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VISIT: Island East Markets

Island East Markets, Hong Kong on Vimeo.

If you haven’t made it to Island East Markets, check out the little video* I shot on the last day of their trial period, on October 21st, to get a little feeling of what it’s about.

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Moving back to Hong Kong was a decision that wasn’t completely my own, and one of the things I missed the most about London was its abundance of brilliant outdoor markets. Everyone knows Borough, Spitalfields and Broadway, but I fell in love with Maltby Street in my last year there and, when I was back again just a few months ago, it was even better than I had remembered.

Hong Kong’s wet markets will always be a source of fascination for me, and I’m fully aware of the small independent markets that exist around the city – such as the occasional Star Ferry organic fruit and vegetable market, the Discovery Bay monthly, and the Tai Po market among others.  The problem was that they were either quite small (in the case of the Star Ferry market), or simply too far for myself, an east island dweller.

Markets, like independent businesses, are vital to the spirit of a city. Markets that celebrate local agriculture, enterprise and creativity are even more valuable, becoming not only a community hub but a space where people can come together to learn more about the local businesses available to them. I’m thinking particularly of the brilliance of Simple Market in Taipei, which is so strong in its celebration of homegrown produce and products. So, earlier this year when I heard from my good friend Janice (aka e-ting) that she was planning to set up an organic farmers’ market on Hong Kong island, I couldn’t wait to see it realised.

In Hong Kong, we are so reliant on imported produce (whether it’s the 90 per cent of meat and vegetables from mainland China or the airmiles-heavy products from around the globe) we forget that we actually have a number of sustainable local farms available to us. (For a well-written summary of Hong Kong’s troubled relationship with its food provenance, read Daniel’s excellent piece here). Also, sometimes attitudes don’t help: the SCMP recently ran a controversial piece on whether organic produce is worth its salt in the city, which this humble writer thinks completely missed the point of the movement in the first place (again, see counter posts by Grassroots Pantry and Island East Markets themselves for good arguments in favour of supporting local organic farms, especially the smaller ones).

But I digress (for now). The below shots are from the first day of the market, on September 29, 2012. There’ve been so many fantastic write-ups in both the press and blogs, so I won’t need to regale you with just how bloody successful the whole thing has been. I’ve given a small part of my time here and there to help Janice and Vince (the other brilliant mind behind the market, without whom this couldn’t have been accomplished either!) and I am just in awe of them. They’ve managed to wow the Swire property group (who owns the land on which the market takes place) so much with their professionalism and enthusiasm that the market has now been renewed after the initial four-week trial period – Island East Markets is coming back next Sunday the 11th, and will continue running weekly on Sundays until December 16th!

It just goes to show that if you are determined enough to do something great in this city, anything is possible.

 

 

Island East Markets
Returning November 11th
Sundays 10am-5pm
Tong Chong Street, Quarry Bay
www.hkmarkets.org

 * A little disclaimer: I just really liked the first 30 seconds of the tune I used – ignore the fact that it’s actually a Japanese song used in a video about a local Hong Kong market! But am told it’s a positive tune about doing your own thing and being yourself. And I wasn’t planning on shooting a video that day but just ended up doing it – if I’d planned better I would have had more people in the video. I’m sure there are a lot of people conspicuously absent from this! Well, next time.

EAT: 3B, Hong Kong’s best private kitchen

So, today I’m going to finally blog about one of my absolute favourite places to eat in Hong Kong. It’s a tiny, modest place in an apartment complex located in the east side of Hong Kong (in fact, it’s situated in increasingly trendy Chai Wan, or at least very near), that has managed to evade most food lovers’ radars, nevermind the press. The reason being that it’s a quintessential private kitchen, perhaps more exclusive than most, owing to the modesty of the chef – the eponymous ’3B’, a nickname he goes under among his closest friends and family – who prefers to keep his dinners low-key and limited to a select few.

3B’s been cooking for the best part of 40 years, I’d hazard, and once ran his own restaurant – The Silver Mushroom – in Canada, before returning to his hometown of Hong Kong and quietly churning out brilliant food for the lucky ones who’ve been able to seek him out. I’ve been dining here for years, and there are few – if any – places that match up to the quality of 3B’s Cantonese cooking (and otherwise). When I used to live in London, I’d often find myself craving the house signatures; from the simplest of water-steamed eggs with dried shrimp and salted duck egg yolk, to the more complex long-simmered soups (pork and winter melon is my top pick. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, this will be cooked and served in a mini winter melon itself, slowly steamed over hours until the flesh is soft and silky.).

3B holds his dinners pretty much every day of the week. It’s pretty incredible how he manages to craft so many dishes per meal in the tiny space that is his kitchen; chopping boards are balanced atop sinks, a myriad of vessels holding sauces, spices and herbs are precariously perched about every free surface. What’s unique is that there is never any menu; once you’ve secured your reservation, he’ll give you a call a few hours before the dinner – he goes shopping for groceries soon after – and cheerfully ask just one question (the answer to which is always the same from me):

“What do you feel like eating tonight?”

Mo saw wai la [I've got no preference - anything goes]!”

Sometimes, uncannily, he’ll manage to make just what you were craving but just didn’t know it at the time – once, both my dining partner and I had, separately, developed a strange urge to have roast goose. And guess what ended up on the table that night? This chef has intuition.

Steamed fish is pretty much a staple of any Cantonese kitchen, and here the fish is always excellent. Fresh fish – never frozen – is often prepared the classic way, with a ginger-spring onion-soy sauce trinity (and obligatory splash of sizzling oil), though sometimes there’ll be a surprise. Finely chopped and fried shallots, or thin strands of fragrant aged mandarin peel. One recent meal featured dried lily bulbs and the merest whisper of white miso, which really brought out the sweetness of the fish. His soy sauce chicken (available whole/half or just wings) is also spot on, the marinade a elixir of sweet and salty flavours that coats the bird evenly every time.

In the winter months, I look forward to the hearty ‘claypot’ rices featuring tender rice grains, glossed in a sweet-salty soy and cooked with juicy shiitake mushrooms, caramelly Chinese pork sausages, and pieces of fresh steamed chicken. At least 24 hours notice is needed for this extraordinary dish.

 

3B likes to put his own creative spin on things once in a while – his glorious homemade char siu (pictured at the top of this post) for example, features dried rose petals in the marinade, as a rift off the traditional use of rose wine. And every so often he whips up some awesome European food – the best of which is his oxtail stew, long-simmered with meaty bones, tomatoes, cabbages, carrots and peppercorns. A more recent version included some pork bone for an even sweeter, more unctuous soup, with a surprising addition of mandarin peel. His roasted quail (he used to deep-fry them, but I think he’s gone the more health-conscious route now) is also brilliant, the little birds the embodiment of OMG UMAMI. My pictures of his Christmas special, turkey stuffed with glutinous rice (slowly ‘raw fried’, the Cantonese equivalent of paying attention to a risotto), are pants, but this was pretty much a highlight of 2010.

(Clockwise from top left: Pomfret with black beans and mandarin peel / Portuguese chicken curry / winter melon soup / braised pig’s tongue with shiitake mushrooms and choi sum)

 

Recently one of my favourite dishes has been a combination of salt-pepper ribs (the secret is rice flour for an extra crisp exterior), braised daikon and wood ear mushrooms, and a psychedelic amaranth broth (so healthy, and totally plays tricks with your tastebuds with its vibrant pink colour).

So now the secret’s out, how do you get a reservation? Quite simply, if you really want to, you can go through me. I guess at this point I should mention that 3B is actually my dad, there is no ‘private kitchen’ business (though technically it is a ‘private’ kitchen ;D) and all of these dishes are just the result of a lot of labour of love, and it’s not for profit. So – I might be biased, but to repeat what I said, this is genuinely my favourite place to eat in Hong Kong – home.

Happy father’s day, daddy!

 

DRINK: Rabbithole Coffee & Roasters

Just a little over two years ago, I was writing a major piece on coffee that was a result of London’s growing – nay, exploding – caffeine scene. Necking 50-plus espressos and coffees in one week may have culminated in me pale and glassy-eyed in bed at the end of it all, with the painful realisation that a caffeine hangover does exist, but it also resulted in the revelation that the city had come a long way in terms of providing the perfect cup.

It’s astounding just how amazing the coffee culture is now in London, all within the span of 2-3 years, and I’m pleased to have seen it grow and grow (and do my little part to promote it) to the point where a new place seems to be opening every week. Of course, the challenge is now not also about sustaining the quality (though me-too, bandwagon-hopping cafés soon die out), but breaking new boundaries. While I’m not sure what direction London’s coffee culture might take in the coming years, I know that more and more good coffee is only going to be a good thing.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong is a slightly different story; I feel like it’s still several years behind (as it is with most things, but I digress). But I sense something similar happening here, with a slow but quiet growth of a community that is passionate about coffee, and about educating the public about it. With the restrictions that come with high rents and limited space, the growth of great coffee places has been at a trickle rather than a flood like in London, but at least we’re not condemned to the likes of Starbucks, PCC (the ‘perfect cup’, my arse) and Habitu (though I admit a soft spot for their rose lattes).

Right before returning to Hong Kong at the end of January, the lovely Hoi Chi of Coming Soon Coffee tipped me off about Rabbithole Coffee & Roasters, who had just opened in Central. Always looking for an interesting new opening – all the better if it has anything to do with coffee – I was down there two days after landing.


To go down the rabbithole, one must go up [several flights of stairs].

They roast their own beans in an off-site roastery, making them one of the few places who do so in Hong Kong. The other famous roastery here is Coffee Assembly, but others are less well-known, or are as big.

The location is impressive. Rabbithole is on the second floor of a building on Cochrane Street, looking out onto the Mid-Levels escalator. This is possibly one of the best advertising strategies a small café up above the ground can have, as naturally the sight of shiny espresso machines and people chilling on the (tiny) balcony is bound to attract floating passersby.

Even better when the folding doors are completely pushed back. It was a ‘cold’ day in HK, I guess.

Much like Faye Wong in Chungking Express, I now always use the escalator as an opportunity to steal a glimpse into Rabbithole as I pass by, mainly to gauge how busy it is. And lately, it’s always hopping. (SORRY!) There’s room for quite a few people, especially with the outdoor terrace at the back (a little oasis in the middle of Central), but with only one central table for about 8-10, expect to say hi to your fellow coffee-loving neighbours if you draw up a perch.

(As a side note, why hasn’t anyone done a ‘Shit Coffee Geeks Say’ video?)


The narrow balcony is a perfect spot for those who don’t mind being oggled at.

I felt welcomed at Rabbithole from the first visit. Some coffee shops can feel a little intimidating – where cooler-than-thou baristas can make you feel invisible until they deign to acknowledge your presence, or if the menu is a bit too esoteric. There’s zero snobbiness here – in fact, on first impressions the staff seemed almost a bit intimidated by the customers. Fair enough, it was their first week and there was no room to hide any mistakes in the coffee-brewing processes.

Bad-ass barista Mike Fung. Intense concentration.

Over the past two months I’ve dropped in and out several times, but right from my very first visit I was really taken by Mike Fung, the owner, a former media man and utter coffee obsessive who travelled to Melbourne to go under the tutelage of various baristas. An easy-going guy who can strike up a conversation with anyone – on my first visit with a coffee-sceptic friend, he just sidled up next to us and started chattering away. My friend now drinks coffee and recommends Rabbithole to anyone who asks about a great place to chill in Central.

There’s no special treatment – Mike didn’t even know who I was until very recently, when I met up with Hoi Chi and Tom over coffee there.

Special thanks to Alice, who not only is my hand model here, but in a moment of inspiration perched my Yirgacheffe ice drip atop this light source for an intriguing shot!

I’ve only scratched the surface at Rabbithole, but I’ve never come away disappointed. From the refreshing Ethiopian Red Cherry pourover on my first visit to the flat whites, piccolos and ice drips in between, I’ve discovered that this is a place where I’m actually really discovering more and more as I drink. Instead of always falling back on my preferred flat white (I will always feel like a sham coffee drinker for preferring milky coffees most of the time to brewed specimens), the customer/staff interaction encouraged by the shop layout means I often ask what’s good or interesting that day. In the warm humidity of the Fragrant Harbour (which is only going to get worse, oh god), I’m becoming really partial to their thirst-quenching ice drip coffees…

When I first came back to Hong Kong, I was feeling incredibly homesick for London. In my earliest conversation with Mike we joked around about his coffee bar being at least one reason to stay in the city, to be happy that I was here and not back in the UK. It became a kind of running joke over my next few visits, ending each one of them with a laugh, but you know what?There grew a truth in it. It’s places like these, where you can feel comfortable; where you can indulge in a relaxing ritual and be treated like an old friend, that make the transition from one life to another much more bearable. Cheers, guys.

For the rest of you coffee geeks, get down here quick if you know what’s good for ya.

 

Rabbithole Coffee & Roaster
2/F, 26 Cochrane Street, Central, Hong Kong
2581 0861
www.rabbitholecoffee.com / @rabbitholecoffe 

 

EAT: Turning Chaiwanese, and musings on ‘hipstervilles’

Save for New Cross in London, can’t say I’ve ever lived anywhere remotely trendy. Ladywell? As tame as it sounds. Croydon? Oh dear. Back in Hong Kong, the peaceful family hub that is South Horizons is more paisley than plaid, and while Hung Hom has the required population of studenty types (nearly always a prerequisite to the formation of hipstervilles proper) thanks to the nearby Polytechnic, it’s not exactly the Shoreditch of the East.

One of the most amusing things to happen since coming back to Hong Kong has been the realisation that one of my best friends, an adorable anti-hipster-mentality kind of girl (catchphrase: “This is so pretentious.”), lives just around the corner from Tai Ping Shan Street – one of the city’s trendiest strips of concrete at the moment.

The immediate area surrounding TPSS houses a smattering of independent galleries, fancy florists, boutiques (hello Aesop!), cafés, and even a sleek serviced apartment, which stand in stark contrast to the fast food shacks, dusty hardware stores and car repair shops still operating here. And while I adore, say, sitting at the adorable Teakha and sipping a properly spiced masala chai, or enjoying an osmanthus latte from Homei, I am always aware of the creeping signs of gentrification here and what it might mean. One afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice the look of bemused wonder on the face of an elderly granny with her grandson in tow, as they made their way past braying young Hong Kongers with shrill international accents (*raises hand sheepishly*) into their tiny apartment right next door. To be honest, I’m already worried about the entire lot of them (shops and dwellers alike) being priced out of the area within a year’s time as the street becomes more and more desirable.

But I digress, because I have to say: I do take small pleasures in at once celebrating and deriding what I term ‘hipster enclaves’, because while at times I can’t stand the smugness that drips off the young and beautiful in some of these areas, I do appreciate that these are places that offer something more interesting than the glossy multi-chains that have taken over the city. Most independent operations seem to have a limited life expectancy in Hong Kong, with a few exceptions; meanwhile, most neighbourhoods offer the same selection of shops: a Maxim’s, Fairwood or Cafe de Coral. A Starbucks, PCC or Caffe Habitu. Hong Kong doesn’t do café culture well – how could it, with a deadly combination of precious land and high rents that naturally demand swift turnovers? The economics and physicalities of the city means we haven’t really managed to develop or sustain a slow café culture like that in the Antipodes, or even those of our neighbours in Taiwan, Japan and Korea. Good decent local cha chaan tengs are the one saving grace, but these are useless if you crave a quiet spot for a relaxed cup of tea or a chill out weekend brunch. Which is why I envy those who live near little hubs of creative energy, such as Sheung Wan or Tai Hang, where solace can be sought amidst concrete and chaos.

Funnily, sometimes the best things can be right under your nose.

My family lives rather near a mini industrial city on the east side of the island, and the arrival of a little place called Chaiwanese in one of the non-descript buildings is a wonderful surprise.  The appeal of the area may not be immediately apparent, but this part of the island has long been a honey pot for cash-strapped creatives keen on the low rents and generous studio spaces. Their very presence lends Chaiwanese its own raison d’etre.

Declaring itself as a ‘warehouse café and lounge’, and it confidently embodies both the spirit and utilitarianism of a worker’s canteen (counter service and the addition of a solid communal table sees to this) while remaining creative at heart. Here, photographers, Ming Pao reporters and salesmen rub elbows with curious Chai Wan locals in a space that hits the right note between industry and hospitality. High ceilings and cool grey concrete floors are balanced with buckets of natural light, vibrant flowers and rustic wooden furniture; a wee little budgie tweets in its cage in the corner just as visiting hipsters Tweet about and Instagram the place. (And I am guilty as charged.)

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. I had a read of the menu prior to visiting and didn’t feel particularly tempted by the sandwiches and salad combos, nor the desserts – obviously I’ve been spoiled by all the cafés in London and beyond. I miss the simple but brilliant and always perfect quiches and vegetable medleys at the Rose Bakery in Paris, the pretty salads at Lantana and Ottolenghi, the hearty stews and inspired sandwiches at Salt. I experienced a little bit of that London flavour at the recently relaunched Library Café in Lane Crawford TST, but that’s a post for another time.

I settled down at the heavy wooden communal table one misty, wet afternoon and warmed up with a gooey brownie and a cappuccino. For the latter, they use beans by local roasters Coffee Assembly. The barista, Daniel, crafted up a lovely cup. Very mild in flavour, it was perhaps overwhelmed by the sticky sweetness of the brownie – you’re going to need something with more punch to stand up to it. A flat white I ordered the day after (it’s not on the menu, but they can pretty much whip you up anything you like – they’ve also got a siphon back there for brewed coffee) would fare much better. No pretty latte art yet, but I’m pretty happy with the flavours and textures of the coffee here. A little more body in the milk for the flattie and it’d be spot on.

I’ll go on and admit that sandwiches don’t get me very hot under the collar. I mean, I’ll have one if it sounds especially interesting, but I’d much rather have a stonking big plate of rice or noodles over a fridge-cold sarnie (can you tell I’m reminiscing about lunch choices back in London?). However, that day I wasn’t feeling hungry enough for a bowl of pasta, nor full enough to settle for a salad; turns out the Mumbai curry chicken on rye was just what I needed. Good bread with decent chunks of chicken (not dry – wonder if it had come out of owner Jehan’s makeshift ‘sous vide’ machine aka beer cooler hack?) and a spiced mayonnaise that was nicely cut through with the fresh crunch of finely-chopped celery. A daily-changing soup is always on offer, and on another lunch visit a lovely, thick mushroom soup was the ideal remedy for another foggy, grim day in Hong Kong.

I’ve heard some pretty sweet things about their bagel with home-cured salmon and cream cheese, and with any luck it will be verified and given the thumbs up by a proper Noo Yawker in due course. Watch this space.

So my conclusion? In a city where luxury brands are continually swarming over every last inch of concrete, when beloved independents are being priced out of their neighbourhoods, and where a space – a real space, and not a shoebox – to eat, drink, and contemplate is more often fable than reality, I’m inspired by Chaiwanese. I love that it’s here, and that I can have a decent flat white in a place where there is room to breathe. If this is hipsterville, then I’m all for it.


CHAIWANESE
Unit 1307, Phase 1, Chai Wan Industrial City
60 Wing Tai Road
Chai Wan, Hong Kong

3698 0935
www.chaiwanese.com
 

 

TRAVEL: Good Cho’s and Simple Market, Taipei

I’ve been to Taipei three times, including this most recent trip, but each visit is always different. This time around, it had been well over five years since I was last in the city; hazy memories of Shilin night market, of coral-coloured sunsets at Danshui and way too many cups of fragrant green milk tea still float about in my brain. This time around, we took a more chilled out approach and avoided the frenetic Ximending area (the Shibuya/Causeway Bay/insert popular city spot full of the young and lithe here of Taipei) and stayed further out east, near the imposing Taipei 101 tower. One of the highlights of the short weekend break was a little jaunt to the weekly Simple Market at the nearby Xinyi Public Assembly Hall in the Xinyi district, a little hive of activity on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Located on the former site of the military families village, a small collection of low-rise cement buildings with narrow alleyways and wide courtyards, the Simple Market takes place once a week on Sunday afternoons. If anything, the spot of land itself is worth visiting even if the market isn’t on – the image of strikingly modern Taipei 101 tower looming in the background brings the disparity of these modest buildings and bomb shelter bunkers into sharp relief.

One of the greatest things about the Taiwanese is their insistence on supporting locally-grown talents. At Simple Market, pretty much everything sold has been designed and made with love in Taiwan, from the jars of local honey flavoured with osmanthus flowers to the myriad of quirky accessories, t-shirts and postcards.

There’s also a few stalls selling fresh fruit and vegetables, and plenty showcasing one of Taiwan’s best exports – teas. Plus, I’d make a wild guess* and say that the live music performances (no one had taken to the ‘stage’ during my visit) feature homespun artists as well.

* Well, you wouldn’t expect Lady Gaga here, would you?

Right in the middle of all the action is Good Cho’s (好丘), a lifestyle store-cum-café that attracts all manner of citizens, luring them in with the combination of – again – a huge range of locally-produced wares and a reputation for some of the best bagels in town.

Initially, I wasn’t interested in having any, but then those Asian spidey senses started tingling at the sight of a winding queue (and desperate punters piling the maximum 8 bagels per person onto their trays) and I couldn’t resist. (On a side note, this also happened at the night market where I, despite having previously shrugged off that famous treat of gigantic fried chicken slabs, citing indifference, decided to join the throng anyway. Just in case. It was good.)

Of couse, Sunday is possibly the worst day of the week to visit Good Cho’s, as the queues for the takeaway counter curls around the room (which, consequentially, rather inconsiderately obscures some of the tea selections on show in the shop section) and the waiting list for a table is equally lengthy. Not having the time to stick around for a table, I took my place in the waiting throng and purchased two bagels to go – spinach, and honey with carrot were the selections of the day. Good they were too, warmed up for breakfast the next day and slathered with their house pineapple and lemon cream cheese. Then it was back into the fresh air to peruse the rest of the market.

With my pidgin Mandarin (okay, practically non-existent), I could get a sense of the pride these local designers had in their products. One particular man at the Deer & Moose stall (who do wonderfully handcrafted wooden charms) was about to launch into an excited explanation of their brand’s ‘story’ before I regretfully informed him that I was basically a fool and ting bu dong.

A stall selling popsicles caught my eye with their roselle–flavoured ice. Roselle (a type of hibiscus) is suddenly becoming more ubiquitous in Hong Kong recently, and this particular concoction proved to be a refreshing way to beat the sudden heat and humidity that had descended upon Taipei that afternoon. Bits of still-crunchy roselles were dotted throughout the ice, which was sweet, sour and salty all at the same time, like a good piece of umeboshi. Odd but certainly enjoyable.

Midori is a cute little ice cream parlour right next to Good Cho’s, selling sorbets and ice creams made with fruits grown sans pesticides.

One-in-five people I saw were toting cameras. The place is just so darn photogenic – the parade of cute pets out on show certainly added to the charm. A poor grumpy kitty in its cone did seem less impressed with it all, though.

If it isn’t clear already, Simple Market is highly recommended if you – like me – are into local markets that tick all the right boxes: interesting location, fun stalls and good food. Oh, to have something similar in Hong Kong…

Simple Market / Good Cho’s
信義公民會館
台北市信義區松勤路 54號
Shinyi Public Assembly Hall
54 Songqin Street, Taipei City (Xinyi district)

1pm-7pm Sunday

 

 

 

BAKE: Raspberry and pistachio friands

Baked treats at Lantana, London

I first came across friands at Lantana, a wonderful Australian café in London’s Fitzrovia, about four years ago. I remember seeing these little round cakes on the bar, next to the banana bread and then-named Hummingbird cakes*, and I asked after them out of curiousity. Friands. They’re little almond meal cakes, the girl behind the counter told me. I got one to go, and I was hooked. The friand’s crisp chewy edges giving way to soft, moist (sorry, I know how many people hate this word) crumb was unlike any other cake I’d had previously, and the addition of tangy raspberries offset the almondy sweetness. As it happened, I discovered that it was the perfect accompaniment to a strong flat white – together, they’ve brightened up many a sleepy afternoon back at the office.

Friands are now a firm part of my baking repertoire, because of how simple yet satisfying they are. Fresh from the oven, they are gorgeously crisp and soft at the same time; after they’ve cooled down, they’re good for a few days I hear. I don’t know, because we usually finish a batch pretty quick. I’ve brought them over to parties, served them at picnics or as post-dinner treats with tea or coffee. They take less than 15 minutes to mix together, then another 15 or so to bake (depending on your mould**). Simples.

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EAT: Yardbird, Hong Kong

Yardbird. An ode in haikus.

More than just bird bits
No reservations; rock up
Drink loads while waiting.

Sweet, creamy uni
Crisp pinpricks of panko, oh…
Nori completes it.


Shards of chicken skin.
I much prefer the squelch of
crumpled, crisp fat

Flurry of negi
blankets chicken hearts
Freshness and iron

Chicken and egg rice
Like risotto meets claypot
Fried skin for texture

May be a bit dear:
One drink is never enough.
Save up, eat happy.


Yardbird / 
33-35 Bridges Street, Sheung Wan / 上環33-35 必列者士街

 

PS. Put March 6th 2012 in your calendars. 

TRAVEL: Medellín, Colombia

In what was formerly known as the most dangerous city in the world, I encountered not drugs and violence, but zen followers, reinvented slums and party-hard Paisas.

Nearly two decades since Colombia’s drug nightmare reached its climax, Medellín is still struggling to shake off its dark reputation. The twist is that the city – Colombia’s second-most populated after capital Bogotá – could have been a travel agent’s dream. Its oft-forgotten merits include year-round spring weather and remarkable botany; wondrous colonial architecture; a thriving fashion trade and the unmistakeable warmth of its people.

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TRAVEL: The flip side of Macau

Last month, my mom treated my dad to a meal at the three Michelin-starred Galera a Robuchon in Macau’s fading Lisboa Hotel; yet all I can remember is the shuddering horror that was my main course. And the assortment of women teetering aimlessly around the hotel’s arcade, dressed to the nines at 10 in the morning. Still, top marks for the extraordinary île flottante with caramel custard, though the crackly pop rocks, in this environment, felt like the restaurant’s half-hearted attempt at seeming more ‘of the moment’ than it actually was.

Doesn’t that just seem to describe Macau in a nutshell? This little former Portuguese colony can sometimes seem all glitz and no glamour, with superficial attempts at upping the game. We laughed and laughed at the sheer over-the-top ridiculousness of The Venetian (we had a blast) and craned our necks observing the skeletons of yet another mega casino soon to open across from it. Bigger is always better in this place. We snickered at the confused mess that was Fisherman’s Wharf, with its plastic fantastic volcano replica (nicely foregrounded by a branch of Freshness Burger) and faux Colosseo. And I’m told that the Wynn hotel houses a particularly bonkers ‘tree of prosperity‘ that comes spinning out of the ground.

No fan of bling, gambling or excess (apart from the edible variety, natch), I found the little backstreets of the town a far more interesting place to wander. It’s a cliché, but the contrast between old and new is striking and oddly beautiful. I think these are the parts of Macau that keeps me sane.

EAT: This little piggy

This little piggy, from the Kimberly Chinese Restaurant in Tsim Sha Tsui, did not die in vain.

Being slaughtered at 20 days, gutted, stuffed with fragrant rice, slowly roasted and then disembodied for the delight of some rather greedy food lovers may not be how it imagined to go.

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