Tag Archives: Hong Kong

Weekly Photo Challenge: CULTURE


Tucked away in the town of Yuan Long in the New Territories in Hong Kong is this eatery famous for its Chiu Chow fish balls and vermicelli. It is constantly full, and the people sitting together may not even know one another, because it is the common practice to share a table. You sit down as directed, order and eat. Then you pay at the front and leave, but you’ll be content. It was the diametric contrast to a high end Chiu Chow restaurant I have tried, but just as satisfying.

I was there in winter and I had the most delicious bowl of piping hot mixed fish balls and beef balls vermicelli on that trip.

A Word A Week Photo Challenge: GARDEN

This is my 100th post and to mark the occasion, I am submitting for the first time to the A Word A Week Photo Challenge. As I look out of my window at the bleak winter world of snow and bare branches, I remember my visit to Hong Kong one Christmas and my elation to see the poinsettia in bloom in the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Garden.

Looking North-East

Looking North-East

I always visit this Garden when I go to Hong Kong, since I usually stay at the hotel just three minutes’ walk away. The fountain area is the centre of the Garden, and looking in the north-east direction my hotel, which is a circular building, is peeping above the top of the tree line.

The Garden has special meaning for me because I used to live in the same neighbourhood until I got married. The school I went to was also within walking distance from the Garden. I cherish many fond memories of playing in the Garden with my siblings when I was little and hanging out there with my friends after school. The fountain and the area around it have undergone many renovations. More dramatically are the alteration of the sky line with all the tall commercial buildings and their outstanding architecture. Turn around 360 degrees and one can name I. M. Pei (Bank of China Tower) , Norman Foster (Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation), and Cesar Pelli (Cheung Kong Centre, IFC Tower),  The Garden is a landmark that has witnessed the historical changes of Hong Kong. It is also a landmark of my formative years. On my recent visits, it has become my gym as well. In various times of the year, I can always enjoy over 30 species of flowers in bloom.

Looking South
Looking South
Looking South-West

Looking South-West

Looking West

Looking West

I also remember a super special photo of the Garden taken some sixty years ago at a similar angle looking west of the city. This is a very interesting comparison indeed from the pictures above–and my love goes to my late father who was the photographer of this shot.


Weekly Photo Challenge: DELICATE


“Delicate” reminds me of our ecosystem, how fragile and delicate it is. This is a photo of the Mai Po Reedbed, taken on my visit to Mai Po Nature Reserve, which is situated in the northwestern Hong Kong, near the estuary of Shun Chun River in China. Mai Po assumes international significance because of its wetland, which is also listed as a Ramsar site. Mai Po Nature Reserve has been under the management of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Hong Kong) since 1983.

Mai Po is haven to over 380 species of bird– especially migratory birds– among which 35 are of global concern. Besides birds, Mai Po is also home to other life forms that can survive the salinity of the water. On my tour of the reserve centre, I have seen the shrimp ponds (gei wai), numerous rarely sighted species of birds, and several species of local trees. Mai Po is like an oasis in the concrete jungle of a skyscraper city.

Let this photo of a Great Egret perching alone on the mangrove remind us how delicate our environment is. At a distance, the city is encroaching upon us. We must work together to preserve our ecosystem.


Flora in the Hong Kong Botanical and Zoological Garden

When I went out for my walk this morning, I could not but notice that the deciduous trees were already bare, and the leaves were piled up along the gutter waiting to be picked up.The sky was grey and foggy too, and I began to miss the flowers that I saw in the Hong Kong Botanical Garden every morning when I did my power walk around the path that encircled the fountain. I launched into a foray of photography on the flowers before I left Hong Kong and going through these shots now helped bring back some colours to this autumnal day in Canada.

(This is my first tiles gallery display. My thanks go out to fellow bloggers Pat and Shelley for their support.)

Qianlong’s Secret Garden (Hong Kong Museum of Art 1)

I had a free afternoon after lunching with a friend in Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong and I was within walking distance from the Hong Kong Museum of Art. It had been a long time since I last visited the museum and from afar, I could see two banners on the wall of the museum advertising an exhibition of the treasures of Emperor Qianlong and an art exhibition of modern Chinese artist Feng Zikai.

Emperor Qinalong of the Qing Dynasty enjoyed a long reign of over 60 years. The country was prosperous in his times and QianLong was reputed for his love for fine arts. The title of the exhibition was A Lofty Retreat from the Red Dust: The Secret Garden of Emperor Quanlong. (Red Dust is a literal translation in Chinese. It means the noisy secular world.) This title was taken from part of a poem written by the emperor himself.

The exhibits were on loan from the Palace Museum for the first time outside of China. Little was known about this Garden that Qianlong built for himself at the northeastern corner of the Forbidden City.

In the pamphlet handed out and display in the entrance hall of the exhibition, there was a map of the “Secret Garden”. There were photos of individual buildings in the garden. A digital portrait of Qianlong continuously display the morphing of the emperor from a young person to his senior years.

I was disappointed that there was not a model of the Garden. However, this was compensated by graphic displays of the various architectural styles of the roofs, the arches, doorways and some floor plans. I liked the paintings depicting the family life of the emperor and his children. His collection of artifacts, ranging from his tea set, his pencil cases, carved screens, furniture to a clock manufactured in Europe were also part of the exhibits. His taste apparently was eclectic. The exhibition succeeded in presenting Qianlong as a family man and an avid art collector of all kinds of curios.

Furthermore, his affinity for the Han culture was reflected by his dressing up his Han costumes in many paintings.

The exhibition provided a good audio-visual presentation on the life of Qianlong in general, and how specifically the artifacts were reproduced or restored by the present government. Although it sounded remarkable, for example, how a search team went out to look for embroiders in Suzhou and some 200 of them were recruited to reproduce the embroidery for the cushions on the Emperor’s chair, I could not help feeling sad that a lot of China’s national treasures had been lost or destroyed in a recent page of the country’s history under the same government. If now, why then? I asked myself.  I wonder if there is an answer.

Chiu Chow Fanfare in Hong Kong

Chiu Chow is a region of the eastern Guangdong province in southern China. It has its unique culture recognized as part of the world heritage. Chiu Chow cuisine uses the most expensive and the most mundane ingredients to create dishes that one can never forget.

I was invited to a banquet at the Chiu Chow Garden, which catered to the more high-end of Chiu Chow cuisine in Hong Kong on my recent visit. We were chatting over some tea and Chiu Chow pickles–tofu, pickled vegetables, peanuts and beans.

Then how I wished I had fasted for at least two days before this dinner when the dishes were brought in front of me one by one.

First of the roast pig. This is not exactly Chiu Chowese, but it speaks for the generosity of my hosts. Only the crackling and the tender layer of meat are served, and they are eaten on a thin piece of bread with hoi sin sauce. As if the pig is not extravagant enough, it is decorated with a tiny dots of edible gold leaves.

The four hors oeuvres are brought in with the carrot carving of a bird for decoration. It can sing! (This is food plating at its ultimate,)  My plate consists of jelly fish with sesame oil, crab ball with plum sauce, goose breast, and stir fry beef. Each bite is a delicacy.

The legendary Chiu Chow shark fin soup is next. (At this point, I do have to apologize to any supporter of endangered species that this may not be a politically correct item on the menu. I would not order this item for myself, but in Hong Kong, it would also be outright impudence to decline what your hosts offer you.) This is an expensive soup.  It is thicker and darker than the Cantonese shark fin soup and has a distinct flavour. One can add coriander and vinegar for extra taste. It is a very rich soup, and kung fu tea is called for to clean the palate before the next dish.

The star coral is a big fish. Its fillet is cooked in two ways: stir fried with broccoli and deep-fried with hot pepper and salt. Both dishes are delicious.

One of my favorite dishes is omelette with baby oysters. It is a traditional Chiu Chow dish because Chiu Chow is by the sea where seafood is plenty. The soft oyster meat is so tasty wrapped in egg. Since most dinner menus include a chicken dish, the steamed free range chicken is served.

Rice and noodles are served towards the end, in case the guests are not full when they finish the main menu. The rice came with roasted nuts, diced yam and chicken. All these are mixed into the rice before the rice is served into individual bowls.

The fried noodles Chiu Chow style is also my favorite. The noodles are soaked in a broth before they are fried in a very hot pan on both sides. The end product is a crunchy outside and a soft inside. My slice is served with sugar and dark vinegar. So tasty!.

Desserts are absolutely indulgent!

My platter includes:(from top left clockwise): thousand-layered cake, date cake, yam ball in puff pastry, yam stick dusted with sugar and egg crunch. Kung Fu tea is served again with the fruits.  This is a meal that I shall talk about, blog about and continue to savor the memories of for a long time.

Chiu Chow Garden, Hutchinson House, Central, Hong Kong.

My Gym in Hong Kong: The Botanical and Zoological Gardens

I miss my trails when I am travelling. Now that I am in Hong Kong, I am fortunate that I stay at a hotel close to the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, the oldest park in Hong Kong and it has turned out to be my gym.

There is a fountain in the middle of the park. People gather at the crack of dawn for their exercises. Tai chi is popular and a group gather at the inner circle that surrounds the fountain every morning.

The outer circle is taken up by jogger and walkers like myself and one loop conveniently makes 200 meters for anyone who wants to know the distance.

The walks around the park is lined with trees, flowers and plants. I usually power walk around this loop for twenty minutes, followed by my drills on the steps several times.

At the top of these steps is a bronze statue of King Edward VI.

Then I proceed to my strength and balance exercises in a quieter corner.

The Botanical Garden is not a big park, but given the small size of Hong Kong and the density of the population, it has provided its visitors a green surrounding to rest and to exercise. I absolutely enjoy my moments working out there, followed by a cool down stroll to enjoy the greenery before continuing with my day.

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.