LoveBites Lunches: Aberdeen Street Social

It is considerably harder to get a reservation for dinner than it is for lunch, so the lunch menu is a great way to enjoy Aberdeen Street Social. The third establishment in Hong Kong to be spearheaded by Jason Atherton in collaboration with the JIA Group after 22 Ships and Ham and Sherry, Aberdeen Street Social is a nod to Atherton’s flagship restaurant in London, Pollen Street Social, which opened in April 2011. My my, has he come a long way since then!  After three years and with multiple restaurants in London, Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong, it’s a wonder this guy gets any sleep!

The lunch menu is very enjoyable, with a good range of choice in the starters and the main courses, for a reasonable HK$238 for two courses, and HK$ 288 for three courses. I say it is reasonable because the food is beautifully prepared, eaten in a sophisticated setting, and tastes fabulous. The menu changes every two weeks, so if it becomes one of your regular treat lunch spots (as it will with me), you shouldn’t worry about getting bored.

You can also choose from the à la carte menu as well, which is not dissimilar to his Pollen Street Social menu of ‘modern British cuisine’.  Both feature a yummy-sounding egg starter, scallops, a fowl such as quail or pigeon, a beef sharing dish and … crispy pig ears. His mains are a nice balance of fish and meat, but with no vegetarian options. Having said that, if you give them some notice I think the kitchen could whip you up something fabulous in a snap.

Amuse bouches of garlic, cheddar and rosemary flatbread, with fried chicken topped with a lovely (tomato?) jam

Amuse bouches of garlic, cheddar and rosemary flatbread, with fried chicken topped with a lovely (tomato?) jam

The amuse bouches were wonderfully moreish comfort foods, that fried chicken was served piping hot (be careful when you take that first bite!), and so very good. The flatbread is available on their bar menu if you want more, but alas not the chicken. They are in no way light and healthy things to eat, but just those small morsels of guilt-ridden pleasure are just enough to get your comfort food fix.

A nice and light starter with a sort of aubergine purée that was full of flavour.

Aubergine Caviar, Garden Vegetables

Aubergine Caviar, Garden Vegetables

Iberico Ham, Egg and Peas

Iberico Ham, Egg and Peas

They don’t give much away with the description of the dish, so my starter of soft-boiled, crumbed then fried egg, together with crispy pancetta and smashed peas was a wonderful surprise! It’s not on the a la carte menu, and am a bit sad that I might not have the opportunity to eat it again …

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Easy Peasy Meals @ Home – Butter Chicken Masala

It’s not so much a complicated recipe that scares me from trying Indian curries – the recipes are actually quite easy and once you have those few key spices in your pantry, there’s not even that much that you need to buy from the supermarket. No, it is the fact that I might screw it up that worries me the most – that I’ll spend an hour pounding garlic and ginger into a paste, marinating meats and stirring away at a sauce that is never going to come off my dress if it splashes, only to have a steaming mess of an end product that I can’t serve.

Thank goodness for that decent Thai takeout down the road! It gave me the confidence to try out this recipe without worrying that PB and I will starve for the evening. I have been wanting to make a dent in the Indian spice collection that I acquired when I was in New Delhi last year. I went a bit mental in the shop and PB had to stop me from buying every product in the place. Then I promptly stuck it all in the kitchen cupboard when I got home and forgot about them.

One of the spice mixes I bought was for butter chicken masala. The spice vendor  gave me a recipe that required a couple of quite challenging steps (making your own yoghurt, cooking in a tandoor oven…), so I adapted it into a easy to make recipe that can be done in an hour after work. I made it together with Brown Rice Vegetable Pilau, and they go down a treat together.

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Indian Butter Chicken Masala

For the marinade:  

1/2 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp butter chicken masala (can be substituted with 1/4 tsp turmeric, and 1/4 tsp chilli powder)
2 tbsp ginger paste
2 tbsp lemon juice  2 tablespoons
2 tbsp mustard oil or extra virgin olive oil
Salt

For the Butter Chicken Curry Sauce:

800 gm of boneless chicken, cubed in large 2″ pieces
2 onions, minced
1 tomato, pureed
1 tbsp tomato paste (or tomato ketchup)
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp chilli powder (use Kashmiri chilli powder for better results)
1/4 tsp of turmeric powder
1-2 tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 tsp of chicken masala (or garam masala)
1 cup milk
3 tbsp of cream or pureed cashew paste (soak and grind cashew nuts)
1 small bunch of coriander leaves / cilantro, for ganish

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Oven-cooked Baby Back Ribs with Homemade Kansas City-Style BBQ Sauce

A couple of months ago, PB and I had some friends over for an American-themed dinner, starting with Cioppino, a San Franciscan fish stew. For the main event, I wanted to make baby back ribs (with sides of corn bread muffins and mac ‘n’ Cheese). Those sticky, sweet, melt off the bone kinda ribs, that I only order in restaurants when I’m feeling very decadent, and am in the mood to lick my fingers. Making them at home always seemed like quite a daunting task, and I didn’t know the first thing about cooking this cut of pork, let alone how to make a BBQ sauce.

I was nervous about cooking it, and did a practice run during the week. Let’s just say that PB was taking some pretty sweet lunch boxes to work over those few days! Doubting that I could make my own sauce (don’t people spend years perfecting their recipes?!), and not wanting to screw it up when I had 6 people over for dinner, I initially opted for (shock horror!) bottled sauce. The initial recipe also said that I should cook the ribs at 180 for 2 hours.  Whilst the result was tasty, it wasn’t anywhere near falling off the bone, and the sauce was monodimensional.

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My baby back ribs with homemade Kansas City style BBQ sauce

So I decided to throw caution to the wind and make my own sauce, and man was it worth the effort. It didn’t actually take much effort at all, and it is a super easy BBQ sauce to make, simply plonk all the ingredients in a saucepan and stir! I also lowered the heat in the oven (for lack of a barbeque grill) and cooked those bad boys for as long as I could to try and achieve the tenderness that I needed.

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All the components of a simple dry-rub

TO MAKE YOUR BBQ BABY BAY RIBS …

You’ll need:
(Enough for 2-3 large racks of baby back ribs)

2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2-3 racks baby back pork ribs (2 racks)
1 1/2 cups Kansas City style barbecue sauce, plus more for serving

♥ Preheat oven to 140°C/280°F. Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl to make the dry rub. Place each rack of ribs on a double layer of foil; sprinkle rub all over ribs and rub in. Wrap racks individually and divide between 2 baking sheets.

♥ Bake ribs until very tender but not falling apart, about 3-4 hours for baby back ribs, and longer if you are using spare ribs. The longer the better!

♥ Carefully unwrap ribs; reserve the juices to later add to the BBQ sauce. Let ribs cool completely. DO AHEAD: Ribs can be baked 1-2 days ahead (the flavor will be more developed, and the cold ribs will hold together better on the grill as they heat through). Cover and chill juices. Rewrap ribs in foil and chill.

♥ Make your BBQ sauce with the recipe below. Once sauce is complete, take rib juices out of the fridge, skim off the layer of fat, and stir into your BBQ sauce.

♥ Grill ribs, basting with barbecue sauce mixture and turning frequently, until lacquered and charred in places and heated through. Transfer to a cutting board; cut between ribs to separate. Transfer to a platter and serve with additional barbecue sauce.

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Sanche – Modern Korean

Sorry that I have been out of action for the last month or so, it has been one filled with travels, work, and event planning! But now things have settled down, I can get back to doing what I enjoy best – eating and then writing about it. There is just so much to catch up on, and whilst usually all of this backlog would overwhelm me and start getting me into a food blogging panic, I’m taking a zen approach and starting with a small, straight to the point post – Sanche.

DSC02300Sanche is a small restaurant which seats around 30 people, a tidy, modestly-decorated yet modern and inviting restaurant nestled amongst the hustle and bustle of meat and vegetable market stalls on Gage Street in Soho.

Sadly this market is zoned for redevelopment by the Hong Kong Urban Renewal Authority, and this whole area is slated to undergo a huge makeover – all in the name of progress I suppose. It is indeed unfortunate, as the Graham Street market is the oldest operating street markets of it’s kind in Hong Kong, and has been going strong for 160 years.

Sanche serves ‘modern Korean’ food, and sources Jang, a traditional Korean sauce, from an artisan producer in Korea to deliver authentic flavour. Modern translates into a fusion element, mostly presented in their “Specialities” such as Bulgogi Quesadia [sic], and Cheese Buldak (chicken in a spicy sauce, with mozzarella cheese), and the use of yuzu in a couple of their dishes. Dishes are served in tapas style, great for sharing.

Quesadilla

Bulgogi “Quesadia” – spring roll pastry, minced beef, bulgogi sauce, mozzarella cheese HK$158

We started off with the Bulgogi Quesadia – apart from the fact that they can’t seem to spell quesadilla (it’s spelled ‘quesadila’ on the specials board), and that the wrap was more of a wholewheat tortilla rather than spring roll pastry, this was a fabulous dish. Hey, you can’t go wrong with minced beef and cheese, and the bulgogi sauce added a nice tangy sweetness. The frisée side salad was doused with a dressing so good it makes you want to eat more salad.

Pancake

Pepper Pancake – Cheungrang pepper, Korean leek, clam, dejang sauce HK$128

Call me simple, but Korean pancakes have got to be one of my favorite dishes in a Korean restaurant. I wanted to order this to see how it would compare to others that I’ve had, and it’s a full on 100% winner! The peppers have a hybrid taste of mild chili pepper and jalapeños, not too spicy but with some nice heat. The clams were so tasty and fresh, and the cherry on top – the pancake was fried to crispy perfection. No sogginess (like at Kaya – possibly the worst pancake I have ever ordered), no falling apart – perfect crispy edges that are so moreish that you’ll want to order … well, more.

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Grilled Melo Fish Fillet – choice of salt, yuzu dejang, or soy sauce HK$ 198

We ordered the melo fish with the yuzu dejang sauce. The fish was cooked well with a crispy sweet and sour yuzu glaze on it, another enjoyable dish.

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