Seafood summer: 5 dishes making a splash
In the scorching summer months, diners crave the freshest seafood. Sands Resorts Macao invites guests on an oceanic journey over the coming months, when its major restaurants deliver new seafood dishes for the season.
Over at Sands Cotai Central's Dynasty 8, the home of high-end Chinese cuisines, chef Yap Poh-weng has turned to Japan for inspiration. His poached live seafood in shrimp broth is based on "umami", the fifth basic taste (in addition to sweetness, sourness, bitterness and saltiness) first identified by the Japanese.
“Umami” means a “pleasant savoury taste”. It is considered so difficult to describe there is not an equivalent English word for it. Southern Chinese chefs have long understood the concept, as it is similar to the use of a superior broth for seasoning in many Cantonese dishes.
In this case, the umami comes from the shrimp broth, or more accurately, a bisque. Umami stimulates the taste buds, drawing out the innate flavours of the ingredients.Yap has appropriately chosen the Japanese hairy crab from Hokkaido as one of the ingredients. The meat from the crustacean that inhabits the brisk waters of northern Japan has a delicate flavour, and umami helps to bring this out. Other seafood items are the blood clam, named for its slight metallic flavour, and the royal clam, loved for its firm meat and more rounded taste.
Under the same roof is North, where chef Zhang Tingbin offers a Sichuan classic, slow cooked sliced seabass in spicy oil. One might suspect that the strong spices would overpower the fish, but in Sichuan, spiciness is an art: every ingredient is matched with spices aimed at highlighting the flavours, not smothering them.
The seabass, from the South China Sea, is filleted and marinated with salt, cornstarch and egg white. It is then stir-fried in a wok with chilli bean paste, spring onion, ginger and garlic to bring out the aroma, before yellow wine and stock are added. It is brought to the boil with pepper powder, chicken powder and salt to form a spicy soup.
The soup is then drained and used separately to cook the soybean sprouts, black fungus and Chinese lettuce, before it goes into the claypot with the fish for further cooking. The finishing touches take place in the wok: home-made spice oil and Sichuan pepper are pan-fried until the aroma is extracted. It is then stirred with sesame oil before being added to the claypot to complete the dish.
In Sichuan, outside temperatures reach the upper30s Celsius in summer, with high humidity. The locals believe that spicy dishes open the pores and help the body adapt to the weather.
Others prefer to go cool and light on food during sweltering months. Chef
Alex Gaspar at La Chine in The Parisian Macao recommends the dungeness crabmeat tartare with avocado salad and black vinegar caviar. The logic is simple: the creamy smoothness of the avocado blends with the tenderness of the crabmeat, while the sweet acidity of the vinegar serves as a “torch” to highlight the subtle sweetness. This dish epitomises the saying, “less is more”.
At Rice Empire in Sands Cotai Central, chef Jimmy Poon cooks a braised giant grouper with shallot in clay pot – a dish that the Chinese love for its aroma. The fish is filleted before the meat is coated with cornstarch and a whisked egg for deepfrying with garlic and bean curd. This is believed to seal the flavour of the fish fillets.
When all the ingredients are fried until they turn golden, they are set aside,
except the garlic, which is moved to the wok for stir-frying with “chu hou” sauce (a cooking paste made mainly of soybeans, garlic, ginger and sesame seeds), chilli bean sauce, pork belly, mushroom and ginger. As it becomes more aromatic, 250ml of stock is added with the deep-fried grouper and bean curd, more water, cornstarch and seasoning, before the pot is brought to the boil and served steaming hot. It is a hearty dish of layered flavours and textures that goes well with steamed rice.
At Sands Macao's Golden Court, chef Calvin Lee Chiu-fat showcases the best of contemporary Cantonese cuisine this summer with deep-fried and sautéed Macao sole. The specific flatfish used is indigenous to the region and extremely
popular in Macao. It is fried to golden goodness, with the bones becoming crunchy and edible but the meat remaining succulent.
Another fresh catch he has chosen for the season is sautéed sea scallop with couscous and pumpkin sauce, to be served in a light broth with millet. Lee says his style of cooking emphasises seasonality, and although the recipes do not seem complicated, every ingredient is treated and prepared meticulously.
Like a day spent at sea, the summer gastronomic voyage at Sands Resorts Macao is one of many different tastes, textures and aromas.