How I Spent Chinese New Year With Chowking

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chinese New Year is suddenly becoming one big celebration here in the Philippines. Somehow, we've embraced already the traditions of having dragon dances, having tikoy for breakfast, and all that. Not really following tradition, I'm not the type to follow those to the letter but I do enjoy the occasional tikoy for breakfast or wearing red. Red, after all is my favorite lucky color that never failed me.

Chowking, one of my favorite fast food chains that turned me to a convert at first bite invited me to celebrate Chinese New Year with them in an event that would also showcase their dishes. Of course it was something I couldn't say no to because, I love Chowking and I absolutely have no excuse that it's too far as the venue, Mercato Centrale, is just a hop and a skip away from where I live.

Come that day, I dropped by Kell's office since I told him we'd go together and meet our blogger friends there as I didn't want to go there alone. Kell was happy to oblige going there and had me bugging to get myself there at High Street as he was had at "hosted by Kim Chiu". We met up with the rest of the guys at Mercato where we proceeded to munch on chicharap and siomai while at it.

The event started off with the traditional and oh-so-cute dragon dance with matching mini-fireworks.

Dragon dances are quite popular during Chinese New Year, seeing them in malls and streets as a main attraction. Apparently, Chinese New Year Dragons represent luck and the Chinese Dragon, if my understanding through a bit of googling and reasearch would be correct, ushers in good luck and success in the year ahead for all human beings. The dragon dance also is something like a rain dance, to bring in rainfall, since dragons are believed to be the governors of rainfall (Not too much Mr. Dragon, though, let Mr. Sunshine do his thing too).

After which, we proceded to the dining area, decked in the lucky color of red. After introductions were made by the lovely host, Lyn Ching, we were introduced to the father-and-son team of Chefs Gene and Gino Gonzales who demonstrated to us the old-school way of making famous Chinese dishes like sweet and sour pork, orange chicken, and beef with broccoli.

Chef Gene Gonzales explains to us how to rock that sweet and sour pork. Sadly, I didn't have a pen with me that time because I will be scribbling quickly all his tips, so I relied on memory to retain his pointers namely:
  • In orange chicken and sweet and sour pork, it simply works this way, you bread and fry the meat and dump it in the glaze. However, it's not all that. You need to make sure that the meat is drained and hot before dumping it in the hot glaze. Yep, both need to be hot so the flavors are absorbed.
  • I normally have a problem with my broccoli wilting midway while cooking. The solution apparently was to blanch the broccoli first for a minute in boiling water then douse it with icy water to get that bright green color and make it all crispy and crunchy and add it to the later part of cooking. That explains the bright green crispy broccoli the experts make.
  • In beef, the secret is not to overcook the beef, since overcooking the beef makes it tough. As we add the sauce, the beef at that time is slightly browned but not thoroughly cooked so there's time for the beef to cook and absorb the flavours of the sauces.
Chinese cooking apparently is a science, meaning it's not just dunking in ingredients together. Chef Gene explains that it's actually layers of flavors and amino acids coming together in harmony. It's a bit easy, but somehow complicated, quite hard for me to substitute just to get it right. There's a specific time to put in the glaze, the right temperature, and the right melding of textures, so we get to savor each flavor and texture. Who says Chinese food was boring, right?

After the demo, Chowking ambassadors come out with signature Chowking dishes to see how our favorite Chinese fast food fares with those cooked by the experts.

Here's Kim Chiu with sweet and sour pork

Our favorite leading man Jericho Rosales presents beef with broccoli to the experts. After all three dishes were demonstrated, the audience of course, won't go out without being fed of course.

The orange chicken totally had a lot of improvement from when I first ordered it. Personally, when I first tasted orange chicken, I remember being oh-so-excited about it since it was one of my favorite Chinese dishes. When I finally got to try it, I found the flavor a bit too strong, almost like I was eating citrusy dishwashing detergent. I'm glad Chowking improved the formula so the tangy taste has mellowed down to something more fruity and I could still taste the chicken as well. I like that the breading was crispy.

Among the three dishes, the Beef With Broccoli happens to be my favorite among all three, since I like how tender the beef was. The sauce is also amazing with the Chicharap.

Sweet and sour pork was divine, and take note that I'm not a pork fan. I like that the pork was of fine quality, tender, and melded well with the sauce. The breading was still crisp instead of soggy being soaked with the sauce and on top of that, everything was served hot.

Of course how would an event be without pictures with the stars, right?

Me with Kim Chiu. Believe it or not, I used to be as fair-skinned as she is till the pool and beach found me.
Could definitely not pass an opportunity to have a picture with Jericho Rosales. I. Could. Die. Now. Thanks Russel for obliging to my fangirl mode.

But of course Kell who was the happiest guy of the night.
In all our years of being friends, he has never had a smile that wide. EVER. Russel took a better photo of course, but I stayed as a backup photographer for my dear friend.

The guys and I had fun at the event, and sure enough, we were definitely going to Chowking again. In fact, I tried my hand on orange chicken just yesterday, but I must say, that the one I ordered last Saturday at Chowking Pioneer rivals the home-cooked one I made a few days ago.


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