Sunday, January 27, 2008

Dad's Birthday Party at Mission 261

Dad's birthday is on New Year's Eve and we have been going to Mission 261 for a couple of years now. They're very kind to us and provide a spacious private room and two staff members for the evening. I'll have to say this about their service: it's incredible. Chinese establishments aren't renowned for their service, but Mission 261 does an excellent job taking care of their customers.

I didn't photograph every single dish, but the photos represent the highlights. We'll start with the suckling pig. Yes, it's a baby pig roasted whole. I'm slightly queasy about the idea, because I love piglets. Live ones. They're too cute. Anyway, Mission 261 dropped the ball on this dish because the pig was roasted way past done. The skin, which is supposed to be crisp, was about as hard as glass.

Peking duck is one of my favorite dishes. The skin is crispy, the meat is juicy, and its served with simple steamed buns. Place a small spoonful of hoisin sauce on the bun, top it with duck or crispy skin, add a scallion, and you're done. Delicious.

The Chinese version of crab cakes, these are crab balls. They're light and flavorful, with a nice crunch to the skin and a tender filling. Crab cakes can be very heavy, but the crab balls are anything but.

Sau mien, or long-life noodles, are a must for birthdays. They're unbroken noodles cooked with soy sauce, shittake mushrooms, and garlic chives. Tradition dictates that you can't bite into the noodles while putting them in your mouth (i.e. you slurp the entire length before chewing) or else you're essentially shortening the life of the birthday person. It's also a dish that cannot be skipped, out of respect to the birthday person. The noodles are a tad bland, but tradition is tradition.

For dessert, we had a variety of goodies. First was the
sau bao or long-life buns. They're steamed buns filled with mung bean paste. Quite good and not very sweet. This platter is for display (they served freshly steamed ones from steamer trays), and the leaves are made from marzipan. The flower is radish slices intricately arranged into a flower.

Family friends brought a yummy mocha-flavored cake. It was filled with fruit and freshly whipped, mocha-flavored cream. As Asian cakes tend to be, it wasn't overly sweet and very light. Chinese bakeries tend to favor chiffon-style cakes with whipping cream instead of heavier butter/egg yolk-based cakes with buttercream.

I made a cake, too, but it didn't turn out the way I'd hoped. I used a recipe from and I had to substitute mango for strawberries. The recipe also says to whip the frosting to soft peaks and the frosting nearly ran off the cake. With red being the lucky color, I decide to make the writing frosting red, which takes a lot of food coloring paste. Also, with the white frosting being more liquid and not enough air, the red coloring started to run. Oy. The cake was a bit dry, too.

It was a great dinner. Happy Birthday, Dad!

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