I’m distracted right now. All I can think about is chocolate. Chocolate, feuilletine, caramel, crèmes, glaçages, chocolate (more chocolate), génoise, syrups, brittles, mousses, sabayon, pralines and biscuit and millefeuilles and butter and cream. It’s all dancing around my head, maybe a sign of the upcoming christmas season (which becomes increasingly about what I’m eating rather than what I’m gifting more and more every year – and I would argue that celestial dining with your most beloved of loved ones is the greatest gift. Evah).
Buuuuuut. Even with that kind of introduction, I’m going to be talking about a mostly sugar-free adventure. A Dishcrawl even. This is the plum-backwards way we do things over here at Bubble Tea. When other people have covered an event already so thoroughly, all I can do is be honest. And boy, I would really love a resplendent single origin 70% dark right now.. ^^;;;;
Buuuuuuut. I can tie this in. Watch this! See, it was a dark and temperate November 1rst Dishcrawl night, hosted by the ebullient gastronome Jason Lee of Shut Up and Eat, and things were surprisingly void of dessert. Well, we did start with an ethereal and nutty-crisp bang by placing that little puff of confection – DRAGON’S BEARD! – on our tongues and letting it dissolve into softly sweet toasted acorn of gritty tongue-wakening chewiness. You might even imagine that this was my favourite part of the night, and perhaps if I had never experienced it before, this candy might have been.
Buuuuuuuuuuut. No. That was reserved for the peking duck pancakes we enjoyed over at Mon Nan. (It is at this point that I’m realizing that this post will in no way be thorough, informative, objective or complete. Boring! This is kinda just to complete my Dishcrawl coverage collection and give a brief recap of the yumz ingested). It was at these round tables that I learned the correct way to spread hoisin on the thin house-made pancake of flour (apply first, before the insane crisp duck pieces). Mon Nan is evidently the only place in Montreal that still makes Peking duck the proper way, and they’ve only whetted my appetite for more. Other things to mention: The meal starts (Number One!) with a thin duck broth floating with soft tofu, shared around the table washed down with amber tea – savoury, sweet and delicate. Then, the pancakes, wrapping ’round slivers of green onion, threads of daikon and carrot, BIG CHUNKS OF DUCK (oho!) and hot sauce if desired. Inhale, Construct, Repeat. Finally (Number Three!) out comes a quick stir fry of fat sprouts and duck meat, refreshingly crunchy and a textural contrast the rest of the meal. Lovely!
And so, on we go. Next stop was a one-dish wonder at Maison Kam Fung, which is otherwise known for it’s killer Dim Sum brunch on Sundays, and had a pretty lively dining room on that Tuesday night when our party of 50 (ish?) descended on them en masse. We started simply with one of the best spring rolls I’ve had in memory – darkly crisp skin, generously porky but not obscene inside. However, I don’t tend to eat spring rolls, so there’s some grain of salt you should take with my opinion. What I DO tend to eat a lot of is mysterious Chinese food, so the next dish I can confidently say falls under my jurisdiction of “silly Canadian non-Chinese xiaochi addict”.
Again, other people will introduce this with more depth than I. Wor Siu Gai is a dish with depth, or at least Montreal specific history. What was originally an ancient dish made with bird’s nest – an ingredient best enjoyed by the royal, the independently wealthy, and those with a taste for the dried saliva of cave birds – has been reinvented by Maison Kam Fung to become a glorious pink landmasse of ham, shrimp, crab, chinese sausage, wrapped in wonton skin, fried, served on a giant platter and covered with, and I quote, “Chinese gravy,” yum yum.
I’ve had more gastronomically sensational food – this went down like a bowl of perfect white rice and a block of seafood-tasting low-salt Spam – but gosh I don’t know if I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating so many different mystery meats in one mouthful before. And the history! I googled Wor Siu Gai and almost every rendition I could find called for chicken and not too much else, so this version really is a specialty of Montreal – try it at your next Maison Kam Fung gorging session!
Finally, I had my belly ready for the best part of the night. The promise of dessert was ringing louder and louder with every step we took towards the Hong Kong-style bakery, Patisserie Callia. I love me a squishy milky cool-to-the-touch sweetened bun. LOVE IT. The only hard part is deciding was the filling should be. Mango custard? Blueberry cream? Red bean, sweet egg, lemon curd, sesame paste, or taro? Eeeeek, I want to know!
Seriously, poutine bun? Wow, I’m suddenly welling up with all these mixed feelings ranging from inner giggling to mild sugar-deprived rage to disaffected cultural malaise. Mostly just the yen for a real donut though. At least, the accompaniment to “dessert” was panacea for the jilted sweet tooth – hot milky tea made with a blend of many different strong teas – highly aromatic, bittersweet, complex and roasted-tasting. I think they were all black teas, I don’t quite remember (as in, black and not green). Each sip was slightly different, playing chimes at different places in the mouth, and in different harmonies with subsequent sips – definitely the most interesting cup of it’s kind that I’ve had, and I’ve had lot of Chinese milk tea. Bubble Tea for Dinner is no mistake as a blog name. I’d return to Callia in a second for another cup, bypassing even my beloved Patisserie Harmonie for a chance to dip my head in it’s swirling and very mature-smelling steam.
And that’s about it! Whew, another Dishcrawl penned and ready to share with the world. Thanks again to Jason Lee for being SO energetic and helpful and informative and friendly whenever I had annoying questions about the herb-using habits of the Vietnamese or how to properly wrap a peking-pan-duck-cake.
~~~~~ here’s where to witness the brilliance of topic-tying-in action ~~~ ……. \/
Alas, I don’t know if I can make it to the Chocolate Dishcrawl this Sunday, but I would love to, obviously. If I can move my schedule around, I will see. I also might just spend my ticket money on chocolate bars. We’ll see. ( It’s even – in some stroke of life-appropriate brilliance – hosted by chocolatier Olivier Piffaudat, who specializes in low and no-sugar confections, which would delight BF Cloudy to no end. He’s on a sugar-cleanse! Brave soul. )
EDIT: I am going!!!! Yeehee. Also, there are 2 tickets left. Go go go!