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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Life is uncertain, eat dessert first

June 29th, Wednesday

Hong Kong is definitely a place where people live to eat

There’s a reason why Hong Kong carries the reputable label of “Gourmet Paradise” and “World’s Fair of Food”.

My food experiences thus far in Hong Kong have been nothing short of amazing.

Bubble tea

Dim sum

Street Food

But none could compare to what I ate last night.

Last night, my life changed forever.

Yesterday after work, my roommate went to the Mandarin Cake Shop in Central. The place just happens to be called by some websites as Hong Kong’s best bakery.

The city’s “must-visit” for sweet indulgences did not disappoint.

When this box opened:

We were greeted by this beautiful sight:

My lovely, wonderful, thoughtful, generous, selfless, caring, kind roommate had brought back 6 delectable morsels for us both to sample.

I know, I was so taken aback by this enormous act of random kindness that I was immobilized for the next 5 minutes.

But don’t worry; 2 minutes later, I was brandishing a fork and deciding on which morsel to attack first.

In the words of Jason Love, “I want to have a good body, but not as much as I want dessert.”

1.        American cheesecake

The creamy filling had a smooth and creamy texture with just the right balance of sweetness and tartness. The crumbly crust held up against the velvety filling, and provided the perfect textural contrast. It was rich enough to seem decadent, but the light texture balanced it all out.

2.        Opera cake

One mouthful of this dessert was enough for the both of us to immediately declare it was ambrosia. The soft layers of cookies soaked in coffee syrup retained a bit of their crunch which provided a lovely contrast with the lush coffee-flavored butter cream. The rich, smooth dark chocolate ganache cut through the aromatic coffee with an acidic chocolate aftertaste that beckoned us to take bite after bite.

3.        Mango tart

With generous chunks of luscious, ripe mango, this was a sweet tart indeed. The flaky buttery crust housed a rich bed of creamy custard and finished with large, flavorful chunks of mango on top. The crust was the best part of the tart: crisp but not overly crunchy. The velvety custard was the perfect contrast for the sweet fruit.

4.        Sacher cake

The edible gold leaf on top of the cake made it especially fun to eat. The texture was fairly dense, but was packed with flavor from each of its layers. The mild apricot jam lent a light citrus tang to each bite of the cake and the rich chocolate fondant icing packed a strong cocoa flavor. The center of the cake was the best; the abundance of apricot jam provided an orangey sweet note accompanied by bold chocolate undertones.

 5.        Carrot cake

The even layers of dense cake had a good balance between the carrots and spices. Although it was not truly exceptional, the generous amounts of butter-smooth cream cheese frosting infused each bite with sweet deliciousness.

6.        French cream horn

The deceivingly simplistic cream horn had a smooth and shiny appearance that reminded one of a fine flaky croissant. However, upon breaking into the shell that housed generous mounds of whipped cream, the flavor proved to be similar to a cream puff. The crisp buttery pastry and mounds of soft cream paired to create a dessert that was both simple yet complicated at the same time.

The Mandarin Cake Shop
Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
5 Connaught Road
Mezzanine floor (M floor)
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: 2825 4008

After eating enough cake to induce a sugar coma, we went for an hour long run with another intern at a nearby park.

When we came back, sweet dreams were to be had.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Wanchai Wanderings: Bubble Tea

Wednesday, June 29th

This post will be the first of a series called Wanchai Wanderings. In the series, will showcase the nearby eateries that me and my fellow intern from work discover during our lunch hour.

Today’s agenda was focused on bubble tea.

What is bubble tea?

It’s a Taiwanese creation of a milky drink (often containing strongly brewed black tea, condensed milk, and sweetener) that contains chewy balls of tapioca. I suppose you could call it “tea you can eat.”

Bubble tea is easily identifiable by a big fat straw, which is essential to suck up the tapioca balls. When you drink bubble tea, the tapioca pearls are sucked up with the drink and are eaten. 

I had been craving bubble tea ever since I had landed in Hong Kong, but had never had a chance to get one.

On our way to the MTR station yesterday, we discovered a bubble tea stand within close distance to our workplace. Thus, we decided to come on our lunch break today and get some refreshments to go with our lunch.

Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side, and it started sprinkling the second we got off the elevator.

Then, what started as a light rain quickly transformed into a full-fledged thunderstorm within three minutes.

Despite being quite wet at this point, we decided to bravely forage ahead to our destination.

However, it only continued to rain harder, so we were forced to seek shelter in a bakery.

We were tempted by the bakery’s many tempting desserts as well as their impressive array of dimsum…

But, we realized that they would only get soggy on our way back to the office.

Thus, we foolishly foraged on for another five minutes in the miserable rain until we reached our destination.

Of course, the rain slowed down to a light sprinkle minutes after we got to the drink shop.

There were a ton of flavors to choose from.

I ordered an original bubble tea (12 HK) and my coworker ordered a chocolate bubble tea (14 HK)

Verdict: I was only able to drink 2/3s of my tea. The first half was good, but the second half was overly sweet. Additionally, perhaps because of my nonexistent milk consumption in Hong Kong, I felt that it was also a bit too rich.

The lady who took our order mentioned that they also have a mango milk tea, so perhaps I’ll order it in the future sans the milk.

My coworker’s tea choice was quite good; the chocolate flavor was reminiscent of a dark chocolate bar.

The drinks were rather large, and had a fair amount of tapioca, so it looks like dinner will be on the light side tonight.

On our agenda tomorrow? Dessert.

On a separate note, Hong Kong students (recent high school graduates) get their university placement exam results tomorrow. This places a huge amount of stress upon them because the scores determine which universities they will go to. (They receive their university placements in the following week).

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2011 in Food, Internship, Wanchai Wanderings

 

Murder in the Orient

Tuesday, June 28th

Today, I bid farewell to a longtime friend of mine.

We had been through so much together.

14.9 mile uphill hikes

Sightseeing

Unfortunately, he just never fully acclimated from the dry Tucson heat to the humid Hong Kong weather, which was evident by the rusting of his hinges.

To put it bluntly, Hong Kong killed my umbrella this morning.

I discovered that this morning after breakfast that my umbrella was no longer capable of retracting. Thus, it was perfectly functional for sheltering me against the pelting rain droplets during the walk to the MTR station at Festival Walk.

However, it would not, and could not, for some reason, close.

I might not be a Hong Kong native, but I knew one thing for sure: I was not going to be let on the train with a fully open umbrella.

Thus, I was forced to leave my umbrella in its open glory outside Maxim’s bakery at the MTR station.

Luckily, 7-11 (which is ubiquitous in MTR stations) sells umbrellas here (Not that I’m surprised since the place has pretty much everything)

I had the choice of a small one (42 HK) and a big one (72 HK)

I say, go big or go home.

Everyone, meet big bubba:

Although this one was a bit pricier than his smaller counterpart, its size makes it quite versatile.

You can use it as a cane:

And its impressive length could even come in handy as a weapon against warding off thieves:

Who knows? Maybe this was a blessing in disguise.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2011 in Daily life

 

Navigating Hong Kong: the MTR

I’m excited to say that as of today, my humble blog has exceeded a thousand views! I hope that all of you continue to follow me for the remaining 6 weeks that I will spend inHong Kong (I’m going to be here for a total of 8 weeks).

Getting around in Hong Kong

Some people have asked about how the transportation is in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong transportation is THE most coordinated and efficient system that I have ever used. The MTR (short for the Mass Transit Railway), which is the Hong Kong subway, is the easiest and most efficient way of getting around Hong Kong.

Everything is clearly labeled in English and Chinese, so navigation is quite easy.

Additionally, the signs for the MTR subway station are easy to find. There are signs everywhere telling you how to get to the nearest MTR station. When you see one of the signs below, you know that you are at the right place (it’s the same through Hong Kong regardless of location). Additionally, there are so many MTR stations and exits Hong Kong that if you ask someone where the nearest MTR station is, they will most likely be able to point you in the correct direction.

Once you’re on the MTR, there is a little electronic map above most of the doors. This interactive map allows you to:

  • See what line you are currently on
  • See which stop you are at and how many stops you have left before you have to get off. (There is a red arrow that will point from the stop the subway is currently at to the direction of the next stop)
  • See if you are on the right line (i.e. red line), but riding in the wrong direction (i.e. accidentally riding north instead of south)

Another thing I love about the MTR is that the wait time is never long because a new one arrives about every 5 minutes or so. Although the subway stations can get very crowded, most are very clean. The majority have an AC system, although during rush hour, it can be hard to tell with the body heat coming from hundreds of people.

In addition to efficiency and easy navigability, it is also a very cost effective way of getting around the city because it charges you by stop. With the bus system, you pay a flat fee (usually around 10 HK) regardless of how long your destination is. For example: it takes me about 9.5 HK each way to get to work from Kowloon Tong to Wanchai when I use just the subway. However, when I took a subway/bus combination method of getting to work, I paid 4 HK for the subway and an additional 9.5 HK for the bus fare.

I wouldn’t recommend using the bus as a transportation method for many reasons. Although the names of the stops are all in English on the map, most of the bus drivers don’t speak or read English so it can be difficult to determine which stop to get off at. Also, most bus stops are outside, so it can get quite hot in the humidity. I imagine that it would be even more miserable when it is raining. Additionally, some buses can run late depending on traffic (which can vary greatly), so it’s not a very time efficient method.

If you are planning on traveling to Hong Kong, you must get to know the “Octopus” card.

Get to know it: it will become your best friend. The Octopus card is an electronic cash-card that you can use to ride both the subway and bus system. It can also be used in most convenience stores and supermarkets to pay for purchases, so it also works kind of like a debit card. I’ve found that most large supermarkets and bakeries will accept it as payment. However, you do have to be careful when using it; swiping the card does not take a lot of effort, so it can be easy to mindlessly spend money.

Here are my tips for riding the MTR:

  • Keep in mind that the places to reload the Octopus card typically only takes 50 HK or 100 HK bills
  • Friday evening is the worst time to ride the subway because it’s when people go out to eat dinner, clubbing, shopping, etc. I would definitely recommend not active riding of the MTR on Friday evening if you’re a Hong Kong newcomer
  • There is no concept of personal space: during rush hour, it can get so crowded that getting off the subway can be a challenge
  • When you have one more stop before you have to get off, try to edge your way towards one of the door; it will make exiting a lot easier
  • Once the doors beep three times, that means that they are about to close. I would not recommend trying to run into the subway car at this time, because there is a chance that the doors will close on you
  • If you find that seats are suddenly available, I wouldn’t recommend sitting down. You might think that you have good luck on that day, but that’s usually not the case. Chances are, the subway is approaching the last stop of the line, so everyone (including you) has to get off.
 
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Posted by on June 28, 2011 in Daily life

 

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Posted by on June 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

A Crash course in Hong Kong Culture and Customs

Business

Punctuality: Most Hong Kong people arrive on time for meetings and events. If you’re running late, it’s best to call and apologize ahead of time for the delay.

Business cards: An exchange of business cards is quite common. I’ve noticed that most have both Chinese and English printed on them. It is important to use both hands to both receive and give the business card. Additionally, it is considered polite to look the card over before putting it away.

Acknowledgement: Shaking hands is considered to be appropriate behavior. When people are introduced to one another, you should nod your head in acknowledgement when their name is stated.

Daily Life

Personal Space: Most people grow up here without the concept of personal space, which is probably due to the lack of space in public areas. Thus, on the MTR, it is not uncommon for people to stand right next to you and be touching you. Additionally, it is very common for people to squish into an already full subway or elevator.

Spitting and belching: Although people do belch everywhere, you will never see anyone spit. Why? The government enacted a law that imposes a hefty fine of a couple thousand dollars if one spits on the ground. There are also strict laws for littering and not wearing your seatbelt.

Rude questions: Chinese people are very open. They are not afraid to ask invasive questions such as how big your tv is, how much you paid for it, and how much your monthly salary is. They’re not trying to invade your personal space: most are just comparing to see if you got a better deal than they did.

Eating

Toothpicks
After the completion of a meal in a restaurant, toothpicks are used to clean the teeth. When using them, you must use one hand to cover your mouth while using the other to clean your teeth. 

Chinese Banquet: Most Chinese banquets consist of 8 or more courses. Most meals are eaten family style; the dishes are placed on the table and are then passed around or placed in the center of the table on a turntable. Take small portions! If you stuff yourself silly with the first few courses, you won’t have any room in your stomach for the remainder of the meal.

Paying for meals: Companions will sometimes split the bill for the meal, however, this does not happen every time. If you have been invited to dinner, and your host insists on paying for the meal, don’t try to argue. Let him or her pay for the meal and thank them. However, do expect to return the offer and treat him or her to a meal in the near future.

Food on the table: When you go out to eat, it is common for little dishes of peanuts of cucumbers to be brought to the table. However, it is not always free. Some restaurants charge extortionate amounts of money for these tiny plates. It is best to ask if the items are free. If not, then you should ask the waiter to take them away to avoid being charged.

Eating at a Fast Food Restaurant: When you’re eating at a restaurant and have a few extra seats at your table, expect others to join you at your table. Because Hong Kong is a crowded city, people are not afraid to sit with perfect strangers. However, most people are polite and will ask if you are saving the seat.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2011 in Culture

 

Meat-free Zone

Saturday, June 25th

Today marked the second sponsored event of the summer.

After meeting up at 9:45 in the lobby, we were off to Hong Kong Park, which is in Admiralty.

Our first stop was the Lock Cha Tea Shop.

Did you know that all tea is from the same tree?

There are actually 6 different types of tea: green, white, yellow, greenish, red, and black.

There’s a really great way of remembering them:

A panda (black and white) is crossing the road (yellow, red, green traffic lights) eating bamboo (greenish) Nifty, huh?

Green tea should be steeped using cool water by putting the tea leaves in the water first.

We also learned about the correct method of brewing tea.

Red tea, which is what westerners consider black tea, is steeped using boiling water.To correctly brew red tea, you warm the tea pot with hot water. Then you put the tea leaves in the teapot and follow it with boiling water.

It’s also important to pour tea into teacups in a circle so this way all the teacups will have the same concentration. Otherwise, the first and last cups of tea poured will differ.

Afterwards, we explored the park while we waited for lunch to be served.

(My roomie and I)

And finally, it was time to eat!

We had a vegetarian dim sum feast of the following:

rice dumplings with a mushroom peanut filling


Stir-fried vermicelli in “Singapore Style”, 星州炒米

Fried turnip cake, 蘿蔔糕

Steamed parsley vegetables dumpling, 香茜粉果

Steamed buns with carrot and cabbage filling


Golden mushroom turnover, 白玉金菇角

Shiitake mushroom caps with faux meat filling

Seared and stuffed bell pepper caps

Sweet glutinous rice cakes with red bean filling (very chewy)

Peanut mochi balls rolled in desiccated coconut

Afterwards, we went back to Avenue of the Stars, which looked completely different from when we went last week.

(Yes, that is a statue of Bruce Lee)

(That’s Andy Lau’s star) You can read his bio here, apparently, he’s quite famous.

In the evening, I went swimming with some interns at the City U Pool. The entrance fee was a bit steep at 28 HK, but the facility was absolutely beautiful.

 

The pool was in long course (each lap was 50 meters), which meant each lap was long. But I managed to get in 3,000 meters before going back to eat dinner. All in all, it was a great day.

 

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2011 in Culture, Food, Sponsored Event, Travel

 

Friday outing to Mongkok

Friday, June 24th

I can’t believe today marks my second Friday of working in Hong Kong, it’s crazy how fast time passes by!

Today, I finally finished my backend project. I’ve been working on a step by step manual for customers to reference when they use our system. It involved lots of screenshots, editing, and cropping, but I’m really pleased with the end result.

After work, I met up one of my fellow interns at the Langham Place stop at the Mongkok MTR station. Then, we were off to Ladies Market (it’s where most of the food, entertainment, and shopping is clustered around).

I must say that Hong Kong has some of the most creative phrases I’ve ever seen:

After passing many food stalls, we decided that it was time to get some dinner. We soon discovered that Soy Street has many amazing restaurants and food stalls (it’s in the 2nd or 3rd block of Ladies Market).

We managed to find a place that was clean and had menus in English (I speak Mandarin Chinese and she speaks Cantonese, but none of us can read traditional).

Hers: [braised Cantonese pork noodles (23 HK) with a side of Chinese brocolli (13 HK)

Mine (congee with shredded salt pork and preserved egg) (24 HK)

I have to say that this congee was the best that I’ve had thus far in Hong Kong. The velvety texture of the rice had the perfect consistency and the stock that they cooked the rice in was infused with scallops and chicken broth.

With our stomachs satisfied, we went out to wander around Mongkok. We soon discovered that Soy street has a fruit market right next to all the eateries.

We bought some lychee (16 HK, but the guy made us buy 2 kilos)

And longyan (18 HK a kilo)

Then, we stopped to get dessert in the form of egg puffs!

Egg Puffs, which are also known as Gei Dan Jai or 雞蛋仔, are a Hong Kong style waffle that are a common street food. They can best be described like bubble wrap, with a crisp outer layer and a soft interior that is reminiscent of sponge cake.

On the way back to the subway station, we passed the silver man:

My friend told me that they have them in San Francisco. Evidently, it’s a real person that dresses up like that and people put money in the cup next to him?

And on the subway back to City U, we learned why Hong Kong people are always able to get to the subway on time:

They have wings. We just can’t compete.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2011 in Daily life, Food, Travel

 

Good things come to those who walk

Thursday, June 23rd23

Today was a productive day at the office.

The day was off to a great start with a new breakfast item: zong zi!

As you all know, I have a deep love for zong zi, which can be seen here and here.

So what exactly are zong zi? They are made of glutinous rice and are stuffed with delicious fillings such as shitake mushrooms, pork, peanuts, and chestnuts. They can be both sweet or savory, but my favorite are the savory ones.

The ones we had this morning were so good that I wanted to have a third one. Although zong zi might not look very big, they were very satiating, so it’s usually advisable not to eat more than one regular sized ones. (These were the size of a deck of playing cards)

(The two I devoured were more than enough with a bowl of rice porridge and an unpictured apple)

(The glutinous rice was hiding pieces of mushroom, mung beans, and pork. Holy yum)

At work, I was the victim of Hong Kong marketing.

Apparently, a company that places secretaries and executive assistants was using cupcakes as advertisements. We got a whole box of them delivered in a fancy box with ribbons.

I have to say that Hong Kong people really know how to eat. Not only is their dim sum amazing, their cupcakes are evidently just as outstanding.

The combination of mocha frosting and dense, moist cake was out of this world good.

It was so good in fact that we tried to find out the bakery responsible for the delectables. However, we were only able to find (through the company’s Facebook page) that they not only give out cupcakes, but evidently also use jelly beans and even whiskey for marketing purposes.

Evidently, delicious tactics work.

After an early lunch, I went to Causeway Bay with a coworker to shadow him in a sales meeting conducted in English.

It was still lunch time when we went, so we got to hang out for a bit in the meeting room.

We were also brought steaming cups of tea, which I thought was nice.

After the meeting (which was with a Macedonian wine company), we set off to find potential merchants.

At this point in time, I would like to say that I successfully walked all over Hong Kong in these shoes.

Evidently, hiking can prepare you for anything in life.

We gathered a lot of business cards, with the majority being from restaurants, bars, and small shops.

I’m glad I was given the opportunity to see what the company’s sales team does. We were extremely lucky that it didn’t rain, although it was rather humid (we’ve had rain for the past 2 days)

Back at the dorms, tofu and cabbage were consumed:

I was successful in convincing a couple of interns to go swimming with me after dinner. Unfortunately, we finished eating around 8, and the pool (which we just found out) closes at 8:30. However, swimming is on the agenda for this weekend!

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2011 in Food, Internship

 

Live, Learn, Intern

June 22nd, Wednesday

As you can imagine, hiking almost 15 miles requires a lot of replenishment.

Some has been in the form of this:

And others in the form of actual meals:

(Fried eggs, toast, steamed buns, apple, and tea)

(Stir fried vegetables, stewed beef and tomatoes, and hot chili sauce)

(shrimp and peanut dumplings, eggs, rice porridge, wheat bun, peanut butter, and banana)

And today, the cafeteria has zongzi! (As you recall, I bought one from Mongkok during our first week). 

(Heads up, Vitasoy can only be described as a gritty sugar and water mixture that is a poor substitute for soymilk)

The zongzi on the other hand was delicious. It had beans, duck yolk, and meat inside, which gave it excellent flavor.

Additionally, I am happy to report that my internship has been going splendidly.

  • This week, I learned how to use social media such as Twitter and Weibo (which is the Chinese version of Twitter) for marketing purposes. Who knew building contacts and establishing followers could be so difficult? By the way, for those of you that Twitter, you can check out MobileFoxx here
  • I also did media research and found newspaper articles that spoke about the company.
  • I’m currently involved in an exciting back end project. The back end is where everything has to happen before the coupon can be seen by the public. I’m glad that I’m able to learn so much through a hands on approach.
  • I now have a very reliable and fast internet connection at my work station. The wireless has been disconnecting me every 10 minutes. Today, the tech guy was nice enough to fix it for me (in less than 10 minutes). Seriously, I’m still in awe of how fast he was able to diagnose the problem and fix it.
  • I have office stationary. Ask anyone you know, I have an odd obsession with school supplies.

Well, I’m off to bed so I can be at the canteen for the 7:45 breakfast. Night!


 
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Posted by on June 22, 2011 in Daily life, Internship

 
 
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