The time has come to mark your culinary calendars, as the Shrimp Festival hosted each year by P.F. Chang’s is on! Every year, this popular Asian dining concept is takes feedback from customers to make next year’s festival even more excitingly delicious and successful. Running from late October for three months only, bazaar got a chance to sample the menu before its launch.
P.F. Chang’s The Avenues location manager Marquis offers a friendly greeting at the restaurant’s welcoming reception and we sit down to talk about the origins of the Shrimp Festival. “It originated from our Dynamite Shrimp, which is by far the most popular item on the menu. It really expanded from there.”
After listening to customers’ wishes, P.F. Chang’s head chef invested time in developing the shrimp menu to cater for their requests. This season sees the introduction of an always popular Caesar salad. This starter is made with fresh green Roma leaves, packed full of vitamin K for bone health, and these leaves are the most nutritious of the Romaine lettuce, insists the dish’s creator Chef Moussa Srour.
He further emphasizes, to our glee, that there is not one drop of mayonnaise in this Caesar dressing. Instead, the dressing is unbelievably made from tofu, and the creaminess also comes from the copious amounts of Parmesan used. A depth of fresh flavor comes from marinating the slow-poached butterflied shrimp in lemongrass and the crispy croutons are made from seasoned wonton pastry.
Slow-poaching keeps the whole shrimp tender, and all shrimp are tail-off for ease of eating. You asked for it, and they gave it to you in spades; the wonderfully appetizing Asian Caesar Salad with Lemongrass Prawns.
Chef Moussa goes into the kitchen to check on the dishes being prepared for bazaar but keeps coming back to the table, eager to hear feedback on the new festival menu as each plate comes out. One appetizer that is recommended to us is the Sui Mai Dim Sum, prepared with lemongrass butter and a shrimp-based broth. This has everything in it, all perfectly combined, wrapped up and steamed in six neat parcels.
There is water chestnut, shiitake mushroom and the slightest hint of black bean. Chef proudly declares that, “There is no added salt in this,”, which is surprising because it is supremely moreish which usually comes from salt, so it is good to know that this is a healthier option.
Next comes the Shrimp Tempura Roll. This is a gentle introduction to sushi as everything is cooked in this roll, and you get to experience the pleasure of different textures as well as tastes here. Stuffed with avocado and shrimp, it may be likened to a California Roll, but this is where the exception comes in; no crabsticks here.
You can actually see the whole, fat shrimp that are placed in the middle of the wrap for this Japanese inspired uramaki. Chef Moussa shares the secret on how all the shrimp in each dish are perfectly uniform. Every morning the shrimp are sorted by size and selected for whichever dish they are most suited.
That truly is dedication to plate aesthetics. The ginger rose on the plate is also artfully created; it is almost a shame to pick at the petal slices but the ginger is so sweet, spicy and very juicy, you must eat it.
A steaming plate of Surf and Turf lands at the table and there are distinct ingredients that you can immediately see. Cubes of rib-eye beef, diced potatoes, sprigs of asparagus, and slices of shiitake mushrooms in a butter glaze with large shrimp in the mix.
The Dutch asparagus is al-dente and the rib-eye is juicy because it is seared to maintain succulence. The steamed, then fried, potato pieces are a hearty addition to make this a satisfying main course.
Pineapple Curry Fried Rice may sound like there’s a lot going on in this option but if you cannot consume a Chinese dinner without including a rice based proposition, this does not disappoint. It is the Chinese rice equivalent of a Hawaiian pizza, and that is nothing if not controversial in the foodie world. The sweetness of the pineapple balances the warmth of the spices which comes from the sambal used, and the flavors of orange peel and black pepper emerge too. It is a colorful dish with carrots, and bell peppers of red and green in jasmine rice and shrimp tossed through.
This Shrimp Festival menu is certainly varied; it does seem like there is something for everyone to enjoy. But where is the hot stuff hiding? Here to bring the heat is the General Tso’s Shrimp and Chili Shrimp and Tofu. The latter of the two offerings claims to be the spiciest, but bazaar would not put a bet on this.
General Tso has thrown some whole dry chilies on his shrimp and that can seep through to be devilishly hot with some bites. The tofu is seared, as is the want with Chef Moussa as he says this method of cooking maintains the most flavor. The tofu is soft inside once you get passed the seared surface; it’s like biting into a cube of tofu fondant. (See featured image)
P.F. Chang’s hasn’t just thought of food for this festival. A trio of mocktails has been developed to sit alongside the Shrimp Festival menu. They each have a different level of intensity, freshness or sweetness but all are jewels to behold.
Star anise floats in the Terra Cotta Sunset which has an orange juice base with tea and lemon infusion. You will spy ginger swirling around in the Cucumber Mojito, and try and catch the large slices of fruit in the Strawberry Cucumber Limeade.
The Shrimp Festival may come around each year but you simply must catch it while you can from today until January 2018. We don’t know when in January the festivities are planned to end, so don’t risk missing out on these delectable offerings!
P.F. Chang’s is located at the 1st Avenue—The Avenues, and Gulf Road in Salmiya, next to the Corniche Club. Follow @pfchangsme on Instagram and P.F.Chang’s Middle East on Facebook for the latest updates. For delivery, please call 1821 212.
Featured Image is the General Tso and interiors. Courtesy P.F. Chang’s