From 05 May 2017 to 31 May 2017, savour authentic Fujian delicacies as Guest Chef Raymond Hu from the Pan Pacific Xiamen showcases some of his specialties at the Pan Pacific Singapore's award-winning Cantonese restaurant, Hai Tien Lo. The special a la carte and set menus will be available until 31 May 2017 but the guest chef will only be in the kitchen until 14 May 2017 so make sure you get in fast if you want to see the chef in action.
I was recently invited down to Hai Tien Lo by the Pan Pacific Singapore to check out the Special Fujian Premium Set Menu (福建特色豪华套餐) which is a 7-course meal that is only available during this promotional period. The first dish was the Traditional Double-boiled Buddha Jumps Over the Wall (佛跳墙) - if you have been to Hai Tien Lo on a normal basis, you would definitely be able to tell the difference. Firstly, Chef Raymond's version comes with an ingredient that is highly frowned-upon in the Western world so it is definitely worth highlighting if you have any issues with the consumption of shark's fin (I do not believe Hai Tien Lo serves this outside of this Fujian promotion). Looking past that, the broth of the Buddha Jumps over the Wall is just as good - it is lighter but the flavours are still complex and incredible satisfying. The addition of quality fish maw also adds to the richness of the soup but this is definitely a clearer version as compared to the usual ones that are served.
The second course was a duo of Baked Prawns in Salt and Deep-fried Pork Roll with Bean Curd Skin (盐焗海虾伴特色五香条) - both components are served separately on the a la carte menu. The deep-fried pork roll with bean curd skin was delicious - I love the huge chunks of prawns within and how thin the beancurd skin was while still being able to hold all the ingredients tightly. On the other hand, the baked prawns were completely overdone. While I understand that Fujian cuisine is comparatively lighter and little is generally done in order to showcase the quality of ingredients (predominantly seafood), the prawns were dry and the protein broke apart dreadfully as I tried to free it from it's salt-baked shell.
My first dining experience with the famous Yellow Croaker was in The St. Regis Singapore's Yan Ting where I have witnessed first hand the sweetness of the flesh and also how arduous it was to separate the flesh from the tiny bones. The Yellow Croaker in Soya Sauce (酱油水小黄鱼) is a deep-fried version and surprisingly, it was one of my favourite dishes during the dinner tasting. I am personally not a fan of fish since it generally gets quite tedious to eat (and I am not convinced that it is worth the effort) but Chef Raymond's version truly allowed the fish to shine - the main fish bone has been removed during preparation before the fish is deep-fried and a premium soy sauce is added.
Another standout dish during dinner was the Boiled Baby Oyster with Winter Melon and Pepper (胡椒冬瓜煮海蛎). While it does not look like much visually, the rich and peppery broth hit all the right notes - the oysters were fresh and brimming with flavours and the crunch from the fresh black fungus added a nice texture to the satisfying soup.
One of the crowd favourites was the Tong’an Pan-fried Crab (同安煎蟹) - as the chef has explained, this dish traditionally utilises smaller female crabs which are famed for their sweeter and more delicate flesh. Since that ingredient is relatively difficult to get in Singapore, it has been replaced with the Sri Lanka crabs that Singaporeans love - you will notice the distinctive firm flesh and thick hard shell but the good news is that the team at Hai Tien Lo have prepared it really well and most of the delicious flesh can be retrieved using just two fingers and a fork (no need to get your fingers dirty!).
I really enjoyed the Xiamen Fried Rice (闽南芥菜饭) as it came with a good balance of flavours - the rice was fragrant and the addition of roast pork belly definitely gave the plate of fried rice some additional kick. Make sure you pair it with Hai Tien Lo's famous X.O. Sauce for that perfect finish!
Finally, the Chef’s Signature Dessert (精选甜品) was a Cheng Tng (清汤) which literally translates into 'Clear Soup'. While I personally do prefer Hai Tien Lo's menu (especially since its refresh a few months ago) over the Special Fujian Premium Set Menu (福建特色豪华套餐), I have found it to be a nice addition to the existing menu offerings since the dishes here are lighter in flavours and it may cater to a different segment of diners. If you are thinking about checking the special Fujian delicacies out at Hai Tien Lo, remember you only have until 31 May 2017 so be sure to make your reservation fast!
This was an invited media-tasting session, though all views expressed are my own.