There are several reasons why it’s always a delight to eat out with my fellow columnist Pan Gor.
First, the food and drinks couldn’t be anything less than superior when you have the master with you.
Then you get to listen to his juicy stories which make a delicious meal even more enjoyable.
Besides, you meet a lot of interesting people because he’s got a really wide social network.
Last week, we joined a rather large group of friends at the Dragon Inn Seafood Restaurant in Tuen Mun for a reunion.
I first dragged Pan Gor to a nearby seafood market at Sam Shing Estate to look for some fish to grace our table.
According to insiders, some of the dirt-cheap hybrid groupers sold in the market have never been to the sea their whole life; they were born and raised in fish farms.
As they say, “you get what you pay for”. So you have to fork out a small fortune for some truly amazing marine fish and shellfish.
Nothing is guaranteed, however. You may end up feeling sorry for yourself if you listen to a self-proclaimed seafood expert who actually has scant experience and knowledge to distinguish worthy wild creatures from ordinary ones.
But that would never happen when Pan Gor is around. Who would dare disrespect a veteran chef?
As soon as we set foot at the renowned Yeung Hop Lee (楊合利) seafood store, the owner greeted Pan Gor enthusiastically.
“Two brown-marbled groupers, please,” Pan Gor told the owner, sounding quite business-like.
I whispered to my friend that he should remind the owner to handpick something really nice for us.
“No need,” he said confidently. “They know they must give me the best of the best.”
In no time, the owner presented us two wild groupers. I was totally petrified at the price: they’re impossibly cheap!
Pan Gor quickly calmed my nerves and reminded me not to tell others about the bargain.
There’s no question about the quality; they’re really wild fish from Malaysia. But the owner sold them to us at cost.
On our way back to the restaurant, Pan Gor gave me a sneak preview of what he intended to be done with the fish.
“Stewed fish head and belly and stir-fried fillets. That’s the best way they do the fish at the Dragon Inn kitchen,” he assured me.
With the help of excellent ingredients, the cooks at Dragon Inn really knew how to bring out the best from the most ordinary fare.
Each slice of stir-fried brown-marbled grouper fillet with celery had a firm cut, meaning it was quickly and expertly handled.
The stew was even more wonderful: the thick fish skin was silky tender and elastic.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec. 28.
Translation by Darlie Yiu with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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