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FUNGUS may not be so popular here, but the distinct tastes and textures of its many varieties have long made it a much sought-after delicacy in many parts of China. They are often prepared in steamboat style so that all their flavours can be fully appreciated.
If that tickles your curiosity, you can get a taste of that at The Summit Hotel Subang?s newly- opened Fortune Court. It said to be the first in Malaysia to serve such a steamboat.
The restaurant boasts of a stylish zen-inspired setting, clean-cut wood furniture in dark shades and glossy finish are juxtaposed against exquisite oriental ornaments in the warm-coloured interior.
Touches of bold red under carefully adjusted lighting remind one of China?s past imperial grandeur, as well as its present heritage-shaped lifestyle.
It serves seven steamboat varieties, the highlights are Yunan Wild Fungus, Fujian Speciality Mushroom and Assorted Mush-room steamboats while the others use Malaysian ?Duo Flavours? (spicy and herbal), Thai Tom Yam, Seafood, Japanese Miso, Korean Ginseng Chicken as the soup base.
It is interesting to experience the various tastes and textures of the wild fungus and cultivated mushrooms, all brought in from China. Their textures can be springy, chewy, crunchy or even melt-in-the-mouth while the tastes dominated by the natural freshness that has a subtle earthy smell, vary delicately.
Credit must go the soup base, which comes in a choice of chicken fungus soup or vegetarian fungus soup. The soups are fine-tuned by executive Chinese chef Lee Yew Ken after a month of trials and tribulations.
?We tried the non-vegetarian version, which was boiled for seven hours with old chicken, black chicken and fungus.
?The brown stock is clear but robust, intense but not greasy. It enhances the taste of the fungus, especially the chunky, fluffy and absorbent ones such as Superior Pine Fungus, Bamboo Pitch and Monkey God Mushroom.
?Wild fungus has medicinal and nutritional values and is known for its ability to improve blood circulation, reduce cholesterol level and even help prevent cancer,? said chef Lee who has 18 years of experience.
Golden Ear Fungus is the most prized among the 20 over varieties available at the restaurant. Its appearance resembles cauliflower but looks much more tantalising with the gold hues. Its melt-in-the-mouth texture allows it to be used for both hot and cold desserts.
Chef Lee also likes to add a touch of creativity to his dishes.
?This is to make sure that diners who yearn to savour the same taste can only get it here,? he quipped.
Ying Yong Chee Cheong Fun (duo-flavoured flat rice noodles) exemplifies that. The normal white flat noodle filled with peeled prawns is lined neatly next to the green one, coloured and flavoured with spinach juice, wrapping chicken pieces.
The noodles are sprinkled with soy sauce and fragrant fried chilli oil. Diners can also opt to have beef, fish or scallop as fillings.
Steamed Codfish with Preserved Vegetable (Mui Choy) is a unique concoction that harmoniously combines pricey and ordinary ingredients. They are double-boiled together to achieve the intense flavour and the crunchiness of Mui Choy goes perfectly with the firmness and tenderness of codfish.
Pan-fried Lamb Chop with Honey Herbal Sauce appears simple but requires tedious preparation. The meat needs to be marinated overnight with blended garlic, chilli, shallot and screwpine (pandan), not only for better flavour but also tender texture. Perhaps it is due to the sweet, thick sauce but the natural pungence of lamb is not obvious.
Also notable are the Qing Yuan chicken dishes, including Crispy Roasted Chicken, Steamed Chicken with Onion Sauce and Steamed Chicken with Ginger Sauce. The chicken is imported from Guang-zhou, China, and is appreciated for its smooth, firm and flavoursome meat.
Braised Beancurd with Crab-meat and Crab Roe comes in handy to balance the meaty meal.
Chef Lee substitutes egg white with crab roe, to give this normally pale-looking dish a golden tint.
Golden Ear Fungus appears again in Double-Boiled Water Chestnut with Snow Fungus. Unlike the more common versions thickened with starch, this hot dessert is clear, not-too-sweet and better still, enhanced with a refreshing dash of lemon.