Monthly Archives: October 2012

Nostalgic Dining in Hong Kong (2)

As we grow older–or if you prefer euphemistically, “as we mature”– we sometimes remember a place we visited or some food we tasted long ago and there is a desire to re-capture the same experience. I am a believer that every moment or experience is unique and to hope that things will stay the same only opens oneself to disappointment. However, it does not mean that I do not want to return to a place I used to know, because usually there is something new to be discovered.

I embarked on a culinary trip into nostalgia  to what used to be known as the typhoon shelter area in Wanchai, on Hong Kong Island and the restaurant was called Under Bridge Spicy Crab.

The restaurant is so-called because it is situated under the legendary Goose Neck Bridge (Canal Road Bridge) to the locals.

The typhoon shelter was long gone and replaced by reclaimed land. However the restaurant which used to get its ingredients fresh off the fishing boats at the shelter still remained. Over 20 years ago, it started off as a dai pai dong (a street stall where patrons eat sitting on an elevated bench facing the counter or at a small table in the open) at this location.  It has grown into a chain of restaurants in the same area. The owner now has to obtain his daily catch from other seafood markets. He picks crabs from Vietnam and Australia, among other seafood.

The spicy chili crab and the curry crab were equally famous and I chose the former. Spiciness came in five levels, and the “least spicy” was just good for me, in spite of my fondness for spicy dishes. So be prepared in case you want to challenge yourself. The aroma of the deep fried garlic and scallion tickled my olfactory sense. The crab was meaty and the crab cream tasted divine.

To balance the spiciness, I ordered a milder dish of stir fry garlic stalk and all went well with a bowl of steam rice.

The restaurant gets busy soon after six o’clock in the evening. It is always good to make a reservation in advance to save yourself lining up on the sidewalk waiting for your number to be called. Service is mediocre, because the waiters seem to be busy all the time. I asked for the steamed rice, which took a very long time to arrive. The bill was presented more promptly though, because I guess they wanted me to leave so that they could prepare the table for the next diner. I would recommend this restaurant to you, because the food is indeed excellent. The success of this restaurant is also a Hong Kong story in which hard work pays off. Furthermore, this place is now world-famous, having been featured on CNNGo.com.

Under Bridge Spicy Crab, 414-424 Jaffe Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong.

Nostalgic Dining in Hong Kong (1)

I grew up in Hong Kong and spent half of my life living overseas. Every time I go back to Hong Kong to visit, I cannot help but notice new buildings rising in the city and new neighbourhoods burgeoning in the older parts of town. Shops and restaurants I used to go to have gone out of business, and sections of the city in which I grew up have been torn down and rebuilt. I was only too happy to find two local restaurants that had survived all the changes and were still in business on my recent visit. They had transformed too, and fortunately for the better.

Tsui Wah Restaurant dates back to the 1960’s and 1970’s. From a modest cafe or cha chaan teng (tea and meal house to the locals) which serves tea, coffee and toasts, it is now the landmark of the cha chaan tengs with a restaurant chain with over 6 locations, and soon to become a public traded company. Its menu has also expanded to include lunch and dinner specialties. I frequent the Tsui Wah on Wellington Street, a side street in the city centre of Hong Kong Island. I normally like to go there for breakfast when I am in town, for I love their oatmeal and  french toast. On my recent visit, I went there for lunch and ordered something I had not had for a very long time.

The deep-fried fish skin is a rare delicacy. It is dog fish skin, lightly floured and then deep-fried. I dip the fish skin into the broth. There is a softness in the first bite and crunchiness to follow. The reason why dog fish skin is chosen is that the restaurant uses dog fish to make their fishballs. So nothing is wasted here.

My vermicelli comes with three shrimp dumplings and braised ribs. The soft part of the ribs is chosen and  its melts in the mouth. It is quite a filling lunch.

However, the meal would not be complete without a cup of tea, or milky tea as the order should go. It is strong and smooth, because they put  evaporated milk in Ceylon tea. This is the only tea I drink when I go to a cha chaan teng  in Hong Kong.

Patrons usually do not stay long in this restaurant in the morning or during lunch time, because they all have to go back to work. During peak hours, you may be asked to share a table, and this is commonly acceptable, as long as you do not elbow your neighbour and over turn the tea. On the other hand, dinner customers and late night patrons love to linger. (The Wellington Street branch offers 24 hours service.) There is a relaxed atmosphere here that makes one feel like home.

I strongly recommend this restaurant to any visitors to Hong Kong for an experience that is truly indigenous.

Tsui Wah Restaurant, 15-17 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong.   http://www.tsuiwahrestaurant.com

MacDonald’s Multi-cultural Menu

Thanks to fellow blogger Gary for mentioning that the lamb burger is available at MacDonald’s in Australia,  I went to try one after I had completed my race at the Sydney Running Festival when I was visiting Sydney Australia earlier.

This is the Serious Lamb Burger, although I wonder how a non-serious lamb burger, if there is one,  may differ. This serious lamb burger is much bigger than the MacDonald’s burgers in North American. The patty is juicy and tasted ‘lamby’. It also comes with a fried egg, a piece of beet and tomatoes and greens. I quite enjoy it.

This burger reminds me of the lobster burger I tasted at a MacDonald’s in Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada. It is served on a hot dog bun. There are chunky pieces of lobster mixed with seafood sauce–a very tasty creation!

When I went to Hong Kong, I checked out the local menu and was pleased to discover an indigenous offering. There on the breakfast menu was chicken cutlet and spirali. Do not be mistaken that Uncle Ronald is importing Italian cuisine to China. In fact, the locals like to have either noodles or pasta. such as macaroni, in a broth for breakfast, and MacDonald’s creation is really popular. In the combo, the coffee and hash brown are typical MacDonald’s basics.

There is also teriyaki burger on the menu and apparently this is also available in Japan. However, I am  too full for another burger after my pasta.

Talk about globalization in the business world. MacDonald’s multi-cultural menu is a good example of how to successfully secure its business in the local community. Now my personal goal is to try MacArabia when I have a chance to travel to the Middle East one day.

Walking in the Fall

The air felt crispy. The sun was shining. The leaves rustled on the ground as we walked along the Spencer Creek Trail in Dundas, Ontario. In fact we left so early that we saw a sheen of frost still on the ground when we walked up Grove Cemetery.  The place was particularly quiet this morning, except for the sound of our breathing as we walked up the hill. The sun was coming through the branches while the leaves fell onto the ground. Capture the moment: Peace and Serenity.

From the Cemetery, we went through Dundas Driving Park, and we walked among residential neighbourhood. Fall colors greeted us everywhere. We are so blessed in this part of Canada because the colors of our leaves are a mosaic of shades from golden yellow to fiery red. Isn’t this too “Pied Beauty”?

        Glory be to God for dappled things– /For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow/For rose moles all it stipple upon trout that swim /Fresh firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings; /Landscape plotted and pieced-fold, fallow, and plough; /And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange; /Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?) /With swift  slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; /His fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: /Praise him.

 (Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1985)

I never get tired of Fall. I become excited every time when I spot the first leaf turning red at the beginning of the season. Every week on my walks, the colors of the leaves greet me with a new scene, arousing in me a sense of anticipation and gratitude. How I wish I could hang on to Fall! In a couple of weeks, the branches will be bare. Fall will usher in Winter. Gerard Manly Hopkins’s “Spring and Fall–To a Young Child” comes to mind again.

Margaret, are you grieving /Over Goldengrove unleaving? /Leaves, like the things of man, you /With your fresh thoughts care for, can you? /Ah! as the heart grows older /It will come to such sights colder /By and by, nor spare a sign /Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie; /And yet you will weep and know why. /Now no matter, child, the name; /Sorrow’s springs are the same. /Nor mouth had,, no nor mind, expressed /What heart heard of, ghost guessed: /It is the blight man was born for, /It is Margaret you mourn for.

(Gerard Manly Hopkins, 1988.)

The saying “there is a time for everything” rings true. But for now, let me enjoy Fall while it lasts.

Bistro 80: Dining at Star City Sydney

My friend invited me to dine at Bistro 80, which was located in the entertainment complex Star City in Sydney, Australia, because they knew that I had a lot of Chinese food when I was in town and it would be nice to try western for a change. Besides, according to my hosts, the restaurant was recently renovated.

It was a busy and somewhat noisy restaurant and there were several large tables already seated with families with young children or parties with over six people. They used the bar as a partition. I found the dim lighting a little incongruent in this boisterous environment.

The meal started well with some buttered garlic bread.

For our appetizers–the Australians called these entrées–we ordered foie gras, mussels and scallops.

The foie gras was a disappointment because the taste was bland, and the texture of the paté, confit duck and ham hock did not complement one another. The brioche muffin was dry. The only tasty component was the chutney.

The mussels came in a generous helping. They were fresh and sweet tasting. A little more wine in the sauce probably could bring out the flavour more.

The scallops were the best among the three starters.

In the main course, the steak, an O’Conner pasture feed Scotch, was tough.

The order for a medium rare lamb cutlet came out to be really rare.

The Barramundi fortunately was tasty, and so were the clams and prawns on the side.

The standard of the food was varied. The waiters were hustling around and we had no less than three persons asking us if we were going to the show. Apparently the restaurant had introduced a dining menu for patrons attending the theatre afterwards in Star City. Given such confusion, some front of house reorganization is desirable.

Bistro 80, 80 Pyrmont, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Bistro 80 on Urbanspoon

(This post completes my write-ups on my recent visit to Sydney, Australia. If you have been following this series on my Blog, my sincere thanks. If you are reading my Blog for the first time, do check out my other posts.)

Chan’s Garden Restaurant: Suburban Chinese Cuisine in Sydney

It is universally acknowledged that wherever one goes, there is bound to be a Chinese restaurant, be it a chop suey takeaway or a seafood diner. Chinese restaurants outside of Hong Kong, Taiwan and China are undergoing a revolutionary movement to modernize. They make the best of local ingredients while preserving the traditional cooking methods such as steaming, deep frying and braising. Chan’s Garden Restaurant in suburban Burwood, less than half an hour from Sydney, Australia does just that.

On entering the restaurant, I was not surprised to be in a rather non-descriptive dining hall. Seasonal specialties were posted on the wall. Two big aquaria spoke for the freshness of the day’s catch. The ambiance is typical of Chinese restaurants in small towns, just plain.

I was invited for a “light Chinese meal’, which in fact was an oxymoron. First to appear was the “wet fried” (i.e., with gravy) flat noodles with beef and scrambled egg–soft noodles, tender beef and a gravy that was not thick. The chef had good control.

This was followed by fried rice with diced salted fish and chicken, and a fried vermicelli with shredded pork. The rice is not sticky and taste was well-balanced. The fried vermicelli remained crunchy even after the sauce with shredded pork, mushroom and bean sprouts was poured over it.

We ordered black bean chicken and stir fry gai lan with ginger and wine. The chicken tasted a bit over powering to me, probably I was  tasting it with the more subtle flavors of the vegetables.

I could not wait for the eel to arrive. It was an over 1 kilogram live eel that we picked at the beginning of the meal and it was prepared two ways–steaming and deep frying with garlic salt. These dishes were the highlights of the meal.

The special dessert was a rare offering of black jelly, which would normally be found in Chinese herbal stores. It is made from boiling the shell of turtles to extract the gelatin parts and then the liquid is chilled like jello. It is served with a clear syrup and is believed to be good for one’s complexion. Like the tropical fruit durian, you either like black jelly or not, because it has a medicinal after taste.

It was a pleasant meal. Overall, the atmosphere was casual, though not lackadaisical.  I think that the owner and staff were aware that their regular customers would come back regardless, because they knew the food was good. The food was indeed delicious, and never felt heavy to the palate given the amount we had eaten. However,  in this relaxed atmosphere, the presentation was sometimes sloppy. Besides, they did not seem to pay much attention to the order of the food to arrive, and yet I could not complain, because light Chinese meals were supposed to have all the dishes on the table at once, so that everybody could dig in together. Unless you are inviting guests and expecting excellent service, this restaurant is still worth going to for a hearty family meal.

Chan’s Garden Restaurant, 78-82 Burwood Road,m Burwood, NSW 2134, Australia.

Chans Garden on Urbanspoon

Weekly Photo Challenge: BIG

 

This is the biggest lobster sculpture in the world! It is 35 feet long, weighs 90 tonnes, and over 6 feet high. It is located in Shediac, a little town with a population of just over 6,000 in New Brunswick, Canada. The lobster has made this town world famous and it is known as the Lobster Capital of the World. This part of Canada is famous not only for its live lobsters and lobster meals, but also for this gigantic sculpture.

For a better perspective, this is an angle of the lobster claw. Well, this is the biggest lobster claw in the world no doubt.

 

This lobster came to mind immediately when I read about this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge. Going through my photo album to locate the photos brought back fond memories of our family road trip to the Maritime Provinces on the east coast of Canada, where we toured Nova Scotia (including the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island), Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick. Thank you, WordPress.com.