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Tim's Kitchen presents Michelin star-rated dishes

NOTHING denotes quality in the food world quite like a Michelin star. So when a chef who boasts a couple of Michelin star restaurants pops into town for a promotion, it's a good idea to roll up your sleeves, dig into his creations and see what all the fuss is about.

Chef Yau-Tim Lai, who runs two Cantonese restaurants named Tim's Kitchen - one each in Hong Kong and Macau - will be in Shanghai at Villa du Lac in Xintiandi until June 16. His restaurants have earned a combined three stars in Michelin's first Hong Kong/Macau Guide 2009.

Lai offers three set menus, each with 10 courses and priced between 1,388 yuan (US$203) and 2,088 yuan per person, as well as a small a la carte menu at Villa du Lac, which provides an ideal atmosphere for a meal with its elegant decor and well-trained wait staff.

Both Tim's Kitchens emphasize seafood and those that enjoy all things that swim will not be disappointed with this promotion. Lai's signature dishes such as Salt and Pepper Crab Claw and Crystal King Prawn, and a few creations with local produce display an exquisite selection of ingredients, lengthy preparation times and delicate presentation.

It's clear the Hong Kong chef is devoted to his craft. Every dish appears simple but takes a lot of effort to make.

Lai began our gastronomic tour with an unexpected combo of Yangzhou-style appetizers, before getting to the heart of the Cantonese courses and then rounding the meal off surprisingly with a French dessert.

"We want to avoid Cantonese cuisine's weakness in appetizers and desserts, and concentrate on the main courses that we are good at," said Kenneth Lai, Tim's youngest son, who manages the Macau branch.

Their first signature dish to arrive at our table was the Crystal King Prawn. The shell as well as the soft, thin white membrane were removed, presenting a pure white prawn meat. The opal white meat tasted delicious and succulent. Unlike Shanghai's stir-fried shrimps coated with starch, this prawn retained the freshness of the sea and was enhanced only with salt and white pepper.

Fresh vegetables

Tim's Pepper Crab Claw, once again without the shell, is tender and spiced with nothing but salt and pepper. But you can sprinkle a little ground red chili on the dish to give it a bit more spark.

Sea Cucumber with Goose Web is another dish that shows Lai's inclination to pamper his patrons. The boneless goose web is rich due to its well-stewed soup sauce that is cooked for more than 10 hours with ham, chicken, pork and other ingredients. Fresh vegetables served alongside balance the rich taste of this dish.

Although each portion seems small, you will feel full after finishing all 10 courses.

For those watching their wasteline, perhaps the a la carte menu is best.

The non-set menu offers 11 dishes, ranging from 88 yuan (Fragrant Baked Pigeon) to 1,280 yuan (Premium 20 Abalone with Goose Web). But if you choose the a la carte option you will miss out on the special dessert that is only available with one of the set menus.

The dessert menu is provided by Bertrand Ducauroy, pastry chef of Le Platane.

The Avant Dessert, raspberry ice cream covered in lichee foam, is like a summer breeze, refreshing and not too sweet.

For the main dessert, you can choose either Villa Vacherin or Pomme d'Or. Vacherin is a classic French dessert of crisp meringue (stiffly beaten egg whites and sugar) on a pastry base with ice cream or creme Chantilly (lightly whipped cream) and/or various fruit. The white sesame ice cream gives it a distinctive oriental flavor and it is served with pastry and topped with fresh mango.

The Pomme d'Or is a real treat. A pale, golden lager sorbet is set on a thin layer of apple jelly and topped with a soft and delicate mascarpone foam. It's a tough choice, but go with the Pomme d'Or as its served cold and adorned with thinly sliced homemade green apple chips. It's light and refreshing, and the perfect ending to an elaborate summer meal.

Whether a la carte or one of the sets, it's hard to go wrong with Lai's cooking. It promises to be a memorable meal.

Steamed pork with eggplant easy to make

Hong Kong chef Yau-Tim Lai, who started cooking at the age of 16, has a catalogue of recipes stored up after his more than 40 years of professional experience.

Here, he shares one of his homemade recipes suitable for a weekend family get together.

Steamed Pork with Eggplant and Preserved Vegetable is a typical homemade Cantonese dish. All ingredients are available in the market and the method is easy to follow. If you do not have the time to come to Villa du Lac to taste Lai's food or shy away from the cost of fine dining, just try this Michelin-star chef's recipe at home.

Serves four


Preserved vegetable: 50g

Eggplant: 250g

Pork: 250g

Garlic (minced): 20g

Chili padi: a pinch

Spring onions: a pinch


1. Soak the preserved vegetables in water first (as it is too salty) and set aside for use.

2. Slice the pork and marinate with:

Salt, 3/4 teaspoon

Sugar, 1/2 teaspoon

Cornstarch, a pinch

Pepper, a pinch

Sesame oil, a little

Oyster sauce, a little

3. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into pieces about the size of your finger.

First, saute quickly in oil;

Secondly, soak in water;

Thirdly, dry it and set aside for use.

4. On a plate, place the eggplant on the bottom.

Mix the preserved vegetable, chili padi and sliced pork together, and place it on top of the eggplant.

5. Steam for 10 minutes.

6. Garnish with spring onions (optional) and serve.


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