Food: Asia


Food: Asia and japan and simple japanese pleasures12 Jul 2011 03:08 pm


Ice Zenzai from Fujiya

 

I should really rename this entry “simple okinawan pleasures” because iced zenzai is a very Okinawan thing. People often note the similarities between Hawaii and Okinawa – both are part of a bigger country, but maintain a very different culture, identity and lifestyle than their mainland. They also have very special food items, their own language and lots of beaches. The list goes on, actually.

Perhaps because of these similarities, Hawaii and Okinawa have shared a lot over the years. I have heard that many of the somewhat rare Japanese expats are from Okinawa and live in Hawaii. So there has been a lot of cross over between food and culture over the years. One of those things is shave ice, which may be thought of as being Hawaiian, but is actually rooted in Japan.

Zenzai is a sort of strange dessert common in Asia. It is a bit savoury, sweet and full of strange texture. It is also very filling due to it’s fiber content. Zenzai is basically red azuki beans served in a sweet syrup, usually eaten hot and sometimes with mochi, or pounded rice balls. Okinawa has combined shave ice with this classic Japanese winter dish called zenzai and made a power house of a dish, I think.

It is nice hot, but I LOVE it over shave ice as a summer treat. It is refreshing and savoury and sweet and cold and chewy and crunchy and filling and… well, it is a simple (but complex) pleasure one can only find on Okinawa.

Fujiya is a very famous iced zenzai producer, and they ship all over Okinawa and Japan. It comes in little cups that look like Cup Noodles, not quite as pretty as the above picture.

Here is a cute Fujiya refrigerated zenzai delivery truck I saw on Sunday.

Click for more from the Simple Japanese Pleasures series

Food and Food: Asia and Food: Home Cookin' and japan10 Jul 2011 02:36 pm

 

We tend to eat sushi out once a week at our favourite easy kaiten (belt) sushi chain restaurant, and it is excellent for the old favourites and some maki choices, but sometimes you like to eat your own creations full of your favourite ingredients. Also, maki sushi is quite different from the nigiri sushi that is often at these restaurants, as it combines many ingredients.

One of the best things about the local supermarket is the fish section. It is stocked with various cuts and preparations of the many kinds of fish, from classic favourites to seasonal varieties. There are packages of pre cut slices for sashimi or nigiri sushi, long pieces for grilling… you can really go to town.

On this occasion, I bought a few things:

  • two kinds of nori seaweed, one for hand rolls and one for the longer maki rolls
  • premade rice (almost as fresh as homemade, but more convenient)
  • salmon, crab and maguro
  • burdock root, and some vegetables

Crab sticks. Not imitation, although that is also available.

Burdock root, or gobo

This mixed pack of sushi grade maguro tuna and salmon was about $5.50

At home I already had what I needed to flavour the rice, as well as cream cheese and various kinds of pickles and other fillings to put in the rolls.

 

As I have mentioned before, I think the rice is one of the best things about living in Japan. My favourite is sushi rice with a lightly flavoured taste of vinegar, sake and sugar. It is tangy and delicious.

I made my own sushi vinegar to add to the rice by combining these items:

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (you can use rice vinegar too)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 table spoon of mirin or sake/nihon shu
  • 1/2 tablespoon of salt

Combine these in a small pot on the stove until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Will flavour about 4 cups of rice.

Combine into warm rice by folding it in, being careful to not crush the rice.

Buying rice is a bit of a cheat since the flavour is better when the rice is turned into sushi rice when it is warm and fresh.
You cannot substitute any other kind of rice, or turn arborio or Thai sticky rice into sushi rice by making it gooey and mushy, so please do not do this.

 

Assembly is easy. I did not want the rolls to be too filling because we wanted to try many different combinations, so I did not push the rice to the edge of the nori. Normally you would, otherwise you get…

…sad looking rolls like this. These deflated looking things were really good though.

You can mix and match each rolls. Here, toro chopped and mixed with soy, negi or green onions, crunchy Niigata Prefecture miso daikon pickles that were a present from our Japanese tutor, burdock root dipped in the same sushi vinegar mix I made for the rice and a cucumber. You want to combine the things you like, thinking about taste, smell, texture (crunch!) and color.

There are sushi mats you can use to roll up rolls, like inside out California rolls, but I just hand rolled these nori wrapped rolls. The sushi mats help the rice from sticking and keep a uniform size and look, if presentation is important. But we are rustic here at the ZeeCall household, and we are not so picky.

I also made some salmon, negi, cream cheese, sesame seed and cucumber rolls.

Finally, even more customizable, the hand rolls. You just stuff and fill the little squares of nori with rice, then the fillings you want, roll up and eat.

Crab, cucumber, negi and cream cheese.

Fun and easy!

 

 

Food: Asia and Food: Home Cookin' and japan and simple japanese pleasures09 Jul 2011 03:07 pm

 

I have decided to start a new series of posts on simple pleasures I find here in Japan. Most are food related, but not all. There are just so many interesting somewhat single use experiences that are relaxing, enjoyable and often delicious in their own right, so I thought I might expose a few of them to you.

First up is a food item often found at yakitori restaurants. Yakitori is almost always completely protein based – there are very few vegetable or rice dishes, so they are more of a drinking place with meat on sticks as opposed to a dinner location. Although we have definitely turned our stops at these places into meals, for sure.

To balance this out, there is usual a token item on the menu – yakisoba for instance, or fried rice. But my favourite is the simple grilled onigiri, or yaki onigiri. Onigiri are pressed cooked rice balls – round, triangular, square – they come in all shapes and sizes. They sometimes have fillings, or a nori seaweed wrap. They are a quick and easy snack if you need something while on the go.

Yaki onigiri are a plain pressed clump of rice, grilled over dry heat til it gets a crispy shell, then it is brushed with tare (sauce, usually thick and kind of sweet) or butter and salt. We recently got a grill for at home (more on that later) and we can now make these babies on our own.

I often thing about the food thing I will miss most when I leave Japan, and I think the answer is easy – the rice. Even prepared in such a simple manner, it really stands out. Especially in yaki onigiri.

Click for more from the Simple Japanese Pleasures series

Food: Asia and Food: Home Cookin' and japan24 Jun 2011 09:01 pm

I knew one of the best things about moving to Japan would be the food. And my weight gain in the past year has shown that to be true.

I also knew that one of the hardest things about moving to Japan would be the food. I knew I would miss so many things – experimenting with baking, farmer’s market foods and the treats from back home that I liked to indulge in. (Elm Cafe lattes or nachos from Hudson’s, anyone?)

Luckily there are ways to adapt here. There are many import food services which we have used a few times. It is otherworldly to order cheese and other cold products and have them arrive at your door fresh and cold via a delivery man in a refrigerated truck. The prices are high, but you will pay. Yes, you will.

Okinawa is a bit of an odd beast since the American influence has brought a few products to grocery stores that might be hard to find in other parts of Japan. While we do not have access to on-base (military) food, it is also there. It is a bit complicated and I seriously could not be bothered to ask someone to go through that for me, although parents of one of my students have offered. You need US cash, you need someone to shop with you, escort you in…it is like bringing someone into Costco, only harder.

So, I rely on the local grocers, and big suitcase allowances when I come home from vacation in other cities. Luckily there is a selection of stores that offer up some amazing finds. I am trying to cook with more Japanese ingredients at home, but sometimes you just want chili or a plate of nachos, dammit.

First up is Jimmy’s. There are a few different locations of this Okinawan chain around the island. The first few I went to were just tiny bakeries, with stale “American Taste” cookies and tasteless pies. However my birthday cake was from Jimmy’s, so it is not all bad. I just thought every location was as sad as the one nearest my home.

But when we got a car and my mom came to visit, we stopped in at a larger location – one with a grocery and cafe on top  of the bakery. I was blown away.

 

This is the Jimmy’s just north of Naha on the 58. Very easy to find, even by bus. Just take any bus going from the Naha bus terminal to Chatan, and look for Jimmy’s on the right about 20 minutes out of Naha.

While I tend to order tortilla chips from aforementioned foreign food supplier, it is nice to have expensive emergency chips if I need some guacamole dippers. Most of these bags run $3-7.

I shudder to think of eating such MSG salt laden fat popsicles, but I cannot deny that being overseas does weird things to people, and there may come a day when I crave these Johnsonville “sausages.” These are about $8.50

Lots of baking ingredients. When I made nanaimo bars at Christmas it took me a few weeks to source and buy the products. If we had a car at that time, I could have been done in about 15 minutes.

Everyone will tell you how hard it is to find pit stick in Japan. EVERYONE. However, I have been seeing it everywhere recently, although not all places have as good a selection as Jimmy’s.

Huge bags of baking soda for cleaning and deodorizing.

TimTams. Oh god, TimTams.

It is weird to say this, but maybe I can because I once worked in a grocery store – but the store is merchandised in a more western way which is oddly comforting. It is a little cramped and busy on the eyes. Maybe because they have so many products.

Some okay pies from the bakery. They are good, but missing the zazz my mom’s pies have, in the form of cinnamon and other spices. It is weird to eat an exclusively all fruit apple pie.

There is also Mitsukoshi My Kitchen. Mitsukoshi is a well known and respected department store in Japan. It got started in 1673 selling kimonos. They know their shit. In Okinawa they have a formerly glitzy department store with a smallish depachika (basement food hall) in downtown Naha and this really nice grocery store called My Kitchen, on a manmade island.

Hahahaha! I wonder how many Canadian JETs wasted their baggage allowance on bottles of maple syrup as gifts. (Not me, I just brought maple candy. Score!)

Bakeries are abundant in Japan, and Mitsukoshi has some fine vendors. This is a  bamboo charcoal bread loaf.

Some nice looking fresh soba noodles.

They also host cooking lessons, but my Japanese is no where good enough to go yet and not be a burden.

Obviously a great fish selection.

Again, lots of well marked baking products. It was a challenge before I could read to find out what these things were, so I appreciated any bit of English to help decipher the numerous white powders and flours.

How dare you, no I did not. I did kind of love that it was with the legit Italian pastas, though.

Lots of imports – from southeast Asian, Italy, Germany and England. And also some Japanese onigiri kits.

This is the peanut butter we bought before I started ordering in Costco sized jars from the foreign food club.

Mitsukoshi is also a great place to buy cheese and deli meats. One of my favourite memories this winter was coming home from school lunch to have a charcuterie plate instead.

Candy cigarettes!

As if anyone eats potato chips with tongs.

There are also  a few other more common grocers who carry a few different items. You just need to remember where you saw what when the time comes.

You can also check out my post on A-Price, another store that carries western imports, in western sizes.


Mitsukoshi MyKitchen

Tomiton, Okinawa
沖縄県豊見城市字豊崎1-411
豊崎ライフスタイルセンターTOMITON 1F
Map and more

Jimmy’s
locations all over Okinawa

Food: Asia and Food: Home Cookin' and japan21 Jun 2011 08:00 pm

There is a lot of weird candy here in Japan. I have a number of care packages waiting to go out from here full of the weird stuff. I am just waiting on that Canada Post strike to end. I hope it is okay sitting here in the heat and humidity…

However, one of the newest fads in kids candy – one of the weirdest sectors of the Japanese candy market – is “at home cooking.” It is effectively molecular gastronomy for children.

The series of Popin’ Cookin’ candy has a bunch of different items you make at home using water, gelatin and sometimes your microwave. These include ramen, gyoza and even sushi. I found this video recently which gives an absolutely amazing look at the packages.

I did not care to drop $3 on sugar and water that I might not be able to prepare properly because of my illiteracy, but after watching the video I might give it a go. How the ikura or salmon roe is prepared is gobsmacking.

postscript: I just have to revel in my slowly decreasing level of illiteracy actually. I just read the title of the sushi box and it translates to “enjoy mr. sushi” or “tanoshi sushi-ya san”

Food and Food: Asia and General and japan08 Jun 2011 10:12 pm

When I was about 7 years old, my parents started a birthday tradition of bringing me to the Japanese Village in downtown Edmonton for a little teppanyaki fun. The last year I went – the year I turned 10 – the staff took a Polaroid of me wearing a huge Japanese wig hairstyle thing…and that was the end of that tradition. Partly because we moved to the UK and partly because even at age 10, the idea of wearing a wig thousands of other of people had worn and “wearing” an experience thousands of others of people had turned me off. Yes, I was a snob even an an early age it would seem.

Twenty years on I think I have returned to my roots. While themed restaurants are not my first stop, I am less likely to turn my nose up at them. Perhaps out of nostalgia or out of expat desperation. While looking for a fun experience for my mom’s last night on Okinawa back in January, a friend suggested taking her to one of the restaurants in the Sam`s Group.

These restaurants (owned by three American brothers) tend to be teppanyaki restaurants. As the idea of a chef  “performing” just for us cooking frozen seafood likely imported from another country made me cringe more and more, I decided to take one for the team and see what it was like.

Seafood display at the front of the rather large restaurant

I might be able to sit at that bar for hours if it had the right view

 

I was pleasantly surprised. The Sam’s Group has been on Okinawa since 1970, and they know what their patrons want. They mostly appeal to young American military families going out for special occasions or entertaining and to tourists from mainland Japan looking for an American experience in Japan. It is a really weird contrast in diners.

The location we went to, Sam’s by the Sea Awase, was one of the original restaurants. It is loaded with tiki torches, moais, outriggers, rattan furniture, shells, and all sorts of fun Hawaiian bric-a-brac. It could be tacky and gaudy and messy, but somehow it isn’t.

I think the there were three factors in a great experience at Sam`s.

  1. my expectations were low. I was not expecting much from an Americanized Japanese restaurant idealizing America in Japan. (wrap your head around that one)
  2. we chose to visit the one restaurant in the group that served entrees as opposed to teppanyaki style
  3. we had a coupon and dammit, we were going to use it

Nerdy fun with GIFs and my shark mugs.

The drinks were really good, and we walked away with four free themed cups which brought me more joy than you can imagine. One man’s junk is another woman’s treasure, I guess. My mom got a margarita and Mike got a pina colada. As I was driving, I stuck to the virgin drinks.

I’m not kidding when I said besides my mom visiting and some tacos I made on New Years Day, these cups were the best part of my January.

We started with escargot and cheese tempura. The escargot were fresh, garlicky and buttery. They could have come with a bit more toast for sopping up the butter in my opinion, but they were still delicious. The cheese tempura were basically glorified cheese sticks. But when you have not had cheese in some time, you take what you get.

Then a small salad that was alright, served with our choice from four different dressings. Following that, a bowl of housemade piping hot Indian curry soup. People rave about this on Okinawa web forums, trying to figure out the recipe for when they go home. I thought it was alright – better and more unusual than most standard complimentary restaurant soups.

Finally, our entrees.

Going all out I got the theatrical sounding “flaming sword shish kababs.” Out came the chef with a sword laced in … fuel, and placed my rare steak chunks and veggies on my plate. It was a nice experience, but I wish I had just gotten regular steak after tasting my mom and Mike’s beef. My meat had a sweet marinade on it which was good, but I really love the taste of just straight up beef.

I’d place the steak on a level above the Keg but below Carnevino in Vegas, which was the last truly awesome steak I had in North America. It is probably unfair to even make that comparison, actually. But, this is better than average steak for a restaurant, and the presentation and fun atmosphere make it a great destination restaurant.

With a last minute change of order, I switched my side of bread to garlic rice, at an extra cost. I am glad I did, and recommend it to others, even if you are “riced out” – a situation that does not happen to me often here as the Japanese rice is so good. Sam’s rice was tender and flavourful. The bread was decent at Sam’s, but the butter was tropical fruit infused and was a bit sweet and fruity. At first we thought it was the bread itself, but that was not the case.


Chevron-shaped impressively high coconut cream pie…sadly not as good as I had hoped.

We closed out with a piece of mile high coconut cream pie. I had been eyeing it across the dining room, but it was probably the weakest element of the meal. The meringue was a bit sticky and soggy, not fluffy and light. I would probably forgo dessert next time and just get another tropical drink.

Sam’s has been around on Okinawa for over 40 years, churning out steak, seafood and classic cocktails to soldiers and tourists alike. They are good at what they do, and I know we will return there again sometime in the future.


Sam’s by the Sea, Awase
(other locations in the chain, visit Sam’s Group for more info)

ps: while my photography on the blog is normally standard at best, thank you for sticking through this substandard stuff. Not my best. It was part of the reason I delayed this entry so long, actually!

Food and Food: Asia and japan31 May 2011 07:04 am

This restaurant was one of the first I remember being very intrigued by when I arrived in Okinawa in August. I was wandering around Okinawa’s capital, Naha, and spied the restaurant’s window with three huge cow carcasses in it. When I got over I realized they were the ubiquitous plastic models Japanese restaurants love to use, but it was still impressive. I made a note of the restaurant and vowed to return. The only English on the sign was “From Farm” so we just called it that for a long time.

We finally got the chance in January when my mom visited. We wanted a yakiniku restaurant that was higher quality than average, but still good value.  So we headed to “From Farm.” We finally found last week that it is called yakiniku Wagyu Itoryuo, however. It is a great choice if you want a classier meat grilling experience. We struggled with the menu on our visit. It was was a daily special menu, hand scripted in an unusual writing style with no pictures so it was beyond challenging. But, we got through and my mom still talks about the best meat she ever had.

Daily menu…yikes!

What sets Wagyu Itoryuo apart is that it buys entire cows from ranches, mostly located in the Kyushyu area. It is kind of a wholesale restaurant, I guess. It is able to sell very expensive cuts at better prices because they do most of the work themselves. On the back of the menu they show the serial numbers and rancher’s name for the legit wagyu cattle they bring to the restaurant, so you know what you are eating. They then cut the cow up at the restaurant into the specials of the day and you order off that menu. It was very intimidating to people who do not possess strong Japanese skills such as ourselves, and so we returned with our Japanese tutors to treat it like a mini-Japanese lesson. Conveniently delicious!

Wagyu Itoryuo makes its own complimentary in house beef curry, out of the cows they use. It is really good, and I recommend trying it. At the front they show you the stock and bones and marrow used to make the curry.

We ordered a number of things, including kim chee, rice and noodle dishes, cuts of karubi or short ribs, a cut called zabuton (sharing a name with the japanese chair, but not a cut from the butt as you might think) tongue and so on. They have a guide in the menu that shows you where the cuts come from, which is very handy. You can see the Japanese butchers have way more cuts than North American ones.

Many items come on mixed cut platters so you can try a few things at the same time.

 

Things got smoky. Poor Kase-sensei!

Bi Bim Bap

This restaurant is really good. I hope we can return soon with our renewed confidence and order some new items. The staff are kind and friendly and put up with our Japanese tutors requesting they mostly deal with us for ordering. The booths are a bit narrow and tight for a group of four, but we managed.



Wagyu Itoryou Yakiniku

Omoromachi, Naha
沖縄県那覇市おもろまち4-12-9 SAIビル1F :: map
Open 6pm – 2am

 

Food: Asia and Food: Home Cookin' and japan29 May 2011 06:54 pm

Well we made it through the biggest typhoon Okinawa has seen in a number of years last night. It was a strange experience. Originally a super typhoon, the storm was downgraded late Friday night, so people were kind of low key about it. I was out drinking and having a good time with some girlfriends in my rainboots.

Come Saturday, I thought the storm was pretty slow to move in, and was underwhelming at first. People were still out walking their dogs and I could see some students returning home from sports at the school at 7:30pm. But by 9pm, I was white knuckling it and pacing the apartment, worried about windows breaking and the cracking sounds coming from outside the apartment.

When typhoon Songda got to Okinawa it clocked wind gusts at 175-200kph on the bases. Apparently if a storm approaches from the west side of the island, it places more damage on the areas to the northeast corner…which is where Okinawa was last night. Several friends around the island lost power, but we were okay. Our neighbours had something blow into their house and break a window, giving cause for the firefighters to come and help them at about midnight. I finally fell asleep around 1am, and when I woke again at 3, the storm was pretty much blown through. I spent the morning doing laundry and washing the macerated vegetation and other detritus off our windows.

The key thing for these storms is being ready. You often have a few days notice, so I went out and collected the things we might need, from instant noodles to imported beer. Gotta have the essentials! I love being prepared, so I had a full fridge and a few meals planned in case we were housebound a few days.

brothy pinto beans, pre-frying

Early Saturday morning I started some refried beans. I had planned to bring them to a friends party that night, but it was delayed due to the storm. Oh well – gave me time to perfect the recipe for when the party does happen.

I ordered the beans a few weeks ago from an imported food company here in Japan and used some spices I bought in Bangkok. I had never actually made my own refried beans before, so I was a bit nervous at screwing up. But they turned out alright, just like every other Rick Bayless recipe I have ever used.

Although this is very much pork country, I had trouble finding pork fat, and with limited time before the storm arriving I did not waste a lot of time looking. So I got some ground pork and used the drippings from that to add to the beans. Real rendered fat would have made the beans more awesome, I think. It took about two hours to finish the brothy beans, and then another half hour to turn them into refried beans.

 

Meanwhile I whipped up the taco fillings – guacamole, cilantro lime cream, beef and pork with peppers and fresh tomatoes.

I turned them into double decker tacos – soft tortillas wrapped around crispy corn tortilla shells. Best of all worlds – double the room for fillings, chewy soft tortilla and the crispy corn taco which is held together by the beans and tortilla. Spread the tortilla with beans, wrap around a crisp taco shell and fill the shell with meat and guacamole. Drink with beer, watch the rain fall and wind blow. They were fantastic.

 

 

It is hard to show the damage the storm caused in our neighbourhood since I did not take any good before photos the morning of the storm. The closest is the photo with the stuffed bear in it – you can see the field behind him is very green and lush. It was taken around 7pm. After is below, taken 12 hours later. The tender cabbage and corn plants were destroyed, leaving pretty barren fields. The sugar cane fields and banana plantation behind and to the left took a beating too. Poor neighbours. You can click the photos for larger versions.

For a few more details about what it was like enduring the storm on a smaller island, check out fellow JET teacher Zamami Dave’s blog.

Food and Food: Asia and Travels26 May 2011 10:16 am

 

My favourite meal in Hong Kong was the one we had quite a distance out of the main city core. We originally traveled out to eat some authentic bamboo noodles at Ping Kee noodles – a place, yes, featured on Anthony Bourdain’s episode of No Reservations where he went to Hong Kong.

 

After a 30 minute train ride and ten minute walk, we reached Tai Po market. It was a large four floored concrete building with many vendors. There was not a lot of English, and I could not recall through my flu fogged haze what the stall looked like on the episode. Additionally, I did not have 3G connectivity for my cell in Hong Kong. Gahh!

Eventually we found a wifi signal and we sussed out which stall was Ping Kee…only to find out it was closed for some reason. I am still not sure if it was a regular holiday or closed for good. There seemed to be a lot of junk in the stall, which makes me worry that it is closed for good.

 

By this point we were ravenous. I started to feel the pressure of three hungry bellies plus mine and was not sure where to go next. Then I remembered I had also noted a BBQ restaurant nearby. The name? Yat Lok. Another Bourdain favourite, this restaurant was a short jaunt from Tai Po market, and happily still had a table available even though it was pretty damn close to lunch and it was far from empty in the restaurant.

Since he was an incredibly kind man, the owner/chef came out to help us with the menu (since it was all in Cantonese) and explain some things in English. We all ordered different kinds of meat, but mostly pork and goose. As we waited it got busier and busier, the ladies behind the counter hurling out cups of milk tea, and the sound of the cleaver on wood and meat at the front becoming more frantic.

Our meals came out quite quickly and were…delectable. Some of the best meat I have ever had, with apologies to my father, Guy Savoy and the Salt Lick in Texas. Mike and I both got mixed plates to sample the pork and goose, and I am happy we did. The crisp sweetness of the skin on the goose gave way to a shimmering layer of fat, and tender meaty protein. I shifted back and forth between the goose and the char siu, unable to determine which I liked best. My appetite was not up to full speed so I did not eat that much rice and I have to agree with Bourdain – there was no need for the rice. Just a plate of meat would have been the best. Additionally the owner sent out some soup on the house. What a great man.

Alas a woman cannot live on meat alone. Although I would, especially if it call came from Yat Lok.

Goose on the left,  char siu on the right.

Why did I wait so long to post about this? It is only making me crave it more. Good thing we had a really delicious yakiniku meal last night.

While I am not sure I would have gone out of my way initially to eat at Yat Lok (I had planned on eating BBQ at another restaurant closer to Hong Kong) I certainly would now. Recommended.

Ping Kee bamboo noodles
2nd Floor Tai Po Cooked Food Market

Yat Lok BBQ
5, Po Wah House A, Tai Ming Lane
Exiting the MTR, follow the signs towards “Tai Po Market.” After a jaunt, you will see Tai Po market infront of you. You’ll get to an intersection with a large building, which is Tai Po Market. To get to Yat Lok, though, head down the street to the right to an open square market kind of area. Yat Lok is on the square there.

Food and Food: Asia and Travels14 May 2011 07:29 am

High tea was definitely on my list as an experience to have in Hong Kong. I enjoy that it is relaxing, provides a nice light snack and feels…historical.

Corniness aside, Hong Kong has a wide selection of places to enjoy high tea, with some hotels even offering two high teas at two different dining establishments on the property. With all this selection, I am really sad we ended up where we did.

Sigh. Oh well.

Hullett House is located near the largest shopping center in Hong Kong, making it a perfect post shopping break for us. Mike and I arranged to meet our parents at Hullett House later – a mistake. I thought it would be easy to find. I suppose it is, if you are coming from the right angle or have a map, but from the place we were coming from it appeared to be hidden inside another building. That is the case, in a matter of speaking, as it is located in 1881 Heritage, a high end historical shopping area. My parents were unable to find the building, but both my dad and I groaned when we drove past the location the next day in a cab and saw a huge sign (think 10 foot letters) advertising Hullett House on the opposite side of the complex.

 

The building Hullett House is in was the former Marine Police headquarters, and is one of the oldest buildings in Hong Kong. As such, it is colonial in style and is very different from the sleek glassy Vuitton and Gucci outlets just across the street. It is quite charming, actually, and as we finally found our way in and ascended the steps, I was looking forward to the atmosphere.

 

 

We arrived minutes before the last call for high tea, and the hostess seated us with a comment about it being last call. Yeah, thanks lady, we’ll hurry. Just the way I like to enjoy high tea.

The patio of the Parlour restaurant was quite empty, save for another couple, and there did not seem to be a lot of staff. Something that become painfully clear when we sat…and sat…and sat. Maybe they were not in such a hurry for last call after all?

Finally we got a server to come over and ordered the high tea set. A three tiered silver server came out with scones and sweet treats, and a plate with savoury sandwiches. The food was okay, with most of the highlights being on the dessert tier, including an airy lychee, fruit curd and whip cream heart cake, a crunchy praline finger and warm flaky scones.

My tea was fine, but Mike said he thought his tasted a bit off. I had to ask for cream, and was brought ice cold milk. At the end of the meal would could not find any servers to bring us the bill, so we went to the front podium where the hostess stood with her back to us, rifling through papers. I think I finally said excuse me and she turned and gave us a blank look/stare, then said “Good bye.” I actually had to ask for the bill.

So despite the key location, high quality pastries and a beautiful patio, the experience was, well, bitter. We should have gone to the Peninsula instead. I would have gladly braved the zoo there if I knew better.

Food: Asia and Travels07 May 2011 02:59 pm

A week in Bangkok was good for my soul, stomach and photo skills.

 

Okay, maybe not that last one so much.
 

 

Food: Asia and Travels29 Apr 2011 09:51 am

Haha, yeah right. They do have an English menu. Also when we returned a few days later, there was no menu, just carts.

The terrible side of being sick in Hong Kong was not that I was exhausted most of the time, it was that I had no appetite. I had hours of research put in to places to visit for BBQ pork, noodles and dim sum. And back ups for if those places were closed or busy. It still pains me as I write this a month later.

After an underwhelming meal the night before, the four of us headed out for an early dim sum at Luk Yu. Most places start serving at 10 or 11am, but the legendary Luk Yu opens at 7 am. I chose Luk Yu for a few reasons, but the early hour for a meal was the main one.

I’ll take half a teacake, please!

Oh god. Perfect baked cha siu bao. The pastries at Luk Yu were out of this world. The filling was delicious too.

It was not until our return trip the day we left that I noticed how insane the egg tarts were. They were layer upon layer of pastry. Probably 25 or more, filled with the eggy custard. So flaky. So good.

Meh. The beef balls were the only item that did not do much for me. Too big, too gelatinous and too tasteless.

Luk Yu is so classic. It opened in 1933 and really retains a lot of the same ambiance. It is reminiscent of a French bistro in decor (no, seriously!) with wood and stained glass and brass everywhere. White table cloths and tile floor complete the feeling. The service was excellent considering how badly people bash on it online. We felt welcome and enjoyed it so much we returned the morning we left. As I mentioned however, even though both visits were on weekdays at about 9am, one was menu and one was cart.

Luk Yu can get busy; I think there are at least two floors above the main that fill up. Tables are full of men sipping tea and reading the papers. The prices were great considering the work that went into the pastries. One of the best meals I have had ever had in Asia, for sure, for company and for food.

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