Feliz Segundo Aniversario! Brummie Gourmand is 2!

It’s hard to believe it’s been TWO YEARS since my first post. I gave an update on what the first year had held so I thought I’d give you an update on Year 2!

This year has been an interesting one so far, having been shortlisted for the Midlands Food Drink and Hospitality Awards Blogger of the Year, the first anniversary of Geeky Brummie on Brum Radio, the launch of the Geeky Brummie Podcast, and lots and lots of blogging.

Some personal highlights have been:

and

  • Enjoying Beef & Malbec at Gaucho

Choosing just a dozen of the things I’ve been up to was difficult so head on through the archives to read more!

To finish, a quick thank you, again, to long suffering Wifey and thank you to all those who’ve taken time to read my little corner of the internet. Here’s looking forward to year 3!

Whisky meets Wok – Tasting Evening at Chung Ying Central

Regular readers would know I visited Chung Ying Central recently (and thoroughly enjoyed the experience too!). So when I was invited to return for a Whisky and Chinese food pairing along with Joe Ellis from Maxxium, how could I say no?

To start off, a quick Tsing Tao and the requisite Prawn Crackers – perhaps the ultimate Chinese food accompaniment? Our selection of whisky went across a fair selection of the brand:

dscf5568

A varied selection as you can see, this was being partnered up with a range of Chinese cuisine (and a dish closer to home):

  • Duck in Plum Sauce
  • King Prawns in Black Bean Sauce
  • Crispy Belly Pork
  • Sweet and Sour Chicken
  • Salted Caramel Brownie

For each course, Joe introduced the particular whisky we would be sipping, what flavours and scent to expect and why he’s paired it with the specific dish.

dscf5575

To begin, we had Duck in Plum Sauce and The Macallan Gold. The Macallan Gold is a single malt. They replaced the previous age statement varieties with colours five years ago. It’s produced from 9-15 y.o. first fill and refill sherry casks, it’s quite a bodied whisky with a citrusy note, which matched the duck well, as you could expect.

dscf5574

The duck was delicious though plum sauce is not my natural choice. I usually go for Hoi-Sin sauce with duck but the plum was balanced out by the citrus and vanilla in the whisky, giving it a fruity pairing.

Next was The Naked Grouse with Sweet And Sour Chicken. The Naked Grouse is a recent joiner to the Famous Grouse stable.  It was one of the last creations of the company’s long-serving Master Blender, John Ramsay, who retired after forty years shortly before the whisky was released. As it’s a blended whisky, it takes on elements of other parts of the Maxxium brand in The Macallan and Highland Park. It’s got quite a mix of flavours in there, mainly dried fruits with a hint of spice.

dscf5646

The sweet and sour chicken was artfully presented with a carved radish. Sweet and Sour chicken is one of those dishes that will never go out of fashion in the UK, as is General Tso’s chicken in the US. This was a solid example, with the fruity tang people expect, and the chicken had a nice light tempura style batter.

Then it was onto one of my all time favourite dishes, Crispy Belly Pork, paired with a Highland Park 12 Yr Old. Back to single malt territory, this is a lightly peated whisky. I LOVE peated whisky (can you guess which one will be my fave of the night?). This is classed as the gold standard all rounder, bringing the peats of Ilsay, the heather of the Highlands and the fruitiness of Speyside, with a sherry cask finish into one glass.  This would be the bottle I’d have in the cupboard to  cover all guests, if I only kept the one bottle!

dscf5650dscf5652

There is not much to say with Crispy Belly Pork; it’s one of those ultimate indulgent foods for me, and one which is tricky to replicate at home. This version had the skin just slightly ballooning giving that light crunch, keeping away the toughness that is the downfall of many versions of the dish.

Our penultimate dish was King Prawns in Black Bean sauce paired with Laphroaig 10 Yr Old. This is the original Laphroaig, with malted barley which is dried over a peat fire. The smoke from this peat, found only on Islay, gives it an almost medicinal flavour and the peaty vapours make this one of my favourite winter drinks which warms from the feet up.

dscf5655

These king prawns were beasts. For some reason, I’ve noticed king prawns seem to be shrinking recently (or is it just my imagination?). These kept their shape and remained plump swimming between the onions and peppers, the sweet ingredients countering the deeply savoury black bean sauce.

Our final pairing was a Salted Caramel Brownie with a Jim Beam Double Oak. Bourbon is an American whisky, distilled from corn rather than the malt or wheat as is tradition in Scotland. This Double Oaked variety is first aged in charred American white oak barrels, then we pour it into another freshly charred barrel to mature for a second time. It was actually too oaky for me as I’m more of a peat fan (as you’re probably aware by now!) but I can see why it’s sharpness was paired to cut through the sweetness of the brownie.

 

Covering the brownie side, these were supplied to Chung Ying Central from Mrs Mills Makes Cakes. As mentioned previously, the Salted Caramel Brownie is a deliciously slice of unctuous goodness, which I heartily recommend.

This was an interesting evening as I’d never considered pairing Chinese Food with Whisky but this worked really well, and it was nice to see Scottish and American rather than Japanese whiskies being used.

Disclaimer: For this visit, I was a guest of Chung Ying Central & East Village PR, this provides no bias to the post. This blog is my own personal opinion and strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.

When: 26/01/2017

Where: Chung Ying Central, 126 Colmore Row, Birmingham, B3 3AP

Who: Chung Ying Group

#BloggersBites at Chung Ying Central

As it’s Chinese New Year tomorrow, it’s only fitting that I write about a visit to the CBD’s Chung Ying Central, fast becoming a darling of Colmore Row.

Since opening in early 2014, it’s been a fixture of the Colmore Food Festival and won numerous awards including ‘Brummies Choice’ Best Restaurant in 2016’s Birmingham Mail Poll.

The restaurant has no shortage of pedigree either as part of the Chung Ying Group, which has been established for over 35 years.  It started with Chung Ying itself, then branched out to Chung Ying Garden a few minutes walk away and now, Chung Ying Central.

img_20170118_180214

Central offers a differing selection to the main two restaurants, focusing on a more business-like crowd.  The main menu focuses on one of the widest dim sum menus ever seen, with over 100 options paired with a selection of delicious cocktails (such as the Shanghai Rose above).

Tonight’s evening was about introducing myself and some fellow bloggers to some of the wide range of cuisine on offer, ranging from Cantonese to Thai to Szechuan and Japanese. Central understands that people’s tastes are steering away from the traditional sweet and sour chicken.  Consumers are a little more savvier nowadays and wanting to experience a wider range of tastes in their cuisine, alongside a selection of teas (Iron BuddhaOolong (Bao Li to the wife and in-laws), Jasmine and Pu-Erh) or Asian Beers (Sapporo, Tsing Tao and Chang).

img_20170126_183608

Post snacking on some moreish Prawn Crackers paired with a sweet and spicy chilli dip, it was time to get down to business with our selection of food for the evening which I decided to go with Oolong to pair up.

To start off:  Szechuan “Dan Dan” Noodle. Originating (as you guessed) from the Szechuan area of China, know for their liberal use of spice and pepper. The noodles are usually served in broth, accompanied with pickled vegetables and minced meat, usually pork.

According to Wikipedia, the name refers to a type of carrying pole (dan dan) that was used by walking street vendors who sold the dish to passers-by. The pole was carried over the shoulder with two baskets containing noodles and sauce attached at either end. As the noodles were affordable due to their low cost, the local people gradually came to call them dandan noodles, referencing the street vendors. Literally, the name translates as “noodles carried on a pole” but may be better translated as “peddler’s noodles”.

These wheat noodles (also available with egg noodles for those wishing to avoid the gluten) weren’t as spicy as expected but still rich in flavour, and a healthy portion of minced pork gave a good umami texture to balance them out.

img_20170118_185411

Next up was Honey and Garlic Chicken Karaage.  Steering away from the ubiquitous Korean fried chicken technique, this Japanese style is done in a tempura style batter and then deep fried in oil to get the crisp just right. Chung Ying uses chicken thigh rather than breast meat as they believe (and I agree) the flavour is much richer.

This was my favourite dish of the night; the smoked garlic and honey were in harmony and the chicken had just the right amount of crisp for my personal taste. I’d have been happy with just a bowl of this for the night and a quiet corner to tuck myself away in.

To follow was the Pei Par Tofu, named after a pear-shaped Chinese string instrument. Though you may think this dish would be vegetarian due to the tofu, you’d be mistaken. These were deep fried with prawn and pork mince inside, served with spring onion and mushrooms. Delicious and moreish.

img_20170118_191440

The next one along was Pan Fried Pork and Vegetable Steamed Bao. The char siu bao are my biggest weakness in life.  Those sticky sweet fluffy white balls of heaven are my all time fave dish and I have to restrain myself when we have them at our fairly regular dim-sum trips. This version was a little different: sweet dough served open with a savoury pork and vegetable filling. Some may find sweet and salty an odd combination but I always like a mix up with my tastes.

If you have been wondering what my header image was, this was perhaps the most left field of the nights dishes: Stuffed Pork Intestines in Salt and Chilli. Now this might sound like a nightmare to some but that’s what most sausages (well good ones) were made from for centuries.  I mean, black pudding and faggots are a Midlands staples so we can’t say much on that front! These were stunning, not dissimilar to pork belly in texture and taste, with a slightly more offal-like note to them.  These were nice and had a spicy topping of finely chopped chilli.

img_20170118_193448

The final savoury dish of the night was X.O. Lap Cheong Fried Rice. Colloquially known as ‘Chinese Sausage’, this covers a wide range of cured meats. This version was a dried hard sausage with a rich taste, which was laced throughout the fried rice with the usual peas. I do love Chinese Sausage so these was perfect for my taste.

We also had some desserts to round off; some traditional, some not so traditional. Originally Chung Ying Central didn’t serve desserts on opening but the clamour about the lack of pudding put change to that tactic pretty sharpish.

Covering the brownie side, these were supplied to Chung Ying Central from Mrs Mills Makes Cakes. Having met them at a food event, James and Will were impressed enough to have them start regularly supplying the restuarant. Good call I think! The Salted Caramel Brownie was my fave of the two but the Triple Chocolate Brownie was no slouch either.

On the more traditional side of the desserts was the Steamed Caramel Bun and Pan Fried Water Chestnut Paste. Again, I’m no stranger to a good custard bun, made with sugar and rich egg yolk to give that golden colour with a hint of caramel flavour. The chestnut paste was a new one on me. From the outside, its colour and shape reminded me of raw honeycomb; lmost jelly like in texture with big crunchy pieces of water chestnut (which I’d associate with a sir fry) buried inside. For a dessert, it was mild on the sweetness and quite pleasant as a palate cleanser.

This was perfect as we had one last little treat to try. I’ve previously had Canadian ice wine but Will introduced us to Changyu Golden Diamond Vidal Ice Wine. This fruity dessert wine had aromas of pear, lychee and honey. The process of icing allows a cleaner taste than usual.

And with that it was “joy geen” to Chung Ying Central until the next week but more on that soon…

img_20170118_180000

Disclaimer: For this visit, I was a guest of Chung Ying Central & East Village PR, this provides no bias to the post. This blog is my own personal opinion and strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.

When: 18/01/2017

Where: Chung Ying Central, 126 Colmore Row, Birmingham, B3 3AP

Who: Chung Ying Group

 

Gluten Free Menu at Henry Wong’s Harborne

Gluten free and Cantonese cuisine aren’t usually synonymous. With soy being a large component in Chinese cooking, not many dishes get away from the gluten.

img20160908185019It can be pot luck when looking for a place that can cater for a range of dietary and intolerance requirements, so it’s nice to find a restaurant with a wide choice for omnivores, vegetarians, vegans and those with an intolerance alike.

Henry Wong’s menu highlights both contemporary and classic Cantonese dishes and as the ingredients used are fresh, they can be adapted where needed.

To highlight the gluten free options available, a few fellow bloggers and I went along for a taste.

We were treated to a  variety of dishes accompanied by gluten-free wine. To begin, it was a fun twist on an old classic – Chicken & Shiitake Mushroom Yuk Sung with Pine Nuts.

img20160908194519

The Yuk Sung came with crispy fresh lettuce and was surprisingly filling. The pine nuts and shiitake gave it a nice earthy flavour.

Next up was Soft Shelled Crab with Chilli and Garlic, Spinach with sesame seeds, and Asparagus.

The (mound!) of soft shelled crab was definitely a highlight. Sweet juicy crab meat was lightly battered, with a chilli and garlic sauce drizzled on, and was enjoyed by all around the table. The spinach and asparagus were also cooked well with a touch of al dente bite, and not overcooked and floppy.

Next was the mains consisting of Honey Pepper King Prawn, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Steamed Sea Bass with Ginger and Spring Onion, Pak Choi in a Garlic sauce, Sizzling Beef Fillet in Black Pepper Sauce, accompanied with Egg Fried Rice. 

The honey pepper king prawns were delicious. These prawns were HUGE , something you don’t see often nowadays with most restaurants.  Soft and crispy at the same time, these were dripping in a sweet and spicy honey pepper sauce.

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with sweet and sour chicken. With Chinese food, I have been spoilt by having wonderful in-laws who cook amazing home-style dishes which kind of puts me off the usual restaurant staples. This was a pleasant surprise, neither too sweet or salty, with good sized chunks of chicken.

The sizzling beef fillet in a black pepper sauce is another Chinese classic and this one was great.  The beef wasn’t dry and had a really nice umami flavour, enhanced by the black pepper.

My personal fave of the mains was the sea bass. I love a bit of meaty fish and this was done in a traditional style, relying on fresh produce with minimal intervention to get the best flavour. Simple, fresh, clean and delicious.

To finish was a trio of desserts. Strawberry Cheesecake, Alabama Fudge Cake and a Fresh Fruit Platter, specially selected for gluten free customers.

I’m always up for a cheesecake; this was nice, sweet and rich with a sweet strawberry coulis marbled through. The Alabama fudge cake was as expected: chocolatey with a rich sweet ganache.

The fruit platter was a sight to behold with a sphere of ice as its centrepiece.

img20160908213056

I even found time to squeeze in a  Virgin Strawberry Mojito too!

 

Disclaimer: For this evening, I was a guest of Parm and the team at Henry Wong and Six Peg PR, this provides no bias to the post. This blog is my own personal opinion and strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.

When: 08/09/2016

Where: Henry Wong, 283 High Street, Harborne, B17 9QH

Who: Henry Wong