Dear Gentle Reader,
Your Heroine and humble scribe discovered a fantastic, humble restaurant serving great food the other night.
It is called Pasar and it has three branches in Hong Kong (Central, Wan Chai, and Tin Hau).
We ate at the Wan Chai branch--delicious.
Everything they had was enjoyable, not something your scribe usually says after visiting a restaurant.
Dinner came in two sections, savoury and sweet.
Both sections had four parts. We only meant to have two desserts, because they looked unusual, but (very surprisingly for Chinese Asia) they were quite good, so we tried two other desserts...
Here is the menu, as consumed...
First, curried vegetables with roti prata (two dishes combined).
See that white powder in the middle of the (slightly decimated) plate of roti prata? That is sugar. What a lovely combination with the curry and the roti prata. I had never thought of combining those before; a masterful blend of tastes.
Second, stir-fried vegetables (a morning glory variety, allowing savoury revenge for gardeners) with a fermented shrimp paste.
Third, fried carrot (really radish) cake with a fermented shrimp paste.
The fermented shrimp paste is the intensely flavourful blob of red in the lower left corner...
Finally, a spicy, lemony, prawn mee.
A Pandan chiffon cake and a lapis cake came first.
Pandan chiffon cake (bright green like a pistachio macaron, and your humble scribe almost forgot to photograph it!). This baby was light, fluffy, and delicately flavoured.
(For those not from these parts, frequently these types of cakes are light, fluffy, and flavoured with sweetened cardboard. I thought I had given up trying them; I am glad I had not.)
Next, lapis cake.
Lapis cake was like a very heavy mille-feuille pastry--but with poured batter layers instead of pastry layers...
This was surprisingly tasty, and heavy, very much unlike mille-feuille except in the general concept of prepartion. Or maybe mille-feuille is only useful as a point of comparison for Western palates. End result, it was a very nice dessert.
We were going to stop here.
We had not intended to have any dessert, but these were so much better than anything else we had had in an Asian restaurant in Hong Kong (on the dessert side of the menu) that we decided to continue exploring beyond the belt line.
We solicited suggestions and tried ang koo kueh and soon kueh.
Ang koo kueh.
Ang koo kueh translates as green bean tea fruit and this is a mashed, steamed mixture with a consistency like marzipan but with a nutty (though it is also not nutty) flavour in a savoury/sweet, thin (in terms of physical thickness) yet thick rice paste which is steamed.
The dessert is served cold. It is thick, heavy, a little gooey, and a delicious find.
But, how ang koo kueh tastes is still a mystery. Well, it tasted very nice, but what it tasted of is still a myster to your scribe and your Heroine both. I have to go back to try it again, and check on the restaurant's consistency. That is my excuse, at least.
(Revision: I went back and looked at the Chinese characters. This should be Ang Gu Kueh or red tortoise kueh! Look closely at the pattern printed in the lucky red rice paste wrapping. This is meant to symbolise good fortune and longevity, and these are given out at a child's one month celebration... And, the green bean filling is a sweetened mung bean paste.)
Soon kueh translates as bamboo fruit. This was recommended by the chef and this is a hot dessert.
Soon kueh is dumpling filled with some type of mashed sweet radish and peanuts steamed in a rice-flour pouch. The brown bits on top are caramelized, crunchy onions and the black sauce is a thick, condensed soy sauce.
This does not sound like it should work, especially as a dessert, but it really does. There is a slight savoury edge to it, but it melts in the mouth and reminds you of the sweet ending to an autumn meal.
I would liken this, in its effect, to pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie is another warm, savoury, vegetable concoction that you would not normally think of as a dessert, but that works so well, especially when it is crisp and chilly outside.
Dinner in total cost 225 HKD which is about 25 euros, or 35 USD. Very reasonable, for Hong Kong at least, and a delightful find.
If you live in Hong Kong, the Wan Chai branch is located at 197 Johnston Road and you would get out of exit A3 on the MTR (subway) at Wan Chai station. Go straight down Thomson Road (the street opposite the exit), walk two blocks and turn right on Johnston Road, and it will be on your side of the road about half-way down the block.
Your Heroine and your humble scribe hope you enjoy it. We will certainly be back.
This restaurant met the tests of (1) utterly enjoyable, (2) something we could not make, easily, ourselves on a moment's notice, and (3) well worth the money expended. Truly a good value proposition for the time, money, and taste-buds proffered to the restaurant.