Cantonese fine-dining veteran Tam Kwok-fung reinvents nostalgic Guangdong dishes.
Text by Cherrie Yu
*Featured in Crave’s April 2016 issue
Opened in October, Studio City’s Chinese fine-dining venue Pearl Dragon is making its mark with nostalgic Guangdong dishes rarely found in other modern Cantonese restaurants. At the helm is 30-year veteran Tam Kwok-fung, director of culinary operations, food and beverage at City of Dreams Macau, where he also manages two-Michelin-starred Jade Dragon and one-Michelin-starred Ying.
A deep admirer of traditional culinary art forms, Tam doesn’t stray far from the original methods when it comes to reinventing the dishes.
“Think of it as traditional nostalgic dishes with an elevated twist. We intend to bring rarely found Guangdong provincial delicacies to diners who covet traditional flavours,” he says.
The signature oven-smoked foie gras and roasted honey pork “burger” is reminiscent of “coin chicken”, a popular snack in Guangzhou’s barbecued meat shops in the 1920s. Instead of duck liver and roasted pork, Tam’s version layers foie gras, French horn mushrooms and Spanish pork. Following tradition, the pork is grilled over lychee wood, which imparts a fragrant smokiness to the meat.
Tam also reverts to a rarely seen traditional recipe for ma lai go – steamed sponge cake. He tops his with Chinese olive nuts and uses the time-consuming natural yeast as a raising agent as he nds baking powder leaves a slightly bitter aftertaste.
Another reinvention is roasted crispy chicken with scallion oil, stuffing a de-boned bird with seasonal Yunnan or European mushrooms and roasting over lychee wood for about an hour.
“Those in their 70s will be familiar with it,” Tam says. “As a Cantonese chef, I feel it is my mission to preserve this culinary art through passing on my skills and expertise to other cooks, so diners from around the world will have the chance to relish traditional Guangdong flavours.”
1. Pork Dumplings with Abalone
We tucked into these vivid green dumplings the moment they arrived and were rewarded by a hot, juicy and savoury meaty interior with extra chewiness from the abalone, which we liked. Little pieces of shiitake mushrooms, dried flat fish and shrimps balance the salty Spanish pork. However, while we liked the colour – from spinach and garlic chive juice – we found the flavours didn’t exactly jump off the plate.
2. Smoked Goose Liver and Honey Pork Parcels
Take all the components of Tam’s signature layered “burger” in each bite for a deeply gratifying explosion of flavours. The creamy foie gras melted in the mouth in nice contrast to the French horn mushroom, and the spongy bun effectively balanced the initial heaviness and saltiness of the savoury Spanish pork. The sweet coat of honey added a further element of complexity. It was delicious.
3. Double-boiled Chicken Soup
Simmered for three hours, the soup was rich in savoury flavour with generous portions of fresh Yunnan matsutake mushrooms and thinly sliced conch. Goji berries added delightful notes of sweetness to this soothing Cantonese soup that warmed the stomach. The small pieces of lean pork added a hint of sweetness while retaining the overall flavours of the soup. We finished every last drop.
4. Stir-fried Lobster with Caviar
The stir-fried Brittany lobster was cut into small pieces so we didn’t have to use our hands – a considerate touch. Even before tasting the lobster, we were enticed by its lingering aroma and appetising appeal. The lobster is tasty and well cooked, and the caviar added brininess and juiciness. The use of okra enlivened the dish aesthetically and added extra texture.
Wok-seared Australian Wagyu Beef Cubes
Stir-fried beef cubes arrived piping hot with wok hei. The beef was juicy and tender and the black garlic was a special element. Sourced from Yunnan, it had an unexpected soft interior like a plum and didn’t leave us with lingering garlic breath. The yam bean, leek and onion pieces added multiple layers of crunchy texture. Beetroot sauce on the side offered a slight sweet contrast to the savoury beef cubes that matched well.
2/F Star Tower at Studio City, Macau
Tel: +853 8865 6560