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03.23.11 

Supper Club

by Rosa Park, globetrotter, Raw-gasm hunter and bon vivant-tress

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They say the recession instigated the supper club craze in London. Well, whatever the reason may be, I for one am over the moon for this latest trend in dining and I hope it’s here to stay.

The joys of eating out are in tasting those dishes only a star chef can perfect, yet have you ever wished you could skip the dressing-up-going-out-hoo-ha and eat in the comfort of a cozy dining room? The supper club accomplishes this feat with panache.

Though many interpretations of what a supper club is exist, the one I’m referring to is when a chef brings the restaurant to your home. A revamped dinner party, you can enjoy sumptuous meals for a fraction of the price you would pay were you to dine out. And then there is the added bonus of having your friends as the only companions in the “dining establishment.” Be as loud as you want, walk around barefoot if you please, and nab insider cooking tips from the chef. Freedom and intimacy rolled into one attractive meal plan, the supper club is your ticket to a good night on any given day.

I recently attended a supper club at a friend’s home in London. It just so happened to be that the friend in question, Goz Lee, was also the chef. He cooked an East Asian feast of fried oysters to start, sukiyaki for the main course, and tang yuan soup to finish, with enough champagne to intoxicate a small country. Lee says his choice for the menu was based on the weather: “What better meal to have during the coldest winter in England than a steaming pot of savory beef broth?”

Sharing his personal sukiyaki recipe, Chef Goz Lee offers his two cents on the supper club scene for Served Raw.

Sukiyaki, the end result.

what is your take on the supper club trend in London?

Goz Lee: There are plenty of supper clubs in London. They’re basically eating restaurant-quality food in your home or in someone else’s home. The chef quality ranges from famous stars to amateur enthusiasts. It has become a huge trend in the last couple of years. It’s one of those funny byproducts of the recession. It’s a fantastic response to a dismal mood, where people gather, break bread and have a good time. But there are also a lot of people who don’t know anything about cooking that have jumped on this bandwagon to make a quick buck. By becoming too trendy, the supper club is now attracting the young hipster set who is more about the scene than the food, which to me loses sight of what a supper club is and should be. My number one priority is to make sure my guests are fed the best of what I have to offer, before ambiance and guest list, which are of course also very important.

what is the rationale behind the dishes selected for the supper club I attended at your place recently?

Simplicity is often the best method in having a good time. Nothing beats friends sitting around a sukiyaki hotpot having a fuss-free meal, where everyone kind of gets to cook their own course. This way, no one complains about their meat being over or undercooked, rubbery or tasteless, unless they are incredibly self-critical. As for the tang yuan soup, people will tell you that it is customary in China to celebrate the arrival of winter by eating this dessert. The round shaped balls also signify togetherness of family and friends. I personally like it just because it’s hot, sweet and gingery. What is there not to like about glutinous rice balls in a hot sweet broth that explode with molten peanut or sesame or red beans? You never know which one of these flavors you are going to get — it’s kind of like a Chinese Kinder Surprise.

how often do you host supper club at your place?
As often as I can and as often as time permits. I try to do it at least every fortnight.

what is the advantage of eating at a supper club over dining out at restaurants?
First, it’s definitely a healthier and thriftier option for you and your friends. If the chef’s reputable or has cooked at a famous restaurant, you are getting a great meal for a fantastic price you couldn’t get elsewhere. The intimacy with the chef is also unbeatable. If it’s a cuisine you are new to or want to know more about, the chef will love to talk to you about it all night. How likely is it that you can walk into the kitchen of a fancy restaurant and do the same? It’s probably not going to happen unless you are a true V.I.P.

The supper club makes everyone feel like a V.I.P. in that sense. And then there are the people you meet. Even if your friend is hosting the supper club, there will always be several guests invited that you have not met before. It’s a wonderful environment to cultivate new relationships with people who share the same passion for food and drink.

Marbled sukiyaki beef, carpaccio-style handwork courtesy of your butcher.

Sukiyaki

Soup Base:
  • A fist-sized beef dripping (Your butcher should have this and if you ask nicely he might even give it to you for free)
  • 70 milliliters (approximately 4 3/4 tablespoons) caster sugar
  • 750 milliliters (approximately 3 cups) water
  • 125 milliliters (1/2 cup) light soy sauce
  • 125 milliliters (1/2 cup) dark soy sauce
  • 100 milliliters (approximately 3 1/3 ounces) sake or vodka
  • 70 milliliters (approximately 1/3 cup) mirin

Contents of Soup:

  • 700 grams marbled sukiyaki beef (you can buy this from a Japanese supermarket. If not go to your butcher and get a cut of beef like a sirloin or fillet get him to do carpaccio slices.)
  • 300 grams (10 1/2 ounces) fresh udon
  • 1 pack shirataki noodles
  • 1 pack konnakyu jelly
  • Half a Chinese lettuce, chopped horizontally into bite-size, 3-inch slices
  • 1 block firm tofu, sliced into neat rectangles
  • 1 leek, sliced horizontally into 1-inch slices
  • 4 large carrots, thinly sliced
  • Handful fresh or dried shitake mushrooms, sliced into half
  • Steamed rice
  • 4 fresh raw free range eggs
  1. Place beef dripping into pot and fry it, allowing the dripping to melt. Once melted, add sugar and quickly stir until the sugar dissolves into the dripping. Be careful not to let the sugar burn.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and let the broth come to a boil.
  3. Adjust taste accordingly. It should taste sweet and salty but not overtly so.
  4. Add leek, mushrooms and carrots and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the sukiyaki beef and udon.
  6. Place the broth with its contents in a hotpot and bring to your dining table and let it cook in front of your guests.
  7. Add a little bit of oil to a separate pan and quickly pan fry all the sukiyaki beef slices to give it the Malliard effect.
  8. Bring sukiyaki beef slices and udon to the table and set it next to the hotpot. Guests can cook their own sukiyaki beef and udon in the hotpot as they see fit.
  9. Serve with steamed rice and eggs.

Notes: Some people like to dip their sukiyaki beef into raw egg. Make sure you get very fresh eggs to serve with hotpot. Also, make sure to watch the hotpot and do not to let it burn. Add a little bit of water and soy sauce and mirin as needed to maintain consistency and taste of broth.

If you can't find authentic Japanese ingredients, like above, locally then try to source online.