Hungry Lawyer: Chiu Tang; a posh palace of Chiu Chow food in the heart of Central

Chiu Chow, alternatively written as Chaozhou or Teochew, is a city of more than two and a half million people that serves as the cultural anchor of the linguistically distinct Chinese region of Chaoshan, in eastern Guangdong. The popular, tasty cuisine of Chiu Chow is often served in traditional and sometimes grungy restaurants scattered throughout Hong Kong. It combines the Cantonese focus on seafood and freshness with a number of distinctive dishes like succulent braised goose in dark soy sauce and a uniquely watery congee with rice grains that remain distinct, rather than reduced to a porridge.

I fondly remember the first time I had Chiu Chow food 15 years ago when I joined the local staff at my law firm for lunch, at the upstairs office of a small trading company that had been converted into a makeshift restaurant in an old tenement building in Lan Kwai Fong. It was a private kitchen before private kitchens were a thing, with two tables still surrounded by shelves of inventory. I was taken then with the freshly made delicious food, the large plates of roast goose and the steaming sugar-coated deep fried taro for dessert and I have been a fan of Chiu Chow cuisine ever since.

The newly opened Chiu Tang in Central

Thus, I was excited to learn that Island Tang in the Galleria in Central was to be replaced by Chiu Tang, which shares its name with the Lai Sun group’s private room Chiu Chow restaurant in Wan Chai. Chiu Tang in Central opened in December and I have been both for dinner and lunch, when a Chui Chow-influenced dim sum selection is available in addition to the regular menu.

Marinanted goose head, sans beak

Chiu Tang serves all the Chiu Chow classics. For appetisers, four types of marinated goose are available and I have tried the Intestine (HKD228), the Head (HKD198) and the signature Marinated Goose’s Liver (HKD88 per piece). The intestine was delicious in Chiu Tang’s excellent signature dark marinate, thinly sliced and chewy without being rubbery. The head was even better – in fact a revelation, as I wasn’t sure what to expect not having had this dish before. For those worried about the “ick” factor, the beaks are removed and the head is sliced so you don’t feel like you are biting directly into the noggin of a disembodied bird. Rather, there is a surprisingly ample quantity of delectable meat and skin that slides off the bone. These tender morsels of soft goose were the optimal counterpart to the same delicious marinate used with the other appetisers.

Marinated goose liver

The goose liver, in contrast, was presented more starkly with a spare, large slice of goose liver atop a piece of tofu. I liked the dish for its earthy graininess and relatively unadorned presentation. However, it may not be for everyone as it lacks the lightness of a traditional European foie gras.

Pig trotter terrine

Also truly excellent from the appetiser menu was the Pig’s Trotter Terrine (HKD198). The dish comes as a large half-dome of aspic filled with cross sections of the pig’s feet. The soft texture and subtle taste of the chestnut-coloured jelly surrounds the rich trotter meat for a combination that is hard to stop eating. It is no wonder that pig’s trotters have made a global comeback with the nose-to-tail movement.

Oyster pancake

Moving onto main courses, the classic Chiu Chow Pan-fried Egg Batter with Oyster (HKD158) – basically an oyster pancake – was good and stuffed full of small oysters, but felt unremarkable compared to some of the other dishes, and could have been crisper. In contrast, the Braised Chicken with Eel’s Maw, Ginger, and Spring Onion (HKD298) was excellent both in the balanced, familiar flavour of ginger and onion, and in its novel use of pan-fried eel maw in lieu of the more typical steamed or boiled fish maw.

The casserole of Pork Belly with Preserved Vegetables (HKD168) was also excellent with an unpretentious home-cooked taste to it. The sliced belly was melt in the mouth tender.

In lieu of a congee, on my last visit to Chiu Tang, I ordered the Crispy Chiu Chow Noodles (HKD168). The Chiu Chow version of this crispy dish comes as a plate-sized disc of noodles hot from the pan, which has a crispy exterior while still pliant underneath. The noodles sit atop a plate of minced yellow chives and are served with dark vinegar and sugar, both to be applied in reasonably generous quantity. The dish stands the test of time in its mix of salty, sweet, crispy, and chewy, and is something to be enjoyed by adults and children alike. I for one can’t wait to go back for more.

Chiu Chow crispy noodles

There are so many excellent dishes to choose from at Chiu Tang that all I can say is, you should go and try for yourself. The posh décor, central location and classic flavours should convert even the stodgiest businessman or squeamish new arrival to this truly excellent Chinese cuisine. And for the already converted, this is Chiu Chow cuisine to a high level of skill, perfect for a business meal or special family dinner.

Chiu Tang: 2/F, The Galleria, 9 Queen’s Road Central, Central (Google Maps)

About the Hungry Lawyer: Marc Rubinstein, born in Baltimore, USA, has been in Asia for nearly 20 years with 13 of those in Hong Kong. He has split his career between banks and law firms, and is currently the general counsel of an Asia-based real estate and alternative energy investor. Marc is a co-founder and co-chair of the Hong Kong Gay & Lesbian Attorneys Network, and previously chaired the Nomura Gay & Lesbian Network, Asia. In addition to being a hungry lawyer, he has run three marathons, eight half-marathons and completed the Hong Kong Oxfam Trailwalker.

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