Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Big Bowl Feast at Floating Lotus

Big Bowl Feat at Floating Lotus

I first learned about Big Bowl Feast@poon choi 盆菜 many years ago and have always wanted to try it. It appears to be a traditional type of dish originating from Hong Kong village. I actually thought that it originated from the Hakka region villages in china in the olden days. The big bowl feast is definitely part of the Hakka cuisine but unfortunately for me, my amazing Hakka grandmother who was a wonderful cook never made this.

Wiki further described that "Its origin appears to be invented during the late Song Dynasty. When Mongol troops invaded Song China, the young Emperor fled to the area around Guangdong Province and Hong Kong. To serve the Emperor as well as his army, the locals collected all their best food available, cooked it, and because there were not enough containers, put the resulting dishes in wooden washbasins. In this way, Poon Choi was invented".

The Big Bowl Feast usually makes its appearance during festive periods and celebrations. Every table will have a really huge bowl placed in the middle. In the bowl will be layer upon layer of carefully laid seafood, succulent meats, vegetables and noodles. The dining party will then use their chopsticks and dig into the bowl to grab their share of the tasty morsels.

"When carefully orchestrated, the final composition can create a magical equilibrium of tastes: savoury, earthy and robust. The key is harmony. Everything must taste good when eaten together and that means each item must be well-prepared on its own.

The time-consuming process of cooking each item separately before it is layered in the basin makes preparing poon choi a rather laborious project, not to be undertaken by a kitchen lightweight and often requiring a day or two of cooking in advance with multiple hands on deck.
The key to an appetizing poon choi is the meat. "The sauce from the braised pork is the backbone of the flavour," Prof. Cheung says. "It is layered on top so that the juices trickle down and season every component in between." The freshness from the seafood and the charcoal accents of roasted poultry add more complex dimensions while the vegetables mellow out the flavours."

After reading all that, it had me salivating and sufficiently curious. I was really excited when I was having dinner once at Floating Lotus and noticed that they have this on the menu. With CNY around the corner, it was a perfect way to celebrate and have as part of a reunion dinner. The table was booked and the Big Bowl Feast was ordered a week in advance. The restaurant was also nice enough to discuss and prepared a range of other dishes for us to a set price of £18 per person not inclusive of drinks. We all turned up eager in anticipation as none of us have ever tried this mysterious Big Bowl Feast.

The closest link any of us had was one girl whose mom had it once years ago at a village wedding in China. So you see, it is really not common or easily found even in Malaysia and in the UK.

Big Bowl Feat at Floating LotusBig Bowl Feat at Floating Lotus

We started off with more Yee Sang. You can now get this in take away bags in Malaysia which a friend kindly brought back to London. I just love it. Crunchy, sour, sweet and with vibrant colours, there are so many elements to the Yee Sang.

Big Bowl Feat at Floating Lotus
Big Bowl Feat at Floating Lotus

Next that came was lobster noodles. These lobsters are not as good as one I had in Boston but was still delectable.

A range of other dishes came which I have no idea what the names are but I'll highlight the good ones.

Big Bowl Feat at Floating LotusBig Bowl Feat at Floating LotusBig Bowl Feat at Floating LotusBig Bowl Feat at Floating LotusBig Bowl Feat at Floating Lotus

Beef brisket noodles
Not a lot of us touched this as we already had the lobster noodles beforehand but I managed to eat some at the end and glad that I did. The beef briskets were chewingly tender and the noodles were fantastic. These definitely had the consistency of freshly made noodles and it made a world of difference.

The spicy tofu dish and a sliced lamb with onions stir fry dish were really good too.

Big Bowl Feat at Floating Lotus

Big Bowl Feat at Floating Lotus

Finally the Poon Choi came and it was huge. A huge basin filled to the brim. It took a bit of investigating to see what was given. I could see prawns, BBQ pork, there were even scallops too. Digging further in, there were noodles with vegetables filling the base.

Big Bowl Feat at Floating Lotus

I also spied plenty of pig blood cubes used to flavour the broth.

It was really different, definitely earthy and hearty. I love the variety and abundance of ingredients and the fun of searching to see what tasty morsels you can find. I can safely say that now that I have tried the Poon Choi, I really do like it.

Please click here for more photos.

The Big Bowl Feast is available at £48 for a minimum of 6 people.

Lotus Floating, 38 Limeharbour , Poplar, E14 9RH

Lotus Chinese Floating on Urbanspoon


  1. WOW! This looks so incredible! Never seen this here before...of course, we're usually just dining as two...but something I'll look for for a time when we have a larger group to plan for in advance!

  2. Brett - Please do and let me know what you think of it.

  3. Hi, I tried to find out more details for this but teh restaurant doesnt seem to know what i'm asking for.
    Was this on a special chinese event menu or available all year round??

  4. LittlePika - They have it available on their menu all year round but it is only written in Chinese on the menu. It is pronounced as 'Poon Choi' if that helps when you call...send me an email if you have difficulties and I'll help you.


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