Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mooncakes for the mid-autumn festival

It was Mid-Autumn Festival on Tuesday and I thought I would share with you a traditional delicacy that is everywhere in Hong Kong this time of year - the mooncake.

First though, I must apologise for the atrociously out-of-focus photo. I have been suffering from the flu and for most of this week I've been shaking like a leaf, hence the ropey shot.

Mooncakes have an unusual taste and are probably not what the average westerner would call a cake - they're neither sweet nor sour and, although I don't really like them, they are strangely addictive!

The outside is an intricately decorated pastry crust, which contains the rather stodgy not-quite-peanut-butter, not-quite-marzipan flavour lotus paste plus an added bonus - a salted duck egg yolk, which symbolises the moon.

Of course, nothing is sacred and modern versions abound - from strawberry and pineapple flavoured fillings to the full on Haagen-Dazs ice-cream version. However the yucky one above is the real thing!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

How to use chopsticks

A lot of people think using chopsticks is difficult but if you're visiting Hong Kong and want to try the authentic local food you will need to brush up on both your skills and etiquette. Here are a few dos and don'ts to help make life a little easier...
DO have a go - most of my Chinese colleagues have been very impressed when I've tried to eat with chopsticks, however lame the attempt.
DON'T stab at food, it's considered rude.
DO hold your chopsticks in your right hand, even if you're left-handed. It stops you clashing with your neighbour when seated at a circular table.
DON'T prop your chopsticks vertically in your food - it is reminiscent of the way incense sticks are burnt and has morbid connotations.
DO use shorter chopsticks to start off with - it makes handling the food easier.
DON'T point at others with your chopsticks - it's the Chinese equivalent of flipping the bird and is condsidered to be unlucky.
DO try watching an online video like this one from if you are completely clueless. Or a hilariously funny Japanese comedy guide if you need cheering up.
DON'T rest your chopsticks unevenly - line them up carefully in the chopstick rest (again, to do otherwise is considered unlucky).
DO hold your bowl up high and shovel the rice into your both, it's considered perfectly good manners.
and finally...
DO remember that practice makes perfect!
Photo courtesy of John Evans

Saturday, September 22, 2007

In praise of markets

Niamh over at Eat Like a Girl has some beautiful photos of a Parisian food market on her blog, and this inspired me to visit the Central wet market here in Hong Kong.

The wet market is full of stalls selling "wet goods", i.e. fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. Certainly beats Park 'n Shop anyday!

The terrible thing is that the Central market is under threat from developers - currently there are plans to bulldoze the whole area and replace it with (yet more) 30-storey skyscrapers.

It would be a tragedy if Hong Kong lost these kinds of sights, it's what makes it really unique and I would urge you to visit if you're ever in Hong Kong. You can also help to register your dismay at the development plans - add your name to the petition over at Save the Street Market.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The UK's gone cheese crazy!

One of the big things I miss about the UK is cheese, and judging by recent press my fellow countrymen back home are enjoying it more than ever.

Alex James of Blur fame has been posting The Cheese Diaries as part of the fabulous Observer Food Monthly blog.

There's cheese tasting and cheese making galore at the Great British Cheese Festival, a two day extravaganza being held in Oxfordshire by the Cheese Web next weekend.

The Foody has a whole encyclopedia of cheese, whilst down in Somerset they're even giving cheeses names. Wedginald, a now world-famous cheese with it's own website and 1.5 million viewers around the world, was graded and tested this week to an audience of thousands.

However, over in the US, they're not quite so keen!

Photo thanks to Tellgraf

Thursday, September 20, 2007

5 recipes that are fit for a princess

It seemed fitting that I should share with you a few regal recipes from around the blogosphere so here are my top five of the moment:

1. The Culinary Princess, over in Oz, has some fantastically gooey looking brownies and a fab post about Bangkok seafood market on her site.

2. Food Blogga is a girl after my own heart with her love of high quality ingredients, and she doesn't stint on her saffron-infused Pea Pasta fit for a Princess.

3. Lovescool has a luscious and very sophisticated Princess Cake on her site, plus lots of behind the scenes info from her NYC bakehouse.

4. Fellow regal blogger and Daring Baker the Pastry Princess has a whole blog full of mouth-watering food porn and dessert recipes.

5. Last but not least, Never Bashful with Butter has some delicious Pretty Princess Cupcakes on her site. The icing is flawless and the recipe sounds pretty good too.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I am absolutely in love with these Munchler's lunch boxes. they're oh-so-cute and perfect for kick-starting a healthy take-your-lunch-to-work (or school!) regime, sadly they're only available in the US though.

Underwater dinner!

Some crazy guys and girls in London are getting together for the world's largest underwater dinner, held at The Park Club in West London. Seats are limited and are 100quid a head, all for charity, with ballgown (from Gharani Strok no less) or tux included.

With expert diving instruction from the masters at The London School of Diving, a PADI 5* Centre, there's no need to worry if you've never done it before.

Just don't forget to bring your cossie!

Saturday, September 15, 2007


We've just got back from a fantastic weekend in Macau. Only 40 miles away from Hong Kong and easily reached by ferry, it seemed like the perfect getaway for our last month in Asia.

Macau is another Special Administrative Region like Hong Kong and was handed back to China by the Portuguese in 1999. There are still a lot of mediterranean influences there, both architecturally and food-wise, giving it a different feel to Hong Kong.

Our first dinner was eaten at our hotel, The Westin, and was very good if standard hotel fare. The resort was very luxurious and away from the hustle, bustle and gambling of the central district.

On the Saturday we ventured forth into the centre of Macau, visiting the fort and the ruins of Paul's cathedral. We then wandered down one of the busy side streets leading off the ruins, and found a foodie mecca selling all kinds of local delicacies.

One of the must have treats of Macau is their famous Portuguese egg tart.

At only HK$6 a pop, you can't really go wrong with these babies.

This is quite different from the egg tarts you get in Hong Kong with a flakier pastry and a deliciously artery-hardening glutinous egg custard filling.

We also tasted some squidgy and spicy ginger sweets, before heading to the casino to witness the Hong Kongers losing their money on the cards.

To round the trip off we had dinner at Fernandos, on the recommendation of my fellow hounds on the boards at Chowhound.

This is a relaxed place - no reservations and no credit cards - you just turn up, put your name on the waiting list and kick back with a couple of beers until your name is called.

The restaurant is laid back, with basic decor and fabulously rustic Portuguese food. We ate a generous serving of sticky garlic prawns, Macanese rice (somewhere between egg fried rice and paella) and a plate of piquant Portuguese chorizo, all washed down with a jug of sangria. The total bill came to around HK$400, less than 30 quid.

Overall, a brilliant weekend and if you are in Hong Kong for more than a couple of days I would recommend a visit to Macau.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Spring Deer in TST, Hong Kong

We had some delicious Peking duck at Spring Deer in Mody Rd, TST at the weekend. I highly recommend this place, but don't come expecting luxury. This is a proper, noisy, authentic Chinese restaurant complete with fluorescent lighting and lazy Susans. Think cheery and functional rather than luxurious. The service is good if brusque (they do speak English) and it is always splitting at the seams with Chinese families.

Watch out for it though - the sign's hard to spot!

Spring Deer, 42 Mody Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong +852 2366 4012

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Felix at the Peninsula

The BF's parents are in town this weekend so last night we took them for dinner at Felix, somewhere I have been wanting to revisit since I first started this blog. It is the perfect place for taking out-of-towners, with good quality (if slightly unadventurous) food, a fantastic view of the harbour, a very pleasant ambience and unobtrusive staff.

After a somewhat underwhelming harbour light show, viewed from the heaving circular bar upstairs, we headed down to our table. The bread selection was one of the better ones I have had in Hong Kong, with the sun dried tomato and seaweed flatbread going down a treat.

To start I had a roasted porcini risotto which was just the right creamy consistency, robust and full of flavour. The BF tucked into some foie gras whilst his parents had the risotto and a foamy lobster bisque.

I then moved on to a tasty main course of pancetta-wrapped lamb with fingerlings (my over-active imagination conjured up all kinds of oddities when I spotted these on the menu but it turned out just to be a variety of potatoes!). The others ate between them some buttermilk poached chicken, scottish salmon and roasted duck. No new boundaries being broken here, but the food was excellent quality and everyone was happy.

For dessert I decided on the Felix apple tart, which was served on a warmed slab of marble and came topped with tangy lemongrass and honey ice cream and some sculpted spun sugar. The BF and his mum took the fruity cheescake and his dad the "Tropical Island". The presentation of all the desserts was beautiful and I think this is where Felix really excels.

All in all a great night out. Don't come here if you're looking for the cutting edge, but if it's good quality food, panoramic views of Hong Kong island and fantastic people watching you want then this is definitely the place to come.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Show and Tell - Kylie Kwong's Soy Sauce Eggs

As a Brit living in Hong Kong, I decided to make a recipe from Kylie Kwong's Simple Chinese Cooking as my entry for the weekend cookbook challenge over at I like to cook. This is a great book with some fantastic pictures and it helps you to achieve an authentic Chinese flavour without breaking a sweat.

The recipe I went for was on p154 - Soy Sauce Eggs. I chose this as it's Kylie's slightly westernised (and less yucky sounding!) version of a traditional Chinese delicacy "1,000 year old eggs".


6 eggs

1 cup light soy sauce

2 tblspoons dark soy sauce

1 cup water

1/2 cup brown sugar

10 slices of ginger

Start by boiling a saucepan of water and boiling the eggs for six minutes. Refresh the eggs under some cold water and peel them. Be very careful as the eggs are only partially cooked at this point - I was a bit too keen and my six eggs were reduced to three after some over zealous peeling resulted in ovoid carnage!

Now combine the water, soy sauces, sugar and ginger in a saucepan, boil for a minute or so and then reduce to a bare simmer. Carefully add the eggs and leave simmering and covered for 1 hour. You will need to turn them every now and again otherwise you'll end up with a grubby tide mark.

After the hour is up, take the saucepan off the heat and leave the eggs to cool in the liquid, still turning occasionally. Finally, cut each egg in half and serve with some of the cooking stock spooned over the top.

Monday, September 3, 2007

M at the Fringe

We had dinner at M at the Fringe at the weekend and, unlike the first time we visited, we were rather disappointed. Food excellent, service leaving a little to be desired.

We arrived slightly early and were seated at our table. The decor in this place is gorgeous and we were tucked nicely into a corner which was great. I started with a "head to tail" terrine of ox-tongue and ox-tail and the BF tucked into the torchon of foie gras. So far so good...

No sooner had our starter plates been taken away than we were served up our mains - we both plumped for the crispy suckling pig, which M is famous for. Again, this was deliciously crispy (and I've tasted a few crispy pigs), with melt in the mouth meat, tasty vegetables and not just "a good pig sauce" but a great one. The only niggle was that it was just served a little too promptly for me. I really like to relax a bit when I'm out at a nice restaurant and I felt like we were being rushed along.

The same story when we'd finished our mains...we were immediately served up with dessert. In fact the poor waiter was rushing so much to serve us that he knocked my pavlova over as he was sprinting over to serve us. He then tried to prop it back up, which quite simply wasn't happening, and then asked me if it was ok or whether he should take it back. Now, at this point I should have said yes, please take it back, but I didn't - I swapped with the BF who was also partaking of the pavlova! But really I think it should have gone straight back to the kitchen, without the waiter asking me if I'd put up with a collapsed version. Incidentally, the pavlova was delicious and probably the main reason for visiting M at the Fringe. The meringe was the perfect texture and was served up with lashings of fresh cream, tropical fruits and a passionfruit coulis. However, a bit more care on the part of the waiter would have gone a long way.

Finally, we came to order coffees. However, we'd been so rushed throughout that we hadn't finished our wine and to add insult to injury our coffees were served up before we'd finished.

I really enjoyed this place the first time we went and now I feel like we have to go back a third time just to give them a chance to redeem themselves! It's such a shame to have had such beautiful food ruined by a few careless slip ups on the behalf of the waiters. Come on guys, chill out, this isn't McDonalds!