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    《Affordably Priced Hot and Sour Soup Dumplings as recommended by MICHELIN》
    Mak Kee (North Point)

    《Affordably Priced Hot and Sour Soup Dumplings as recommended by MICHELIN》
    Mak Kee (North Point)

    《Affordably Priced Hot and Sour Soup Dumplings as recommended by MICHELIN》Mak Kee (North Point)

    Photography and Written by George Tang @ George Kitchen

    In front of Mak Kee there is always a long line of customers waiting patiently for the hot and fresh pan-fried buns, crispy fried-dumplings, and scallion pancakes with extra green onions. Indeed, the buns and cakes served in this Shanghainese street food shop have long been recognised by the MICHELIN Guide despite their moderate price tags. Moreover, to maintain freshness, the shop owner only sells his signature scallion pancakes for a limited time each day. Sadly i failed to savour the shop’s signature item due to my late arrival on the day i visited the shop, I ordered a bowl of hot and sour soup dumplings instead for a refreshing taste. The shop owner, Jack, originally had a stable and comfortable job in a bank after graduating from university. But one day, his father decided it was time to retire and give up the shop. Jack felt it would be a great pity to close the shop, so he made the decision to resign from his banking position and inherited his father’s food shop. “My father raised my sister and I by operating this shop. So, I can’t afford to abolish this family heritage.” Jack recalled. Listening to Jack’s family story, I felt the history of his family legacy imbuing the Mak Kee experience just as each delicious mouthful from the bowl of steaming hot and sour soup did.


    The Protean Hot and Sour Soup

    Hot and sour soup is one of the classic Chinese soups.  Shredding the ingredients is required as part of the preparation method, this opens the doors to a wide range of deviations to the recipe and therefore leads to many different flavour profiles. For instance, the Taiwan variant tastes sweeter, the Sichuan variant is more peppery, and the Shanghainese love to cook it with doubanjiang (broad bean chilli sauce), not to mention the various recipes with diverse characteristics inherited by overseas Chinese. Amongst the varied recipes, the Chinese restaurants in premium hotels usually adopt extravagant ingredients like sea cucumber, Jinhua ham, and seafood to enrich the flavour of the soup. In comparison, most people tend to choose the quotidian ingredients like mushrooms, winter bamboo shoots, frozen meat, fungus, carrots, eggs, and shredded tofu. Nevertheless, the flavour of each bowl of hot and sour soup is unique as every individual that seasons it according to personal background, experience, and preferences. This makes the sweetness, sourness, saltiness, spiciness, and umaminess of the soup an analogy to each unique taste of life flavoured by friendship, family connection, romantic experience, and memory of good and bad consequences.


    A Fusion of Tradition and Modernity

    When Jack first took over the shop, he worked around the clock to learn cooking techniques from his father and to refine his skill in dough making. For him, it was an exhausting period full of frustrations. Fortunately, his family members have always had his back in supporting the operation of the shop. It is their mutual dedication that passes on the delicacies and spirit of Mak Kee. When they saw the queue of kaifong lining outside the shop getting longer every day, they gradually realised that their devotement was not in vain. Eventually, Mak Kee earned the recognition from the MICHELIN Guide; more and more customers were attracted to the shop by its reputation. Although this seal of approval reaffirmed the efforts of Jack and his family, it also put them under pressure. Not only have they become more discreet in the quality of their food, but they have also worked extra hard to create new dishes to live up to their kaifong and customers’ expectation. Jack once introduced the creamy and richly flavoured “cheese scallion pancake”. However, as he was unwilling to break the shop’s tradition of offering kaifong with affordable yet palatable foods, he couldn’t balance the cost without raising its price. As a result, he had no choice but to give up the idea and move to introduce other items such as crab roe xiaolongbao (soup dumpling) that corresponded to the shop’s mission.

    Many long-established eateries run by traditional Chinese made their name by serving customers in their neighbourhood. The same goes for my grandfather’s first cha chaan teng that was expanded to a dim sum and siu mei restaurant after my father took over. Despite the significant expansion, my father remained cautious regarding cost control as he deemed the old customers as the priority. Later, when it came to my turn in succeeding the family’s heritage after I returned from aboard, I compiled a family cookbook from my father and grandfather’s discoloured handwritten recipes and passed on my family delicacies. Attributed to the similar experience of taking over a family business, I genuinely appreciate Jack’s insistence on his training in fundamental cooking skills. Not only is it crucial in maintaining traditional flavours, but it also paves the path for bringing new elements into traditional recipes, allowing Mak Kee to sustain a stable and intimate connection with the kaifong in Fort Street, North Point.  


    The Refreshing Hot and Sour Soup

    When I was compiling the handwritten recipes from my father and grandfather into a family cookbook, I didn’t only seek to come up with new dishes for my private kitchen. Instead, I aspired to sublimate traditional Chinese cuisine by integrating it with the excellent “look”, “aroma”, and “taste” that I have learnt from French pastry, international culinary, and French cuisine respectively. Inspired by the foods served in Mak Kee and my practical knowledge in integrating the essence of “look, aroma, and taste”, I deconstructed the hot and sour soup and repackaged its ingredients in a completely different form. By substituting the traditional content such as Jinhua ham, mushrooms, Zhenjiang vinegar with ingredients of similar taste like Parma Ham, dried Shiitake mushrooms, and Balsamic vinegar, then complementing those elements with kombu broth and miso for an umami flavour, spring onion croutons adapted from Mak Kee’s scallion pancakes for a fresh aroma, and eggs for garnishment, I created the Crystal Dumpling with Miso Dashi and Rosemary Mushrooms with Spring Onion Croutons. Through modernising the traditional recipe with cross-regional ingredients and innovative cooking method, I wish that  my hot and sour soup in crystal dumplings will reinvigorate the taste buds of the kaifong in North Point.


    Dumpling Wrap:

    70ml boiling water
    35g wheat starch flour
    35g potato starch
    ½ tsp. vegetable oil



    40g button mushrooms, finely sliced
    40g chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced
    5g shallots, finely diced
    ½ pc. / 30g soy braised firm tofu, finely diced
    2g dried black fungus, finely diced
    1 tbsp. Chinese bamboo shoot, finely diced
    1 slice / 15g Parma ham, finely chopped
    2 slices chorizo slice, finely chopped
    40g green soybean, finely diced
    40g carrot, finely diced
    25g white miso
    40g kimchi, finely chopped
    15ml balsamic vinegar
    Some vegetable oil, for frying


    Pickled Shimeji & Shiitake:

    40g shallots, sliced
    10g garlic, sliced
    55ml rice wine vinegar
    35ml sweet white wine
    10ml light soy sauce
    1 pc. bay leaf
    ½ sprig. rosemary
    1 sprig . tarragon
    50g shimeji mushrooms
    6 shiitake mushrooms

    Spring Onion Croutons:

    Some white bread loaf, diced into 2 cm cubes
    Some sesame oil
    1 spring onion finely chopped
    A pinch fine sea salt


    Mini Egg Yolk Pancake:

    1 egg yolk
    Some Japanese sesame oil



    6 shiitake mushrooms
    12 shimeji mushrooms
    Some radish cress
    6 slices dulse /seaweed
    6 mini egg yolk pancakes
    6 spring onion croutons
    Some sesame oil
    Some chilli oi

    Shiitake Blaze Mushroom Dashi
    1. Boil the kombu and the dried blaze mushrooms with water. Switch to medium fire once after boil. Bring up to 80°C and hold at that temperature for an hour.
    2. Pour the kombu water over the dried shiitake mushrooms and set aside to infuse for 30 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve (reserving the soaked mushrooms and dashi) into a clean saucepan, then add the white soy, mirin,and sake. Keep in the fridge. to reheat before serving
    3. Reheat the dashi slowly before serving.
    Dumpling Instructions:


    Pickled Shimeji & Shiitake
    1. Begin by pickling the shimeji & shiitake mushrooms. Place the shallots, garlic, vinegar, white wine, soy sauce, bay leaf, and rosemary into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, add the tarragon and leave to infuse overnight in the fridge.
    2. The next day, trim the stalks from the mushrooms and pour the cold pickling liquor over them through a sieve, to remove the herbs and aromatics. Ensure they are fully submerged and leave to pickle for 24 hours.
    Dumpling Fillings:
    1. Trim the pickled mushroom, set aside.
    2. Meanwhile, make the filling. Fry the sliced mushrooms in a dash of oil until caramelized and most of the moisture has evaporated.
    3. Add oil into a pan, sauté the shallots. Add in the tofu, black fungus, bamboo shoots, Parma ham, chorizo, carrot, green soybean and season well. Add in kimchi along with the reserve shiitake and blaze mushrooms from making the dashi, and finely chop everything together to create a paste. Set aside to cool.
    1. Make the dumplings by sieving the potato and wheat starches together in a bowl. Quickly pour the boiling water into the bowl, whisking vigorously so that the hot water gelatinizes as much flour as possible.
    2. Turn the dough out onto a bench, then add the oil and knead until it is smooth, elastic and starts sticking to the bench. Roll the dough through a pasta machine on the second-to-last setting, then cut out 6 circles around 8 cm in diameter using a pastry cutter.
    3. Place around 8~10g of the filling into the centre of each circle, then bring the edges to the middle and pinch them closed to create a three-pointed dumpling (try to remove as much air as possible). Keep in the fridge on baking paper until ready to serve.
    4. When ready to serve, set up a bamboo steamer over a pan of simmering water. 
    5. Gently reheat the dashi and place the dumplings into the steamer along with the pieces of dulse and cook for 7–10 minutes. Meanwhile, pan-fry the shiitake mushrooms with a small amount of oil until golden.
    6. To plate, slice two of the shiitake mushrooms in half. Place a halved shiitake mushrooms into each bowl along with a dumpling and piece of dulse. Drain the pickled shimeji mushrooms and place around the dumpling, then whisk in a little white miso and yuzu juice into the hot dashi until you’re happy with the flavour. Pour the dashi into the bowls and garnish with radish cress, mini egg pancake, sesame oil and chilli oil. Serve with spring onion croutons immediately.




    Mini Egg Yolk Pancake

    1. Whisk the egg yolk and set aside
    2. In a non-stick pan, heat up sesame oil with low fire, add ½ teaspoon each time onto the pan slowly, pan-fry the mini pancake until both sides turn golden.

    Spring Onion Croutons:
    1. Preheat oven to 190°C. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
    2. In a large bowl, evenly drizzle some sesame oil over the bread cubes. Then evenly sprinkle the spring onion and salt over the bread. Toss gently until well-combined.
    3. Spread the bread cubes out in a single layer on a baking sheet.
    4. Bake until golden, turning once halfway through cooking in order to brown all sides of the croutons. The cooking time will depend on the thickness of the cubes, so watch to be sure that they do not burn. (Generally take between 10-15 minutes.)
    5. Remove from oven, and let cool completely. Use immediately, or store in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.