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Fresh is the main flavor

By Pauline D. Loh | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-15 11:48

Fresh is the main flavor

Cooked flower prawns.[Photo by Pauline D. Loh/China Daily]

Fresh is the main flavor

Cockle sashimi platter.[Photo by Pauline D. Loh/China Daily]

When you have access to the freshest ingredient, the next step you take is to make sure you give it the respect it deserves. In Guangzhou, the cuisine is founded on the availability of produce that is either swimming, wriggling or walking around hours before they settle on the dining table.

After our visit to the Huangsha seafood wholesale market, we go back to the kitchens of the Four Points Sheraton where executive chef Ben Huang gives me a few lessons.

We had bought a kilo of banded flower prawns, brought home in a plastic bag pumped full of oxygen so the crustaceans retain their bounce.

These, the chef says, are to be steamed until the prawns are just the right side of translucent, cooked only enough to retain the texture and sweetness. It will be served at table with just a little saucer of the best soy sauce.

It is the best finger food I have ever tasted. The shells came off smoothly, and the heads needed a little tug to remove them, all evidence of the precise timing that went into the cooking. Each morsel was sweet and succulent and the platter disappeared in the few minutes of silence that was homage to the prawns, and the chef.

I wanted to see how our monster cockles were to be prepared and asked permission to go into the kitchen.

These cockles are slightly hairy, although Huang tells me they are a different species from the maohan, or hairy shells sold in northern markets.

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