Monday, July 09, 2012

THE WIZARD OF SAUCE

Xinfully, cottony soft and light as air...deep-fried egg white souffle

Rarely can I recall a Chinese meal that finishes on a high when it comes to dessert. Most of the time, it's either wholesome sliced fresh fruits, hot or cold sweet broths or in the case of wedding dinners, the ubiquitous crispy pancake with red bean or lotus paste.

This is where Xin Cuisine stands out from the rest. Thanks to new Chinese Chef Alfie Hoh's inspired creation of Deep-fried White Soufflé with Red Bean Paste (RM6++ per piece, minimum order of 6 pcs), you'd be floating home on a happy high once you have sampled those unbelievably airy, puffy balls.

The dragons' domain where Chef Alfie Hoh reigns

This confection alone lends ample testament to the veteran chef's culinary wizardry. After four decades in the business and a career that spanned Zhuhai, Shanghai, Ningpo, Wuxi, Romania, Indonesia and Singapore, Alfie's akin to the Dumbledore of Chinese cuisine, a masterful wizard when it comes to conjuring up potent sauces and weaving fresh ingredients together to create captivating dishes that keep you enthralled.

Here's looking at you...Chef Alfie Hoh
What drives this 'sauce-rer' of Chinese cuisine? Apparently books and street food are the key secrets to his unrelenting drive. Citing beef noodles at the old school Lai Foong coffee shop in KL as his perennial favourite, Alfie admits that he loves giving a new lease of life to classic 1970s recipes melded with subtle Northern Chinese accents.

Don't judge a dish by its looks...this Szechuan Smoked Fish is mildly sweet with a stealthy albeit pleasing bursts of spicy heat that numbs your tongue

Years spent in China have drawn Alfie to the Northern Chinese penchant for cold dishes to prime the appetite prior to the main meal. Hence you'd find light, stimulating nibbles such as the crispy, almost jerky-like Szechuan Smoked Fish (RM18++) and Cold Cucumber Tossed in Black Vinaigrette and Garlic (RM15++) included into Xin Cuisine's latest appetiser line-up.
 
Mildly sweet yet robustly spiced, the former catches you by surprise with its subtle, 'slow-burning' bursts of tongue-numbing heat whilst the latter helps to cool things down; the finger-thick, crunchy yet slightly soft cucumber strip teases the palate with its deep-seated tartness, having been marinated in some premium Xinjiang black vinegar.

Save the sharks and dive into this superbly viscous soup instead

Now that more diners are opting to save the sharks by omitting shark's fin soup from their list of 'must have' treats when dining out, we reckon the chef's Shredded Duck, Yellow Chives and Seafood in Thick Soup would be the perfect substitute. This retro Cantonese soup of bamboo pith, crabmeat, black mushroom slices and fried crullers certainly boasts similar deep-seated hearty flavours and multi-layer textures to that of the pricey original.

Porky please...a dish that even mothers would approve of

If you prefer some home-cooked fare, Alfie's a dab hand in that aspect too. Just sample his Braised Spare Ribs with Mui Choy Beijing-Style (RM30++ per portion) and you'd be seized by a fresh perspective on how this homely Hakka staple can indeed be taken to the next level. 

Alfie's mui choi pork is oh so salubriously saucy!

Even more staggering is how simple it is...instead of the usual soya sauce base, Alfie just tweaks it with some tomato paste, giving the dish a faintly tarty nuance that balances the omnipresent beany brininess.

Palate pleaser...chicken with shredded mango salad and a tantalising sweet-sour-briny-spicy sauce

If you're averse to fiery hot bird's eye chilli, tread carefully as you dig into the Deep-fried Boneless Chicken with Pattaya Sauce (RM32++ small, RM48++ medium, RM64++ large) lest you get caught in the line of 'fire' once you bite into a sliver. You'd find the lethal chilli bits studded in the light sweet-sour dressing (a mixture of fresh juice of small limes or kat chai, 7Up and preserved plum sauce) that complements the crispy boneless chicken. Crowned with a heap of shredded mango salad, this is one addictive dish that leaves you wanting more.

The chef also looked east to liven up his repertoire of seafood specialities. Instead of ginger and soya sauce, the Wok-fried Cod with Japanese Sauce (RM26++ per 100g) receives a splendid boost with his own concoction of sake, mirin, Japanese shoyu and dashi stock.

More saucy magic emerges in the prawn dish

The wizard of sauce keeps up the pace by whipping up shoyu, sake and margarine into a sublime sauce to elevate his Baked Sea Prawns with Japanese Wine (RM55++ small, RM75++ medium, RM110++ large) up to new gustatory heights.

Green is in...as long as the leafy greens are doused in this yummy sauce!

Instead of the tried and tested 'siong tong yin choi' (spinach in superior stock) that has been flogged to death in most Chinese restaurants, I urge you to try the Wok-fried Seasonal Vegetable with Crabmeat and Salted Egg Yolk (RM30++ small, RM45++ medium, RM60++ large). Again it's the sauce that steals limelight and rightfully so.
 
Alfie tells us that in the good old days, a lot of crab roe was used to make the rich sauce but nowadays salted egg yolks prove to be an adequate and easier to obtain substitute. Mixed with freshly extracted crab meat in addition to some soup stock to lighten the viscosity, the combination imbues the dish with ample colour and superb flavour. 

Delicious ties that bind...Yee Fu Noodles with Dace
Rustic, earthy but scrumptious best describe the substantial dish of Braised Yee Fu Noodles with Dace (RM28++ small, RM38++ medium, RM55++ large). We can't get past how well the noodles soak up the hearty brininess of black beans and fried dace, resulting in such Xin-fully great taste.

Kudos to Alfie Hoh - the wizard of sauce!
 
For reservations at Xin Cuisine, please call (03) 2144 8750 or 2144 2200 ext 2338. The restaurant is located on the lobby level of Concorde Hotel Kuala Lumpur, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.