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The Symposium Dinner

by Wonona Wong Chang

Conferences, Meetings, Announcements, and Reports

Winter Volume: 1996 Issue: 3(4) page(s): 15

The Institute for the Advancement of the Science and Art of Chinese Cuisine, on September 27, 1996 sponsored a symposium titled: Changing Images of Chinese Food and Cuisine. It addressed questions such as: Why are their fewer fine Chinese restaurants in the nineties than in the sixties; Why has the popularity of Chinese restaurants declined; and What can be done? This was a summit conference of Chinese restauranteurs, chefs, folks in the industry, and gourmets.

The day of the conference happened to fall on Chinese Moon Festival, and Henry Leung as host, extended his generous hospitality by arranging the conference at his restaurant where, in between talks, he served tea and moon cakes.

Later, to cap the spirit of the day, a ten-course dinner was served. Martin Scott, a Long island wine distributor, donated the wonderful French wines, and Dewey Wong delighted the guests with his royal donation of Emperors Gold Beer from West Lake, China.

To make matters simple and speedy, the manager Mr. Chang, first showed each table the dish and announced its name, then each guest was served his or her own portion, more French than Chinese style.

First came the hors d'oeuvre platter of four dumplings: a pork and a vegetarian shui mai, a chicken dumpling, and a pastel green shrimp dumpling. Henry Leung, Cafe Evergreen's owner, said that the green dumpling skin was colored with spinach and asparagus juices. The array of colors and the variations offered really whipped my appetite into high gear, I dove into those delicious delights but saved the green dumpling for last so that I could savor its unique texture and flavor.

Next came a prawn dish with huge pink prawns marinated in orange juice and Grand Marnier, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and accompanied with golden-brown walnut halves. The prawns were cooked to the peak of flavor, the walnuts added color and provided additional crunch.

Sliced Conch with Golden Nuggets was the next colorful presentation. This dish had fried dofu, inch-and-a-half squares, sauteed with conch, snow peas, mushrooms, carrots, and asparagus. The conch was quite tender; the platter came with a small dish of shrimp paste. This latter item has a salty and pungent flavor that many Cantonese people favor as a dipping sauce.

Seafood Soup was scrumptious. It was made from a chicken stock, to which bits of scallops, shrimp, crab legs, lobster, and dofu were added; all of this came flavored with scallions and ginger. They heightened everything's wonderful savoriness.

Next came Lobster Braised in Ginger Sauce presented as a colorful display. The sauce here was tasty and rich with fantastic flavor. After that, attendees enjoyed Cantonese Fried Chicken with a beautiful light brown color and an aroma that made the mouth water. The dip for this was toasted Sichuan flower-pepper-salt. Must confess that unfortunately, the white meat was a little dry and a mite too tough.

Jade Tree Steak in a rich brown sauce followed, surrounded by a bed of bright green broccoli. The steak was tender and tasted as if it had a little too much tenderizer. After that, Golden Mushrooms with Spinach arrived as a welcome vegetarian dish. It was timed appropriately to come after the many meat and seafood entrees. The Enoke mushrooms were braised and strewn over a layer of green spinach, all lapped in a tasty brown sauce.

Steamed Sea Bass signaled that the meal was coming to a close. The fish was steamed with shreds of ginger and scallions and tasted so very, very fresh. It was cooked to a turn, and melted in the mouth. Fried Rice and Tossed Noodles anchored the meal, but few had room to take any in.

For those who had not the experience of sitting down to such a lavish meal served Chinese style, where one helps oneself, it was a convenient way for the diner and the restaurant to serve it 'their way.' For others used to more typical Chinese banquets, something was missing in the richness of that lavish pastime called banquet dining.

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