Step inside Dragon Noodles Academy, a traditional Chinese eatery tucked away on one of the narrower lanes on Central, and you’ll find a slice of old Hong Kong from the 1970s coming alive before your eyes. With its retro Kung Fu-themed décor, the restaurant smoothly transports you to the past with inherent elements from Chinese culture like lion dance masks, hand-carved dragons, traditional weapons, etc.
A further wave of nostalgia awaits, however, as soon as you glance at the menu. On offer till 31 August is a specially curated culinary experience – A Tasting Journey in Nostalgic Guangzhou, a selection of disappearing dishes from a bygone era. Created by chefs Winson Yip and KC Mak, the menu evokes memories of home and grandma’s cooking, albeit through a healthier reinterpretation that uses less oil, less salt and no MSG.
So with our interest already piqued, we dug into the appetisers, Steamed Siu Mai Pork Dumplings with Quail Eggs. While the dumplings themselves were quite standard, the exquisite craft of adding the quail eggs on top set this dish apart. The next dish, the classic Cantonese Double-Boiled Whole Winter Melon with Lobster and Crab Meat in Soup was full of the goodness of lobster, crab meat and melon, and was ideal for summers. We loved the crunchiness of the seeds, the softness of the melon and the tenderness of the meat – so much so that we went for second helpings of the soup!
Suitably satisfied, we turned our attention to the main course – Baked Fish Intestines with Egg, Deep-Fried Dough Fritter and Dried Tangerine Peel. Fish intestines were something we hadn’t tried before and, frankly, were quite unsure about how it may pan out. But the dish that was put in front of us – a typical Hakka speciality of steamed fish intestines with eggs, ginger, garlic chives and dried mandarin peel – was unexpectedly well-balanced, with the eggs all but cancelling the bitterness of the fish intestines.
Next, we tried the Pan-Fried Lotus Root Paste Cakes which were a perfect balance of crunchy and soft, given an added dimension through the sweet chilli dip that accompanied it.
However, the most Instagrammable dishes of the evening were the desserts. Both the Flowering Tofu and the Flower in Jelly with Gum Tragacanth were delicately sweet, beautifully executed dishes that would please even those who don’t have a sweet tooth. The Flower in Jelly with Gum Tragacanth seemed to be a particular hit with the diners, given its smoky awesomeness, but those who have room for more should surely not miss the Flowering Tofu which is a hidden gem full of subtle gingery goodness.
With one foot in the past and the other in the present, Dragon Noodles Academy, indeed, seems to have mastered the fine art of nostalgic cuisine.
Dragon Noodles Academy (DNA)
Shop no. G04, G/F, Man Yee Arcade, Man Yee Building, 68 Des Voeux Road, Central
Text: Suchetana Mukhopadhyay