Tuesday, October 23, 2012

HK cheap eats. And the not so cheap but good eats.

This one is for @lili_pie on twitter: the promised list of food to try in HK.

The cheap, and cheap-ish
1. Tim Ho Wan, IFC/Hong Kong MTR Station
So it's not the original hole-in-the-wall 1 Michelin star. So what? This one is cleaner, on the Island line, and there's always shopping or window shopping at IFC afterwards. Most dim sums are around the 15HKD (that's less than 2 AUD each) mark, so with a small group you can easily get every item on the menu.
Podium Level 1, IFC Mall, Central (above Hong Kong Station).

2. Sang Kee congee, Sheung Wan
If you don't mind a bit of dirt and aren't claustrophobic, this is the place to try out some of the best congee in the world. If you don't mind eating fish with bone, then try the fish bone and beef congee (Gwut ngau, abbreviated). The congee is cooked down so much it's more of a rice soup; flavoursome, wholesome, nothing can compare. Their clear broth items are also very, very good. Try the turnip and beef brisket, no noodles necessary.
7-9 Burd Street, Sheung Wan.

3. Kau Kee beef noodles, Sheung Wan
So famous the place even has its own Wikipedia page, in English: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kau_Kee_Restaurant ! Definitely go for the noodles, especially the thick kind. If you have company, get something different so you can all share and try. This place gets some huge lines, so beware!
21 Gough Street, Sheung Wan.

4. Lan Fong Yuen, Central
For an authentic cha-chaan tang (HK Style westernised tea shop) experience you really can't go past this place. An institution and an innovator, their HK style milk tea is truly one of the best. If you want something stronger than your usual coffee, try the Yuen Yeung - the HK original blend of milk tea and milk coffee. French toast and their dry "yiding" instant noodles are also must tries.
2 Gage Street, Central.

5. Gai Daan Jai (egg waffles), Fung Kee Tsim Sha Tsui
Sadly, I missed out on this during my last HK trip. Their egg waffles are some of the best in HK - eggy, soft and fluffy inside, crispy outside. At $12 a pop they're double the price of their main competition across the road, but well worth it, I think. Catching them during a break in the queue might also get you better quality, too.
Granville Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, opposite Tai Ping Koon (I think).

The not so cheap:

1. Tai Ping Koon
One of the oldest "fusion" restaurants in Hong Kong, they do "soy sauce" Western food - and they do it well. Service and quality at Tsim Sha Tsui and Central can be a bit inconsistent at times - last time things were better at Central than at Tsim Sha Tsui (TST), but TST used to be the better one... hard to tell. Their stir fried beef noodles (dry, not the Swiss sauce type), Swiss sauce chicken wings, smoked pomfret and roast pigeon are musts. If there are more than 3 of you, definitely get a souffle too - they are unique.
Check website for branch addresses.

2. agnes. b le pain grille
Don't cringe, and don't judge please. I've had some great food and great service there! Sure, it's not cheap, at about 300HKD or more per person for lunch, but it's still better than most 50pp restaurants in Sydney. Their minute steaks are great, and their desserts are always top notch. The agnes. b LPG cafes are around everywhere, if you're just after desserts.
15/F Cubus, 1 Hoi Ping Road, Causeway Bay. Other LPG cafes addresses available on the website: http://www.agnesb-lepaingrille.com/

3. Pak Lok Chiu Chow, Elements
Yum Cha is a definite must in Hong Kong. I know there is a post on this blog previously about cuisine cuisine, but Pak Lok does it so much better. Cheaper, too. At around 30 AUD per person, you sit in comfort, enjoying your tea and dim sum off fine bone china. Book in advance for weekend yum cha if you can, or get in early, which is around 10am. The classics like har gow, siu mai and char siu buns are done fantastically, and the chiu chow dumplings are some of the best in the city. Believe me, I've been to plenty of other places, including the renowned Fook Lam Moon, and they're not as good. Try the abalone noodles as well, really interesting textures and balance of flavours.
Shop 1028D, 1/F, Elements, Kowloon Station

Sadly, I don't have a recommendation for other HK classics like fish ball rice noodle soup, wonton noodle soup and so on. I am still on the quest for decent ones, because nothing I've tried lately can compare to some of the stuff that I grew up eating as a kid. Hope you have a great time in HK, lili_pie!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Wish List

The other day, there was an email in the work inbox on the Christmas period. Stand downs, taking leave, leave entitlements... Christmas might still be a bit more than two months away, but time does seem to fly away these days. And you know, Christmas=presents...
Yes I've been guilty of regifting. Many times. In fact, all the time. It's the "waste not, want not" thing. I hate doing it. Yes, I'm very picky. And being so picky I know how hard it is to find the perfect gift for someone else too. Come birthdays, engagements, weddings, Christmas, housewarmings... I never know what to buy, and at times like that I can't help but want to see that person's wish list. I know I have, in my head, wish lists for various things, like fashion items, watches, jewelry, things to do, things to see... Recently, there has been a mini-explosion of things I want for the kitchen. Since it is somewhat related to "the table", I might as well share it here. This is what I wish for, but hey, it could spell some gift ideas! Meanwhile, I will sit here and hope that someone will be kind enough to, perhaps, consider getting me things from this list for some special occasion. No pressure of course!

The Big Guns

KitchenAid Platinum Collection Stand Mixer KSM 156
Since I've been away the baking habit has died down significantly, but this beautiful thing has been on my mind for at least a good 8 years. I've never been able to justify buying one. With a small family and friends in all parts of the world, I have been able to make do with a hand mixer and sticking to relatively simple recipes. Indeed, the most difficult baking challenge to date has been macarons, and even that somehow was managed on a hand mixer alone...
Wish Rating: 9/10

Thermomix TM31
Oh, who wouldn't want one? It weighs, mixes, grinds, heats, cooks, beats, emulsifies... all-round miracle worker in the kitchen! It even cleans itself!
Wish Rating: 9/10

Espresso machine
No, I'm not talking about one of those Breville/Sunbeam semi-auto machines you can get from any DJ or Myers... I'm talking ones that belong in cafes, hand assembled in Italy that perform much more consistently. Ones that can make the espresso AND have the steam wand going at the same time, at the very least. Then again, a good coffee needs a good barista, it will probably be a while before mine are any good...
Wish Rating: 7/10

The Small-But-Pricey Stuff

Hario "Woodneck" Drip Pot DPW-3 and Buono Kettle VKB-120HSV
Yes I know the fascination with coffee in Australia revolves mainly around Italian style espresso based stuff, but drip coffee can be good too! Admittedly my fascination with drip style coffee has been mostly inspired by Japanese dramas such as "Yasashii Jikan", and not to do with the actual taste... What's wrong with that? Cupcakes wouldn't have become a huge trend without SATC, right?
Wish Rating: 9/10

Hario Bronze Water Drip Pota PTN-5BZ
Cold drip is something I love for the taste. The apparatus looking oh-so-cool in a science-y geeky kind of way helps, too.
Wish Rating: 7/10

Hario Syphon Technica TCA-2
Hario again, I know. They are the "Kings of Glass" in Japan, though. And despite what people might think, coffee in Japan can be dated to as far back as the 1800s. Everyone knows, the Japanese take things seriously all the time... coffee is no exception. Besides, syphon coffee tastes great too.
Wish Rating: 7/10

Bone China Tea Service set, with silver tea pots, tea strainers and kettle
I love afternoon tea, way back before its boom in Australia around 2007. Having experienced some of the most raved about afternoon tea institutions in Hong Kong and Sydney then left bitterly disappointed, having a tea service at home means I will be able to take matters into my own hands. I love Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Ginori... as long as the designs are simple, classic and timeless. You'll be well rewarded for getting me this gift - think fresh scones, thick cream, homemade jams, Laduree macarons...
Wish Rating: 6/10

Baccarat crystal decanter and wine glasses
Elegant stemware is a beautiful thing. Crystal stemware... now we're talking. Baccarat has some of my favourite designs, particularly their coloured glass - unconventional, I know, but who can resist? Right now my eyes are set on the Harcourt Darkside Glass set: black as onyx, the geometric designs are forever edgy yet timeless.
Wish Rating: 6/10

For the tastebuds

Mariage Freres teas
My first experience of Mariage Freres teas was at the agnes. b LPGs around Hong Kong. It was 38HKD for a tea bag, essentially, but money well spent - my eyes were opened to an entirely new world. My favourites by far are their Breakfast Earl Grey and their own Marco Polo blend. Some of the best black teas around. There's still some left in the canisters, thankfully... but at this rate they're going fast. Loose leaf 100g cans are the best.
Wish Rating: Currently 5/10, but once it runs out... it'll shoot right up to 9/10!

Laduree macarons
Those who know me personally will no doubt wonder why Laduree is on this list, since I've never been the biggest fan of macarons around the blogosphere. I wasn't, and probably still not, the biggest fan of macarons. There is just something different about Laduree macarons, though; the way the shell has just the right amount of thickness and crispness, the way it is chewy and melt-in-the-mouth with its filling... that level of finesse a Zumbaron (let's not go there) or a La Renaissance just doesn't quite hit. I am starting to understand the fascination now.
Wish Rating: 4/10