I had heard a delectable rumour that there was a Chinese restaurant in Brisbane that served suckling pig to those who would wish to partake of its gelatinous porky deliciousness... and pay a $100 deposit....
The rumours were true, and that restaurant is Happy Chef BBQ (187 Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley).
I had often wandered past this restaurant while on my way to chinatown, gawking at the glistening barbecued delights hanging in the window, while I clutched a bottle of dodgy wine purchased at the hideously expensive bottle shop at the Elephant & Wheelbarrow.
My experience of Happy Chef was probably not the usual, considering I feasted upon 7 courses of piglet with 22 friends at $35pp plus $1 corkage (which is an awesome bargain, I know) while the other patrons partook of the usual Chinese fare which I will definitely have to go back and try.
The night started off on the right trotter when they brought out our special friend out to say hello (or goodbye) before they took piggy away to get sliced and diced for our eating pleasure.
I particularly liked the evil maraschino cherry eyes - he looked like quite a happy little fellow otherwise.
A suckling pig is technically a piglet fed on its mother's milk and slaughtered at two to six weeks old. The pig is often roasted and sometimes slow cooked. The meat is tender and often a little gelatinous, which is apparently due to the amount of collagen in the meat.
Happy Chef BBQ took its cues from a traditional Peking Duck banquet and we first received piglet pancakes with hoisin sauce.
It sounded like a good idea at the time, but the problem with suckling pig skin is that it goes very crisp and thin when roasted and becomes the hardest substance on earth. Let's just say that I'm going to need some dental work after munching on this pancake...
Next came a really wonderful pig soup.
It was meaty and delicious with little bits of our friend floating in it along with some shiitakes for good measure. This was probably my favourite course.
Next was the pig san choi bau which was ok, but nothing flash - in fact it was really too salty.
After these little dalliances with our new friend piggy-in-the-middle, it was time to get serious with some mains. Three communal bowls of fairly average piglet stir fries were brought out. I'll admit, the sizzling lemongrass pig (pictured) was actually pretty good with some striking flavours, but I think I was expecting more succulent piggage: the morsels while plentiful, were a little chewy.
Finally, to our surprise, we were treated with dessert which was included in the low low price of $35 per head - a bonus we hadn't expected. There was a choice of fried ice cream or deep fried banana. Obviously there was no contest as banana, batter and heart attack inducing oil really is a match made in heaven .
Apart from the great pig experiment, it seems that Happy Chef BBQ has quite a good and VERY CHEAP menu with most dishes costing between $11 to $14. In particular, I was quite interested to see they had a congee menu which is not something I've seen much in other chinese restaurants in the Valley and will certainly go back to try.
The restaurant itself is really nothing that flash: it has the kind of tiles you'd find in a dodgy public toilet, 80s style chairs, cramped interior and no toilets (which means yes, you need to go to the Valley Mall toilets, which I did, and will never speak of again). Honestly though, if it's cheap eats you're after before a night of debauchery this is the place for you.
All in all it was a great night out for myself and 22 friends who all enjoyed gorging themselves on the carcass of an innocent little porker. Really you couldn't ask for more than that.
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