A signature dish makes everyone smile. Restauranteurs delight that their reputation has won a following. The chef is delighted that his creation is growing his reputation. Perhaps best of all, hungry customers look forward with anticipation to enjoy a special dish. I am in that last category.
Visiting my in-laws triggers the signature dish. It’s a local family run eatery, not far from my folk’s home. They know the owners and have a great time connecting with them whenever we stop by for dinner. It is fun to hear the Chinese dialect at a breakneck speed seasoned generously with laughter, teasing and over-the-top complementary expressions.
Eventually, we get around to talking about the meal. That is when the signature dish comes up. There is no need for a special request. It is on the list.
It is served right after the soup. A home-made soup, made from scratch has a rich pork broth. It is filled with Chinese Winter melon. Pork bones keep the flavor filled with seeping doses of pork flavor. The melon is rich with vitamins, flavor and amazing texture.
Then, the signature appetizer dish is served. It is wonderful to see. The aroma is tantalizing. Expectations of flavors are mind-numbing.
Inside large clam shells, there is a medley of fresh seafood. Clams, of course serve as the featured part of the dish. It is mixed with green onions, scallops, shrimp and a sauce that accentuates the best of what God created in the Pacific Ocean. Thin rice noodles are the foundation of this mixture. They soak up the sauce and spread the flavor for a memorable moment of the meal to come.
After a large bowl of hearty soup, this clam delight is enough for a meal. After that I am must picking on the green beans, chicken, fish and steak cubes that follow. That is one of the best features of family style eating. Eat what you like and hide the rest of your satiated appetite by pushing a pile of rice around on your dinner plate.
Whenever your hosts offer you, shake your head vigorously and point to how much food is still left on your plate. Carry on with friendly conversation, spin your plate 25% to give the impression that your food is moving around.
Soon all the food is adjusted. The wait staff comes to box the left-overs. You are satisfied without being stuffed and yet you enjoyed the best dish of all, the signature dish.
photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography