Posts tagged: Catherine Ling

Margaret Xu’s Private Kitchen Yin Yang in Wanchai

By , September 1, 2010 4:00 pm

Margaret looks pleased with her assistant du jour. Darren is plucking the stems off the chillies.
I have a new food hero. She’s Margaret Xu Yuan who is possibly Hong Kong’s foremost female celebrity chef, and a champion for delicious healthy eating.

Margaret used to run an ad agency before becoming a self-taught cook. Her excursions to the villages in New Territories inspired her to rejuvenate Hong Kong cuisine. She fell in love with the stone rice grinder, as well as wood and charcoal-based cooking. Then came Cuisine X, the one-table experiment there in 2003, using produce from her own organic farm in Yuen Long. Her roast chicken and stone-ground rice cakes became so popular, people soon needed to make reservations months ahead.

Her food is very much like Hong Kong condensed in a nutshell. She combines olden techniques she learned from the various Chinese dialect/cultural groups (Hakka, Chiu Chow, Cantonese, and boat people) with touches of British colonial influence, and presents it all with contemporary flair.

I admit I had not heard of her until getting the itinerary for our trip to Hong Kong by the SBA2010 and HKTB. But I soon found out her interesting story, and how sought after she is.

The scale model of the three-storey heritage building that Yin Yang occupies
She now has a private kitchen (at 18 Ship Street, tel: +852 2866 0868) called Yin Yang – named after the coffee-tea drink that is so symbolic of Hong Kong. It occupies a refurbished preservation shophouse in Wanchai, and is kept deliberately small. There are only three tables, and it’s all reservations-only (at least one day in advance).

(I couldn’t get a photo of the entire building from the narrow street outside, so here’s what it looks like, from a scale model replica)

The restaurant setting is cosy, old school and homely
Here you feel more like a privileged guest invited into someone’s home, rather than a customer. The ambiance is old school casual but very warm and nostalgic.

Love the '70s style frosted glass windows
I love the diffused light coming in from the tall frosted glass windows.

Little decorations on the narrow window sills
There are cute little decorations on the narrow window sills. Some baskets of limes here, a dim sum steamer basket of name cards, semi-precious stones and little plants.

An old school thermos flask
A vintage thermos flask stands at the side of the room, a symbol of homestyle hospitality.

Quirky table decorations like this egg basket
This is a cute quirky egg basket used as table decoration (and menu holder if not mistaken).

We were very fortunate that Margaret agreed to host us at short notice. Normally you’d have to make reservations months ahead. She specially opened her restaurant for lunch that weekday and prepared an eight-course meal for us.

Margaret's signature "Yellow Earth Roast Chicken" with ultra crispy skin
Margaret’s signature “Yellow Earth Roast Chicken” with ultra crispy skin. I had been waiting for this, and it was the opening number! It certainly lived up to its repute. Everyone wanted seconds/thirds/more…

Oh I found her recipe online. I really must try this at home someday, even if I don’t have a terracotta oven!

Margaret presiding over the shredding of the chicken
Margaret presiding over the shredding of the chicken. She believes doing it by hand is better than using a knife to carve the chicken. Yes, I do prefer rustic hand-torn pieces myself.

Flower clams in delicious broth with thick tanghoon
Flower clams in delicious broth with thick tanghoon. I wanted this all to myself! Gorgeous aroma and stunning flavours. The clams were very fresh indeed.

Who can resist this?
This would inspire the caveman in anyone! This is the Red Hot Baby Pig. Roast hunk of pork with bone-in!

The roast pork chopped up, served with lychee dip
The roast pork is chopped up, and served with an unusual lychee jam. Juicy, tender chunks of meat capped by crispy skin…it was all very rich! The best, however, was yet to come…

Mud crabs in a green-curry-like sauce
When this dish appeared, it drew gasps of delight and wonder. Fleshy mud crabs in a complex yet beautiful sauce with spices and coconut – a bit like green curry but much more refined. We were moaning “oh my god” as we ate. It was so, so good!

What a beautiful soup! Okra pentagonal slices add a touch of whimsy, almost!
Interestingly, the soup came in halfway through the courses. Seaweed eggdrop soup with okra or ladies fingers. I never thought about slicing okra this way. It looks like pretty little pentagonal flowers dotting the soup.

Olive rice in cast iron wok
There is always a carb dish in Chinese multi-course meals. To make sure you are really well-fed! The olive rice with vegetables was beautiful to look at. Like something cooked with love.

Platter of vegetables
Yes, your greens are important. But by the time this came along, I was too full to eat anymore.

Banana ice cream
But there is always room for dessert – in our case, a scoop of banana ice cream! You can taste that it’s made from real bananas, but not the overly sweet variety.

We were going for Tsingtao, but many changed over to the the Blue Girl instead, because it sounded more...risque
We washed it all down with some refreshing beer and soft drinks. Most of us were going for Tsingtao, but some changed over to the the Blue Girl instead when they saw it, because it sounded more…risque.

Eclectic kitchen with modern and retro, east and west all co-existing in harmonious warmth
Her eclectic ground floor show kitchen has many eclectic pieces – modern and retro, East and West – all co-existing in style. I love the SMEG fridge!

Many strange things abound in the kitchen
Many strange things abound in this kitchen. Margaret likes to make everything herself, so you will see foods (and wines) of all sorts in various stages of preparation.

The terracotta oven that Margaret built herself
This is the terracotta oven that Margaret built herself, from two flower pots (one upturned). Terracotta helps distribute high heat very evenly, so the chicken she roasts in this gets crispy skin but stays juicy within.

A bottle of Green Dream - dip made from green chili, ginger and scallions
After our meal, some of the bloggers were treated to a workshop on sauce-making. Margaret would demonstrate an absurdly delicious yet simple green chili dip. There are only five ingredients:
– a large mixing bowl of green chillies (stems plucked; see Darren doing that in the first photo)
– a hand-sized portion of ginger (sliced)
– two bunches of scallions or spring onions (chopped into 3-4 parts)
salt (to taste – quite a bit; maybe a level tablespoon, depending on your quantity)
oil for frying (I think she used more than a litre, but she made a big batch)

Sorry the quantities are all approximate, but the recipe is quite forgiving. I have since then made two batches (500g of chillies yield about 500ml) at home – and I can certify it’s idiot-proof!

Margaret stir-frying the ingredients in hot oil
The method is easy. Get the oil moderately hot and fry the ingredients.The chillies go in first, followed by the ginger and scallions at the very last few seconds.

Hot in the wok - the green chili, ginger and scallions
It doesn’t take too long. How beautifully green and glistening everything is. The aroma of chillies, ginger and scallions warmed our lungs. Needless to say, all these came from her organic farm up north. The Hong Kong chillies don’t carry as much heat (although Margaret says you can never tell when you’ll get a rogue pod that’s superhot).

Margaret blending the mixture
Margaret then gave it all a good whizz – oil included – in her industrial strength blender. It came out looking interestingly light green! She poured some out for us to have a taste.

We were lapping this all up!
Oh my, how could so few ingredients taste so good together? Just heat oil, fry and blend! Voila!

We were lapping this sample bowl all up! Could not stop spooning the creamy stuff into our mouths! This would be great as a dip for chicken or seafood. I even think it’s perfect with our chicken rice, or simply with bread or prata or nachos.

Fortunately, we each got a bottle to take home too! Hurray! We happily christened this the “Green Dream” – nice, right?

The Green Dream Team! Photo by Alvin
Photo by Alvin Lim
This was our last meal in Hong Kong, and one of our most memorable. I count myself very lucky to have had the chance to dine at Yin Yang, and to learn from Margaret (I really do hope she gets an English cookbook out soon, she has one in Cantonese).

I’m pleased to make this fabulous stop my final post of the Hong Kong series (sixteen posts in total). I hope you guys have enjoyed trotting around with me vicariously.

I’d really like to thank OMY and HKTB for making this four-day trip possible, and for showing us incredible experiences and gastronomical delights in Hong Kong. You can still view posts (more coming!) on the OMY joint travel blog – catch the different perspectives from the ten bloggers who went on the trip.

Dragonboat Carnival 2010 – The Capsize!

By , August 17, 2010 7:25 pm

Dragonboats heading back to the startline
After fueling up on breakfasts, we headed to the Dragonboat Carnival at the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. The three-day event was culminating that Sunday. The carnival saw 12 countries and 191 teams participating this year.

Dragonboats crossing Victoria Harbour
It was a beautiful day, despite weather forecast for rain and Typhoon Chanthu’s visit which flooded the Northern Territories.

Lots of fans waiting for their celebrities to show up
Lining the promenade were scores of people as far as the eye could see – athletes, spectators and supporters, with everyone feeling the buzz. Lots of screaming fans too, awaiting some celebrity participants. Korean boyband U-KISS would be rowing for the KBS Dream Team. I don’t really know any of the celebrities, so pardon me if I get any of them wrong.

Dragonboat supporters
Some dragonboat supporters went all out in wigs, colourful costumes and tattoos.

Our gallant brood of bathtub racers
We were participating too! Well, four of us (from left to right: Violet, Peter, Darren and Geck Geck) were in the “Bathtub Race” – a 100m race just for fun.

Aussie Pete and Darren cheered on by fans...right!
It was hard not to believe the rabid cheering was not for us.

"You mean the strategy is to capsize so we get on TV?"
Miss Ang Geck Geck, whom we affectionately call AGG for short. I mean, not because she’s short, although…well, umm. OK, just the name. She would be rowing with Pete, who is more than twice her size, weight and age rowing power. Here she is, and you can almost picture her saying, “You mean the strategy is to capsize so we get on TV?”

Getting ready for the bathtub race
Our four bloggers all geared up! They did some warm-up rowing exercises.

Some celebrities I don't know
I am guessing these are more celebrity paddlers. My apologies, I’m awful at recognising celebrities.

All set and ready!
This is the bathtub that paddlers will race in! When I first saw it from afar, I was going, “Oh no, surely not these wobbly plastic sinks!”

Well, that’s Pete and AGG waving their last goodbyes. What happened next…I will have to show via Jerome’s most excellent photos. Halfway into the race…


It looks like balance is more difficult to achieve than speed. Darren and Violet were streaking ahead though…and got second place, just like their boat number.


Poor Pete and AGG got a marine bath instead. Honestly, this was not planned, even though we joked about it. Fortunately rescue came quick. The saltwater taste remained a souvenir throughout the rest of the day, but the capsize memories will remain with us for a lot longer!

Check out Jerome’s post with all the close-up photos of the capsize!

The Pink Spartans won! They are a team for cancer survivors and supporters
Part of the special highlights is the Pink Dragonboat Race, which aims to raise awareness of breast cancer and to encourage survivors to lead active lives. We were there to support the Singapore team, Pink Spartans, made up of cancer survivors and supporters. They won first prize!

Korean boyband members waving
This must be the Korean boyband members. Looks like they won something? I had been a little skeptical if boybands knew anything about rowing dragonboats…

Korean boyband members
OK, I take it back. The guy on the right sure looks like he’s well-equipped for rowing!

The trophies featured ornate dragons
This is what all the paddling is for. The shiny trophies featuring ornate dragons along with some heavy-looking medals, plus the honour that comes with them. Congratulations to the teams who won, and kudos to everyone who participated!

The Merry-making on The Bounty

By , August 11, 2010 4:06 am

This is a full-size replica of the HMAV Bounty
The mutiny on the Bounty has got to be one of the most famous in naval history.

This life-size replica of the original H.M.A.V. Bounty was made in 1978 for the Dino de Laurentiis movie “The Bounty” (released 1983). It stars a brilliantly brusque Anthony Hopkins as Captain William Bligh, and Mel Gibson as Christian Fletcher, his so-called friend who would lead the mutiny against him.

Waiting to board, with great anticipation
Is this really the boat where the filming took place? We were going to have dinner on it!

The Bounty replica is the only European tall ship that resides in Hong Kong
The three-masted ship itself is the only European tall ship to reside in Hong Kong, and it sure looks historic and grand, but the 42m length is not that large by today’s standards. The deck is 7m wide and 30m long.

What is interesting is that Captain Bligh intended to circumnavigate the globe with a vessel this size, going to Tahiti to collect breadfruit plants as a source of food for slaves in Jamaica. However, life in Tahiti was just too idyllic and the women too winsome. The crew got tired of Bligh’s short temper and decided to chuck their boss and most of whoever still loyal to him out to sea on an open boat.

But Bligh was an excellent sailor and survivor. In that tiny 7m longboat, he brought his remaining team 6,700km (4,000 miles) to Timor, using nothing but a sextant and a pocket watch. No maps, no compasses. They made it with only one life lost. Just look at the beautiful smooth voyages (red and green) he achieved, compared to the messy and confused lines made by Christian post-mutiny.

The movie I have not seen but looks like an underrated classic. Here are some clips showing Anthony Hopkins at his best. From the video description – “Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson are obviously easy to notice. But see if you can spot a young Daniel Day-Lewis, Liam Neeson, and Dexter Fletcher (one of the four main characters from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels).”

My gosh, were all of them on the same ship? Yes indeed, you can see them, including Liam, my absolute favourite Jedi! Did he walk on this very ship too? He looks almost too gentle to be one of the mutineers. Still think he looks most dashing as Qui-Gon Jinn.

But I am digressing. Anthony Hopkins is the really powerful force here.

OK, OK, back to reality.

Dusk falling. The harbour lights come on
No high seas or hijinks on this Bounty. Only the sleek skyline of Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour.

Ready to party!
However, there were still plenty of winsome maidens, including some lucky bloggers who got a makeover just in time for the event. We settled down quickly with drinks and high spirits.

Smoked salmon, German potato salad, Thai beef salad and Caesar Salad
Foodwise, it was a bounty too, as it was a buffet. Smoked salmon, German potato salad, Thai beef salad, Caesar Salad and fresh vegetable crudites for starters.

Platter of roasted meats!
There was a platter of roasted meats – still covered when I took photos. I didn’t try these. The appetisers were as far as I got, having already had 4 meals plus dessert before the cruise.

Mains - lamb chops, grilled chicken steak with herb gravy, grilled mixed mushrooms with zucchini, fried rice, stewed rib fingers with burgundy sauce, pan-fried sole fillet with teriyaki sauce
Mains – lamb chops, grilled chicken steak with herb gravy, grilled mixed mushrooms with zucchini, fried rice, stewed rib fingers with burgundy sauce, pan-fried sole fillet with teriyaki sauce.

Gin and Elaine hamming it up
I’m sorry, did I say no hijinks?

The beautiful night harbour
The Bounty goes around the Victoria Harbour I think a few times, so you are entreated to the beautiful evening water views.

The Hong Kong island skyline at night
The Hong Kong island skyline at night.

Kowloon side is equally lit up but I seem to prefer the HK island panorama - this is Wanchai
Kowloon side is equally lit up but I seem to prefer the HK island panorama – this is Wanchai.

A Symphony of Lights blasting light beams into the sky
A Symphony of Lights blasting light beams into the sky. Over 40 buildings synchronise coloured lights, lasers, searchlights and music from their rooftops. We got to see this laser multimedia show right from the ship itself. It happens 8pm nightly.

Watching the masts being unfurled, or is someone jumping off the plank?
Everyone watched as they chatted and drank. I realise it’s not easy taking night shots on a swaying boat…

The mast structure is beautiful
We bid fond farewells to The Bounty as the cruise drew to a close. It dropped us off conveniently on the Kowloon side, which is near our hotel. But the night was still young. Some of us then went for supper, some for shopping and some went clubbing. It certainly was a long and full day – and this was only day 2!

Big thanks to the Hong Kong Tourism Board who arranged this. Check out the other bloggers’ Bounty related posts here. This post is also replicated on the OMY Hong Kong Travel Blog. You can also win a 3D/2N trip to Hong Kong, by voting your favourite blogger. Voting is allowed once a day, every day, until 31 Aug.

THE BOUNTY
Discovery Bay, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2238-1103

Checking out “Aunty Sweet” 甜姨姨 at Tin Hau, where locals go for dessert

By , August 8, 2010 9:48 pm

Tin Hau is less commercial than Causeway Bay
After Mak’s Noodles, I went to meet up with two old friends, Janet and Walter, whom I had not seen in more than four years. When they heard I had already had dim sum, grilled lamb rib, curry beef brisket, and wantan noodles…the only sane option left was dessert! At first, we headed to Times Square at Causeway Bay, but later Janet thought Tin Hau would be a better choice – it’s where the locals go, and the dessert shops there are less commercialised.

"Aunty Sweet" 甜姨姨 at Tin Hau
We came to Aunty Sweet or 甜姨姨. It’s a fairly well-known shop, but despite its success, it’s stayed as a single outlet, not a chain. The owner Candy used to work at TVB, so occasionally you’ll catch some TV celebrities eating here too.

Durian beancurd
Their signature special for the month was “Durian beancurd” (HK$28) – oh yes, oddly you’ll find quite a few durian desserts in Hong Kong. Gorgeous creamy durian pulp atop refreshingly cold and smooth durian-flavoured beancurd. Even though durians are generally better in Singapore, this dessert was actually really good.

Mango Orchestra - ice cream, puree, fresh mango cubes, dried mango
The other very beloved fruit for dessert in Hong Kong is mango. Hui Lao Shan is probably the name most people (especially tourists) flock to, but someone told me locals prefer other brands.

This “Mango Orchestra” (also about HK$28) features mango ice cream, mango puree, fresh mango cubes and dried mango atop shaved ice. Extremely decadent with nothing to cut through the mango overload, but if you love mango, this will be the bomb!

Lychee pomelo shaved ice
Walt took a Lychee Pomelo with nata de coco on shaved ice. It looked luscious.

Hawthorn shaved ice drink
There are also some unusual drinks here, like the “Hawthorn” ice blended drink. It tastes like hawthorn-spiked lemonade. Tangy for the most part, with the sweetness coming from the red bits.

Look for the street with the flyover
The place is quite easy to find. From the main road, look for intersecting street that has the flyover above it (you can see it in the first photo too). Turn in there, walk a little bit and you’ll see Aunty Sweet next to Kin’s Kitchen.

For you durian lovers, check out Cha Xiu Bao’s photos of Aunty Sweet’s durian desserts – including the “Ultimate” (3rd photo) of durian sorbet, durian ice cream, durian puree, durian wafer and dried durian.

Here’s a list of other summer desserts in BC Magazine – Aunty Sweet’s included too.

AUNTY SWEET 甜姨姨 私房甜品
G/F, 13 Tsing Fung Street,
Tin Hau, Hong Kong.
Tel: +852 2508 6962

And before we knew it, it was time to reluctantly say good-bye …

By , August 6, 2010 6:30 pm

Having had a great time in Hong Kong, courtesy of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, and omy.sg, and having made some wonderful friends over the previous three days, the final day came all too quickly, and it was time to bid the Fragrant Harbour goodbye. All I guess were busy in the morning trying to stuff whatever shopping they had done into their bags, and when the time came to say a sad goodbye to the fabulous hotel room at 9.30 am, most of us had made it down to the glorious lobby of the hotel with bulging bags, which we soon loaded into the bus that was to ferry us around that day. Once on the bus, the ever amusing Aussie Pete, gave us an account of his shopping exploits at Harbour City Shopping Mall, and how he had managed to fill his very large and what had been an almost empty suitcase, even getting a toy dog that his son had wanted (isn’t that sweet?). That I can tell you is no mean feat, having not had much time to do any form of serious shopping, with the activity packed programme that the HKTB had lined up for us over the previous three days!

Pete started our morning with the story of how he managed to fulfill the big shopping task his wife had set him.

Evidence of Pete's shopping exploits.

The day’s programme started with breakfast at a congee restaurant that is apparently on list of recommended local restaurants in Michelin Guide, Law Fu Kee on Des Voeux Road. The word is that the chef has been dutifully gotten up at 3 am everyday for the last 50 years to prepare his highly rated concoction of Thai rice, crushed preserved eggs and fish bones that many crave. I myself, not being fond of congee, opted for a plate of beef brisket noodles, after which I was ready for what was to prove a very interesting walk around SoHo and Sheung Wan with Mr Leon Suen, which I have mentioned in two previous posts.

The day's programme started with breakfast at Law Fu Kee on Des Voeux Road in Central.

Law Fu Kee is highly rated for its congee which has been prepared in the same way for 50 years.

After the walk which ended at the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road, it was time for lunch at the Yin Yang, a private kitchen with three tables housed in a historic building of 1930s vintage in the Wan Chai area, run by celebrity chef Margaret Xu. Xu had given up a job at an advertising firm to run the kitchen and an organic farm on which most of the fresh produce used in the kitchen comes from. The exclusive kitchen, known for its signature dish of “Yellow Earth” chicken which is roasted in an earthern oven designed by Xu herself, hosts up to 30 people and each sitting features a menu that is hand picked by Xu herself, which can cost around HKD 700 per person. I guess this and the sauce making session conducted by Xu herself that followed deserves another post and that I guess is what I would just do.

Yin Yang is a private kitchen housed in a historic building on Ship Street.

The historic building dates back to the 1930s.

Yin Yang's signature dish: "Yellow Earth" Chicken

The specially designed oven that the "Yellow Earth" chicken is roasted in.

We had a Blue Girl at the table.

Celebrity chef Margaret Xu later conducted a sauce making session for some of the bloggers.

Margaret's sauce making demonstration was very intently followed by the bloggers who attended the session.

Margaret Xu demonstrated how to turn this mixture of green chillies, spring onions, ginger and oil from this ....

... to this tangy tasting pesto like paste ...

... which Pete seemed to like ...

We each had a bottle to take home with us.

When the session came to an end, we had a chance to taste the tangy green chilli sauce that Margaret had shown us how to make, which had perhaps the consistency of pesto, of which Pete seemed to enjoy the most. We were each given a bottle of the green sauce which Catherine Ling of Camemberu fame mentioned goes well with Chicken Rice. With that, it was almost time for a sad goodbye to what had been a really enjoyable trip, made better by the company of the friends we had all made on the trip, including the members of the HKTB team, the omy team, and my fellow bloggers, as well as that of the excellent hospitality we all had been shown by the HKTB. After a quick look around the area, during which I had a quick glance at the Hung Shing temple on Queen’s Road East, which was constructed in 1847 and at the time of its construction was by the sea, it was time to board the bus for the airport and say goodbye to some of those who had opted to stay behind. With that, what certainly had been one of the most enjoyable trips I have made, came to an end.

A last look around: Hung Shing Temple (1847) on Queen's Road East.

An annex to the Hung Shing temple, a Kwan Yum temple was added in 1867.

Queen's Road East in Wan Chai.

Darren completing formalities, before we said goodbye ...

A lasting last impression of Hong Kong ... a city that reaches out for the skies in many ways.

Time to say goodbye.

All settled for the final journey to the airport.

Wellington Street – Lin Heung Teahouse and Mak’s Noodles

By , August 5, 2010 10:23 pm

I walked down this alley and voila, there's Lin Heung!
After my Sun Tung Lok dim sum breakfast, Gingko House Western lunch and Kau Kee post-lunch bowl of curry beef brisket, I was walking on my own randomly exploring the vicinity. Actually, trying to walk off some of the calories too, when I passed by this huge wall sign that you simply couldn’t miss. Hey! Lin Heung Teahouse! Am I at Wellington Street already?

Lin Heung Teahouse at Wellington Street
Indeed I am! Oh I was very glad to see this old school yumcha teahouse. Lin Heung (160-164 Wellington Street; Tel: +852 2544-2556) has been around for some 80 years. But it was such a pity that I was way too full to eat any more immediately.

Busy yumcha atmosphere inside Lin Heung (upstairs)
Well, no harm taking a look at least. I ventured upstairs to the airconditioned hall. It’s brightly lit and reasonably clean (well, cleaner than I expected). Families were chattering at runaway speed in Cantonese, amidst the constant clink of porcelain. Steaming baskets of dim sum were shuttled briskly to the tables, their aroma filling the air once the lids were lifted. Cups of Chinese tea dotted the crowded tables. I loved the bustling atmosphere! There was not a single seat free, even if I had wanted to eat.

It's more than dim sum at Lin Heung
Lin Heung is not just about dim sum. They have popular dishes for dinner too. If I have the chance to come back, I would love to try some of these too.

Stairway leads up to airconditioned dining hall, and down to takeaway pastries
I love the dark wood stairs and banisters. At the bottom of the stairway near the entrance is the takeaway pastries section.

Super old school pastries
Lin Heung has a bakery that does traditional Chinese biscuits and pastries. They also started putting out mooncakes already.

Traditional Chinese pastries from Lin Heung Teahouse
I was determined to take away a little piece of Lin Heung with me, so I bought some of the pastries to take back to the hotel. The old-fashioned packaging is so quaint and lovely.

Flaky pastry with salted egg in lotus paste
Flaky pastry with salted egg in lotus paste. The flaky skin is more papery than oily. Very dense lotus paste too. The taste is quite rustic and traditional indeed.

Pastry with century egg in mixed nutty paste
This is the first time I’ve tried a sweetish pastry with a whole century egg embedded within! Gotta say it’s an acquired taste.

Easy to see where Bladerunner got its inspiration from
But back to Wellington Street. I continued my way, taking in the sights. This area is like quintessential old Hong Kong. This side alley may not be a prime example, but it’s not difficult to see how Ridley Scott drew some of his inspiration for Blade Runner.

Shops crammed with goods
And then we have the commercialisation that’s everywhere. There are lots of shops here selling anything and everything. They are often crammed to the brim with goods, some of it even spilling out onto the pavement, mixing with abandoned cartons.

Talk about a "no signboard" eatery!
There are also all kinds of eateries here. Look at this one, a single table in a dark shop underneath tungsten lights and the dilapitated carcass of a signboard. I was just wondering if the upper level is abandoned, when I caught the words near the staircase that say there’s more seating and air-conditioning upstairs.

The building in which Mak's Noodles is housed - rather gaudy, no?
I finally reach what I’ve been looking for. This is the building in which Mak’s Noodles is housed. Had not figured it’d be this gaudy.

Mak's Noodles - Anthony Bourdain was here!
But there it is – Mak’s Noodles, right on the ground floor. This legendary place needs no introduction. Even Anthony Bourdain came here. But oddly, it seemed rather empty.

Tsim Chai Kee opposite Mak's seems to have more business
And right opposite, is a rival selling pretty much the same stuff – wantan noodles, apparently at twice the size and half the price. Tsim Chai Kee had a lot more people in it.

But I chose Mak’s anyway. Every other shop else can come later.

Something magical in that steamy kitchen
I gingerly made my way in, and was immediately served tea. I watched the cook in the steamy kitchen, the place where all the magic happens.

These guys are super adept at making wantans - just 2 seconds per wantan!
I also watched the two gentlemen at the back of the shop, rolling wantans with practised ease. They didn’t take more than two seconds to neatly parcel pork mince and prawn into the skin and fold it.

The infamously small bowl - Mak's Noodles
And soon, my bowl of the signature wantan noodle soup (HK$28) arrived. Mak’s is known for its “stingy” portions – notice size of spoon in relation to bowl? That’s how small the bowl is. That’s why I could still eat this after having had 3 meals.

The small bowl is meant to keep the noodles from going soggy, but that’s debatable.

Mak's famous wantan noodles
I dug up the wantans from the bottom. I have to say the soup smelled great, and tasted so. Made using powdered dried flounder, dried shrimp roe and pork bones, it was pungently umami and almost perfect. The wantans were excellent – incredibly fresh shrimp and flavourful seasoning.

However, the noodles were less QQ than I had hoped. Maybe I had left them soaking in the hot soup for too long while I admired the dish and took photos. But I checked the timestamp on the photos – it was less than 4 minutes from first photo to last. Still, it must have softened somewhat. I should have had another bowl – no photography allowed.

The famous Yung Kee at Wellington Street
So I left Mak’s slightly underwhelmed but still happy I got to try it. Further down the road was Yung Kee. Been there, done that 10 years ago. Nice but I’m not a big fan of goose.

So ended my short walk on Wellington Street. Enough food for the day, right? Hahaha. Not quite. I hadn’t had dessert!

Next up, I meet a couple of old pals who bring me to where the locals go for Hong Kong desserts. Stay tuned.

Hong Kong Paaartaaay – A Video Pictorial

By , August 4, 2010 3:23 am

I was feeling a little ‘creative’ tonight (it’s a shame that my talents do not match my desires), so decided to savour the memories of our fabulous Hong Kong trip with some of my favourite moments in a short flash video pictorial – thanks and also apologies to all my fellow bloggers from whom I’ve ‘borrowed’ many of the pictures… :p

Sit back, turn up the volume and PAAARTAAAY along with me – Enjoy!!

[youtube 6FX8_GejWa8]

Treasures in Gough Street – Gingko House and Kau Kee

By , August 4, 2010 2:30 am

Gough Street looks more like a back alley, but there's so much to discover here!
After my dim sum late breakfast, I joined the blogger team and Hong Kong Tourism Board representatives to cross over to Hong Kong island. Our destination – Gough Street. It may not look like much. In fact, it resembles more a back alley than a proper street. But there are many wonderful shops and eateries here!

Lots of shops selling curios, upmarket bric-a-brac and home accessories at Gough Street
As we walked down the street, we saw many shops selling curios, hip designer home accessories, and upmarket bric-a-brac.

Cutesy stuff for children
Also cute stuff for children and kids at heart. Many are European imports, so may not be cheap. But so nice to look at.

Gingko House is at 44 Gough Street
Our lunch would take place at Gingko House at 44 Gough Street (tel: +852 2545 1200). It’s a lovely little place run with plenty of heart.

Gingko House employs the elderly and taps on their rich life experience to enhance service
You see, Gingko House is run like a social enterprise – it gives the elderly meaningful employment, and taps on their rich life experience to enhance service levels, encourage slow food dining and build rapport with customers.

The fare is largely French and Italian dishes. There were two set lunches we could choose from – the three-course Lunch Menu (HK$50-108 depending on mains) that comes with tea or coffee; and the lighter/healthier two-course “Leisure Lunch” (HK$98+) which comes with an organic mint and honey drink.

Mixed mushroom and walnut soup, organic vegetable salad
I chose the lighter one. The soup that came was an unusual mushrooms and walnut(!) broth. The regular menu gives you a cream-based soup. The salad consists of organic vegetables harvested from their own farm in Sheung Shui.

Grilled baby lamb rib with homemade organic mint sauce
Well, the reason I chose the lighter set was not for health reasons. It’s because it had the “Grilled baby lamb rib with homemade organic mint sauce” and I just could not resist this.

Maple mustard salmon steak with linguini in homemade pesto
Others went for the maple mustard salmon steak with linguini in homemade pesto, also from the Leisure Lunch (no one went for the roast spring chicken option). Look at the huge servings!

Rib eye roast with herb gravy
The rest who went with the regular set mostly chose the rib-eye roast with herb gravy. I was lucky to have a bite. It was tender and aromatic. Their chefs, although elderly, come with lots of experience from major hotels.

Dessert is a simple orange jelly
They gave everyone the daily dessert (in this case, orange jelly) even though it’s only on the regular lunch set. That was quite sweet of them.

Queueing up for tomato broth noodles with beef, toast with condensed milk
As we walked back to the chartered mini-coach, we saw again the ludicrously long queue for something that must be really good. We had no idea what.

As I looked at that queue, I myself walked into another queue on my side of the street. Oh, what was this for?

Ah yes, perfect!
Oh perfect, just what I was looking for on Gough Street! The famous Kau Kee beef brisket noodles 九記牛腩 (21 Gough Street, tel: +852 2850-5967). It counts even HK Chief Executive Donald Tsang, actors Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Nick Cheung and Takeshi Kaneshiro as its regulars.

I waved goodbye to the other bloggers who were slightly incredulous that I was going to be eating again, right after lunch. Well, this afternoon was my last pocket of free time. I was determined to make the most of it. Luckily my queue was shorter, and it moved really fast.

Busy, nonstop action in Kau Kee's kitchen
I was soon given a seat – right at the end of the shop, literally the last stool, sharing with a table of strangers who did not seem to mind. I had a view of the busy steaming kitchen – the action is non-stop and bowls just keep flying out. Service is also lighting fast. Two words into my halting Cantonese, and I was thrust an English menu. Thank God.

There is a variety of noodles to go with basically beef broth or curry broth. I knew the beef brisket broth here would be fantastic, but I decided to be brave and go for the curry.

Kau Kee Beef Brisket in Curry with Ee Fu Noodles
I was well rewarded. The curry is not timid – it is rich, spicy and complex. The bowl was generously loaded with chunks of beef that had been diligently stewed for hours, until they were tearaway tender and tasty. My ee-fu noodles too, did well to soak up all the flavours. I was very satisfied. No matter what others say about standards dropping, this is still a very good meal, and for only HK$27. In an air-conditioned place.

The other diners at my table kept saying how good their beef broth was. I wished I had the stomach capacity to try that as well. But I had more things on my list to eat. Mak’s noodles was next.

Sing Heung Yuen - corner of Mei Lun and Gough Streets
As I walked out of Kau Kee, I saw that the other long queue opposite it had not abated, even though it was well past lunch hour. What on earth were they serving at this makeshift food shack?

I later learned from our Hong Kong guide that this was Sing Heung Yuen which serves tomato broth noodles with beef, and snacks like toast with condensed milk. Apparently, students and regulars will start thronging there from 6am. There is no closing time, just whenever they finish, usually in the afternoon. That’s gotta be some kickass tomato broth to command a queue.

Curious as I was, I had to move on quickly. Only a couple more hours left.

I really loved how on this trip, a lot of road names became not just names, but real places to me. Gough Street was just the beginning. Wellington Street was next.

HK: Dim sum at Sun Tung Lok 新同樂

By , August 2, 2010 7:31 pm

Steaming hot bun
It was Day 2 of our Hong Kong trip, and I was determined to get my dim sum. Today’s two pockets of free-and-easy time were precious, as they were our last chance to explore on our own. Today…today would be an eating marathon for me, as you will soon see in upcoming posts.

Sun Tung Lok is at The Miramar Shopping Centre
And with sooo many dim sum joints in Hong Kong, which one to go to? I found something right under my nose – Sun Tung Lok 新同樂 at Miramar Shopping Centre. Scroll down to the bottom of this “Best dim sum in HK” thread (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/318331) to see the latest replies singing its praises. OK, it’s not inside The Mira hotel per se, but just a hop across the road.

There was one slight dilemma though. The restaurant opens at 11:30am, and I had to regroup with the other bloggers back at the hotel at noon as the Hong Kong Tourism Board was going to bring us across to HK island for lunch. But the Sun Tung Lok manager was very accommodating – they did their best to very quickly prepare and steam up their famous dim sum treats.

The interior is of understated elegance
Sun Tung Lok is actually a long-standing name in high-end Cantonese cuisine. It’s been around since 1969, some forty years now. This restaurant used to be in Happy Valley but relocated to Tsim Sha Tsui not too long ago. I like their cool brown sombre decor with plush seating. The air is of understated elegance, with a touch of whimsical baroque in the wallpaper and lighting fixtures. The spotlight, of course, is on the food.

Steamed pork dumpling (siew mai) topped with minced Yunnan ham - 4pcs for HK$40
Steamed pork dumpling (siew mai) topped with minced Yunnan ham – 4pcs for HK$40.
This looks so perfectly molded, I only needed to take one shot. One bite into it and I was surprised to find a high ratio of lean meat (and not too much shrimp thankfully). So it’s quite firm and not mushy. The siew mai skin is also very well made.

Steamed shrimp dumpling (har gow) - 4pcs for HK$42
Steamed shrimp dumpling (har gow) – 4pcs for HK$42.
What a succulent morsel. I read that they keep to their standard of 11 pleats or folds for the har gau! Most impressive.

Steamed shrimp dumpling (har gow) - such translucent skin!
Let me show you the other side of the har gau. Such translucent skin. The texture is gently chewy, and while the skin is delicate, it’s also strong enough to hold the prawns within. The contents are not heavily seasoned either, possibly to allow the natural taste of the fresh prawns to come through.

Crispy bacon spring roll - 3pcs for HK$36
How do you resist something called Crispy Bacon Spring Roll? 3pcs for HK$36
However, note that it is the spring roll that’s crispy, not the bacon within (which is more like blanched). This roll is quite appetising with a smoky flavour, from the bacon and the mushrooms. I think it comes with a sauce too.

Steamed minced beef ball - 2pcs for HK$36
This is one of their specialties here too. Steamed minced beef ball, very large ones too – 2pcs for HK$36. You can really taste the dried orange peel and chunks of chopped vegetables in the mince.

Steamed scallop and kale dumpling - 3pcs for HK$40
Steamed scallop and kale dumpling – 3pcs for HK$40.
The skin is again excellent, very similar to that of the har gau. It holds a lot of shrimp inside. For some reason, I didn’t see any kale though. This is normally nicknamed the jade scallop dumpling, due to the green addition.

Sweet sesame and salty egg yolk bun - 3pcs for HK$30
Sweet sesame and salty egg yolk bun – 3pcs for HK$30.
This was more sesame than salted egg yolk. My curiosity about this was misplaced, as I was dreaming of the salted egg custard buns we have back home. Still, something new for me. The sesame is thick and dense.

Steamed rice roll (cheong fun) with shredded turnip, enoki and Yunnan ham (HK$40)
Here’s the Steamed rice roll (cheong fun) with shredded turnip, enoki and Yunnan ham (HK$40). It comes with a small jar of soy-based seasoning for you to pour as you like. The cheong fun skin is very thin, encasing crunchy fried batter. Thick, generous chunks of turnip made this very juicy. Soft, hard, crunchy, juicy – lots of contrasting textures.

I have to say Sun Tung Lok does well-made dim sum, but I do notice that most of the food is not heavily salted or overly seasoned. For some, it may come across as a tad bland, but for others, it can be a welcome change. In our short stay in HK, we encountered food that’s a bit too salty at quite a few places.

I wish I got to try some other stuff (like the durian “sou” or puff) but time was running short. Probably a good thing too, as I had five other meals ahead of me!

Sun Tung Lok has been around for 40 years, since 1969
Service here is very good. They also served me a pot of vintage pu-erh tea that complemented the dim sum perfectly. I am very grateful for the restaurant’s flexibility in meeting my needs – they not only worked fast, but also allowed me to order just one item of each, so I would not be overwhelmed as a single diner. There I was thinking I probably have to “tar-pow” or pack some takeaways!

For more dim sum photos, check out Peech’s review!

SUN TUNG LOK
Shop 4D (on fourth floor, which is full of restaurants)
Miramar Shopping Centre
1 Kimberly Road
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Hong Kong

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HK: Yee Shun Milk Company 義順牛奶公司

By , July 29, 2010 7:59 pm

Yee Shun Milk Company
After my failed dim sum hunt, I continued on to the next target on my eating list. Yee Shun Milk Company at 513 Nathan Road. This is a must-try for people who like steamed milk desserts. I had several people recommending me this.

Steamed milk with ginger juice, cold
I realise I have actually eaten here on previous trips. This time I opted for the steamed milk with ginger juice (about HK$22), the cold version. It was blessed relief after traipsing around in the summer heat! Smooth and weightless, this milk pudding was even lighter than beancurd. The sweetness and ginger flavour is much more subtle in the cold version.

Double skin milk pudding with lotus seeds, warm
I could not resist a second bowl. The “double skin” milk puddings are their signature. I took one with lotus seeds (HK$25), a hot one this time. It’s even smoother, and the sweetness comes through much more in the hot pudding than the cold one. There’s a very thin film of “skin” on top that’s barely there.

Bowls and bowls in the chiller, ready to be served
You get served really fast, because they have batches of the steamed milk ready. Here’s the chiller with the cold ones in the display window.

Desserts and Drinks Menu at Yee Shun Milk Company
Their desserts and drinks menu (along with some branch info in small Chinese text – sorry I can’t translate). They have some Hong Kong style sandwiches and food too (other side of menu).

On the whole, certainly a pleasant dessert that scores high as a comfort food. But you gotta love milk in the first place.

YEE SHUN MILK COMPANY
G/F, 513 Nathan Road,
Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2374-5460

Other branches:
G/F, 506 Lockhart Road
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2591-1837

G/F, 63 Pilkem Street
Jordan, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2730-2799

G/F, 246-248 Sai Yeung Choi Street South
Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2393-3301

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