Monday, February 29, 2016

Bits and bites

Day 5 (Thu, 17 December 2015)

Ok, this post is extremely overdue. That's what happens when you lose momentum. I now only have a vague memory of what happened since this was more than two months ago, so bear with me!

Nothing much happened on Day 5 actually because we had to check out and leave for the airport in the early afternoon. So we decided to have a simple brunch at a tiny restaurant around the corner from our apartment. Incidentally, this was the place where Kenneth would sometimes buy a yew tiao and soya bean drink for breakfast cos he wakes up much earlier than the rest of us. To be honest, it's not great. Unlike in Singapore, they fry the yew tiao and leave it stacked in a container so if you don't buy it when it's first fried, it gets cold and chewy. But on a cold day, it's comforting to eat this with the hot soya bean drink.

The restaurant seemed very popular though, so we decided to eat here on our last morning.

Here's what we had:

Yew tiao wrapped chee cheong fun. Not great because the yew tiao is not refried and therefore cold.
Beef brisket and rice - very good!
Some chicken with rice and gravy, I think.
Sliced beef congee - oh, how good is this on a cold day!

This more or less ends our culinary journey in Hong Kong but here are some other interesting titbits (haha!) we discovered about food:

In Singapore, we buy teeny bottles of Yakult and Vitagen for that dose of healthy bacteria. In Hong Kong, they sell cultured drink by the litre. Like this huge bottle, on clearance for only HK$10 (less than $2)! They come in different flavours too. This one was melon flavoured, I believe.

One of the snacks I personally found great in Hong Kong was the cream puff. There are many shops in the malls and at MTR stations selling a variety of them. This one in the Tsim Sha Tsui station was particularly good.

We tried the original and chocolate. They have both custard and fresh cream versions. We tried all kinds and I probably bust my sugar limit for a month on those, but they are sooooooo delish!

We said this would be a food trip and it was! Totally worth the gazillion calories we each piled on. And as an added bonus, we got upgraded to Business Class again coming home. Thank you, Cathay Pacific!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A-Tisket, A-Brisket

Day 4 (Wed, 16 December 2015)

One of the food items I wanted to try on this trip was beef brisket, having heard of the legendary melt-in-your-mouth quality done Hong Kong style. Kau Kee is the one most commonly sited by foodies but we didn't want to bother making a trip to Central, so we settled on Chiu Fat at Tsim Sha Tsui, which was walking distance from our apartment.

It's quite a typical Hong Kong-sized "restaurant" ala coffee shop, containing maybe 10 small tables or so

This was what we ordered:

Beef brisket noodles
Sliced beef porridge
Jellyfish and century egg
Extra plate of beef brisket

The food was excellent and the portions generous. The brisket was indeed very tender with a scrumptious herby flavour. The century eggs were exceptional. Lesley-Anne wondered how their t century eggs could taste so much better than the ones in Singapore. "Maybe they're two centuries old!" she offered. I enjoyed the porridge tremendously, especially since it was a cold, cold morning in Hong Kong - 18 degrees celcius! The porridge was thinner than the typical Hong Kong-style congee but very tasty.

We were a little startled by our total bill though - it came up to about S$70. I've since come to the realisation that Hong Kong has become very expensive food-wise. On average, prices have gone up 10-20% from when I was here less than two years ago. While in Singapore, I find eating at restaurants pricey, there are at least cheap dining alternatives at hawker centres and food courts. In Hong Kong, a bowl of noodles or a plate of rice at their hole-in-the-wall outlets found in abundance are usually at least HK$40 (about S$7.40). No S$3.50 plates of char siew rice, no sirree. The cheapest dining options are the cha chaan tengs and even then, a drink is about S$3 and a simple pork chop bun about S$4.

As an aside, look at what was on offer at Chiu Fat - Saliva Chicken! What on earth?

After brunch, we took a stroll to K11 mall which is dubbed the "art mall". Throughout the mall, you can find art installations such as this one in the lobby. It lights up for 5 mins every half hour:

"Artificial Moon"

This too was an art installation. Looks like the bookshelf in my nightmares!

On a separate note, the latest HK food buzz in Singapore is the Jenny Bakery cookies. They recently opened an outlet in Singapore and I heard you had to queue for them. To be honest, we'd not heard of these cookies until we read the news, so we were a little curious. Are these butter cookies really all that they're made out to be?

The HK outlet at Tsim Sha Tsui was just around the corner from our apartment (we really did stay in a convenient location!) Kenneth figured that the cookies would make nice gifts for relatives and since we slept in every day when we were there while he was an early riser, he very kindly offered to queue up for the cookies when they rest of us were still in zzzzzzzzz Land. 

This was the queue - it went around Mirador Mansions where Jenny Bakery was.

After inching your way around the building, just before you enter the building, you're given a ticket and 10 customers are let in to the shop at a time. No ticket, no cookies! Prevents queue-cutting, I guess.

There, you give your orders to a no-nonsense counter lady. She's very, very fierce. Kenneth said an elderly lady was queuing in front of him and when she reached the counter after having queued for 50 mins, she was just told very brusquely, "go away, not selling to you." Wah. I think they don't like selling to locals who might be buying the cookies for resale.

After 50 mins of queueing, got our cookies!

Christmas tin, no less!

Jenny Bakery is famous for mainly their two types of butter cookies - plain and coffee-flavoured. This is the standard tin which comes in four flavours.

So our verdict? To be very honest, we're very puzzled as to how this product earned its cult status. The butter cookies were light and buttery, yes, but they were far from mind-blowing. In fact, the plain butter one was quite bland. I preferred the coffee one as it had more flavour. The other two flavours in the tin - shortbread and oatmeal and raisin - were so ordinary I lack the words to describe them.

If you want my opinion, get the cookies only if there's a short queue or you want to bring home gifts for the folks who would probably appreciate the effort you took to get your hands on them! I would dearly love to know the secret behind their success though - how does one maintain such interest in a less-than-stellar product so as to attract perpetual queues? (Kenneth says the queue comprised mostly PRC and Korean tourists). Even hype dies off eventually, right? Well, when I figure out their secret, I'll be off making my first million!

Dinner that night was back to Honolulu Cafe because some of us were having food fatigue and we couldn't agree on what we wanted. So we decided to go where the menu ran into endless pages and we could all eat whatever we wanted.

Not gonna post pics cos they're similar to what we had on Day 2. Instead, I'm going to post pics of Li Yuen Street East and West - you can pass either of these two narrow uphill streets if you're walking from the Central MTR station to Stanley Street where the restaurants are. Colourful sights and colourful people at every turn, with quaint makeshift shops stuffed full of every kind of knick knacks imaginable. If you want a real bargain and not the touristy knockoffs, I highly recommend coming here instead of to Ladies Market.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Symphony of lights (and tastes)

Day 3 (Tue, 15 December 2015)

I've been insistent on having pigeon this trip but having googled restaurants that served pigeon, I came up blank. They were either too far away or they served roasted pigeon, which is not the type I like (deep fried).

In the end, we decided to go to Wah Fung at Wellington Street, Central, a restaurant I chanced upon in my last trip to HK, where I tasted some very satisfactory pigeon. Kenneth wasn't expecting much since this restaurant isn't on foodies' radar, but it turned out to be one of the best meals we had in HK. We had char siew (which Lesley-Anne declared was the best char siew she's had so far), suckling pig and deep fried pigeons.

Everything was extremely delicious. Even the milk tea was the best we've had, which shouldn't be a surprise I guess, since Wah Fung started out as a cha chaan teng. And even more astonishing, the prices were very reasonable. The generous portion of suckling pig and rice (which was so so unbelievably crisp and mouth-watering) was only HK$65 (about S$12) and it came with a free drink (this is a lunch special, I think). The five-star lunch came up to HK$365 (S$67) in total which was the best value for money meal we had in HK, considering we had two portions of suckling pig and four pigeons.

The restaurant also has a wonderful ambience - very inviting and clean. Not your typical hole-in-the-wall outlet. Highly recommended.

Like many tourists, we paid a visit to Ladies Market in Mong Kok to see what deals there were to be had. Unfortunately, this place has become pretty much a tourist trap. Chockful of gimmicky trinkets and imitation goods. The prices aren't exactly rock bottom either (you would do better at our pasar malams), so if you're looking for a bargain, this is probably not it.

That evening, we decided to catch the Symphony of Lights night show by the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. For convenience, we ate at the food court at Harbour City. Maybe we should have gone somewhere else. The food was nondescript and overpriced.

My favourite food item that evening was a cream puff we bought from one of the stalls. The pastry had a thin, crisp layer like you find in polo buns - very light and tasty, and the custard was smooth and sweet. Very yummy!

The Symphony of Lights with the very picturesque Hong Kong skyline.

Panoramic view

Immediately following the Symphony of Lights display was the Pulse 3D Light show on the opposite wall of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre.

The clock tower also changes colour according to music. Very pretty.