Hong Kong

Hong Kong Trip – My-money-can’t-buy-and-once-in-a-lifetime-experience (Fingers crossed)

Hong Kong is not the cleanest city in the world, but definitely this is not a norm sight. But if you are patient enough, you’ll find out why I posted this picture and what has it to do with my not-so-sought after HK experience.

To begin with, I loathe travelling in summer, let alone for holiday! Perhaps due to the fact that I grew up in a tropical country, Malaysia, which is hot and humid all year round, the idea of travelling during summer is a no-no for me.  However this Hong Kong trip was not up to me to decide since it was a business trip and I took this opportunity to extend another week for my own exploration.

I know that this won’t be a convincing reason to advise people to stop travelling during summer, but I have a more compelling reason for not doing so. It is none other than the tropical typhoon!  You must be wondering, how often could it happen? I supposed it is not the question of how often but when the likelihood of it happening, and the impact is high, we are at high risk of exposing ourselves to such an incident.

It is common for Hong Kong to have tropical typhoon during summer. And so your next question will be how severe could it be? And how often will that severity occurs? I can’t answer that as one can’t quite predict or control the weather, well at least not way in advance. Hong Kong Observatory is the government department that forecasts weather and issues warning accordingly. The warnings include the speed of wind and rainfalls alongside other usual weather related information. Specific to tropical typhoon,  the warnings are issued in escalating number signals, which are based on the wind speed:

a) signal 1 (or T1) is if the cyclone is within 800 km to HK

b) 3 (T3) is for wind speed between 40 and 60 kmph

c) 8 (T8), if wind speed is beween 60 and 110 kmph

d) 9 (T9) –  wind speed of 110 to 120 kmph

e) 10 (T10) – wind speed more than 120 kmph

How often will T10 be issued? The latest was on the 23rd July 2012! Yes, that was when I was in Hong Kong, supposedly enjoying myself with the food and er.. warm weather. The last time T10 was issued was more than a decade! How lucky could I be?? Mind you, we did pay our first visit to Hong Kong Jockey Clubs to place our bet on the Mark 6 Lottery. Alas, we didn’t manage to leave Hong Kong as millionaire!

Anyway on the day of the typhoon, at around 4 pm, HK Observatory announced that T8 will be issued at 6 pm. My friend advised me to go back to our apartment, and stock up food, for dinner and perhaps the following day too. Just in case the typhoon will last for more than 24 hours! Ironically despite this misfortune natural danger, most people who live in Hong Kong welcome T8 with a big smile! Once T8 is issued, employers and schools are obliged to let everyone off and go home early! Damage to the economy but something that must be done. However it doesn’t stop opportunists to continue their business, especially eateries. And it also doesn’t stop adventurous people from staying outdoor to test the speed of wind! Now is that necessary?

I can proudly tell you here that you don’t need to be outdoor to test the wind. In fact when you are at high altitude (20th floor) and at an open area (no other buildings adjacent to your building), you are pretty much testing the wind.
When I rented the apartment located at Wan Chai, it was advertised as “building with mountain and sea view”. In Chinese it would be “背山面海”. Good feng shui! Feng (風) is wind in chinese and shui (水) is water in chinese. Now how ironic could it be when that night of T10 typhoon, the wind (feng) was howling scarily. The feng was so strong that I could feel the building swayed! No kidding. The shui (rain in this case) was so heavy that I could hear every rain dropped! Splashing loudly on the windows that I was really afraid that the windows will be broken. We haven’t sealed the windows with any wood planks nor tapes. Well that’s what happened in those TV series. The wind is strong that it will break the windows.
That wasn’t my only worry for that night. I was also worried that the strong wind will blew those noisy and bulky air conditioners away, which have two third of its body exposed to the outside world. But most of all, I was afraid that the strong wind will collapse the building! Yes I am paranoia but if you were in that kind of situation, you will fear for the worst! The building swayed as if there was an earthquake tremor.

And I have heard about Hong Kong buildings that may have undergone refurbishment or structurally changed without proper authority approval. So where do I based my sense of trust and security then? However despite the swaying building, I finally managed to sleep. I suspect that the swaying must have the bed rocking effect for me. Next I knew when I opened my eyes was everything was calm and signal warning has gone back to 8. But no more wind howling and no more raindrops.
So the picture above was the aftermath, the very next morning around Wan Chai. Unfortunately we didn’t take the devatasting view, but this was a rare sight, as HK is always full of people. Now, the day after makes HK looks like a deserted city.

Great experience and story to be told generations to generations but thank you, once is more than enough!

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Hong Kong Trip! – A Tribute to Food

In my previous posting “ Hong Kong trip – The Prelude“, food have been the guidance to my virgin trip to Hong Kong. However knowing what type of food to savour is inadequate as Hong Kong is well known for thousands of eateries and I will definitely lost in this concrete jungle.  There is a chinese phrase “路在口邊” or literally translated as “ask your way around”. Well not quite lost yet, but better to ask around first for recommendations before I really get drowned with the eateries. Obviously my biggest worries would be my quota will be wasted on disappointing or average food in HK. There will be no room for errors in this food hunting mission!

And nothing beats the locals and those who have been to the country. Apart from that, there are tons of TVB variety shows which introduce the latest fads/ craze of places to go for food. (Yes can’t quite run away from TVB!). And so, a list was compiled before I left to Hong Kong.  Not forget to mention the one single important site, which contains the details of the eateries including address, phone number, signature or popular or must-try dishes, and reviews. It is by far the most uninamously recommended site by all friends http://www.openrice.com/restaurant/index.htm.

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to try all of them as the list is rather long and I had to divide them by regions, i.e. New Territories, Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and of course the outlying island. I will only share those that I have tried and only those that I think I will go back again. However if you’d like the list, please do not hesitate to let me know, I shall “pm” you! 🙂

Wan Ton Noodles (wan ton is somewhat similar to ravioli)

 The texture of the wanton noodle I like must be al dente, chewy, and not too soft (over-cooked).  For those of you who are familiar with how wanton noodles should be cooked, it must first be spread over a strainer and cooked in boiling hot water, for only a minute or so (well this is not quite a standard guideline, but how I like to do it). After that it should be quickly put in cold water, which is commonly known as “過冷荷”.  Obviously good wanton noodle is not only down to the way how it is cooked, but also the ingredients and the way how the noodles are made. I used to make wanton noodles with my mom when I was young. Her wise advice is to use duck eggs, and good strength to “punch” the dough! Well, knead the dough. That’s what Hong Kong is famous for, using a bamboo stick to knead.  Cooking is an art but there is also scientific approach to it.  Hah, this is the secret for the good texture, so I was told by my mom, which is kind of proven! How?? The difference was notable when my dad kneads the dough as compared to when my mom or me knead it.

As for the wanton, nothing can go wrong with fresh prawns with mixture of minced pork. The broth itself should not be too overpowering with a hint of good quality sesame oil and MSG free so that I can have the last drop of it .

Hong Kong is not only famous with its wanton noodles prepared using a bamboo stick, but also the size of the bowl is another signature. “細蓉” , as shown in the picture above is served in a small bowl. History has it that 細蓉 is luxurious and only those who can afford can have 細蓉, back in the ancient days. The labourers will go for the big bowl sometimes just the noodles without wanton. Till today, 細蓉 is expensive compared to the normal size. We had this at Mak’s Noodles at Kowloon, twice. We found this place accidentally, but loved the first bite of it. I don’t mind the size, as this carried the tradition and story. Another 細蓉 characteristic is the way how the noodle is being assembled. The spoon must be put in the bowl first, followed by the wonton and the noodle on the surface. The broth will be poured to cover everything but only surface the noodle. This is to ensure the chewiness of the noodle remains, until the one who savour it start to mix everything. I don’t normally take wanton noodle in soup because the soup will soften the noodle. But with this way, the noodle texture is maintained at its best and as the serving is small, it won’t have time to soak in the noodle and get soft. 細蓉 may not be economical, but this is one of the things that you wouldn’t mind to pay extra for the long lasting flavour, and texture in your mouth and memory.

Tofu fa (beancurd jelly)

This is perhaps the one thing that I had most in Hong Kong! I have tried at various locations.  The first place I went was in Sham Shui Po, 公和荳品廠 or Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong, thanks to a friend, Pei San, who took me there. Then David found another shop in Shau Kei Wan wet market. The tofu is really smooth with gingery sugar syrup. Hong Kong people like to eat tofu fa with brown sugar. We tried it but still prefer with ginger sugar syrup. The trip won’t be complete without trying 山水豆腐花, which is literally translated as tofu fa made with water from the mountain. I am not too sure if that is still the case, but the tofu fa is silky smooth. We also had it at Lantau Island, Tak Kee Tofu fa (德記山水豆腐花) which the stall is just before the staircase to the Big Buddha. 益昌小食店 at Tai O, which not only the tofu jelly is good, the black sesame paste dessert, is also smooth and aromatic. We couldn’t help ourself but to order another bowl of the sesame paste. Tai-O is also famous for its har cheong (shrimp paste). At Lamma Island, we started our hiking from Yung Shue Wan to Sok Kwu Wan. There is a tofu fa stall, Kin Hing Tofu Dessert,  in the middle of the hiking trail. I remember I have seen this stall featured in the TV, therefore we stopped by to have a bowl. However, I wouldn’t quite recommend to go to this stall, as the tofu is quite hard and couldn’t really taste the ginger in the syrup. The winner to me is none other than the picture shown, which we bought from a vegetarian shop, located across the apartment we stayed in Wan Chai. Unfortunately I have forgotten the name of the shop. It is located at around 222, Wan Chai Road, HK.

After a some sweaty search, I managed to find the restaurant 珍豆漿豆腐花專門店 and the address is G/F, 181A Wan Chai Road, Wan Chai.

At the very same vegetarian shop, we also bought the sticky rice roll.  Sticky rice roll is made with glutinous rice with filling such as fried dough, meat floss and pickled/ preserved turnip. However as we bought it from a vegetarian shop, therefore there’s no meat floss, but replaced with something similar.

These are my top 3 favourite food I had in Hong Kong.  There will be more write-ups on other food, such as the street snack, teochew noodles, sampan porridge, roast pigeon, infamous HK style crabs (chili crabs) and many more!

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Hong Kong trip! – The Prelude

“♫Hong Kong, I love Hong Kong!♫” .

I “grew up” with Hong Kong… drama series.  Specifically, TVB drama series. Yes, I am a TVB Buff!

There was no Astro and Astro On Demand back then, and the local TV channels only aired (and still are)  TVB drama a year or 2 later. I always had the heads up of the drama series as my family rented newly released series every day from the TVB shop across my house. Well that was our family night activities, gathered around the TV to watch our favourite series. All series literally! But that didn’t stop me from gluing myself to the TV everyday at 6 pm to watch them again. For those that I liked, i.e. my idols were in there, I would record it and watch again and again. Yes, you could guess that I was neither a top student nor active in extra curricular activities in school.

So it was a surprise to a lot of people that I have never been to Hong Kong, until July 2012!! Not quite on the anniversary of the “return” of Hong Kong to China, but it was the same month. Before I left Malaysia, holidays outside of the country was still a luxury and Air Asia only spread its wings to Hong Kong after I left to London. To fly all the way from London to Hong Kong is out of the question, as had I travelled half the globe, I might as well go home! Well then again, that wasn’t my theory, that’s David’s theory. I wouldn’t mind to do that.

I guess it is not too exaggerating for me to even say that I chose my current job because of Hong Kong. I am dead sure that I will be sent to Hong Kong by my company as I am a Chinese and I speak the language albeit the locals speak fluent English.

I supposed when you grew up travelling the world through the idiot box, know the places by heart as if you have been there before, speak like a local (so long I don’t get complacent and chat with them for too long, otherwise my Malaysian Chinese slang would betrays me), it left you no other desire than to match the reality to the imagination. Obviously the ultimate motive would be to explore the culinaries, as Hong Kong seems like a gateway of the different type of delicacies that I have salivated for.

I am fortunate that the business trip was 2 weeks, although due to unforeseen reasons, I arrived half a week later than my colleagues, and with an additional week of my own holiday, I think that should gave me ample of time to indulge in this food heaven.

And this was the only trip that I proudly told David that he didn’t need to plan anything (initially), as I could tell him where we could go, or rather I want to go.  I was also arrogant enough to think that our itinerary would be places that most of my friends wouldn’t go. I shall not do any shopping, and I shall not hang around much in Kowloon side. In fact, I strongly believe that the authentic food is no longer available in the big city, but in the suburb. Commoners’ food, such as “山水豆腐花” (literally translated as mountain water tofu flower – or rather simply “tofu pudding”), “秶飯” (sticky rice roll) and soya bean milk, dim sum, typhoon shelter crabs, roast pigeon, roast goose flat rice noodle, 盆菜, street snacks such as curry fish balls, 砵仔糕, 雞蛋仔, and many more!  

So my guidance was food, and broadly (VERY BROAD indeed) to the outlying islands! To be specific these are the islands I wish to visit

a) Cheung Chau and Peng Chau

b) Lantau Island

c) Lamma Island

I told him that we shall also go to villages/ suburb such as Yuen Long, “Walled Village”, and Tsuen Wan.

And so I started to compile a list of restaurants and cafes to go after shooting a few emails to my family and friends who have been and is residing in Hong Kong.

Does Hong Kong match to my imagination?

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