16 November 2018
Steamed lion head croaker makes for an absolutely delightful dish. Photo: HKEJ
Steamed lion head croaker makes for an absolutely delightful dish. Photo: HKEJ

A lunch to remember

Last Thursday I didn’t want to have dinner as I feared the meal might dilute the good mood and feelings I had after a superb lunch meeting with renowned food and wine critic Lau Chi-sun and acclaimed chef Lee Man-kee.

Lau is a former colleague of mine at the New Evening Post and we have known each other for decades. Yet we hadn’t formally arranged a meal gathering over the years.

I did bump into him a few times at Foo Ka Chinese Restaurant in Quarry Bay. Whenever that happened, I tried to take full advantage of the encounter. I would make up some excuse to join him at the table, help myself to the food and take a few sips of a pint.

For the record, Lau is also the founder of the Chinese-language magazine Wine Now Monthly. Now, you might understand better why I couldn’t walk away from his table of sumptuous dishes.

The lunch last Thursday was at an officially arranged meeting. I was sitting at a table of wine lovers and presented with almost ten bottles of great wine. Fragrance came with each bottle, one after another.

Roasted goose, barbecued ribs, barbecued pork and marinated pork intestines from Chai Wan’s Sun Kwai Heung were fabulous. The delivery from Chai Wan to Quarry Bay did not take away from the quality of the goose, which came with deliciously crispy skin and juicy meat.

Normally an impressive goose like this would have gone as soon as everyone dug in. However, this time, it was served along with many other excellent choices: lap mei from supplies of Sun Kee Butcher, Chiuchow-style stir-fried mini clams, deep-fried bombay duck fish with spices, and some other items.

Diners were having a dilemma as to what dish they should focus upon in the feast.

Pan Gor, a fellow columnist who was also present at the same gathering, brought in a big crucian carp from a fish farm, while chef Lee prepared us a common carp. Half of my stomach was well filled with two dishes of fish. I kept reminding myself to exercise self-control or else I wouldn’t be able to try out other mighty dishes.

As soon as I murmured the words to myself, the waiter greeted us with the next dish.

I could hardly contain myself any more. It was a dish of 5-inch-long lion head croaker (獅頭魚). If you go looking for such fish in the wet market, it is not often that you will succeed.

According to the Hong Kong Fish Net database of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, lion head croaker has a maximum length of 17 centimeters, or 7 inches.

A few months ago I was so lucky to find one at a wet market in Zhuhai.

At the Thursday lunch, although I had only 5-inch-long tinier creatures in front of me, let me remind you that size is never a factor affecting its umami taste. I devoured four of the croakers all by myself.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 2.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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