Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chocolate Potato Chip

Potato chips are fattening enough, and to dip it in chocolate? That's a sin! Well, I was convinced into trying this out in Hong Kong by my cousin. Strangely enough, the combination worked. There was just something about the sweet and salty coming together...much like the time I saw chocolate covered bacon being made on Food Network.

Above, a close up of the chocolate potato chip. See the salt on it?

Surprisingly, the chips retained their crunch very nicely even having been dipped. You seriously can't have too much of these, even though they're only dipped on one side. This particular brand of chocolate potato chip came from Japan, much like everything else in HK.

Above, the sinful chips on display at the supermarket

Monday, December 29, 2008

McDonald's, Hong Kong Style

While we were in Hong Kong, we were hit with McDonald's commercial on its new Shrimp Burger every time we watched TV. We Asians love seafood. You'll never see shrimp burgers from McD's in the U.S., so we just had to try it. My sweet cousin was nice (and crazy) enough to make a midnight McD's run the night before we left.

This was how these burgers were advertised:

And this was the actual burger itself. Where's the whole shrimp I saw on the box? Gipped by shameless marketing, I'm sure. It was too good to be true.

There really were bits and pieces of shrimp in the burger patty, but I can't say there was any shrimp taste.

According to my cousin, we had just missed the Wasabi Filet-O-Fish that were available for a limited time only. She said they were pretty good and came in your choice of a single fillet or double-decker filet! With the double-decker coming in at less than $2.50 USD, they are a steal!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Street Foods

We ate constantly in Hong Kong...dim sum in the afternoon, snacks before dinner and dessert after dinner. There were plenty to snack on on the streets of HK. We had fish balls and mini egg cakes during our trip.

Fish Balls (魚蛋)

I've had plenty of fish balls before, but none in curry sauce like these my cousin recommeneded from a popular vendor with a store front on the street in Causeway Bay. They were cheap and satisfying.

Fish balls kissed by curry sauce

Inside of the fish ball looks pretty dense; they are supposed to have bounce when you bite into them

Other snacks you can get there include various innards, sausages and dumplings. With almost everything at less than $1 USD a pop, it ain't bad at all.

The obviously busy vendor of hot snacks

Mini Egg Cakes (雞蛋仔)

These sweet little pillows of goodness are made from a batter made mainly out of eggs. I've been a fan of these ever since I was little. These ones we got were particularly good. Imagine biting into a thin, crispy exterior and a warm, airy, soft and almost creamy interior! Yum.

A batch of freshly made mini egg cakes

A soft and warm interior

Other than mini egg cakes, the vendor also makes coconut egg rolls (椰絲捲) and waffles (雞蛋餅).

The mini egg cake vendor handles making 4 at once; they're sold in bundles

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Good Food at All Price Points in Hong Kong

I was amazed at the price and quality of food in Hong Kong. You can choose to pay up or pay down, but either way, you can't go wrong most of the time. Here are some examples on the lower end:

A 10-course meal for 15 people for less than $200 USD. There was sharks fin soup, fresh steamed fish, yummy chicken, stir fried seafood, etc...

A double-decker Filet-0-Fish sandwich from McDonald's for $18 HKD, which is roughly $2 USD.

A loaf of Green Tea Red Bean Bread for $15 HKD (roughly $2 USD). Can you believe it? It was a whole loaf about 12 inches long, enough to feed at least 3-4 people for breakfast. You can't get that variety of flavor or the price here in the States.

Amazing variety of bread and bargain

A serving of 5 fish balls for $5 HKD (roughly $0.60 USD)

A bowl of wonton noodles for roughly $2 USD.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day

I practiced Boxing Day when I was younger living in Hong Kong. This is the day you open your gifts and follows Christmas Day. Although it is not a tradition in the U.S., I still like to follow it (and so does my dad) to remind me of the good ol'days.

I happen to think it's really neat to have an added extra suspense! Happy Boxing Day!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

This is actually the first time in a looooong time I'm spending Christmas with my family. I'm very grateful for that and am looking forward to the food! :-)

Enjoy your Christmas and stay warm!

Best Wishes,


My photo of the tree at Rockefeller last year

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Baking

I'm doing some minor (translation: easy) baking for the holidays...using the go-to recipes I've used so many times of course. Here's what I've done or am planning to do:

Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies - My brother isn't a cookie person, but he likes these! That made me very happy and pushed these cookies to the top of my list for sure.

Martha Stewart's Outrageous Chocolate Chip Cookies - I love the minimal use of butter in this recipe. In one of my past posts, I documented the modifications I made to the recipe. In fact, I got my very first compliment from my sister (ever!) on these. Yay!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

'Tis the Season for Hairy Crab

Yes, it's hairy. Hence its name in English. However, its name in Chinese (大閘蟹) does not have hair in any of its words. I've never had it before until recently in Hong Kong. I was there just in time for hairy crab season. Eating this type of crab was an experience in itself.

Above, the hair up close

Chinese people say eating crabs have a cooling (涼) effect. They describe watermelons the same way. I haven't grasped that meaning in its entirety; I only know that too much of food with a cooling effect is supposedly bad for you. Apparently, there's a remedy for it - ginger tea. The tea was quite good; I would have it any time.

Above, a cooked hairy crab

These crabs are prized for their tasty roe. As for eating these creatures...most of them are the size of your hand. The easiest and most popular way to dig into these is with a pair of scissors with thin small blades and a utensil similar to a small knife that can maneuver around the cavity inside. Even with those tools, eating hairy crab was still quite a task. It took a while to cut and dig. I can't say it was well worth the work because there wasn't much meat in the crab. But hey, at least I can say I've had hairy crab.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Shanghai Soup Dumplings Love

I'm drooling just thinking about the Shanghai Pork and Crab Soup Dumplings (蟹粉小籠包) I had in Hong Kong. Yes, I had pork! These dumplings I'm in love with are extra special. Btw, they're also known as Steamed Meat Buns in HK.

First off, the dumplings are special because they have inside them a flavorful broth that bursts into your mouth as you bite into them. Second, what makes them *extra* special is that they are made luxurious with the addition of crab meat and/or roe (the basic or usual version has pork only). The use of crab just adds another wonderful layer of flavor. These little babies are served steaming hot in a big bamboo basket.

Don't you just want to take a bite into these little lovelies?

The genius who came up with these dumplings was so clever that he/she probably made you think he wrapped soup inside a dumpling. For those of you who don't know the process, broth is put into a freezer to solidify, then is chopped into little pieces and wrapped inside the dumplings. When you steam them, they liquify and return to their original state.

There's a technique to eating these (I personally do not agree with it). First, drizzle some vinegar over the dumpling. Then, to avoid the soup inside from bursting out all over the place, I was told to take a small bite into the dumpling wrapper and slurp all the juice out of it. I did not agree with this technique only because I wanted to taste the meat and soup all together. I prefer making a mess for the sake of tasting everything together.

A Pork and Crab Soup Dumpling from Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant resting on its own broth - see the little specs of crab roe?

I've had soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai in NY Chinatown, but their broth was very sticky...gelatinous. This wasn't what I had in Hong Kong. I'm not saying Joe's is better or worse based on the gelatinous quality. I simply appreciate it - if a broth is made with bones, it is more intense and has a gelatinous quality. However, based on Joe's Pork and Crab Soup Dumplings alone, I would have to go with the ones from HK. I did not taste the crab at all in Joe's, nor could I tell the difference in taste between a plain pork one and a pork & crab one.

My cousin brought me to three places in HK that served very good Pork and Crab Soup Dumplings. All were tasty, but only one (see the last restaurant entry below) had a very intense crab taste. Yum!

Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant (南翔饅頭店)
Shop 305-8, 3/F, Causeway Bay Plaza No. 1 (銅鑼灣 軒尼詩道489號銅鑼灣廣場1期3字樓305-8號舖)
Causeway Bay, HK

Modern China Restaurant (金滿庭京川滬菜館)
Shop 1002, 10/F, Food Forum, Times Square (銅鑼灣灣勿地臣街 1 號時代廣場10字樓1002號舖)
1 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay, HK

Victoria City Seafood (海都酒家)
2/FL., Sun Hung Kai Center, 30 Harbour Rd. (香港灣仔港灣道30號新鴻基中心二樓)
Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Inventive Dim Sum

There's the usual "ha gau" (蝦餃) and "siu mai" (燒賣) - shrimp and pork dumplings - in dim sum, and then there are the inventive items. I seldom see these in the States, so I was surprised to see these even in the suburban areas in Hong Kong like Chai Wan, where my grandparents live. Below are some examples:

  • Purple yam bun - I have never seen these before. For those of you who don't know, Hong Kong people love yam and taro. The color in the purple filling here was just amazing to see.

  • Scallion pancake - I have not seen this interpretation before. It was scallions stuffed in many layers of flaky goodness. Not bad at all.

  • Sticky Rice Wrapped in Taro - Taro is skillfully sliced thin like a sheet of paper and wrapped around sticky rice. Peanuts were added to the sticky rice for a contrast of crunch to the soft rice.

Beat that, United States dim sum!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dim Sum Run Down: The Grace's Garden

I had another nice dim sum in Hong Kong. This time around it was at The Grace's Garden (玉桃苑). There is no push cart service at this restaurant, so everything was made to order. We had the usual dim sum items here, and they were all good (although their shrimp dumplings weren't better than those from Jade Garden).

Below were some of the unusal dim sum items:

  • Pork Chop Sandwich (豬排包) - It was literally a piece of pork chop sandwiched between semi-sweet buns. Apparently, pork chop sandwiches are a specialty from Macau (they're definitely much better there, and I'll have a review for you in a later post). The pork in these sandwiches were a bit tough though.

These Pork Chop Sandwiches look very appetizing, don't they?

  • Fried Wontons (炸雲吞) - I've had alot of fried wontons, but none that looked like these. These looked like giant tortellinis! They were almost as big as my palm. They were filled with shrimp inside.

Huge Fried Wontons that looked like giant tortellinis

  • Scallion Pancakes (蔥油餅) - These are definitely not the kind you'd find in the US. They were thin and deep fried. It wasn't heavy in the scallions taste, but you can definitely taste them in there.

A different kind of Scallion Pancake

If you're in the area, stop by this restaurant for dim sum and do some serious shopping (or window shopping) in the Times Square mall later!

The Grace's Garden (玉桃苑)
Shop 1202, 12/F, Food Forum, Times Square (香港銅鑼灣勿地臣街 1 號時代廣場食通天 12 樓)
1 Matheson Street, Causeway Bay, HK

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dim Sum Run Down: Cuisine Cuisine

Very seldom do you find a good restaurant with a nice view in NYC. My guess is that there are plenty in Hong Kong. In HK, Cuisine Cuisine (國金軒) has both good view and good food. My cousin brought us there for a nice dim sum (點心) experience. According to my cousin, they have the best barbecued/roast pork (cha siu 叉燒) in HK , even better than the well-known Yung Kee (鏞記). The food and the view came with a price though, of course.

Above, Cuisine Cuisine with a harbour view to die for

The restaurant was designed in a way so that when you enter the dining room after walking through a long hallway, you are mesmorized by the harbour view instantly. Through the giant floor to ceiling windows, you see not only the harbour, but also the city spanning from Wan Chai to Central. There are no push carts here, so everything is made to order.

Above, the stunning interior design to match with the view

These were some of the dim sum we had (I'm going to try to be as accurate as possible given the huge amount of food I had in HK):

  • Pineapple Bun with Taro (菠蘿包) - This was the first time I've ever had taro filled in a bun like this. The filling is usually custard, coconut or red bean.

Above, tiny "pineapple bun" with taro filling

  • Seafood Dumpling (海鮮餃) - The packaging was so neat and cute! I almost didn't want to eat it. Inside you see shrimp, scallions and possibly scallop.

Above, seafood dumpling and its innards

  • Barbecued/Roast Pork ("Cha siu" 叉燒) - It was so good. Soft and tender, flavorful and sweet, juicy and topped with perfectly charred edges.

Above, dreamy juicy Barbecued/Roast Pork

  • Garoupa (Grouper) Parcel - The presentation really opens up your appetite. Inside the tiny package tied together by scallion is grouper (skin on), baby corn, ginger and bamboo shoots. The fish was so fresh and perfectly cooked. I thought that the ginger was too pronounced though.

Above, the delicate Garoupa (Grouper) Parcel

  • Fried Taro (芋頭酥) - It was so light and airy. Inside was a piece of taro and seafood (scallop I think).

Above, a decadent Fried Taro stuffed with seafood

  • Turnip Pastry (蘿蔔酥) - It's a cross between a bun and a flaky pastry. You can definitely taste the turnip. Very nicely done.

Above, flaky Turnip Pastry

  • Warm Glutinous Rice Balls/Mochi (黑芝麻丸) - My brother was really entertained by the spoons, but what was even better was that the mochi tasted great. This was a sweet dessert filled with black sesame paste. The mochi is topped with a mixture of chopped roasted peanuts and sugar for a contrast of texture to the soft and chewy mochi.

Above, the fun to eat Warm Glutinous Rice Balls/Mochi

If you're in town, you can pay a visit to the restaurant (if it's your birthday or any other special occasion or if you have a fat wallet) or go window shopping nearby in the IFC building.

Cuisine Cuisine (國金軒)
3101-3107, Podim Level 3, IFC Mall (中區國際金融中心二期三樓)
Central, Hong Kong

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dim Sum Run Down: House of Canton

Housed inside the biggest mall in Hong Kong called Festival Walk (又一城) is House of Canton (翰騰閣), where we had dim sum. There were no push carts here; you check off the dishes you want so dim sum was made to order. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this place. Everything was great!

In fact, I had the best Malaysian Brown Sugar Sponge Cake (馬拉榚) here. It caught my attention at first because it was in an unusal dome shape. Usually, the cake is baked in a pan and cut into servings to be put into bamboo baskets. House of Canton's version arrived steaming hot in a huge dome shape and fit snugly in the bamboo basket. It was so light and airy. It was perfect.

Above, a slice of the dome-shaped Malaysian Brown Sugar Sponge Cake

And then I saw an interesting looking bun. It was a steamed custard bun ("lai wong bao" 奶皇包) that was fried. I thought I might give it a try because I haven't had it before. It was interesting to say the least. The custard filling inside was okay; I've had better elsewhere. Hey, it was worth a try.

Above, a Fried Steamed Custard Bun

Above, inside a Fried Steamed Custard Bun

There is plenty of shopping and eating to do in Festival Walk. Like everything else in HK, it is easily accessible by subway.

House of Canton (翰騰閣)

LG2-40 Festival Walk (九龍塘達之路80號)

Kowloon, Hong Kong

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dim Sum Run Down: Lippo Chiu Chow

Back to dim sum! Chiuchow is a type of cuisine from China. I'm not familiar with it, but I certainly got a glimpse of it when we had dim sum at Lippo Chiu Chow (力寶軒). It was a fine dim sum experience. The restaurant is in the interesting looking skyscraper in Admiralty called Lippo Centre (力寶中心). In fact, the building is listed in most travel books on Hong Kong. We even had a celebrity citing there (in all honesty, it was someone from my parents' generation).

Above, the Lippo Centre in Admiralty

The tables here are more tightly packed than other restaurants I've been to in Hong Kong. Because of the space issue, it goes without saying then that there were no push cart service. So, everything was made to order. We had the usual dim sum items here like shrimp dumplings ("ha gau" 蝦餃) - they make a fine version of it - and steamed custard buns ("lai wong bao" 奶皇包) . Below are some of the other noteworthy items:

  • Turnip Pastry (蘿蔔絲酥餅) - It was flaky and easy to bite into. Inside the pastry is filled with shredded turnip that was warm, moist and tasty.

  • Roasted Diced Abalone and Chicken Pie (鮑魚雞粒酥) - These luxurious bite size pies were wonderful. At first bite, you get the flakiness of the shell, then flavorful pieces of abalone, chicken and onion inside.

  • Chiuchow Congee - Congee is a porridge made of rice. There are many varieties of congee; rice can be boiled with fish, meat and/or thousand year old egg. The rice is boiled to a point where it breaks down in a traditional congee. Apparently, in Chiuchow cuisine, that's not their style; the rice is left whole.
Above, bits of sliced fish, mushroom, scallions and rice in Chiuchow Congee

The restaurant can be easily reached by subway. Give it a try when you're there!

Lippo Chiu Chow (力寶軒)
Shop 4, Ground Floor, Lippo Centre, 89 Queensway (香港金鐘道 89 號力寶中心地下 4 號舖)
Hong Kong

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Obesity Tax?

That has got to be the worst name ever for a tax. As most of you may already know, NY Governor Paterson proposed an "obesity tax" on nondiet soft drinks. Gimme a break. Just because you drink nondiet beverages doesn't mean you're obese. What's next? Nondiet cookies?

Even if that proposal passes and causes New Yorkers to switch to diet soft drinks, can someone guarantee that many years down the road, there won't be any findings that diet soft drinks are harmful to your body? I'm a fan of eating or drink natural products; diet products just seem too engineered for me.

I'd like to add that I'm not a soda lover, but I do find this tax silly.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Joy of Gown Shopping

I've confessed that I lack the bride gene. I have not found the joy and excitment that most brides have experienced during the wedding planning process. Everything seemed like a chore. Add to it that (I feel) I care more about the details than my fiance. I have another explanation to add to the reason why I feel this way - gown shopping.

I did not enjoy gown shopping. I don't like stripping infront of a stranger. I don't like the service or attitude at most bridal salons (even at Kleinfeld's). Most of all, I don't like that the gowns you try on are so large that you can't even tell if a gown would actually look good on you (btw, I am not a stick; I have meat on my bones). It's hard to imagine what you'll look like on your wedding day - the shape and length of the gown have a lot to do with it. So forget about the fantasy bridal gown ads sell. This is reality.

Above image from The Knot (note: this is NOT my gown)

Because sample gowns usually run in larger sizes, the shape of a gown is usually created by pinching the fabric closely to your body and clipping huge binder clips on the back of the gown. I look many times towards my behind and can't even see it! When I try on jeans, I like to see how they make my behind look - do they enhance it, flatten it, or are they just right. Same thing for the chest area. It's even worse when there's beading on the bodice - I gotta figure that the larger the surface area, the more beading; all that bling just made me dizzy.

As for the length - I find it funny that after they put the sample gown on me, I have to constantly kick the bottom of the skirt just so I can walk properly because it's soooo long. You don't even know how long a train really is supposed to be either in a gown your size because everything is simply dragging. Add to it that you don't even know the actual volume of the skirt because bigger size translates to more material.

Such was the *joy* I felt during my gown shopping experience. I'm glad I picked a gown, but I have not stopped second guessing my decision...will it make my behind look big? does it have the right volume I want? Sigh.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lovely Flower Arrangements in HK

I saw some of most wonderful flower arrangements in Hong Kong. They were all over shopping plazas and restaurants. You hardly see those in shopping malls in the States, and I've never seen arrangements like these before. Here are some that caught my eye.

Various phalaenopsis orchids and cream and peach roses on tall branches:

Above, a flower arrangement in a shopping plaza in HK

Yellow calla lilies, yellow oncidium orchids and pink hydrangeas on a bed of stones (I especially liked how the stems of the calla lilies look like bamboo from afar because they were tied every so inches):

Above, another flower arrangement in a shopping plaza in HK

A low arrangement of pink vanda orchids and tea leaves in square vase:

Above, a flower arrangement in a restaurant in HK

I think I might consider using different types of orchids now in my wedding!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hong Kong Read My Mind

It's no secret that I'm obsessed with patterns and cut outs. So when I saw this in Hong Kong, I immediately loved it.

Above, escalator entrance to Times Square Plaza in HK covered in holiday decorations

Above, a bad close up

My sister suggested that I do something like that for the altar at the wedding. Yeah, if I had all that time and money!

Friday, December 12, 2008

What I Would Do for Our Wedding

Gotta take a break from talking endlessly about dim sum...plus, I don't think I've talked about wedding stuff for a while now.

Well, I didn't only return to the States with a couple of extra pounds from all that eating; the extra weight also came from carrying a pretty heavy equipment. I'm hoping what I brought back won't give me a sense of false hope, but my cousin swears by this baby. Behold, it's the magnetic hula hoop!

I was never good at the hula hoop, but I took my cousin's magnetic hoop for a spin and actually got it to go around me 5 times. That's more than I've ever done before! It's supposed to help strengthen your abs while loosing weight. It's heavy, with these supposedly magnetic knobs inside the hoop. It hurts and bruises beginners, but my cousin said that it gets better when you get used to it.

The hoop is detachable. I used one less attachment to make the hoop smaller and easier for me to use. I started this a week ago and definitely got bruised. What I found was that it not only bruises your waist, but also your other body parts when you're unsuccessful and it falls on perhaps your feet! Yes, this is the length I would go just to look good for our wedding. Sigh.

While I'm no where near as good (or as graceful at hula hooping) as my cousin, who can do this non-stop for an hour, I'm crossing my fingers that it works. I'll let you know!