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Spring Moon, Hong Kong, China, tasted on December 12, 2005  We've already established that some of the best food in countries outside of the United States is located in high end hotels - especially in Asia. And while we had fantastic Chinese food in Bangkok we still needed to have world class dim sum. Enter Spring Moon. Located at the gorgeous Peninsula hotel in Kowloon (a short and cool ferry ride from the Central district to Kowloon). I had some time to kill so I checked out all the cool modern and ancient art at the Hong Kong Museum of Art. I am nothing if not cultured. (Like yogurt.)

Spring Moon is famous not only for its dim sum but for its amazing tea service. Since tea is not my thing I figured I was the wrong person to report on the joys of tea. I went for dim sum. There is something about taking an ethnic cuisine, a cultural gem that's been honed and polished for thousands of years, and refining it with the best ingredients and most delicate preparation so that it is a simple perfect example of that culinary tradition. This is the kind of food that I personally respond to the most. And this is what I ate at Spring Moon.

Things started off with the (by now I realized) traditional Sesame Covered Candied Walnuts. These were light and delicious with their smooth sugary coating. My first dish was Steamed Barbecue Pork Buns. These were perfect. The sweet pork in the center was excellent but the texture of the bun was among the best I've ever had. The thing that really put this over the top was the ratio of meat to the bun. Usually I've had these classic dim sum with way more bun vs. meat. This example had a higher meat to bun ratio than I've had in the past and it really made it super enjoyable.

Next up was Har Gow - also known as Steamed Shrimp Dumpling with Bamboo Shoot. The casing was not overly glutenous unlike some examples I've had, and it stayed close to the wonderfully steamed shrimp ball inside. Yummy. I grabbed one of these beauties with my hands and I noticed the waitress almost imperceptibly wince. She was at my table in a flash with a fork and a knife. Not wanting to be seem that uncool I saw how others were eating their dumplings. I ended up using a combination of chopsticks and a spoon to both steady and transport the dumpling to my mouth and hold on to its remainder as I bite chunks off  of it. My fork and knife remained untouched. And my wounded pride recovered a little bit.

I followed this with another shrimp dumpling, Steamed Green Chive Dumplings with Minced Shrimp to be exact. These were not stringy like other examples I've had in the past. They were quite good and a beautiful color. I also got some Shanghai Style Steamed Pork Dumplings with Scallops. These were made with a thicker dough than the other dumplings I'd had. This dough was also not rice-based. But it was quite tasty nonetheless. These dumplings also came with a vinegar based sauce with shredded ginger. The pork filling was subtle, savory, and good.

It was at this point that one of the management staff came over and asked me to stop taking pictures of my food. I had only one more dish coming so I begged to just take one more shot of my upcoming soup. I don't want to make any cultural generalizations but it seemed to me that rules aren't broken very often in Hong Kong. So when I didn't immediately cave, the manager wasn't entirely sure what to do. I then just told him that I would take only one more picture. I said it very positively and as a statement instead of a question. He nodded and went away. I think he took the tone of my voice and structure of my sentence for acquiescence. Again, I'm not sure he'd had people say no before. Needless to say I took one more picture and got yelled at. I'm not comparing my rule breaking to some sort of political defiance of the Chinese government. But I would like to point out the risks I'm taking to bring back this important documentation to all of you readers.

Needless to say, it was worth it. The Noodles in Soup Szechwan style were like a refined peanut soup (or a soup version of Dan Dan noodles). The dish had the barest gentle spiciness. It was soothing and tasty. I really fell in love with it and finished every last drop.

Despite me making the staff uncomfortable Spring Moon was really a superlative experience. It's a gorgeously designed and detailed environment and the food fits in perfectly. The items on the menu are not exactly cheap but for a real world class parade of dim sum you can't miss Spring Moon.

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

   

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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