Monday, May 10, 2010

Hot coals, hot pots - Tai Fung Lau

I have a thing for tradition and old-school. Recently I've been trying to visit more classic dining establishments in Hong Kong - the kind that in-the-know families have been going to for decades, but would never even consider if you asked them for a recommendation. It seems weird, but of my favourite sources to ask is one of my aunts who works in the film industry. By no means is she the oldest of my aunts (in fact, she's probably on the young side), but possibly because she's always on the lookout for innovative places to film, and is a bit of a foodie (runs in the family), she knows a lot of tucked away nooks and crannies.

It was this aunt who took me to Tai Fung Lau, an almost crumbling Peking-style restaurant known for its authentic cuisine from the capital, including shuan yang rou (shaved lamb), which is what Beijingers call their hot pots (because shaved lamb is almost exclusively what you eat). I love them not just because they serve good food, but also for this:

and this:

The first pic is the pot. Totally old-school style, complete with a chimney, which is needed for the charcoal that's burning underneath. It keeps the water (plain water, not soup is used) at a dainty simmer with tiny bubbles rather than a violent boil. It's increasingly difficult to find places that use these pots, even in Beijing.

The tray in the second pic contains the sauces that you get to mix yourself. Start with the sesame on the left as your base, then add splashes/dashes/sprinkles of the other condiments. Next to the sesame is a sort of fermented soy bean paste that has a slight sour/sweet/yeast-like flavour that I'm not too fond of, so I skip that, but I add a bit of everything else. In the teapots there's the usual soy sauce and chilli oil, but also the very fragrant huadiao wine (that's also used to make things like drunken chicken and steamed crab - omg that reminds me of the awesome rendition at The Chairman!). I also add copious amounts of parsley.

Once you're done with the sauces, the waiters (who are about as old as the restaurant and all have very lovable non-Cantonese accents) take the tray away, move the flimsy metal disk away from the middle of the table to reveal the circular pit that the hot pot will go into. The ingredients you put in are up to you - pretty standard hot pot stuff, but their meats are so thinly sliced, you can see through it like a lantern. The curls also remind me of shaved jamon. Mmm...

Tai Fung Lau
Windsor Mansion
29-31 Chatham Rd (entrance on Hart Ave)
Tsim Sha Tsui
Hong Kong
+852 2366 2494

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  1. This looks exactly what I want. A bit of retro non mall'ed and a/c'ed HK.

    I am pretty excited to try it. Thanks for the tip.

  2. Anonymous11:30 am

    can you order hotpot at Tai Fung Lau if you are only two people? all the dishes that i've seen from this restaurant look massive. i so would like to go here during my HK trip! :)

  3. Tom: welcome! I love this place. They closed a few weeks for renovations recently, hopefully that charming daggy-ness hasn't been obliterated.

    Anonymous: Yes, I believe so. The hotpot isn't a set meal, rather you just order a la carte from the hotpot menu, though of course for more variety you'd want to order more, which means a bigger group, or bigger appetites for the 2 of you!