All hail the Quince!

December 19th, 2013 | Posted by greg in Daily life...

Hong Kong is an amazing place for chefs.  We can get virtually anything we want from the fresh produce markets around the world at almost any time of the year.  Yet, it appears like 90% of the imported fresh produce is dictated by our suppliers.  Convenience? Lack of creativity? Laziness from either party? Or simply a lack of investigation? I’m not sure … perhaps, it’s a mix of all of the above.

            As an example when “burrata” came to Hong Kong. It became the new mozzarella instantly!  As soon as a new product arrives with potential, you see it popping up everywhere.  Does it mean that trends in menu are dictated by suppliers.

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You see, back home where I’m from, the markets are full of seasonal produce.  You can arrange a daily trip to source the best and the freshest for your seasonal menu. But Hong Kong works the opposite way.  We are in a city where we follow the seasons of every region and source our ingredients from wherever they are in season.  Then, when the chef eventually decides to rule out creativity, he’ll use strawberries all year round.  There is local produce but I won’t go there this time or I run out of lines talking about QUINCE!

Almost a decade ago, the hot talk in town was quince paste.  It has since become the number one cheese plate condiment.

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Quince – a fruit that made my fingertips turn black when I was a young lad peeling and cutting this super hard and ugly looking fruit.  Actually, some are quite beautiful and reminiscent of pears, the family they belong to.  As a matter of fact, I brought back some quince from home and my mother-in-law thought it was a pear.  If you have ever tasted a raw quince before, you can image her face when she bit into one!  At my parents’ home, quince always ended up in tarts or as jelly used with game dishes.

As early as the 14th century in Europe, quince had its place in food stardom although it was often referred to as an unpleasant fruit but once cooked, things changed.

Quince is an amazing fruit, full of pectin and with an impressive quality to transform itself into a smooth fruit with honey taste once it gets cooked slowly.  Perhaps one of the reasons why it isn’t more popular on menus, is that people don’t know how to cook and use it.

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With one of the highest level of pectin in its category, making jelly with it is the simplest thing to do. Also, if you have the time to peel and cut it into quarters and slowly poach it, they become an incredible fruit for warm “clafoutis” with sheep milk ice cream and a drizzle of honey.

The quince can become an ice cream flavor as well.  For a chestnut dessert, I poached quince disks in brown sugar and lime syrup, it was fabulous! Can you picture a custard tart with a bed of mashed poached quince as the base? Or poached quince tatin with a huge dollop of crème fraiche? Spectacular!  Actually, you can use quince to replace apples and pears and if cooked right, you won’t believe it’s not a pear!

Quince is a fruit that has enough guts to hold its place on game dishes, perhaps poached with the all-star spices juniper berries, black pepper kernels, star anise and sautéed in caramel deglazed with vin jaune – and all you can say it “Hail to the Quince!”

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