Tuesday, August 29, 2006
However, this turned out much harder than I originally thought and I have been putting off this post in a while now. But after having enjoyed reading so many of the others, I felt compelled to share my Five to Try before you Die.
1. Long lunch at Louis XVI at Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, Monaco
The boy’s parents took us here as a treat and what a treat it was! I had absolutely no idea what I was in for. I had not read up on it and had gone in cold. I had no idea who Alain Ducasse was before I walked in! First of all, they had a stool for my purse. A stool just for my tiny purse!! Secondly, they rolled over a cart of different types of bread. There was bread from all over France!! It was a crazy, fabulous lunch which lasted a good 3 hours or so. By the end, as I was sat on the ‘inside’ facing the centre of the room where all the waiters drifted (I don’t know how they glide like that but it made my most delicate gentle steps seem like a heifer having a fit), I got too scared to look up. The reason being each time one of the gorgeous French waiters with their sexy accents caught my eye, they would drift over with delicious little temptations which they would make impossible to resist. The first time I looked up they gave us madeleines. The second time, home made guimauves (marshmallows!) made with orange water and lavender. The third time it was hand made chocolates. I stared resolutely at the table, which I think they seemed to think was a challenge because they came over with bon bons! I ate so much and was so overwhelmed, I was freakishly close to being violently ill all over the table and making a lasting impression on the boy’s parents whom I had only met 3 days prior to the meal. I took deep breaths and it seemed to help although I almost cried when they presented us with little beautiful boxes of madeleines to take home. In case we didn’t have enough food.
Definitely a once in a lifetime experience and one which I’ll never, ever forget.
Whether you love it or hate it, I think it is worth trying. And not just once either. It has to be tried a handful of times. I recommend at least 6. This is a fruit that my father taught himself to eat and has since become addicted to it. He told me he forced himself to eat it at first despite being horrified by the smell. He said he needed to find out what it is people liked about it and why so many people whose taste he respected loved and craved it. Although he can’t quite tell me what it is, he is most definitely addicted. As is the boy. He says that every single thing about the fruit says “Don’t eat me!” from the spiky hard and tortuous mace-like shell to the pungent lingering odor.
This is a fruit which Anthony Bourdain described as “eating the best custard in the world in the world’s worst public toilet”. With a description like that, how can you not try? Besides, there are differently textured and scented types from the custardy, melty inside to slightly crunchy, white firmer flesh. Watch out for the additive properties though. You may lose friends… or in the boy’s case, win lots of kudos.
3. Impromptu picnic in France after exploring the local market
My memory of this is buying smelly gooey local cheese, anchovy stuffed marinated olives, cornichons, half a loaf of dense pain au levain, cherries and a perfectly ripe peach from Les Halles and sitting the courtyard outside the Palais des Papes in Avignon with my brother and his girlfriend on an early summer backpacking holiday morning, being serenaded by a street performer looking for spare euros from the tourists having their café au lait and croissants at the surrounding little outdoor cafes. The strong smelliness of the cheese, the meatiness of the bread and the salty tang of the olives and the sweet, sweet fruit came together as the perfect food.
4. Beef Carpaccio or Steak Tartar
First time I saw steak tartar, I was horrified. It was during a summer exchange program in France and the little boy of the family I was staying with requested that his hamburger be served to him raw. And his Mother obliged (!!), even giving him a raw egg to mix in with ketchup and mustard. I watched absolutely awed as he ate every last bit of it, even smearing some on bread. This was on the tiny island of Ille de Re. And to think they were beside themselves with excitement when I presented them with cup noodles. Definite culture exchange going on there but I don’t think I did them any favors although they did plenty for me.
Carpaccio done well is magnificent and, to me, very different than beef.
5. A bowl of noodles from the local stand
No matter where you are in Asia, nothing beats a bowl of noodles from your local stand. Be it laksa lemak in Singapore, wonton mein in Hong Kong, pho in Vietnam or hand pulled noodles from Shanghai, local noodles are comfort, refreshment and home in a bowl.
Would love to hear what you consider your Five to Try!
And it is good fun reading what others have posted so I strongly encourage you to check out the other participating blogs at The Traveler's Lunchbox
Monday, August 28, 2006
But rest assured, I have been eating!
Post to come but in the meantime, I have blogged my buffet outing here.
Here's my favorite person of the week.....maker of ginger Chai tea, this lovely jolly Malay chef, Jack, is da man to see at Nikko for spicy, spicy tea and some kick ass peanut paratha!
Monday, August 21, 2006
So it’s a good thing the boy and I went yesterday.
I must admit. It wasn’t planned well. We went after dim sum and we were going to a crab fest dinner that night so in-between eating was a bit daunting. But we soldiered on and we actually didn’t end up sampling much.
The crazy crowds!
Check this out.
People going mad for soy sauce…
Weird display of a huge rotating abalone…
‘Baked Alaska’ with ice cream filling being blow torched…
Squid production line of cutting, flattening, grilling and shredding…
15 feet high chubby faces with stuffed mouths…
Huge packets of flaming ‘hot’ instant noodles…
And the man with the BIGGEST belly I EVER met flogging chopped pork and ham. Mmmmn... I love me some cold canned meat! I swear that this man's waist in inches is at least the same as his height. Let this be a lesson to 5'1" me...
And my personal favorite, a personal 'time-out' by the little old lady, hiding from her family and seeking comfort in ice cream...
It was a bit crazy with companies bundling foods at cut prices left right and centre.
And what did we end up with?
- 3 bottles of Lee Kum Kee sauces: sesame, Japanese curry and Korean fire chilli (it almost became 7 sauces because of these craaaazy deals but I resisted!)
- 6 boxes of konjaku flavored jellies (hey, they have no fat)
- 1 4-cup sized measuring cup, plastic spray bottle and squeezy bottle
- 1 bottle of soju
- 2 mini dark chocolate covered handmade German gingerbread (yep, this one lonely man came all the way here to sell them)
- 4 packets of pasta
- 2 packets of wafers with honey
- 1 bottle of ginseng alcohol
- 1 jar organic lemongrass ginger stir fry sauce
I had to physically pull the boy away from the Durian mooncakes, grilled squid tentacles, the huge hairy crabs and wipe the drool from his mouth.
Honestly, what kind of nice English boy, reared in Wales of all places, has an affinity for stinky foods?
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Since Sui Mai’s inception, I have gained 5, maybe 10 pounds?
I had to rid myself of 3 shirts whose buttons threatened to knock someone’s eye out. And my never worn, ‘sexy’ sheer strapless top? Let’s just say a bandaged pig probably looked sexier.
These are the perils of ignoring the horoscope predicting my impending sausage like state.
Thus I decided to go on a diet and track my eating using Fitday.
First I calculated the amount of cals I should have in order to lose weight at freedieting.com.
Maintenance: 1454 Cals/day
Fat loss: 1163 Cals/day
Sounds doable… right? Here’s how I started out.
Ok, right? Feeling pretty groovy about myself at this point.
Then I had lunch. I brought it to work myself. Rice with leftover beef brisket curry.
A freaking total of 741 Cals!!! You have got to be joking! 1.5 cups of RICE is 308 cals??? 1 cup of curry at 433 cals?
You have got to be kidding me. This means I have 128 cal left for dinner! No way am I ever going to be able to achieve this!
Screw this. I’m going to a Mongolian buffet with buffetbuffs tonight.
Diet can start another day…
Monday, August 14, 2006
The boy absolutely adores xiao long bao and due to its popularity and fame, we queued for 1 hour at Yu Yuan in Shanghai to buy a dozen of these buns. We were sorely disappointed. Despite its reputed deliciousness, they felt short of expectation. The dumpling wrapper was stodgy and gummy and the dumpling completely devoid of soup.
So when my Aunt suggested the Hong Kong branch of Nanxiang for dinner, I was skeptical but as it was her birthday, I agreed to try once again as neither she nor my Mom had been, despite its opening in October last year.
My Aunt, being very prepared, had waited in line so I managed to jump the enormous queue to get to our table by 7:30. The décor was quite nice, dark paneled wood with a modern Chinese feel that is favored by new restaurants, and I was lucky enough to be seated next to the window to the dumpling making part of the kitchen. I believe this is to mimic the Shanghai restaurant, which boasts a large window on the ground floor through which you can see dozens of cooks wrapping dumplings. Oddly, this was not near the entrance but on the small side of the restaurant so I assume it is not meant to tempt passersby.
We were asked what tea we wanted ($8) and I got chrysanthemum due to the ‘eet hei’ nature I had been experiencing lately. This was served in a glass cup with the chrysanthemums in a separate strainer and was refilled regularly.
Dishes were already decided by the time I got there but I managed to sneak in two more favorites after seeing the small nature of the dishes. We went for more of the famous dishes in order to taste what the masses were clamoring for. Prices were quite low but portions were quite small.
Braised Pork Belly in Soya Sauce ($36), which was very nicely done but they could have done with skimming off some of the oil resting in the bowl!
The meat was sweet, soft and succulent and the skin was chewy and rich.
We had these with steamed man tou ($?) which you could choose to have fried as well. These were served with a small dish of condensed milk but we preferred to eat them with the pork belly.
Hot and sour soup with noodles ($33) was extremely disappointing, it was lukewarm for one thing, which is definitely a turn off for these types of soup that is often thickened with cornstarch. The noodles were ok and not too mushy but added nothing to the flavorless soup.
The steamed vegetable buns ($24 for 4) were ok. My Mom liked them but I thought the bun itself was too think and spongy and the filling not flavorful enough. The ones I had for $0.80 in Shanghai had loads of vegetables and thin slivers of dried tofu.
We had to have the xiao long bao ($30 for 6), which were quite different than the ones I had in Shanghai. These had a beautiful think wrapper and tender, flavorful pork. Unfortunately for some reason, both of mine didn’t have any soup but my Mom and Aunt said that the soup was not greasy.
The steamed glutinous rice dumplings with Chinese ham ($20 for 4) came next. It was a dim sum dish of think rice paper wrappers wrapped around glutinous rice flavored with Chinese ham and then steamed. I didn’t like these. I found them gummy and again, flavorless.
I choose the dish of clear rice noodles with chicken in sesame dressing ($?). This is a simple dish I am usually quite fond of with thin julienned cukes and shredded chicken atop clear, think and chewy rice noodles. However, we were suspicious as it did not smell like sesame and with one mouthful, we realized they had used peanut butter instead of sesame sauce. It wouldn’t’ have been so bad had they at least used sesame oil to flavor the sauce but this was left out, as was the mustard which gives it a kick and sharpness. The rice noodles themselves, usually the disappointing factor, were actually decent but was too overwhelmed by the sauce.
I also choose a dish which, unknowingly, neither my Mom nor my Aunt is fond of. Drunken pigeon ($56). I adore drunken chicken, served cold and flavored with wine and thought that the pigeon would be a nice change. It was good. However, it was horrifyingly presented. Because of the cooking method, the skin looked gray and it was plated like a splayed corpse. Very unpleasant.
We finished off with steamed glutinous rice cake with Osmanthus ($20 for 4). This was quite chewy but very sugary with a flowery aftertaste. We could only finish 2 between the three of us.
Cheap but not worth the wait.
Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant
3/Fl. Causeway Bay Plaza 1,489 Hennessy Road,
Tel: 3690 2088
Reservations can only be made by ‘VIPs’
To become a VIP, collect 10 stamps of 100 each within 3 months.
In another saga of crazy Sui Mai family, while I was trying to take a photo of my Mom and Aunt with the birthday cake, but it turned out blurry due to the violent tug of war going on over the bill. While I sat there absolutely mortified, my blood relatives were pulling and pushing, knocking over cups of tea and trying to grab the waitress who stood there slightly shell shocked as my Aunt yelled at her to take her card. I couldn’t stand it and begged my Mom to let my Aunt pay and said we’d pay next time. We finally achieved peace as my Mom relented but I got berated for being rude the whole way home. Over a $300 restaurant bill.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
I’ve been hiding something from you all…
But I couldn’t reveal the surprise until now….
I met Susan Jung!
*wild applause ensues*
Susan Jung for those of you who aren’t in HK, is the Food and Drink Editor for the South China Morning Post and has the enviable job of reviewing restaurants, writing features about food and introducing recipes on Sundays.
However, don’t be fooled into thinking it is an easy job, she has to maintain neutrality in the face of what might be strong opinions, as well as churning out high quality writing a few times a week.
This week, she has chosen to feature food bloggers, of which the most excellent Cha Xiu Bao, the witty Sunday Driver, the not-yet-met HK Foodie and myself were featured. (that’s right, run now to your nearest newsstand and grab that coveted food blogging edition of SCMP… go go go!!!)
I also got a special treat you see. I had asked Susan if she would allow me to ask her 3 or 4 simple questions for Sui Mai…
She graciously assented.
One of my questions, being a cheeky chubby, was going to be whether I could go on a review with her. Quite honestly, I wasn’t expecting a yes. I was preempted from asking this question by Susan asking me if I would mind the interview being conducted over a review!
To say I was excited is a *slight* understatement.
So I apologize in advance for this very long, marathon post. I highly suggest you have a nice cup of tea and a sit down, together with a biscuit before carrying on.
For the record, we went to Cru on Staunton Street and we had:
- proscuitto wrapped figs with gorgonzola cheese
- sesame seared tuna salad
- Blue swimmer crab pasta
- Lamb fillets
- Blueberry crepe
- Caramel tart with wild berries
First the food…
While I love fresh figs, I felt that the saltiness of the proscuitto and the heaviness (and slight gloopy nature of the sauce), overwhelmed the poor fig, who didn’t manage to show its true colors. Still ate them all though!
Sesame seared tuna salad was a major disappointment. The salad was over-dressed which made the leaves all wilted and overly sweet and the tuna was average.
The pasta was quite nice, cooked perfectly but the crab was not tossed through but was clumped on top, which made it difficult to get a good pasta to crab ratio per mouthful.
The lamb was good but it came sprinkled with crushed pecans of which some were slightly stale, according to Susan. It was also accompanied by a broken aioli, which looked extremely unpleasant with a thick layer of oil.
It was a lot of food but with our dessert stomachs in place, we soldiered on (I didn’t take much convincing…)
The blueberry crepe was gorgeous! The crepe came in two huge rolls absolutely stuffed with blueberries and a small dish of freshly whipped cream and another one of vanilla ice cream. The amount of blueberries per crepe was quite astonishing and we wondered whether it was really blueberries inside or plumped with cream. It turned out to be blueberries which were slightly crystallized to form a thin crunchy coating which lent texture to the crepe. There must have been at least a good pint of blueberries in the two crepes. It was delicious and I ate my whole crepe….and it was huge.
The caramel tart with wild berries was nicely plated with a beautifully buttery crust and a gooey caramel filling, the berries and the cream were also generous.
On the whole, I was much more in love with the desserts than the mains.
But onto the fun bit! My ‘interview’ with Susan:
**Disclaimer: Wordings may not be exact but this is what I tried to remember, despite my excitement!
Sui Mai: What was your favorite sneaky treat as a kid?
Susan: Chocolate! My parents thought I was allergic to chocolate, which I might very well have been and wasn’t allowed to have it very often. Good thing I outgrew whatever allergy I might have had!
Sui Mai: Guilty pleasure or sneaky treat you enjoy now?
Susan: Taiwanese ‘iron’ eggs(*)!
Sui Mai: So when you were a child sneaking chocolate did you ever think that you would become a food critic?
Susan: Well, I am definitely doing something that I’ve always wanted to do. My background is as a pastry chef and my parents were appalled when I told them I wanted to be a cook but they are much happier with my job now. I came into this job a little by chance. I had started to write for the SCMP for a few months when this job came up and they offered it to me. I suspect that my neutral writing style also helped.
(SM: For your reference, the lovely Miss Susan Jung has a background in journalism and has worked as a chef in many recognizable and respectable kitchens around town…how’s that for street cred?)
Sui Mai: What is one food you wish was more readily available?
Susan: Good Mexican food
Sui Mai: What is a food you enjoy but others may find strange?
Susan: Chicken hearts…. When I was studying, chicken hearts were a cheap source of protein but I did enjoy eating them.
Sui Mai: !?!!?! I love chicken hearts!! I got in trouble in kindergarten back in Canada when my teacher thought I was lying about eating 20 of them! I’ll eat chicken hearts with you anytime!
There were lots more conversation and lots of food questions flying around in addition to a shared puzzlement over the British male obsession with Bird’s Custard. In my opinion the absolute best way to spend an afternoon with a friend I just met.
So lots of props to Susan and a sincere thanks for a lovely afternoon and putting up with my slightly hyperactive excitement.
44 Staunton Street
Tel: 2803 2083
(*) I couldn’t find a good explanation but Taiwanese iron eggs but these originated from Dan Tsui area of Taipei (or is it Taiwan...?) and as the story goes, an old lady couldn't find enough customers for her tea eggs and as she was very poor, she cooked the same old eggs every day, let them dry out, and then cooked them again so that they became very hard but extremely flavorful and chewy, which, to her surprise, attacted more people than the normal tea eggs! This is a popular treat in taiwan, small quail eggs which have been cooked and treated (to speed up the process) to become hard little nubs of chewy egg. According to Susan, they sell them at Sogo for the outrageous price of 7 for HK$7!
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
doughnutandcoffeedoughnutandcoffeedoughnutandcoffee. This is what has been scientifically classified as a craving.
So around noon time I give in and head out for a doughnut and coffee.
Today there are a few employees standing in front of the store handing out flyers and waving around noise makers. Noise makers are those inflatable tubes that you can tap together to show your enthusiasm during a concert or annoy people on the street.
I walk into the store, which is still fairly full today, and up to the counter where I am simply handed a fresh double glazed doughnut. Three cheers for corporate policy!
My first instinct is to go to the gourmet shop nearby to get my coffee, but freebie scoring guilt kicks in. And the small coffees here are not small. They are between a small and medium coffee at Starbucks. The house coffee does the job, nothing to blog home about.
There are still exec types hanging around the store today, probably talking charts and graphs rather than doughnuts and fillings. And a food stylist (I think that's what they call themselves) was arranging boxes of doughnuts in attractive combinations and taking pictures.
The staff are still in that overly enthusiastic mode, barely able to count change from excitement. And there are so many of them packed behind that counter, it almost seems as if they outnumber the customers.
As was my experience yesterday, one doughnut is never enough. Perhaps if I bring different outfits to work, I can score multiple free doughnuts every day. Just a thought.
Your friendly neighborhood Krispy Kreme Korrespondent...
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
A chubby kid queued up for Krispy Kreme since last night just to be the first customer to get one year's free supply of donuts.
Was that you???
For the record, no.
It wasn't me.
But only because I didn't know they were giving out free donuts for a year...
It is 11:28am and I am 2/3 of the way through my very first Hong Kong-birthed Krispy Kreme double glazed doughnut.
Nope, I'm done.
Now I'm regretting giving my second one away. But happy to report they are as moist and sugar-laden as I remember them to be.
It is the grand opening day of the inaugural store in Hong Kong, located 2 minutes away from my place of work. Which is why I have been chosen to be your trusty Krispy Kreme Korrespondant. Or volunteered. Whatever.
On the street korner is a handy sign pointing the way to said store, cheerily flanked with balloons. Standing in front are newly minted KK employees, passing out informative flyers with deals for buying more doughnuts then you'll ever need (2 dozen? Only if you aspire to be a diabetic. Just in case, they cost $168). The smallish space is packed with enthusiastic consumers, reporters and wide-eyed employees. As is typical of first time cashiers, the woman behind the counter takes my order with almost breathless nerviness. And as per tradition, there is a glass window behind which you can see freshly baked doughnuts being glopped with the sugar output of a small country. First-timers are pressing their noses to the window in open curiousity as if they were at a zoo.
The Zoo of Sugary Goodness.
Also on offer are 'collectable' tshirts and travel mugs. The mugs feature a wraparound Hong Kong skyline, with the KK logo and neon sign, and the Grand Opening date in hokey Chinese-stroke lettering. The same lettering features on the tshirts, which makes them look like Star Ferry tourist buys. But die-hard fans will certainly snatch them up, as they are supposedly on limited offer.
And now for some relevant information. In the pre-selected assorted dozen, assuming you are not able to select your own, are:
I look forward to the rest of this year, struggling against my impulse to gorge on ridiculous amounts of doughnuts, and reporting on all other breaking KK news as it happens, from the frontlines.
Of what fish type I do not know.
What I do know is the noise of potential wastage by misguided Westerners.
As soon as my ears pricked to the rustling noise of a plastic garbage bag being sourced, I ran (the two steps) to my kitchen, wrestled the head out of the startled boy's hands and plopped it into the pot.
Miso soup, anyone?
Friday, August 04, 2006
Those were also the words that greeted me at the door last after a pleasant evening out with friends.
With dread in my heart, I took a quick look around the flat, nothing was broken, my dog looked perfectly happy, I didn’t hear the gushing sound of a broken pipe so it was with great apprehension that I looked at the boy, who was looking very sheepish indeed.
“It was for the blog!” he blurted out.
I must have looked incredibly confused so he told me he bought something he probably shouldn’t have but it was all for the sake of Sui Mai.
So of course I immediately went over to open the fridge to see what he had done.
He had bought a huge. ass. platter. of. sashimi. In a ship shape. On discount. At 10:30pm.
He couldn’t help it. As per his usual financially schizophrenic grocery shopping behavior, he thought it would be a good deal.
He also wanted the ship. Yes, sadly the boy is still obsessing about pirates, not helped by the pirate-y theme at ocean park and the just released movie.
And what better excuse than using Sui Mai.
Oh, and even better was the big ass Asahi beer that he thought was proportional to his gigantic shipwreck of a about-to-go-off sashimi platter.
Also “for” Sui Mai.
You have to forgive him though. How could you not?
He waited a full hour and a half for me to come home and take the perfect shot before digging in.
I can’t even imagine the sitting-edge-of-the-seat-excitement as he waited for me to come home and see his ship o’fish.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
I love apple crisp/crumble (anyone know the difference?) and seeing as I had soft apples that needed using, I thought I'd make one.
So I looked at a few recipes and decided to slice up my apples, toss with lemon, cinnamon and sugar (white since I had no brown). After 2 apples, my ceramic was getting rather full so I stopped.
I then put 1/2 cup each of oatmeal, flour and sugar, a few sprinkles of cinnamon and nutmeg then mushed it all with some butter until it resembled crumbs.
Put it on the apples and bunged in the oven.
What came out was kraptastic.
A thick layer of krisp (yup, I was trying to channel Krispy Kremy goodness) krumbs, which was sickly sweet and a thin layer of also sickly sweet apples.
A THIN layer of apples. In fact, you could barely taste them over the SWEEEEEEEEEETNESS!
I'm not bitter, I swear. I'm really, really sweet...