Bringing Out My Choppers With Robert Mukondiwa
Perhaps I was raised wrong. If it isn’t champagne and caviar it is probably the heartiest six course meal fit for the woman in Buckingham Palace.
That’s, or a real old fashioned sadza (remhunga) accompanied by tsunga, kafuta on the side and perhaps add to that some dried goat meat with a peanut butters sauce to top it up and make a meal fit for a Munhumutapa.
So when a friend suggested we go for his type of food, I didn’t hesitate to try something different. Remember I am that guy. The one who has squid, oysters, hippo, crocodile and pangolin … forget I said pangolin, I still want my freedom and to choose my cuisine and not have Paradzai Zimondi pick what I am having for dinner or lunch.
Phineas, my companion and business associate picked a Chinese Restaurant which I suppose he frequents a lot judging from the way her was received. That, or perhaps the Chinese just have a way of nodding warmly whenever they receive you that you feel like that Cheers Bar in Boston where “Everybody (knew) your name”!
I always approach unfamiliar cuisine as if I am walking on eggshells. I remember a colleague who whilst we were dining with the Italian ambassador decided it was a good idea to pour some curious sauce over some risotto!
Needless to say the ambassador was soon howling over the poor young chap’s early balding head saying how much he had ‘ruined’ the poor meal. Tafadzwa, his name was and still is, will never get to hear the last of that story each time I walk into his newsroom.
It takes more than a well straitened suit to master etiquette, I always remind him. You buy suits but not class. Some things are learnt. But I digress.
So anyway, because of my fear of getting things wrong, I asked where this meal would take us only to be told by the Chinese that anything (almost) goes by way of etiquette and I could use my chopsticks, fingers, dig in with my lips or lick my fingers! Happy days I declared.
I was soon to learnt that this place with great ambience and spacious rooms was in fact called the Hong Kong Restaurant off Churchill Avenue at the hem of Alexandra Park and it was a hit with a number of people.
I went for the Peking duck without hesitation. It sounded the quintessential Chinese dish and after having watched too much Tin-Tin growing up every Sunday morning after having feigned a headache to skip church and binge on cartoons, I knew all too well that I’d seen my childhood hero have that more than a couple of times.
Great choice. It came with a more than generous portion. People say the Orientals are stingy. Perhaps they don’t tip regularly now and again (neither do I sadly in these days of not cash at hand) but they certainly give a lot when it comes to their meals.
Add to that, I was asked if I wanted the bones as well as the Peking duck would come deboned as I had ordered. The bones came along and they were as good as another whole meal! Add to that, they were actually tastier than the deboned serving.
Phineas ordered the hot pot. He should have told me not to order because what came for him was not a hot pot. Hot dish is what it was! And hell did it look hot or what? Also known as the steamboat, this is the go to meal for any chilli-loving person.
He deftly tossed in the crab sticks and fish-balls, blood tofu, cellophane noodles, fresh shallots, snake beans, asparagus, and cockles and as the pot boiled all the aromas rose into the air signalling what was definitely to be a hearty meal for him.
While I had my soup of the day which was a super and delicious serving of hot and sour soup, Phineas watched as his meal came to the boil.
I bravely and boldly declared that I would have the hot pot with him. I am a fan of all things spicy (remember my Spice Lounge meal?) So I would not let this hot pot evade me and my companion, probably relieved that he would get help, obliged.
Glorious with distinct tastes to the palate, their hot pot is also served by their desire to use only the freshest products in their meals which was evident
A vanity posting on Instagram of the hot pot had my foodie friend Chido saying she had not seen crab sticks done that way and that I ought to nick the recipe for her so she would try them made differently.
We had had crab sticks at every family Christmas meal my family and I, and I had almost given up on them but this magical Oriental bowl rescued the situation and I am now a fan.
The Peking duck was awesome and the bones, well they were tastier than the main dish, so we abandoned them for the bones.
Outrageous servings meant that we had more than plenty leftovers for the two of us and needless to say I found myself having Chinese for dinner. Lots of it!
The downside, as with every place which serves geo-specific cuisine is that it will cost you an arm and a leg. And if you order without k owing the size of the meals then prepare to offer another leg and arm as well as compensation. But a meal for one can easily serve a whole host of friends and that is the upside.
So save on being individualistic and go for a meal that you will all share. And from a history of people who share their meals and a whole lot more, it isn’t surprising that China is the home of such large meals.
A super experience and definitely well worth a second visit. And a third. Why? Perhaps even a fourth!