Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pleasures of the Caribbean - Mandy's Private Kitchen

Fish broth
What do I know about the Caribbean? Precisely nothing, unless you count the stock photo-style images of perfect beaches that are floating around in my head. I don't think I even finished watching Pirates of the Caribbean. So after I met Mandy (thanks to @3starbackpacker's first private kitchen meetup 'series', and we met once again for Taiwan Yiping Huadiao Chicken) and heard about the the food she was making at Mandy's Private Kitchen, set in her (actual!) home in Sai Kung, I was pretty intrigued. (Oh the rum cake she kept giving me helped too, more on that later.) People seem to come to HK thinking private kitchens are in real people's homes - well, they're not, hence my excitement.

Rum punch
We arrived in Sai Kung on a Sunday afternoon, gathered at Honeymoon dessert, where Mandy instructed us to meet. Her helper then came to fetch us for a 5 minute walk up to her house, a contemporary village house with a terrace and ace views right over Sai Kung town and out to the sea. Once inside, we were greeted by her adorable puppy Rekha and we tottered through Mandy's kitchen (it smelled amazing - in fact, the whole house did) into the dining room. Unfortunately it was drizzly the day we went, so we couldn't sit on the terrace outside... tough luck. (The dining area does open out onto the terrace though and eventually towards the end of lunch we did spill out there :P)

Honey cornbread
We started with cornbread served with cinnamon-whipped butter, and a whole lot of starters, including the excellent fish broth above - fresh, full of veg and the sweetness that comes from it. That and a bit of cornbread would make a perfect weekday lunch.

Sahienas are street food, Mandy later told us, made of split pea and with spinach added, then deep-fried to copper/brown pillows. It was served decidedly non-street food style on a salad with finely diced lime zest. You can't really go wrong with lime in my books.

Before I go on further I should mention that there was a tray of sauces that we were encouraged to put on any dish we liked. I particularly like the texture and fresh flavours of mango chutney, although the tamarind went well with a lot of things too, and the ginger & orange had that slightly addictive quality of Thai sweet chilli sauce.

Curried fish
Packed with spices, this is a dry curry that would sit well on a bit of cornbread (and not get into a runny, gloopy/oily mess). On the side was fried cassava, a fibrous tuber. I can't say the cassava was really my thing, though it probably aided digestion...!

Roast leg of lamb
And voila, the piece de resistance, a leg of lamb marinated in Trinidadian spices for 5 days and then slowly barbecued under a low heat (thanks for the clarification Mandy!). The deep slits allowed the rendang-like flavours to seep in. As you'll see from the photos, the leg was cooked quite well all the way through, which isn't exactly what I expected from a roast leg (rare to a pink med rare is the norm for me), but it was super tender and given the abundance of spices, it seemed right.

Rum rum chicken
Like it says on the tin, so no excuses if you were still surprised that this was more about the rum than the chicken. Not that the chicken wasn't good though - bouncy, cooked just right, served with a little sizzling hotplate drama. Great, big, sweet flavours.

The roti was great for wrapping and dipping, though it is much breadier than the roti I'm used to (a la roti canai). Especially great with the beef rib eye stew, marinated and sealed in hot brown sugar, and slow cooked with with Caribbean spices till tender, which I sadly didn't catch a picture of - excuse to go back, if I ever needed one!

Lime cheesecake
A little too dense, but Mandy says this is a work in progress. The flavours were there though - lime zest ftw! Nice job by @3starbackpacker with the presentation. Makes me think of Adam & Eve for some reason...

Chocolate biscuit base in the lime cheesecake

Rum cake
It could be argued that this rum cake was what made me want to come to Mandy's in the first place. Moist, fruity, even a little 'fermenty' and yes, sweet, but not cloyingly so. It has the spiciness of Christmas pudding without the heaviness of suet. With a stronger coffee, it would have been the perfect ending to one of the longest lunches I've ever had.

Mandy hopes to be able to do lunch and dinner closer to town - hope that happens soon. Hong Kong needs something refreshingly different like this.

Special thanks to @3starbackpacker and @saveurs for organising, and @saveurs for the wine.

Mandy's Private Kitchen
Sai Kung
+852 9816 9946


  1. I could munch that rum cake right now. It looks like I'll have to stock up for the trip to SK now then (water supplies, gum boats, a boat, mosquito repellent...)

  2. Mandy just told me she got an ice cream machine, just in time for summer, so now you can have a RUM ice cream with your RUM cake. Bring sturdy gumboots and an umbrella that can double as a walking stick!