as “sorrowful rice (黯然銷魂飯)” by Stephen Chow Sing-chi’s 1996 movie, The God of Cookery.
I feel miserable, now, as it is a really impressive dish.
First, the char siu.
It is very tender and juicy, as the chef only picks the best part of the pork collar butt and grills it just an hour before serving.
Next is the egg, from Hiroshima, Japan, with its intense yolk. Two pieces of the vegetable choy sum are nicely placed on the side.
The soy sauce is locally fermented by the esteemed brand Yuan’s.
And last, but not least, the main component of the dish is top-quality Thai rice with chopped onion embedded in it.
You probably think I’m exaggerating about why this simple dish is so great, but that’s because you don’t know the story behind this bowl of rice.
It is the result of three years of research spearheaded by Chan Chung-fan, the boss of Gloucester Luk Kwok Hong Kong.
That was a painful process of trial and error by the Wan Chai hotel’s Chinese culinary executive chef William Ma Wing-tak and his team, who recently finalized the ingredients and recipe.
The team took three days to work on how to pan-fry a perfect fried egg, in which the yolk remains raw, the inner circle of the egg white is about 10 percent cooked, and the circumference of the egg is pleasantly crispy.
Chan consulted me on how to cook the mix of onion and rice.
I told him it is best when raw chopped onion is buried into the rice until it is 80 percent cooked, so as to bring out the sweetness and mild spiciness of the onion.
Chan later told me he decided to go with red onions.
You may insist that it is simply a bowl of BBQ pork rice with an egg on top; however, you can’t deny the chefs’ best efforts went into it.
Now you know the story, guess the price of the dish.
Before the Lunar New Year, a nearby hotel was asking HK$120 (US$15.44) for a bowl of rice with luncheon meat and egg, which can’t possibly be compared to what the Luk Kwok offers — a bowl of painstaking research that serves two people.
Chan decided on HK$98. He should have asked for a higher price.
Initially the hotel was scheduled to make 10 bowls available on five consecutive Monday nights from Feb. 29.
As mentioned, all the bowls have been booked.
“Sorrowful rice” turns out to have been an appropriate name for the dish. It’s too delicious and disappears too quickly.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 24.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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