Brace yourselves because the Chinese New Year tasting posts are all coming right up on The Shutterwhale. The first official one is from one of my personal favourite restaurants - Man Fu Yuan at InterContinental Singapore. As I was making my way towards the award-winning restaurant, I noticed that the Lobby Bar has undergone some refurbishment works and there are now smaller private areas within it. I love that they kept the chandeliers (even though they are now super sparkly) as I thought they were very iconic to the location.
Chef Eric Neo (Executive Chef at InterContinental Singapore) and his team has once again managed to dazzle our tastebuds with the combination of new and perennial creations this year.
One of the main ingredients that you will find in most Yushengs this year is the Crispy Monkey Head Mushroom. Firstly, what on earth is this mushroom and secondly, why is everyone using it? The monkey head mushroom has often been used in Chinese vegetarian cuisine in place of actual meat as it is chosen for its meat-like resemblance. This mushroom also contains healing properties (backed by science) and the compounds are sometimes used in the treatment of certain diseases. To answer the second question, we have to look at the Chinese zodiac calendar and a quick check would reveal that the zodiac animal for the upcoming Chinese New Year is indeed the Monkey!
With the (not so) recent Group B Streptococcus infections that is believed to spread from freshwater fish in Singapore, Man Fu Yuan has decided to do away with salmon and replace it with the more luxurious Australian Lobster and Geoduck Sashimi with Freshly Grated Wasabi and Bonito Shoyu instead. While the Australian Lobster needs no introduction, here's a couple of fun facts about the geoduck. For starters, the geoduck is pronounced as \ˈgü-ē-ˌdək\ or "gooey-duck". Most people I know actually pronounce this as "geo-duck". Secondly, it is common for wild geoducks to live over 100 years old - that's right, these odd looking fellas actually live a really long life!
A soup component is almost customary in every Chinese New Year dinner and this year, Man Fu Yuan has wowed us with the Double-boiled Sakura Chicken Soup with Bird's Nest, Fish Maw, Abalone and Black Truffles. This nourishing chicken broth has been cooked for a long time using only the finest of ingredients - the sakura chicken (which are raised naturally without the use of antibiotics and growth hormones), bird's nest (which is believed to be good for complexion), fish maw (an excellent source of collagen), abalone (source of Omega 3 fatty acids) and of course the much talked-about black truffle (believed to support support to cardiovascular and immune systems). Taste-wise, this highly-nourishing soup checks all the right boxes - it's delicious, healthy and simply oozing with goodness.
The use of prized ingredients don't just stop there! In fact, that was really just the beginning - the Braised Australian Green Lip Abalone and Chinese Mushrooms with Spiky Sea Cucumber and Seasonal Vegetables was absolutely delicious. The abalone, mushrooms and spiky sea cucumber has soaked up all the goodness that come from that potent reduction after cooking it at a low simmer.
The next dish we sampled was the Braised South African Abalone and Chicken in Casserole. Honestly, while the dishes were all really well-executed, I thought that this dish was the least impressive of them all. The chicken was tender and full of flavour but the abalone somehow feels a little out of place and in some ways, redundant. I would very much prefer to throw this abalone back into the previous dish (with the sea cucumber) instead.
The Steamed Alaskan King Crab in Chinese Rice Wine with Chicken Oil and Crispy Pork Lard stole the show for many of us. In fact, I would say a majority of diners at Man Fu Yuan would dare say that this is the best dish this year. While the dish does not sound like much, the Alaskan King Crab legs were just bursting with flavours and the addition of the crispy pork lard (no matter how unhealthy) really provided the succulent crab with some bite and saltiness. I would highly recommend this dish if you are coming to Man Fu Yuan for a Chinese New Year dinner.
Of course, no Chinese New Year celebration is complete without a Pen Cai (sometimes known as a treasure pot). The famous Man Fu Yuan Deluxe Treasures Pot comes packed with quality prized ingredients that are all braised in this casserole. Man Fu Yuan comes up with different designs each year and amongst some of the regulars, it is almost customary to bring one home every year - some even have a collection of different casseroles over the last couple of years! What some people do not know however is that there are often different levels in a Pen Cai and it intended to be eaten in a top-down sequence. If you are looking for the best Pen Cai to go for this year, Man Fu Yuan is definitely a strong contender.
The other dish that diners look forward to each year is the Barbecued Whole Suckling Pig with Wok-fried Glutinous Rice and Goose Liver Sausage. Advance booking for this dish is absolutely necessary since these have to be barbecued over a long period of time and there are only limited quantities each day. Why is this dish so popular? Well, bite into the crisp and fragrant golden-brown skin and you will definitely know. Be overwhelmed by how tender and flavourful the meat of the suckling pig is and finally dig into the delicious glutinous rice. This dish is an absolute must if you are looking for an absolutely indulging Chinese New Year feast.
Not only are the mains at Man Fu Yuan impressive, the desserts here are in a league of its own. Popular amongst the female diners especially, the Double-boiled Superior Bird's Nest with Julienned Young Coconut is a cold dessert that really is the perfect conclusion to this dinner. This extremely nourishing dessert is believed to be highly-beneficial to one's complexion.
If you are looking for something less indulging but equally good, give the signature Golden Egg Custard Pastry a try. I really enjoyed the Nian Gao with Shandong Premium Red Dates too. Man Fu Yuan continues to be one of the best Chinese restaurants that I have been to in Singapore and if you have not made plans for Chinese New Year, give them a call and check on availability because you simply can't go wrong in a place like this!