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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Get Your Hot Buns Here

I'm not even going to go there....yes, I know what it looks like.

But this tender, ample-sized, lotus paste steamed bun with a full salted egg yolk within, is a huge draw at Fu Sing Seafood Restaurant in Causeway Bay.  Bought two to sample last week....needless to say, they disappeared in a flash.  Bummer.  Will get up at the crack of dawn to get more before the next full moon.  Yes, apparently, I'm still 12.

Fu Sing Seafood Restaurant - 1/F, 68 Yee Woo Street, Causeway Bay. Telephone: +852 2504 4228
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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bite-Size Review: Classified in Happy Valley

This is a chain restaurant with more than a half dozen outlets all over the island, but that doesn't take away from the fact that Classified serves some of the best non-Eastern nosh in town.  I'm just thrilled I live a five-minute walk from one right here in Happy Valley. It's alfresco, it's pet-friendly, it's got a couple of well-stocked wine walls.  And heck, anyplace that serves breakfast all-day is all right in my book.  

The open kitchen...check out that smoked ham on the counter top.
This is where I go for really good tomato and mozzarella bruschetta, lightly grizzled with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. The watercress garnish adds a nice crunchy and slightly bitter touch.
I'm not a big salad person, but their chorizo and pumpkin salad, peppered with loads of sliced cherry tomatoes is super refreshing.  Have that as a starter before tacking one of their delish thin-crust freshly made pizzas.

For my preferred carb intake, I almost invariably head for the pasta section of the menu. It's not an extensive list so generally, whatever's the special of the day is fine by me. In the case of the picture below, I went for the handmade al dente linguini with seafood - clams, scallops, crab, shrimp - in white wine sauce.

I'll have to come back this weekend for the peri-peri chicken....something I've been wanting to try but have always avoided ordering as it takes at least half an hour to prepare.  But since I will be armed with my Sunday papers, Kindle, Blackberry and the dog, I think I can be kept nicely distracted until the courses arrive.
 
Classified - Happy Valley: 13 Yuk Sau Street, Happy Valley. Telephone: +852 2891 3454
Classified - great for reading, dining, wine sipping, and poodl-ing in bags.  
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Monday, May 28, 2012

Singapore's Arab Street.....for Arabs?

Corner of Arab Street and North Bridge Road, Singapore.
Photograph by Weng Ho.
It always cracked me up that whenever I brought Middle Eastern travel writers to Singapore, the local tourism powers-that-be would always insist that a walking tour of Arab Street must be prominently included in the itinerary.  And it doesn't matter how often I tell them that's a daft idea - I mean, where to begin?  That the fact that Arab Street is a actually a watered down, mish-mash version of some half dozen Middle Eastern locales to which no Arab nation native can relate or identify?  That it's akin to showing a bunch of Thai, Japanese and Korean tourists the Chinatown area just because the place is purportedly Asian (and don't even get me started on the kitschy horror that the Lion City has created)?  That, and this is very relevant, my Lebanese, Egyptian, Kuwaiti, Syrian, Moroccan and Qatari band of journos absolutely abhor walking and sweating in the equatorial sunshine and humidity - anywhere?  I always get a self-vindicated kick each time a writer would turn to me, halfway trudging through Arab Street, and ask, in total bewilderment whilst mopping their brow, "what are we doing here?" and "why have you brought us here?"  I usually shrug, smile and tell them that the air-conditioned bus will be taking them to the air-conditioned shopping shrines at Orchard Road in just ten minutes.
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Scaling Mont Blanc - One Creamy Bite At A Time

I'm not really into creamy cakes, but this Mont Blanc from the Brasserie at City Super in Times Square (Causeway Bay) is quite the yum.  Perhaps it's due to the Japanese influences at this particular outlet, but the pureed chestnut strands are actually quite delicate and the cream is appreciatively fresh, making this confection very pleasing both to the eye and my (always ravenous) palate.
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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Chongqing: Not Just For Hotpots

I do love food that comes in all forms....of transportation.  Some of my best childhood memories are bonded to mobile food vendors - on stalls, bicycles, motorcycles, trishaws, vans, trucks, and buses.   
One of the few bright colourful sights in dreary Chongqing : the snack bus under a freeway
Chongqing, one of the PRC's four direct-controlled municipalities (the other three are Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin), and the only such municipality in inland China, also has the distinct honour of being known as the official hotpot capital of the world.  (Chengdu was also in the running for the title - back when the powers that be were deciding on such matters - but hey, you can't have the pandas and the hotpot prizes too...that's just plain greedy.)  So far, I didn't see any hotpot trucks whilst in Chongqing, but I'd no doubt they were parked under some other freeways instead, sloshing out that lethally numbing mala-based stock to the hardy locals.

The communal hotpot lunch.  This one is the more "sanitary" version,
with each diner getting their own mini pot for themselves
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Bite-Size Review: Hokkaido Dairy Farm Milk Restaurant

Not for diabetics: white bread toast with condensed milk and peanut butter
This is a good place for comfort snacks (in between shopping expeditions) such as their gigantic, finger-lickin'-good slices of toast slathered with crunchy peanut butter and condensed milk, followed by a nice cup of yinyang (that curious combination of coffee and tea.)
Watered-down "Almond Delight" milk....the ice cubes didn't help in that department either.
But sad to say, aside from their selection of tasty toast offerings, everything else on their menu is, well, kind of awful.  The restaurant chain is known for its breakfast, pasta and sandwich sets but everything - food and drinks alike - seems to be either runny, watered down or overcooked.  To add insult to injury, they're served in meager portions (although I suppose if the food is not that good, who'd want to have more of it?) 

Hokkaido Dairy Farm Milk Restaurant - G/F, 211 Johnston Road, Wan Chai.  Telephone: 2575 0733
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I Got It! Meet My New Photo Partner - Olympus OM-D EM-5

Finally took the plunge and got myself a new appendage in the form of the Olympus OM-D.  After four years with my beloved Canon S90 (of which I recommended enthusiastically to all friends and strangers alike,) I decided I needed a camera that can shoot well at night (without flash,) be quick with my candid compositions, and still compact enough to fit into my various pockets, purses and bags - in short, perform everything my little S90 used to reliably do, only better.  
Taking it out for a spin...in the kitchen.
It's been eight hours since I've brought it home and so far, it's not disappointed me in the least.  I love everything about it - the way it intuitively knows what I want focused and which bits to tastefully fuzz, the retro-ness in its body aesthetics, and how easy it is to handle overall.  The only downside I can see so far is that darn detachable lens cap which I just know will soon be an honorary citizen in that Land of Misplaced Stuff, of which the current inhabitants are orphaned socks, USB cables, used lip glosses and original house keys.
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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Portrait: Ghada Kammoun

My wonderful friend (Glam) Ghada savouring her citrus intake during Friday brunch
at Anise at InterContinental Festival City in Dubai. 2011
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The Fickle Beast: Hong Kong Weather

There are days, many, many days, when the weather in Hong Kong out-fickles itself.  May 26, 2012 is one such example....it started tentatively sunny, then in quick succession, we experienced heavy cloud cover, a drizzle, rain, an outright downpour, sunshine again, and now there are clouds starting to loom over the skycrapers again.  Just waiting for the hailstones and lightning storms to appear any minute....
Hong Kong skyline as seen from the Star Ferry enroute to Wanchai.
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Bite-Size Review: Nan Tei in Happy Valley

Yes, I've been having a bit of a craving lately for grilled meats, and this little tucked away teeny restaurant off Wong Nai Chung road in my neighbourhood of Happy Valley satisfies my hunger pangs perfectly. It's dark, intimate and what I really like about it is the theatre-like setting for the main event - the Robatayaki Grill - placed smack in the centre right of the restaurant, complete with dramatic lights for greater effect.  Actually, to stretch the metaphor, it's more like an operating theatre, with chefs standing on both sides of the table (I mean grill,) meticulously attending to their delicated tasks of handling the multitude of exposed skin, flesh, organs and bones in front of them.
The highly-recommended grilled chicken wings, sans charred bits.
And meticulous seems to be an apt description; from my front-row gallery (ok, bar counter) view of the grilling process, I can see the chefs seasoning each skewer just so (no en-masse slathering of sauce or showering of spices here) and - this is my favourite part - cutting off the carcinogenic black charred bits from the meats, just like the good grill doctors that they are...although I suspect it has more to do with making the chicken wings taste better than having any noble desires of warding of a killer disease.  Still, attention to detail.  I like that.

Nan Tei - G/F, 10 Yuen Yuen Street, Happy Valley.  Telephone: 3118 2500
Reservations highly recommended.  
Fresh tomato salad

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Portrait: My Papa

In Toronto, Canada.
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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Best Paved Roads in the World? That Would Be Dubai (Yes, Really)

My last post on driving got me all misty-eyed over those crazy, generously spaced 12- and 14-lane freeways in Dubai, where the speed limit can go up to 120 km/hr and you feel like you're crawling when you're going under 100.  I miss my X3 (Betty Blue,) the perfectly paved, beautifully maintained, pothole-less roads, and the occasional challenge of driving through a blinding, zero-visibility sandstorm. And seriously, GPS is totally unnecessary when you can have the Burj Khalifa as your guiding compass in the greater Dubai area.  That's a landmark and a half right there.  
Driving back from Al Ghurair to Downtown Burj.
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Monday, May 21, 2012

What Would Oprah Say? Extreme Texting and Driving by Hong Kong Cab Drivers


Photo taken by me enroute to the office

My cabby this morning (photo, right) was texting like a fiend on four cellphones simultaneously, talking via the earpiece on the fifth, and occasionally taking calls on the sixth. And oh, he was dispatching locations over the radio too. In between all that, we squeezed in conversations about the rainy weather, local politics and Chinatowns in Canada. The man has elevated multi-communications and multi-tasking to a fine art.


Better (or worse) still, this is not a rare scene in Hong Kong.  My friend Pooi-San captured a similar picture when she was here last year (photo below.)  Her cabby beat my driver's cellphone count by four, making it a total of 10 phones glued to his dashboard and one right on the steering wheel.
Photo by Pooi-San Kok
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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bite-Size Review: Yung Kee Restaurant in Central, Hong Kong

Forget the luxury fashion brands....THIS is the best streetfront window display in Central.
If you're a resident of Hong Kong, chances are you've dined at Yung Kee before.
If you're a first-time visitor to Hong Kong, chances are you've heard of Yung Kee and want to try it out. 
If you're a returning visitor to Hong Kong, chances are you'll put it in your list of restaurants to revisit.
If you've not been to Hong Kong yet, chances are this will be the place your friends, colleagues and well-meaning acquaintances will tell you to check out. And possibly take home some of that roasted goose back for them.
Roasted (extra crispy) pork and roasted goose
That last bit is what I really like most about Yung Kee, the venerable purveyor of said roasted goose (and other delicacies) and a fixture on the foodie scene on this island. Not only may you dine on their many specialties (BBQ suckling pig, cold steamed chicken, stir-fried minced pigeon with lettuce, braised abalone with fish maw, century egg and pickled ginger,) but they're great about packing them with great care and maximum fuss for that plane ride home.
Chinese sausages, Yunnan ham and waxed ducks.
There's also a separate section next to the restaurant that is dedicated to takeaway purchases of dried Chinese sausages, waxed ducks and Yunnan ham. Never mind those kitschy pairs of chopsticks and Shenzhen-made rice paper fans for which you overpaid at Stanley Market, these edible treasures are the ultimate souvenirs for appreciative fans.

Yung Kee Restaurant - 32 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong. +852 2522 1624
The pungent century egg and sweet pickled ginger
 as appetisers. Definitely an acquired taste.
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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Controversy? What Controversy? H&M Goes Ahead With Swimsuit Ads in HK

So, unlike the displays of outrage in the US and UK, those too-tanned models from the latest H&M swimsuit campaign didn't really cause any ripples here in Hong Kong, as evidenced by these series of ads along Queen's Road.  But then, tanning is a bit of a foreign concept here in a region that takes pride in realizing the other controversial vanity of being whiter than the palest shade of pale.
Photographed by Weng Ho on 17 May 2012 at the tram stop along Queen's Road East in Admiralty.
Maybe this ghostly pallor is the ideal form of beauty these days.....well, for Johnny and Co., it is.

Dark Shadows
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Friday, May 18, 2012

Front Row Seats at the Opera

These three Commonwealth Avenue residents in Singapore get prime seats for an open-air neighbourhood performance by the famous Hokkien opera troupe "Double Flying Swallows" during the Hungry Ghost Festival in 2011.

It's sad, but not really suprising, to see such a paltry turnout for a once fiercely popular but now fading art form in the ever-evolving Lion City.

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Let's Huddle - Building Blocks of Pinnacle@Duxton

This massive 50-storey public housing project, the highest in Singapore, at 1 Cantonment Road looms over what used to be a low-income development (that had rents for studios for as low as US$15 per month.)  Yes, you read that right - fifteen measly bucks.  Per month. Fifteen. Bucks. I can't even get a decent pair of socks for that price.
Photographed from a moving bus.

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Seeking a Bovine to Share Long Romantic Walks on the Beach


Took this picture whilst dining at a local alfresco seafood restaurant north of Kuantan, Malaysia.
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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dishes That I Will Not Learn To Make

There are some dishes I will not bother learning to make on my own.  Main reason is that they'll not even come close to the "real" thing (yes, that's subjective, I know,) and also the time it'll take to actually create any one of these dishes will drive me insane...especially when, back to point one, the end result won't even be halfway edible.  We're talking shopping for the ingredients, measuring what you need, timing the various elements, and all that is even more impossible when you're making it for one or two people.  Life's too short to even try.  Not when you can slap down a few bucks, wait a couple of minutes, and voila! perfection in a dish.

I categorize chee kueh (steamed rice flour cakes generously garnished with diced preserved radish and served with chili sauce) as one of those "impossible" dishes.
Chee Kueh from Tiong Bahru market in Singapore
Chicken rice is another prime example.  No way am I going to slave in the kitchen to make not only the steamed chicken, but also that fragrant rice, and don't even get me started on the condiments of the chili and ginger sauces.  The sauteed and steamed vegetables are do-able, but they're the least of the labour-intensive cooking process.
Chicken rice set from Tiong Bahru market, Singapore
A steak dinner is not just a piece of meat on the grill.  Not if you want to do it right.  It's the marination, those plump individually cut fries, the salad ingredients, that home-made herb butter, the sauces.......
Rib-eye steak with hand-cut French fries served at Le First at The Westin Paris Vendome.
My dad loved these deep-fried dough sticks so much that he obtained the recipe and made a few hundred of them at home within a space of a month (as I said, it's impossible to make just two or three pieces.) But really, how many can one eat before all that trans fat start clogging up vital arteries?
Deep-fried goodness found at the basement food court of Pavilion Mall in KL.

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My (First) Hotel Public Relations Meme

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Captain Uber Awesome Sighted In Tampines

I always say, if you're going to to work in a place where you have to wear a name tag,
make it an awesome one.  Scratch that, an über awesome one. In caps.
And give yourself a title while you're at it.
Captain über Awesome aka the ABC (by way of Colorado) working at Bakerzin in Tampines, Singapore.
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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bite-Size Review: Weng Hing Coffeeshop - KL, Malaysia

  
Weng Hing coffeeshop along Jalan Imbi.  Photograph by Weng Ho
One of my favourite childhood memories of growing up in KL is bundling into the family car and heading to this coffeeshop at the corner of Jalan Barat and Jalan Imbi for breakfast during the weekends.  There are about six very different hawkers co-existing more or less harmoniously within that space.  We always ordered the same things: my dad would have the chee cheong fun (rice noodle roll) complemented with fishballs, beancurd wrap (fu chok) and stuffed chili peppers, all slathered with a combination of sweet fermented black bean and spicy chili sauce; my mom would order the char kway teow; chicken rice or char siew (BBQ pork) for my brother; and I'd line up for the dry mixed noodles with minced pork in black soy sauce.  Those came with these chewy pork cubes on the side, the likes of which I'd never really seen anywhere else in my foodie travels.
Kway Teow Mee with Minced Pork
Now, the best aspect about this coffeeshop is not what it served whilst I was growing up.  It's not just a mere nostalgic highlight of my culinary childhood.  No, the remarkable thing is that this ratty, run-down, grimy joint is still around, and all those hawkers selling those dishes I'd mentioned?  They're still dishing out those very same wonderful streetfood.  To this very day.  And for a city like KL to be witness to such consistency and longevity in a local coffeshop in a land of local coffeshops, decade after decade, that's pretty amazing.

Weng Hing Coffeeshop - Corner of Jalan Imbi and Jalan Barat. Diagonally across the street from The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur in KL, Malaysia.
Fish Balls and Fish Cake

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bite-Size Review: Chikayaki - Causeway Bay

It's always a joy to find a good robatayaki restaurant...anywhere.  This one is called Chikayaki (which I confess I'd a bit of trouble remembering....Chikuyaki? Chikiyaku?)  Highly recommended by an amateur gourmand (whose taste I trust) and sometime dinner friend.

The chicken wings were great - grilling was just right, the sashimi was fresh, and best of all, they served my current favourite dish of salmon flakes on rice in hot soup.  Service was downright awful, by the way - the servers were totally indifferent...orders had to be reminded and came late anyway - but it was more amusing than annoying (THAT's how good the food was.)

Comparisons are going to be inevitable so I gotta say the Chikayaki dishes are way better than Yardbird's; the place is also quieter so conversations are not peppered with hollers of "what's that, you say?" and "sorry, can you repeat that?"

Going back for the noodles next week. And the sushi.  And God yes, the chicken wings.

Chikayaki - 7/F, Bartlock Centre, 3 Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.  +852 2156 0503
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Monday, May 14, 2012

What A Bull Terrier In Honolulu Looks Like

My gorgeous bull terrier Emma.  This photo was taken a few years back in Honolulu, Hawaii by Weng Ho.
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My Signature Dish


This is the one dish - the ONE dish - fried bee hoon (vermicelli) - that I'm proud to declare that I do with some measure of expertise, consistency and success.

Can't have the noodles without freshly cut chilis - my #1 favourite condiment.
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Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Friend Eddie's Blog

Check it out, if only just to see amazing visuals of subjects captured beautifully
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Why I Love Causeway Bay

Maybe it's the dazzling neon billboards that uses enough electricity to light small island nations, maybe it's the mix of touristy schlock and local hole-in-the-walls, maybe it's the nonstop in-your-face pedestrian traffic, but I just can't get enough of this 'hood. Thrilled that I live just a 15-minute walking distance away.
Sudden rainshower in CWB. I'm told by a wise cinematographer that it's the optimum time to take pictures....when the roads are wet and reflective.  And so I did. And he was right.
Out of all the giant billboards in CWB facing Sogo, I like this Calvin Klein ad the best....so far.  Crazy, glorious, vibrant hues....as if CWB is not overtly colour saturated enough.
....but this one takes the cake. 
I take this flyover nearly everyday to work and
for about two glorious weeks, I (along with tens of thousands of worker bees)
was on eye-bulge level. No, thank YOU, Mr. Klein. Thank you very much indeed.
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Smelly Tofu in Mongkok

One day I'll get the courage to try smelly tofu...and when I do, it'll be from this street seller in Mongkok. I mean, if I can wolf down durian by the bushel, what's a little fermented soybean soaked in bacterial-filled brine, right?

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You Can Take The Girl Out of Malaysia But You Can't Take Malaysia Out Of The Girl

Front and centre at the Malaysian food promotions at Aberdeen Marina Club and Kowloon Shangri-La Hotel. 

Assam laksa - a DIY affair, which meant I could garnish it with as much chilis and pineapple as I wanted.
Freshly made roti canai - god, I love this. Hate that it's fattening and artery-clogging, otherwise, it'd be my daily staple.

Chicken, beef and pork satay


Prawn beehoon - beats the Singaporean version hands-down.

Happy that my camera was quick enough to get this shot of the roti canai chef. Yay for the Canon S90
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