remarkable feast, thanks to Uncle Red Bear
London, July 6, 2005 My brother David, who lives in Virginia,
called me the other day to say that he was unexpectedly coming to London
for a few days for an academic conference. Could I come up and meet
him for lunch? Of course I could. But where? Chinatown of course, no
question about that. Who else to consult about where and what to eat
but my good friend Deh-ta
special, Deh-ta, I don't see my brother very often. But one thing: he
doesn't like chicken feet."
course it had to be the Jade Garden on Wardour Street - we considered
Y Ming as well for a repeat of the famous 'duck three ways'. But in
the end, Jade Garden it was. 'They are the only ones in London who do
braised duck,' said Deh-ta. 'Leave the menu to me, I'll order for you.'
The table was booked in the name of Uncle Red Bear.
were three of us (my brother was with his new partner), so Deh-ta, who
was not able to join us, ordered 17 dishes. 'It ought to be enough,'
he said, 'but of course you can always order more.'
was great to see my brother, and we were ravenous in anticipation of
a special feast. I have to say I was a little concerned when the first
dish came out - chicken feet! Or as Deh-ta called them, 'chicken claws
Thai style' - that is boneless (and so almost unrecognizable but not
quite), cold, chewy, and in a delicious sweet and hot sauce. 'What this?'
my brother asked suspiciously. I knew it was chicken feet, but answered
quickly, 'jelly fish'. That was even worse it turned out - he's not
really that finicky, but the thought of jelly fish was even more off
putting to him than chicken feet. So I came clean: 'It's chicken feet.'
'Oh,' he said, and tried one. 'Pretty good!'
were now straight in to the deep end. The next dish that came out was
a platter of braised duck tongues in a richly savoury and spicy sauce.
The tiny tongues were delicious, deeply flavoured but surprisingly bony.
'Mmmnn,' my brother asked, 'what is this?' 'Pork spareribs,' I said.
'Bloody small pigs,' he muttered, helping himself to a few more. 'Delicious!'
feast continued. Some crispy fried squid with a sweet dipping sauce.
A platter of crunchy, stir-fried chinese greens in oyster sauce. The
exquisite braised duck, served on a bed of peanuts, truly sensational.
Some paper wrapped prawns. Some crispy fried beancurd skins. A wonderful
plate of lightly pan fried noodles with seafood. A big hot pot of rice
swimming in broth and chinese mushrooms and chicken.
a stack of bamboo steamed dishes: beef tripe and chilies; another plate
of chicken feet, these braised in a hot and spicy sauce (also delicious
- my brother ate them too!); some chewy whelks in a Malaysian satay
type sauce; some crab and pork dumplings; a platter of steamed spareribs
in black bean sauce; some snow white, chewy, steamed prawn 'Cheung Fun'.
was quite incredible and a real and exciting treat for the three of
I go to chinese restaurants, I most always have the feeling that those
who know what's what (and especially the chinese themselves) are enjoying
foods infinitely more interesting and delicious than I have myself ordered
(it's all those 'specials' in chinese characters pasted infuriatingly
around the walls).
not this time! It was a real privilege to sample these dishes, and the
balance of tastes and especially textures was just incredible: chewy,
crispy, hot, cold, savoury, spicy and sweet. And even if I'm unlikely
to rush back to Jade Garden immediately to order braised duck tongues
in spicy sauce, I'm certainly glad that we had the chance to try them.
(Well, why not? The Romans feasted on lark tongues, didn't they?)
through the meal, Deh-ta managed to drop in and join us briefly just
for a drink - he'd already had lunch ('not very good,' he muttered,
helping himself to a duck tongue). As a member of the British Film Academy,
he was in Leicester Square for a special showing of 'War of the Worlds'
- I have to say it doesn't sound terribly promising: Deh-ta appararently
nodded off through about half of movie - so I guess the film can't be
as terrifying as that famous radio broadcast...
you again, my friend, Uncle Red Bear!
tel: 020 7437 5065