Every summer in Putian, China, the fields would be dizzy with work as families sought to harvest fresh produce. In a recollection by Executive Chef Li of Putien, one of his fondest memories would be to “pick fresh lychee from trees or catch fish and shrimp in the streams” as his parents were engaged in the fields. A sprightly memory, and one that is full of activity, is what inspired this year’s Summer menu lineup at Putien.
However, before stepping into the menu proper, Putien had in store a tour of its central kitchen to the media team. All of us were introduced to one of the hallmarks of Putien – Beancurd.
[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][slidepress gallery=’putien-beancurd-making’]
Freshly prepared each day before sending out to Putien’s restaurants nationwide, the beancurd involved the tender boiling of beans to obtain the milk. After which a brine solution (uniquely Putien and what makes its beancurd unique in flavour) is added, followed by the separation of the curd. The curd is then placed in a muslin cloth and pressed. A laborious process, but one that involves a lot of care to get fine tofu.
The freshly earlier prepared beancurd was then sliced up and deep fried to a light golden brown.
A sprinkle of salt, and all of us got to try the fried beancurd pieces. As the beancurd was cut after press, plenty of air bubbles still remained within the textures. This resulted in a springy beancurd piece after the frying process, resembling closely to a meaty taupok that is full of natural flavours. Appetizing. I do hope this makes it to the menu someday.
This year’s line up of the summer menu begins with an interesting twist on the use of winter melon. The Winter Melon in Orange Juice ($4.90) is a refreshing delicacy that involves the summer harvested winter melon that has been soaked in tangy sweet orange juice. I’ve never thought of using winter melon slices and serving it as an appetizer in any kind. My recipe will always call for it being used in a soup. Time for a relook! An innovative creation with a slightly strong sweet taste and perhaps what felt like a little fizz at the end.
The Ah Yuan Fragrant Herbal Chicken ($8.90) is a dish involving a slow cook of chicken in a soup of eight herbs. Once done, the chicken is chilled before sliced to obtain a firm crunchy texture throughout. Slightly salty, the taste of herbs was really subtle.
Remember the beancurd shown earlier? One of the styles served up for the lunch was the Braised Homemade Beancurd. In this manner, the focus shifted more towards the braising sauce that infused within the beancurd pieces. Enjoyable, but I still preferred it naturally in nice elongated shapes.
Making a permanent presence on the menu is the Plum and Cherry Tomato Juice with Aloe Vera ($4.90). Using ingredients found in Putian, this drink features a thorough sweet sour plum base with sparkles of cherry tomato flavour, only to be topped up with cubes of Aloe vera floating about for that refreshing sensation.
This serving of Putien Pork Ribs ($5.90 per pax) is as tempting as it can get. In a elegant brown savoury sauce, the focus of this dish was on the slightly fatty meat marbled onto each piece of rib. Easily broken apart, the meat is to be enjoyed with the Chinese yam left to soak at the bottom. Good tasting, though a little thin for a decent serving of meat. But it has to be ribs.
Another unique creation is the Thick Bitter Gourd Soup ($6.90). My first instinct on this dish is that it will be overtly bitter with that savoury after taste. Instead, the flavours were a direct opposite with the first impression being a full blown savoury sweet leaving a touch of bitterness at the end. Nicely served with pieces of prawn, scallop and crabmeat for a meaty touch.
At Putien’s flagship outlet along Kitchener road, there is for a limited time offer a live station of Putian’s Soya Bean Milk Noodles. Witness the chef prepare the dish on the spot using the restaurant’s own special fine vermicelli, cooked with a cup full of fresh soya bean milk
I have to admit that this is a very delightful dish. Lightly flavoured with a natural sweetness from the soya bean milk, the noodles were springy and carried a full bodied meaty texture. Its not too oily, and the toppings of fresh peanuts and seaweed really add a sparkle of crunch to the dish. And you might have realised, I tried to recreate that experience at home with my own take on the Soya Bean Milk Vermicelli recipe.
Pair the noodles with some of Putien’s own La Ma chilli mix
Seemingly, the most recognizable and familiar dish in the menu is the Stir-fried Prawns with Fruit Salad ($21.90/$32.90). Melon and lychee are paired with fresh prawns that have been sliced into halves while adjoined at the tip to give a combinatory flavour of sweet and savoury. I called this recognizable and familiar as I thought it was the Lobster salad normally served up at Chinese dinner parties. While I won’t say that this dish is too far apart in looks from the salad, its flavour and bright colours is certainly a pleaser especially on a summer menu.
For a real take of decadent home cooking, there is the Braised Beancurd with Chinese Cabbage ($16.90/$24.90) to go for from the a la carte menu. Beancurd and cabbage is left to simmer in a pork bone broth, combined with clams, shrimps and scallops to make a wholesome dish altogether. A thumbs up for this dish for its milky broth texture, and a flavour that hinted at the presence of seafood and natural sweetness of cabbage essence.
Finally to round off the Summer menu, indulge in the Lychee Mango Pudding ($4.90). Chef Li created this dessert with two layers. One being the mango pudding at the bottom, and the other, a thin layer of lychee jelly adorning the top. With sweetness from both fruits, this dish is a refreshing combination to remind the diner of the coolness that beats the summer heat.
Executive Chef Li Gongba and Me
I’ve always enjoyed dining at Putien, and this year’s summer menu seems to be simple yet thoughtful. Highlights for me include the Winter Melon in Orange Juice, the Thick Bitter Gourd Soup and for something off the list, the Soya Bean Milk Vermicelli. Witnessing the beancurd making process showed the amount of dedicated work poured into crafting each piece of tofu, and it made enjoying the dishes sweeter. For all that is at Putien, I look forward to the next time I visit the place with my family and friends.
Previous article on Putien : http://www.gourmetestorie.com/?p=9206
Thank you Putien and linea Communications for the invitation
Slideshow image credits to Putien
127 Kitchener Road
Reservations : 6295 6358
Opens from :
Website : http://www.putien.com
The Putien Summer Menu is available now till August