Some pictures from a recent tea-pairing dinner with our friends. The theme was loosely based on the coming Lunar New Year. Organised in collaboration with Carrie from Tea Bone Zen Mind. She provided all the recipes for the dishes.
Welcome Drink: Tea Ice with Honey.
Make some very strong Tie Guan Yien (Iron Goddess of Mercy), freeze it well, and shave the ice before serving. Drizzle with good quality honey to sweeten. A cooling drink to have ready for people when they come in from a long and hot day at the office.
1. Cucumber with miso paste ( combination of 4 types) and cherry tomatoes. Pop cucumber into mouth, followed by tomato. The miso paste has such an intense play of sweet, savoury, salty and oomph it needs to be cut down a little with the tartness of the tomatoes.
2. Century Egg with pickled young ginger. Quarter the eggs by cutting with a knife, using your palms as the cutting surface, wetting knife in between cuts to help with the stickiness. For the young ginger, buy a jar of the cheapest version in NTUC, squeeze out all the pickling liquid and slice finely. Marinate with 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1/2 tbsp sake and 1tsp sugar. To eat, scoop a piece of egg with a spoon and place some ginger on top, and eat the whole lot in one bite.
Now the taste buds were sufficiently primed for dinner.
Cold dish: Seafood with special sauce
Husband went to the market early to buy a whole bunch of prawns and squid. The prawns had their whiskers trimmed and steamed on a banana leaf before chilling. The squid had all the skin and internal bits removed and then stuffed with some loose tea leaves before steaming and chilling.
Carrie made a killer sauce to go with the seafood, it had garlic, scallions, chilli and a mystery brown sauce that contains, among other ingredients, chicken and fish stock.
The squid tentacles and gelatinous bits were not wasted either, she mixed it with some chopped up surimi and dressed it with a sauce made of just Sinsin chilli sauce and sushi vinegar (picture shown is the undressed squid parts)
Yes, that was some of the prawns in a cake mix bowl, our makankakis sure love prawns. Husband bought 6 kg, and though everyone valiantly ate as many as they could, we still had plenty of leftovers.
1. Stewed dish of taukwa, radish, shitake and muk-yee (wood's ear fungus) in a braising sauce perfumed with Jasmine tea leaves.
2. Chicken noodle soup. The broth was cooked from a whole chicken and some Four Seasons tea leaves steeped in the soup for about 10 minutes. The chicken skin was not used in the soup, instead, the visible fats were trimmed off and the skin was then fried till crispy; the crumbled crisped skin were then sprinkled over the noodles for a 'wow' fragrance. To go with the soup, someone had also contributed yummy chicken wings from Bali Nasi Lemak.
3. Kong Bar Pau. Made by Carrie's friend. A classic dish of belly pork cooked in soya sauce and aromaric spices. It was surprisingly light in oil yet rich-tasting. Accompanied by home-pickled crunchy-sweet-tart mustard greens which complemented the sandwich perfectly.
Dessert was simple yet elegant. Vanilla ice cream sprinkled with matcha (Japanese green tea) powder. Peach slices for garnish and contrasting texture.
After dinner, we settled around the table to appreciate tea. But first, a round of cold premium sake to clear the palate and relax the mind.
She brewed some Jasmine Tea. This was not like the heong-pin served mindlessly in dim-sum restaurants. Only the first flush unbroken leaves were used. The tea was light but surprisingly rich and complex tasting with an uplifting floral fragrance.
Next, she brewed some Four Season Tea. This is a species of tea that was genetically modified by Carrie's tea professor. It's name was so-called due to its availability the whole year round, the genetic modification also makes it less susceptible to disease. The taste was of course, also of the most desired qualities. Richer and a little 'heavier' than the Jasmine, this is a tea that would go well with savoury snacks. Like the dried scallops and squid crisps, toasted right on top of the tea-stove.
The tea would give its drinker a pleasant buzz. To come down from the intensity, it is a good idea to eat something sweet with the tea, like sweet mandarins or the fat red dates we nibbled on.
It was an extremely enjoyable and educational experience. Carrie is a generous teacher and she shared many lessons on tea growing, tea selection, packaging and tea cultures, interspersed with amusing anecdotes and observations. Even the act of peeling a mandarin can be done in a refined way, if one knows how.
1. Start from the bottom of the fruit and peel so that the peel comes off in a whole piece.
2. Break the orange in parts, offering halves or quarters to others if sharing, not individual segments.
3. Spit your seed back into the peel. When done, fold up the peel and it is ready for disposal.
Did you also know that mandarin oranges comes with fax numbers? There are others that bear website addressed too.
This was not from the tea-party. Two nights later, I came back very hungry from my yoga class. Looking into the fridge I saw many prawns, so I peeled and cubed some and tossed them with a dressing of fridge condiments like hae-bi hiam ( spicy shrimp sauce), sushi vinegar, sesame dressing and a touch of orange juice. Very good snack that was.