I seldom visit Hunan restaurants for two reasons — there are just too many dishes and the food is too spicy.
But Café Hunan at Olympian City One is an exception.
It is interesting to note that the restaurant is operated by industry “outsiders” and yet it has managed to earn a Michelin recommendation in a span of three short years.
The one I visited was the third branch of the chain, which is run by Hunan master chef Shi Dingzhu.
Shi spearheaded the introduction of Hunan cuisine at Beijing Minzu Hotel. He is a former head chef at Xiangtan Huaxing Hotel and Sunworld Dynasty Hotel (Beijing).
The dish was poached century eggs mixed with peppers that had been boiled, skinned and sliced, a more fascinating choice than pickled ginger.
Pan-fried abalone with winter melon was a new creation; fresh abalone is not a regular ingredient in Hunan cuisine.
The slightly chili-seasoned abalone, together with the melting winter melon slices, were very appetizing.
Changsha stinky tofu in claypot was tempting and enthusiasts will find them hard to resist.
The liver pieces in the stir-fried pork liver with red peppers were perfectly cooked, preserving the tender texture of the internal organ.
At the center of spicy shrimps was hot Sichuan chili peppers but it proved a good match with the crispy shellfish.
The way to perfect fermented mandarin fish in iron pot depends on the marinade of fermented bean curd and rich seasonings. The process would take up two days. The fish smell stung but the taste was worth it.
Dried salted duck is a classic dish in Hunan cuisine. The smoky meat was chili-hot with a numbing taste, which went down well with whiskey.
The duck was so delicious that I took the remaining half home for my enjoyment.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 6.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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