This restaurant had been replaced with a new restaurant, updated on 11th Oct 2008
When Suanne and I started blogging on chowtimes, we just did it because, well, it was an in-thing to have a blog. One thing led to another, today we have over 700 entries. We are still amazed at how the site had grown and that people actually find the blog interesting enough to return to the site. We still have not quite figured it out why chowtimes readers comes back.
What really kept us going is that we found that there are actually quite a few loyal followings of the site. I think it was sometime in October or so, I volunteered to organize a Chinese banquet for readers of chowtimes. Frankly, Suanne and I were pleasantly surprised to find that there are actually people who were interested — and that too, from readers who we don’t know.
In all, 9 people attended. Of everyone, LotusRapper, who came with his lovely wife, is the only person I had ever met. I had not met Ed from ededition.com but had been following his blog for sometime already. Then there was this gregarious Tiffanie who owns a chain of ice cream parlours — yummy, Suanne and I is going to check it out someday. Joseph, a true foodie, was also there. And the charming couple, Cissy & Henry … people Suanne and I would want to be like when we “grow up”. Two (Jennifer and Gigi) of my favourite bloggers could not make it.
The choice of going to Tong Kung Chiu Chow Restaurant boils down to one thing … snakes. More about that later.
One thing about Chinese banquets, you really need a lot of people. For the uninitiated, many formal Chinese restaurants offers 8-10 course dinners. These are mainly for weddings or celebrations. The menus are a fixed price for a table of 10. Most of the good menus will start from $180. I had seen one menu that costs $998!!
Selection for the restaurant was quick and easy. For us, the criteria was simple, we wanted to not spend not more than $200 and it had to be a Chinese Banquet. We gathered the menus from a few restaurants and selection was made within a week. For some of us, it was the “Snake and Shark’s Fin Soup” that led us to choosing Tong Kung.
Tong Kung have three standard menus that costs $168, $198 and $238. We chose the $198 menu which has 10 courses on it.
Tong Kung is a Chiu Chow (Teochew) cuisine restaurant. It is located on Park Road in Richmond, just a ear shot away from the Richmond City Hall. We decided to meet early, at 5:30PM. We were the only people there then but it soon filled up very fast. We told ourselves that since there are so many people, we can’t be wrong choosing this restaurant.
I know very little about Chiu Chow cuisine. Here are MY perceptions … Chiu Chow cuisine is really big on seafood, maybe because the region is along the coast of south east China. It is generally bland and devoid of spiciness, unlike other Chinese cuisines that have stronger flavours and spices. I would say that it is very close to Cantonese cuisine.
The Cold Crab was the first dish and an excellent choice for starters. The way the Chiu Chow prepare the cold crab is that they steam it first and then served it chilled. I have no idea why they do that and what it does to the flavour … anyone knows?
Seems like crabs are big in Chiu Chow cuisine. We loved it. For me, I put aside the eating utensils and just used my hands. Using hands is OK because this does not have sticky gravy, sauce and stuff all over it. Don’t know about you all, but eating with my hands is the ONLY way to handle crabs.
The roe is purportedly the best part of the Cold Crab. It is OK taste-wise, I guess … but it sure does not look good.
Next came the Assorted Meat and Duck Platter in Chiu Chow Special Soy Sauce. I sure don’t know what “special sauce” is but the Chinese word for it is “low sui” which is roughly translated as “old water”. I am guessing that this is stocks that had been thickened over and over again.
Being a meat person, this was awesome. The duck wings though, I could not understand because there are so little meat to it. The pile of meat was heaped high … great stuff.
Next came the Crab and Prawn Balls. They are basically minced meat and shaped before being deep fried. Another meaty dish. I love the springy texture.
Well, the Snake and Shark’s Fin Soup was supposed to be the star of this dinner but when they came, we cannot see any evidence of snake meat let alone taste it. Anyway, I don’t even know what snake meat look and taste like … like chicken? Moreover, we could not really see shark fin too.
Lotus Rapper mentioned there is a strong orange peel taste. Suanne swore that there is that taste but to me I would not have known until told.
The next dish was simple. It is called Three Kinds of Seafood Stir Fry with XO Sauce. To me it does not look like there is XO Sauce in this but it tastes great. I like it better if seafood is cooked without strong sauces like XO Sauce anyway. It is a good dish to clear the palate from the previous dishes.
By this time, everyone should have felt full already … I sure was myself but we had just bareful passed the middle course. The Spiced Ginger Chicken, we think is the air dried. We did not eat a lot of the chicken although it looked tasty (it was).
Following is the Braised Mushroom with Goose Feet in Oyster Sauce. The mushroom and bak choy was good. In particular, I love the huge mushrooms. We had quite a few goose feet left — I think it is not everyone’s favourite. For me, I prefer chicken feet over this … this one has more bones and very little meat and skin.
The Steamed Fish was great. What fish is that … I have no idea. I can’t tell one fish from another. So, is this a pomfret? or a tilapia? or is pomfrets the same as tilapia? I have absolutely no idea. One thing I do know, the soya sauce poured over the white fish meat is always good.
There were two steamed fishes. Fantastic dish.
The second to last dish was the Chiu Chow Fried rice. None of us could eat anymore and we ended up asking for a doggy bag for this and other left overs. The tenth dish was the Red Bean Soup.
Overall, all the servings were huge. Certainly value for money. My only beef about this dinner was that whilst the service was great at the beginning, by the 4th dish, they had been taking out one dish after another way before we had started on the previous one. It is best enjoyed if they had only timed it better. I do think that the kitchen was not able to cope with all the people coming in and thus just messed up with the timings.
The damage came out to $27 per person including taxes and tips.
Suanne and I really enjoyed ourselves, although admittedly I was dead tired that day. For us it was great meeting the people who cared enough for chowtimes that they took time off to come to the banquet (some even drove all the way from North Vancouver to Richmond!). We would love to organize another event sometime in the future for sure.