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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Just My Luck: Ocean Park香港海洋公園

Saturday, July 23rd

I’m a lucky person that has good friends.

Friends who invite me over to their house for amazing home-cooked Indian meals.

Friends that wait with  me in the sweltering heat to eat Michelin-starred dim sum

.

And…

Friends who are able to get me half price admission to Hong Kong theme parks.

One of my friends has a one year membership to Ocean Park and asked me to go with her. I declined because I’d already been there before. Admittedly, this was 8 years ago, but I didn’t remember the park being such a great experience that I had wanted to go again.

Then, she mentioned that she got half price admission coupons with her membership and offered me one of them if I was to go with her.

The two words half price proved to be too hard to resist.

And that’s how I ended up going to Ocean Park (香港海洋公園) for the second time in my life.

We decided to leave the dorms at 9:00 to fully maximize our admission and money. (The park opens at 9:30)

We took the MTR to the Admiralty station and followed the signs.

Then, we followed the crowd outside to the buses.

A short while later, we arrived at the Ocean Park entrance. With the half price coupon, I was able to pay 125 HKD for admission instead of the full price 250 HKD.

I have to say that after entering the park, I was really glad that my friends had talked me into coming to Ocean Park again. The Park had gone through so many changes that I almost didn’t recognize it. It was much more convenient than I remembered, and the landscaping/design of the whole park is amazing.

Ocean Park covers an area of 870,000 square meters and is separated by a large mountain into two areas: The Summit (Headland) and The Waterfront (Lowland). Guests enter in the Lowland, which contains many of the animal exhibits and more “kid-friendly” attractions.

The Summit (which is what we were more interested in) has the roller coasters and more exhilarating attractions. [Tip: if you arrive early like we did, it is advisable to go to the Summit first to go on all the rides before the lunch-time crowds make the lines unbearably long]

We opted not to take the cable cars because there was a long line. Instead, we took the Ocean Express, which is a funicular railway system capable of transporting visitors between the Summit and the Waterfront in 3 minutes[I would highly recommend this for future visits because it's super fast, you get to sit down, and there's virtually no line]

The Summit also provided some amazing views of Hong Kong:

      

After a bit of confusion, we managed to get in line for our first ride: the Rapids

We were really lucky because the ride just opened in June 2011. During the wait for the ride, we kept hearing repeated broadcasts (in Mandarin) warning people not to open their umbrellas while on the ride. (We’re assuming that the message was toward the mainland tourists).

Apparently, the warnings didn’t work, because while we were on the ride, we heard a worker angrily yell at a visitor to close her umbrella while she was on the ride.

The ride was a lot of fun. The two friends that went with me both got soaked, but somehow I managed to stay dry.

The next (and last ride) that we went on was the Mine Train. (I remember going on this ride last time but being so scared that I had to take off my glasses so I couldn’t see how high up we were. In case you couldn’t tell, I’m moderately scared of heights.)

We were really lucky because the line for this ride was really short. This ride was our favorite; and I’m proud to say that I kept my eyes open during the entire time today.

Afterwards, we went to the Space-wheel with plans to ride it.

Unfortunately, we saw the entire progression of the ride and decided not to follow through with the plans.

Translation: I got scared and didn’t want to upchuck before lunch was consumed.

See the video below if you don’t believe me.

After voting not to go on the ride (it was 2 against 1) we found a shady place near a cafe to sit down and eat lunch.

Note: Ocean Park is pretty lax and lets you bring in your own food and water, which can be a great money saver. Their noodle bowls in the food court were around 70 dollars!

We dined on Japanese sweet bread and tuna packets along with some bottled water that we brought.

After lunch, we rode the second longest outdoor escalator in the world to get from the Summit back down to the Waterfront.

We decided to explore the animal exhibits because the sun was fully overhead and it was really hot.

We started off with the goldfish exhibit.

Then we saw the Chinese alligator.

(It’s fake, but doesn’t the alligator look real?)

The place we spent the longest at was the Panda Village.

We were really lucky because usually all the pandas usually sleep in the afternoon.

And in case you ever wanted to see how a panda eats:

We also spent a lot of time in the gift shop.

 

Then, as we were exiting the park, we caught the end of the diving show called Summer Stunt Spectacular that was taking place. The Summer Stunt Spectacular is a high-diving themed performance by a world-renowned international troupe that is comprised of national competition medalists from North America and Europe. In addition to diving from an 80-feet high platform, they put on display a series of jaw-dropping spins and somersaults.

They were even nice enough to take pictures with the audience.

The changes that have been made to Ocean Park really improved it from the last visit. It honestly felt like an entirely different park from the one that I visited 8 years ago. I’m glad my friends convinced me to go so I could experience the Park on this trip.

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2011 in Travel

 

8 Requirements for the Perfect Pineapple Bun 菠蘿包

Pinapple Buns (Bo Luo Bao 菠蘿包) are the iconic Chinese bakery sweet. Whether you’re in a New York Chinatown bakery or in Hong Kong, it’s guaranteed that you’ll be able to find them. 

It’s no surprise that the most well-known bread of Hong Kong; pineapple buns are a perfect representation of the city’s food culture. “Bo luo” is Chinese for pineapple, wheareas “bao” means bread. This bread features a golden pineapple-like pattern pastry on top, but there’s actually no pineapple inside.

Pineapple buns are yet another product of “East meets West.” One common story about the origin of the bread was people wanted something different from traditional western style buns which resembled dinner rolls. Thus, a concoction of sugar, egg, shortening, flour etc was used to create a pastry for the top.

The result?

A new version of bread that had a golden colored crispy top with a soft fluffy interior.

Because of the crispy crust and buttery flavor, the bread is good both hot or warm. In Hong Kong breakfast cafes, they are often served  fresh and warm with a nice thick pat of butter in the center.

Personally, I like to buy them from bakeries. With my repeated consumption of them this summer, I have created a list of 10 requirements for the perfect pineapple bun.

1. Overall presentation

 

  • You want to look for a large crust with a golden-yellow that isn’t too pale, or burnt looking. It should also smell sweet and fresh when you get close to the bakery case (that means they were freshly made).
  • A good crust should have a good amount of visible crackling which resembles a pineapple, but it should not have giant crevices that expose the bun underneath. There should also be no holes or imperfections where pieces of the crust have fallen off.
  • The bun should also have an appealing dome-shape with great height and no signs of deflation.

2. The Bun

  • You want to to look for a delicate, soft and airy bun that is light in texture. If it’s oily or doughy, then it won’t pair well with the fragrant, sweet topping. Likewise, a tough bun will only provide for a regrettable chewy experience.
  • The bun itself should be subtly sweet. It should not be overly sweet (the bun itself shouldn’t overpower the crust). However, the bun also can’t be flavorless, otherwise it’ll feel like the bun isn’t sweet enough.

3. Crust thickness: 

  • The crust should not be super thick (that would provide for an oily experience) and it should also not peel (a sign of excessive use of shortening/butter)
  • The crust should be consistent throughout the bun to ensure that every bite is full of sugary goodness.

4. Crust moistness

   

  • The exterior  should be slightly crunchy in order to create the tiniest of “impact” as you bite into it. If it’s powdery or dry, then it will create an unpleasant “crunchy” sensation. The best crusts should be slightly moist.

5. Crust adherence to bun

  • There should only be semi-adherence, meaning the crust will only fall off naturally and in small bits where it is disturbed, but is still resistant to simple touching and lifting.
  • It should not be glued to the bun like glue, and there should be no giant chunks of crust that fall off as you eat or hold it. You definitely don’t want to have a pile of of crust on the ground, and a naked bun in front of you (a big no-no).

6. Crust surface area

  • You’re looking for extensive coverage, of over 90%. You don’t just want a layer of crust slapped on the top of the bun. You want a crust that fully covers the majority of the bun all the way down to the bottom. The best buns have the tiniest bit of uncovered bun near a bottom ‘corner’ which I like to use \to hold my bun as I eat it.

7. Crust sweetness

  • It should not taste like a mouthful of powdered sugar; it should not induce a sugar coma minutes into taking your first bite. A good crust will make you want to clean up the little crust-crumbs left on your plate.

8. “Bun bite reaction” (The important interplay between bun and bun-eater):

After taking a bite, the bite “edges” of the bun should immediately depress to a shape that reflects the very pressure of that bite. The crust should react similarly but should also maintain its overall adherence to the bun. This is important because bad buns will simply capture the shape of the bite like a mold, while retaining their own internal infrastructure without reflecting the actual pressure of your bite. Below is the perfect bun bite reaction, note – the bun and crust are one:


 
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Posted by on July 29, 2011 in Food

 

Michelin star dim sum: Tim Ho Wan

Sunday, July 24th

Tim Ho Wan the Dim-Sum Specialists (添好運點心專門店)

There is something about great food that allows people to overlook differences and connect with one another. Truly spectacular cuisine can be life changing.

That being said, the bargain hunter in me loves it when great food is cheap, because then you can experience both quality AND quantity.

And thus begins the story of how I had the culinary experience of a lifetime at arguably the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant: Tim Ho Wan.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Michelin ratings, they range from one to three stars and there are only a few hundred restaurants that have been awarded in the entire world. As you can imagine, the vast majority  of them serve expensive meals.

Tim Ho Wan, which means “Add Good Luck”, was started by chef Mak Pui Gor, who previously worked at the Four Seasons Hotel in their three starred restaurant. He was determined to bring good food to the masses.and as a result, despite being awarded the Michelin star rating, Tim Ho Wan still maintains the price and hence.

That translates into fresh made-to-order dim sum at rock bottom prices.

To get there:

  1. Take Exit A2 at Yau Ma Tei MTR station.
  2. When you exit the station at street level, turn backwards to Pitt Street, which is a few steps away. Turn right onNathan Road. Landmark:,KFC/7-11 at this turn.
  3. Walk until you see Bee Cheng Hiang on your right, then turn right into Dundas Street.
  4. Walk down this road until almost the end of the road. You will come to a fork somewhere opposite a brown building which is actually a hospital. Take left fork onto Kwong Fa Street.
  5. Tim Ho Wan is just a few doors away on your right. Opposite it is a carpark entrance.

Two friends and I set out to arrive at the restaurant around 10:30 AM (it opens at 10) but due to some unforeseeable circumstances, we ended up arriving closer to 11:30.

As expected, there was already a long line of people outside the restaurant. We got our number from the attendant outside the restaurant, who told us that there was an approximate 2 hour wait-time for our party of three.

We went out and wandered around YauMaTei and ended up coming back to the restaurant around 1:40. We then learned how the “waiting game” works at the restaurant: the restaurant can only seat 30 people, so they let in the same number of people that exit. For example: if a party of 4 exits, then a party of 4 can get in. Not 3 or 2, just 4. It’s in this way that the restaurant can fully maximize their seating availability.

Translation: Our group of three was screwed because almost every group was made up of either 2 or 4 people. (For future reference, you can dramatically reduce your wait time if you go in groups of 2)

While waiting, we checked off the selections for our meal so that we would be able to get food in the shortest time possible once we were seated. (The menus and pencils are thoughtfully placed in containers outside the restaurant for the customers)

I would also like to point out that Tim Ho Wan has menus in both Chinese and in English.

You can click to enlarge if you would like.

Luckily, there was only one other group of three in front of us. Around 2:15, we were finally seated in the restaurant. Although the seating was a bit cramped, we were just glad to be sitting down inside the air conditioned room.

(Side note: the people outside must have felt bad for us because they made special accommodations. They brought a stool to a table originally meant for two so that all three of us could fit).

We ordered 11 dishes to try.

1. Steamed fresh shrimp dumplings (ha gao)

 
The shrimp dumplings, were huge and juicy. The skin was thin and were not the least bit chewy at all. The classic har gow, the standard b which all yum cha joints should be judged. Tim Ho Wan’s were delicate and yet full of flavor, with generous chunks of shrimp. I loved the use of bamboo shoot, which provided a nice textural addition to the sweet and firm shrimp.

2. Glutinous rice dumpling wrapped in lotus leaves

The fragrant lotus leaves imparted a slightly sweet flavor to the glutinous rice which was generously filled large chunks of lean chicken and big chunks of mushrooms. The poultry was quite tender and the mushrooms added a perfect amount of earthiness.  For reference, this is a heavy dish so consider skipping it if there are only two of you — or just don’t finish all the rice as it will fill you up rather quickly. (We ended up only eating half of it in order to make room for the rest of the dishes)

Steamed chicken feet with black bean sauce

The skin was soft and were very flavorful. The skin was soft and slightly saggy, which meant that it had soaked up all of the flavor in which the chicken’s feet had been braised. The addition of tangerine peel added a nice citrus finish.

Steamed chicken with lily flowers and fungus

The lean chicken was delicately flavored by the salted lily flowers and the black fungus (which is kind of like a mushroom). It was good, but the flavor could have been further enhanced if paired with rice. 


Steamed egg cake

This fluffy egg cake was fantastic. The fluffy texture (since it is a type of sponge cake) had voluminous and had a great light and soft texture. Plus, the smell coming from the basket was unbelievable.

3. Steamed pork dumpling with shrimp (siu mai)

These siu mai were overflowing with bits of shrimp and pork that were evenly balanced. The meat in the filling was identifiable and the size of these was rather large. The large chunks of shrimp and the thin wrappers made these one of our favorites.

Steamed mixed fish and tofu ball

These fish balls had a firm texture and were covered in a flavorful oyster sauce. The tofu added a nice contrast with the large chunks of flaky fish. It would have been great paired with rice, but I don’t see myself ordering it for dim sum.

Pan-fried turnip cake

Tim Ho Wan’s version had a nice crispy sear on the outside which was a nice contrast with the light, crumbling texture of the daikon inside. Hence the daikon flavour was present, which is a nice change from most luo bo gao, where you can only taste the glutinous rice flour. There were nice chunks of Chinese sausage in this, which provided a sweet and savory contrast against the milky daikon.

Baked bbq bun with BBQ pork

The restaurant’s specialty is crispy char siu bao 酥皮焗叉燒包 which is a cross between the bbq pork bun and pineapple bun. Three words: To die for

The bun was  soft and fluffy with a center of juicy and tender char siu, topped with a crunchy glaze. Every bite was just incredible. Each bite was just heavenly; next time I might just have to order a basket for myself.

(Heads up: they come three to an order)

Steamed rice with braised roasted pork belly and taro

The soft chunks of taro with the generous chunks of lean pork infused the jasmine rice with their delicious flavor. Adding soy sauce to the rice before stirring it up only enhanced the flavor of the whole dish. Although this dish was good, it was quite filling. (It came near the end of the meal)


tonic medlar and petal cake

As a refreshing end to the meal, the jelly-like dessert was a befitting end. Not cloyingly sweet, the cakes were studded with crunchy bits of wolfberries/medlar. I can only describe it as eating flowers in the most delicious way possible.

Our total? 169 HKD for all that food, which came out to be less than 57 HKD among the three of us.

Was it worth the 2 hour wait? I would say it was definitely worth it, especially for the BBQ pork baked bun .

(Mom, if you’re reading this, be prepared to come here every morning on our next trip to Hong Kong, because my new life goal is to try everything on their menu).

After sitting in the AC, we weren’t quite ready to venture back out into the humidity. Thus, we wandered around the area to find a dessert shop to sit and relax in.

Imagine my surprise when I found this place to the left of the restaurant:

Yup, that would be the infamous Taiwanese shaved place that I keep talking about.

I convinced my friends to order my favorite flavor from last time: green tea with red bean.

While going through our wallets, we discovered that we all had a lot of coins.

In fact, we had enough to pay the 38 HKD bill with them.

I am pleased to report that my two friends thought that the dessert was delicious, and the shaved ice was just as good as I remember.

So, for those of you that are itching to try Tim Ho Wan’s delicious dim sum for yourselves, we advise you to get your number from the attendant and then head over Tong Pak Fu to enjoy an icy treat before getting back in line at Tim Ho Wan.

Here are some tips for your trip to Tim Ho Wan:

1) Do not come here expecting to waltz in, get seated and tuck in into your dim sum. No sirree. You have to take a number and queue. We came at 2.30pm on a weekday, and was given a number and asked to return in an hour. YES, post-lunch and we still have to waste another hour of parading around Mong Kok. Good thing that there are snacking spots all over the place.

2) Try reaching at odd hours; eg. between meals. They open from 10am until 10pm daily. But if you’re being all smart alec and thought that by going before 10am you can skip the wait, then think again.

3) Do not shout, rush, push or shove. You will get your number, even though the staff is not standing on the outside giving them away. Be patient, grab your ticket and walk around the vicinity. 

4) If you had missed your number, don’t be too discouraged. They do honor the skipped numbers. Just be prepared to wave your number around when you know that you’ve missed your turn.

Tim Ho Wan the Dim-Sum Specialists (添好運點心專門店)
Shop 8, Taui Yuen Mansion Phase 2,
2-20 Kwong Wa Street,
Mong Kok,
Hong Kong
(旺角廣華街2-20號翠園大樓2期地下8號舖)

Other branches:

G/F, 9-11 Fuk Wing Street,
Sham Shui Po,
Hong Kong
(深水埗福榮街9-11號地下)


 
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Posted by on July 28, 2011 in Food

 

Weirdest thing I’ve eaten in HK…tortoise jelly 龟苓膏

The pressure of trying all the delicious foods in Hong Kong finally caught up to my stomach this week. (Perhaps my personal let-no-Chinese-bakery-good-go-unsampled campaign might have contributed to it a bit as well…)

So, naturally, when I started to feel sluggish and not hungry, I began to look for a quick-fix solution.

After consulting with a friend, she recommended that I try 龟苓膏,gui ling gao, which is essentially tortoise jelly.

So what is tortoise jelly?

Gui ling gao is a popular natural dessert with Wuzhou origins,  and is typically made  with  secret  recipes that have been passed on from generation to  generation.  It  is  classified  in  Chinese  medicine as having “cooling” properties that are able to cleanse toxins from the body.

It’s a bitter black jelly that is made from basic ingredients such as the turtle’s plastron, smilax (to fook ling, 土茯苓), honey, ginseng, wolfberries, dried rehmannia (gon di wong, 乾地黃), licorice root (kam cho, 甘草), divaricate saposhniovia (fong fung, 防風), and other ingredients. The turtles used by choice were originally the three-lined box turtle (kam ching qwei 金錢龜) because of its superior medicinal efficiency.

However, this turtle was put under the endangered species protection list a few years back, so now other types of turtles such as the Asian box turtle are used instead.

However strange the main ingredient of tortoise may sound, this dessert does provide a lot of benefits:

  • Reduce fatigue and expel heat for a healthier body with a radiant and clear complexion.
  • Flush away toxins from the body
  • Effective for problems like dry skin, pimples, insomnia, lack of appetite
  • Reduce pimples
  • Improve your metabolism rate

Once I heard that it could both speed up your metabolism and cure lack of appetite, I was determined to try it.

Thus, one day after work, I headed over to this place, upon recommendation of my friend: Hoi Tin Tong

(Address: G/F,157 Hennessy Road, Wanchai)

After forking over 55 HK, I was presented with this:

Since the jelly is pretty bitter on its own (I speak from personal experience) you pour sweetener over it to make it more palatable.

Seeing as how I had the bad judgement to try it au natural, I pretty much doused it in honey.

Even so, there was a very medicinal taste about it that I wasn’t that big a fan of. The honey was unable to mask the herb-y bitterness of the jello. The texture of the jello was also kind of weird; it was very firm and springy while maintaining a watery texture that I also wasn’t the biggest fan of.

Basically, I don’t see how you could justify this as “dessert.”

Dessert is supposed to be sweet and delicious, not something you have to choke down.

However, the hefty price tag made me choke down the entire portion.

And….

It worked! Surprisingly, I woke up the next morning feeling rejuvenated from the best night’s rest that I can recall having in recent weeks.

And my appetite is now back in full swing.

So although I will not enjoying gui ling gao as a regular dessert (I hope to never ever eat it again if I can help it), I will definitely use it as a detox tool if the need ever arises.

But I really do hope that its medicinal powers are strong enough to last me the rest of my trip so I don’t have to eat it again.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2011 in Culture, Food

 

A panda is never just a panda

My 51st post!

With their big eyes, round faces and pug noses, it’s easy to see why people think Giant Pandas are so cute.

They’re the inspiration for snacks.

People will travel to places such as the San Diego Zoo or Ocean Park to see them.

Maybe you thought a panda was just a panda. But you’d be wrong.

But did you know that pandas are also used in “panda diplomacy” as political tools?

Yup, “coming from China, a panda signifies special friend status. And no panda means you might as well unfriend that superpower and try to move on.” (Source)

The term “panda diplomacy” was coined during the Cold War when the furry ambassadors would be given as tokens of goodwill. Interestingly, this practice has dated all the way back to the Tang Dynasty when Empress Wu Zetian sent a pair of pandas to the Japanese emperor around 625-705. (Source)

The US was the recipient of panda diplomacy when it was gifted two pandas, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing in 1972 after Richard Nixon’s visit to China.

It is said that during the Nixons’ visit to China, Mrs. Nixon and Chinese premier Zhou Enlai (leader of China) were chatting about her tour to the Beijing Zoo to see then pandas. While they were chatting, she apparently noticed a box of cigarettes decorated with pandas in front of her. She showed it to Zhou and said, “Aren’t they cute? I love them.” He replied with,“I’ll give you some,” and arrangements were made to ship two pandas to the National Zoo in Washington. (Source)

On a side note, the favor was returned when Nixon sent a pair of musk oxen to China.

Hong Kong was given two Giant Pandas, An An and Jia Jia, by the Peoples Republic of China in 1997 to mark the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty. They can be seen at the Hong Kong Jockey Club Giant Panda Habitat in Ocean Park.

Since 1984, the use of pandas as agents of diplomacy has ceased.China has started to offer pandas to other nations on ten-year loans.

Standard loans stipulate conditions such as:

  • Fee of around US$1,000,000 per year
  • Any cubs born during the loan are the property of the People’s Republic of China.
  • The baby pandas have to be sent back to China when they are three years old.

As the result of a 1998 World Wildlife Fund lawsuit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will only allow U.S. zoos to import a panda if the zoo can prove that China will allocate more than half of the loan fees collected towards conservation conservation efforts for wild pandas and their habitat.

Unfortunately, pandas are finicky animals for zoos to look after. They pretty much only eat bamboo, which can be expensive for zoos to provide seeing as how an adult panda can eat between 20-30 pounds per day. They also tend to suffer outside their natural habitat (example: Ping-Ping who was sent to the Soviet Union in 1957, only lived three years after the move)

Panda offspring are pretty rare, because roughly 90 percent of males are sterile and 70 percent don’t have the desire to mate. So far, only one panda in Germany and three in Mexico have had offspring that have survived.

“From 1957 to 1982, China presented 23 pandas as gifts to nine countries, including the former Soviet Union, the Democratic People’s Republicof Korea, the United States, Japan, France, the United Kingdom, Federal Republic of Germany (former), Mexico, and Spain.” (Source)

I’ll be that the next time you see a panda, you’ll never think of it as “just a panda” again.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Lei Yue Mun Seafood Dinner

July 23rd, Saturday

On Saturday, we had our second-to-last sponsored event: dinner on the town!

While everyone was getting ready to meet downstairs at 5:00, we were informed that our transportation to the ferry pier had decided to cancel on us. We were assured that MTR fare would be provided in lieu of the tour bus transportation, but seeing as how most of the girls were planning on wearing high heels (this was our “dressy” event), hiking the 15 minutes down to Festival Walk didn’t sound very appealing.

Luckily, we ended up calling for 7 cabs to take us all down to the TST public pier.

I got to hold the cab fare.

Of course, since everyone had taken the time and effort to look nice, lots of picture taking enthused during our half hour wait for the boat.

(The theme for the night was black and white in case you couldn’t tell)

My beautiful roommate and I

Me and the other affable U of A interns in attendance

We received quite a few stares because we were easily the biggest and best dressed group at the pier. After about half an hour, the boat finally arrived.

After sitting down, we enjoyed free drinks and peanuts while taking in the spectacular view.

They had some nifty cup-holders that also doubled as a backrest. 

 

Before we knew it, we had arrived at our destination:Lei Yue Mun

(It looks like you can also get here by the MTR Yau Tong Station)

We then embarked on through the seafood market to get to the restaurant.

The streets here are lined with fishmongers’ stalls and tanks, and apparently, locals will often pick their own fish and take it to a restaurant for cooking. The restaurant will then charge on a per head basis for the preparation of the food.

A short trek later, we arrived at the restaurant.

Our menu for the night: an 8 course meal!

Typical chicken and sweet corn soup

Steamed fresh prawns Chinese Fried Spicy Salted Prawns (I don’t know why the printed menu didn’t reflect the change)

Deep-fried Squid with Chili and Salt

Scallops Steamed with Garlic and Chinese Rice Vermicelli (favorite dish of the night! The scallops were underneath the rice noodles)

Steamed Fish in Traditional Cantonese Style (this dish was also very good, the fish was super fresh)

Spareribs in Sweet and Sour Sauce Pork in Sweet and Sour Sauce (another change to the printed menu)

Seasonal vegetable: Gai lan

Fried Rice in Yeung Chow Style with Shrimp (it was probably the most artificially yellow colored rice I have ever had)

Fried E-Fu Noodles

On the trip back to TST, we enjoyed some more amazing views on the boat:

Stay tuned for next weeks’ posts because our last sponsored event (and last weekend in Hong Kong!) is an overnight trip to Macau!!

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2011 in Food, Sponsored Event

 

My favorite street food: Ji Dan Zai

Eggettes or ji dan zai (in Mandarin Chinese) or gai daan tsai (in Cantonese) are an iconic Hong Kong street food.

The golden cakes that resemble a sheet of bubble wrap can be found all over Hong Kong.

The origins of this street food are a bit unclear, although some say that the sweet treat was started as a way for street hawkers to use broken eggs which could be bought cheaply.

A simple batter of flour, sugar, eggs, and milk is poured into irons with rows of little ovals, resulting essentially in a large, round waffle made up of 30 little “eggs” all stuck together. As a result of the unique iron, the outside “shell” is thin and crunchy; nearly half of the inside is empty, while the other is filled with batter.

When finished cooking, the entire waffle is laid out on a metal rack where it is briefly cooled by fanning, then served in a cheap paper bag. You then break each “egg” off from the waffle to eat it. This is a freshly done batch rolled off the waffle:

Like most street foods (or food in general), they are best consumed hot. (To ensure quality, it’s best to buy them at a place that makes them as your order. There’s nothing worse than a cold and soggy ji dan zai).

When consumed warm, they’re crisp on the inside with a soft and fluffy interior. Pulling off the little “eggs” one by one and savoring it always delivers an odd sense of satisfaction that is akin to popping all of the bubbles on a sheet of bubble wrap.

In addition to the original vanilla flavor, some innovative vendors have flavors such as chocolate and green tea (which I have yet to try but will definitely make room for before the end of the trip)

They may not be fancy or trendy, but they’re my favorite street food. Easily accessible and best enjoyed in its simplest form.

In Wanchai, there is a branch that is quite famous if you would like to try it:

灣仔柯布連道2號地下(G/F, No. 2, O’Brien Road)
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2011 in Food

 

Homecooked Meal, Indian Style

I had Indian food for the first time…in Hong Kong of all places.

It was everything I could have ever hoped for.

Did I mention that the meal was authentic and traditional as well?

That’s because I had this delicious home cooked meal at my friend’s house.

The other intern at work was nice enough to invite me over for a “true Indian food experience” after work one day.

I rode the ferry from Wanchai to TST for the first time.

After a fairly short walk, we had arrived at her home.

Her family was really nice and we had some good conversation. Her dad is the first person I’ve met in Hong Kong that has known where Tucson is before I give my “it’s an 8 hour drive from Lost Angeles” spiel. The most amazing part of it is that he’s actually been to Tucson and has experienced the extreme dry heat first-handedly.

Her family patiently waited for me to take pictures of all the food before we started eating. After they heard that I had blog with a large portion dedicated to food, they gave me helpful descriptions of the cooking processes as well as ingredients that went into each dish. Talk about being supportive! Special thanks to my friend for providing the names and descriptions of the foods that we ate.

Before dinner, we started off with a few appetizers.

First, we had egg pakora.

It’s made with sliced hard-boiled eggs that are dipped in egg wash and chickpea flour before they are fried to crispy perfection. I’m told that they can be made with just egg whites as well. The chickpea flour gave them great texture and the cooking process made the egg yolk almost melt in your mouth. When paired with the mint chutney, it was especially delicious, but I liked it with the ketchup as well.

Mint chutney

Chutney is essentially a sauce that you can dip any appetizer in. This homemade version had mint, coriander leaves, garlic and chickpeas that were pureed into a smooth sauce. This went very well with the egg pokora as well as the pani puri.

The next dish that we had were pani puri.

The dough is made of semolina flour and water and is rolled into small balls. The balls of dough are then thinly rolled out and fried where they blow up into round, hollow balls. I’m told that they usually have a filling of potatoes and watered down chutney. We had them with just the mint chutney for accompaniment, which was delicious. They were super crispy and didn’t taste greasy in the least bit.

 Lettuce wraps

These bite-sized morsels were filled with chopped peanuts, beans and carrots. The flavor was further enhanced by the tasty homemade spicy sesame sauce. I wish I could get my vegetable intake this way every day! 

It was hard to believe that after all the delicious food, we were still going to be eating dinner.

For dinner, we had:

Chicken makhanwala

This dish was amazing. It had tender chicken that practically fell apart in the luscious gravy. The use of Nestle cream in the dish contributed to the velvety sauce that was delicately flavored by spices. It’s official: this dish has made me a chicken convert. I never truly appreciated how velvety chicken could be until I had this dish. The gravy was so amazing that it compelled me to take two servings of the dish.

Roti or chapati

This bread is a must for any Indian meal, consider it the quintessential Indian food. Rice is to Chinese meals as chapatis are to Indian meals.

These were so amazing that they were a tough competitor with the chicken for my favorite dish of the night. Buttery and crisp, the soft, pillowy bread was the perfect vehicle for soaking up every last bit of gravy from my bowl. It was also excellent when wrapped around the buttery chunks of chicken. Its made from a dough of flour and water. The balls are then rolled out thinly and cooked on a grill or a skillet. 

Potatoes and green peas in tomato sauce

This dish was simple, but good. Unfortunately, I had consumed so much of the chicken curry that I only had room for a small portion of this dish.

Then, after that delicious dinner, we also had dessert

Fruit platter (bananas, oranges, lychee)

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Gulab Jamun

Gulab Jamun is a traditional Indian dessert that is made of a milk powder dough that is fried. The balls are then soaked in a rose-scented, sugar syrup. These were handmade by my friend’s grandmother and had a nice floral taste. The texture was spongy yet the center was surprisingly unsoggy.

Well, there you have it: I had Indian food for the first time in Hong Kong, of all places. Special thanks to my friend and her lovely family for a lovely meal and a great night!

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in Daily life, Food

 

100 Chinese Foods to Try Before You Die

How many have you tried? Via appetiteforchina.com

The ones in bold are ones that I’ve tried previous to this Hong Kong trip.

The underlined ones are links to the foods that I’ve tried or had on this trip and have blogged about. (Click on the link for a picture and or a description)

*I’ll update this post as the trip goes on if I try and blog about one of the foods on the list that has not been tried thus far.

  1. Almond milk (Beijing drink)
  2. Ants Climbing a Tree (poetic, not literal name; Sichuan noodle dish)
  3. Asian pear
  4. Baby bok choy
  5. Baijiu
  6. Beef brisket
  7. Beggar’s Chicken (stuffed and marinated chicken that is encased in lotus leaves and mud)
  8. Bingtang hulu (skewer of about half a dozen hawthorns encased in a hard sugary glaze)
  9. Bitter melon
  10. Bubble tea
  11. Buddha’s Delight (vegetarian dish)
  12. Cantonese roast duck
  13. Century egg, or thousand-year egg
  14. Cha siu (Cantonese roast pork)
  15. Char kway teow (panfried flat rice noodle dish)
  16. Chicken feet
  17. Chinese sausage
  18. Chow mein
  19. Chrysanthemum tea
  20. Claypot rice
  21. Congee
  22. Conpoy (dried scallops)
  23. Crab rangoon (Chinese-American deep fried dumplings with a cream cheese filling)
  24. Dan Dan noodles
  25. Dragonfruit
  26. Dragon’s Beard candy
  27. Dried cuttlefish
  28. Drunken chicken
  29. Dry-fried green beans
  30. Egg drop soup
  31. Egg rolls
  32. Egg tart
  33. Fresh bamboo shoots
  34. Fortune cookies
  35. Fried milk (sweet crispy treat with a milky, pudding-like center)
  36. Fried rice
  37. Gai lan (Chinese broccoli)
  38. General Tso’s Chicken
  39. Gobi Manchurian (Indian Chinese cauliflower fritters)
  40. Goji berries (Chinese wolfberries)
  41. Grass jelly
  42. Hainan chicken rice
  43. Hand-pulled noodles
  44. Har gau (steamed shrimp dumplings in translucent wrappers)
  45. Haw flakes
  46. Hibiscus tea
  47. Hong Kong-style Milk Tea
  48. Hot and sour soup
  49. Hot Coca-Cola with Ginger
  50. Hot Pot
  51. Iron Goddess tea (Tieguanyin)
  52. Jellyfish
  53. Kosher Chinese food
  54. Kung Pao Chicken
  55. Lamb skewers 
  56. Lion’s Head meatballs
  57. Lomo Saltado (Chinese-Peruvian stir-fried beef and potatoes)
  58. Longan fruit
  59. Lychee
  60. Macaroni in soup with Spam (They serve it in the canteen at CUHK, but I’ve just never taken a picture of it)
  61. Malatang (Shanghai noodle dish)
  62. Mantou, especially if fried and dipped in sweetened condensed milk
  63. Mapo Tofu
  64. Mock meat
  65. Mooncake
  66. Nor mai gai (chicken and sticky rice in lotus leaf)
  67. Pan-fried jiaozi (pan-fried dumplings)
  68. Peking duck
  69. Pineapple bun
  70. Prawn crackers
  71. Pu’er tea
  72. Rambutan
  73. Red bean in dessert form
  74. Red bayberry (sweet and tart little purplish red berries with a knobbly surface)
  75. Red cooked pork
  76. Roast pigeon
  77. Rose tea
  78. Roujiamo (Shanxi snack that consists of pork, herbs, shredded lettuce, and chilli sauce stuffed into a pita-like pocket)
  79. Scallion pancake
  80. Shaved ice dessert
  81. Sesame chicken
  82. Sichuan pepper in any dish
  83. Sichuan preserved vegetable (zhacai)
  84. Silken tofu
  85. Soy milk, freshly made
  86. Steamed egg custard
  87. Stinky tofu
  88. Sugar cane juice
  89. Sweet and sour pork, chicken, or shrimp
  90. Taro (starchy purplish potato)
  91. Tea eggs
  92. Tea-smoked duck
  93. Turnip cake (law bok gau)
  94. Twice-cooked pork (famous Sichuan dish where the pork is boiled and then sliced thinly before being stir-fried)
  95. Water chestnut cake (mati gau)
  96. Wonton noodle soup
  97. Wood ear (kind of like a flat mushroom)
  98. Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings)
  99. Yuanyang (half coffee, half tea, Hong Kong style)
  100. Yunnan goat cheese

Tell me, what Chinese food is on the list that you haven’t tried, but would want to try the most in the future?

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2011 in Food

 

HK McDonalds: Fries and McWeddings

I have noticed a plethora of American fast food establishments that seems to be prevalent wherever I go in Hong Kong. Places such as KFC, Pizza Hut (which is a fancy sit down restaurant in Hong Kong), and of course the mighty Golden Arches, can all be found pretty much everywhere you look.

Did I mention that they also have 24 hour delivery as well as weddings?

That’s right: McDonalds is the only city in the world to offer wedding packages.

As Hong Kong culture places a growing emphasis toward informality and affordability, the fast-food chain is there once more to meet the needs of its consumers. Apparently, packages for 50 guests are under $1,300 and for an additional $165, the bride can rent a gown of pearly white balloons.

The US staples of McDonald’s are present here on the menus in Hong Kong: the Big Mac, Double Cheeseburger, Quarterpounder etc. But unlike any McDonald’s in the States, the ones here in Hong Kong serve food items such as “taro pie” in addition to “apple pie.”

McDonald’s Sweet Taro Pie

The taro pie uses the same flaky pastry shell as the ones for apple pies but they are filled instead with the sweet starchy gooey taro cubes. Taro is a root vegetable that is similar to a potato, with a rather distinctive taste and texture that is used in a lot of Asian cuisines in both sweet and savory dishes.  It isn’t always as purple (or even purple) as it looks here.

You know how frustrating it is when you *just* miss the breakfast time and how you can’t order that sausage and egg Mcmuffin anymore? In HK, the sausage and egg McMuffin is available ALL DAY 24/7 as a menu staple; it even has its own combo meal with fries and coke!

The British influence has played a hand in the Hong Kong habit of afternoon tea which is of course taken with milk. This habit has been stylized by McDonald’s as “McBrew

In the US, apple slices are available as a healthy alternative to greasy French fries. In Hong Kong, a Fresh Corn Cup is available as a side.

For the breakfast eater that doesn’t want to eat the sausage McMuffin for the millionth time, they also offer pork burgers for breakfast with the Ham N’Cheese Burger. I believe it’s a hamburger meat patty made from pork that is encased in sandwich with a slice of cheese on a toasted hamburger bun.

A breakfast item with strong Hong Kong influences is Twisty Pasta; McDonald’s version of the popular Hong Kong macaroni soup. McDonald’s Hong Kong offers macaroni pasta with a chicken broth with a variety of vegetables such as diced carrots, corn, and peas and is topped with a breakfast sausage and egg.

Here are some fun facts from the McDonald’s website:

  • The world’s 11,000th McDonald’s opened in Heng Fa Chuen, Hong Kong, in 1989.
  • In 2003, McDonald’s Hong Kong cracked 32.5 million U.S.A. Grade A eggs, prepared over 25 million pounds of French fries, and grilled over 4.4 million pounds of beef pattie to serve its customers.
  • McDonald’s was the first restaurant group in Hong Kong to adopt a total smoke-free policy.
  • Ronald McDonald presents magic and educational shows to children in nearly 1,000 Hong Kong schools and hospitals every year.
 
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Posted by on July 20, 2011 in Daily life, Food

 
 
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