Saturday, January 26, 2008

Novotel Century Hotel Hong Kong

Hotels in Hong Kong are expensive FULL STOP. We were just lucky to get a good deal as it was tied to the Toy & Stationery Fair that we registered for.

The best deals are online. Never do a walk in. It's suicide.

From our observations, it seems that hotels in Hong Kong do not follow peak/low peak seasons as indicated in tavel guides, etc. They seem to have a life of their own. As long as there's customers coming in, they will chop your head off, politely. So be forewarned.

This is Novotel Century, the hotel where we put up in Hong Kong.

It's located in Wan Chai where it's accessible to a lot of things just by walking.

We were just a little bit below the Expo Centre which was by the harbour. The location of the hotel is marked red in the map below. It's quite a convenient location as there's a 7-Eleven & a fruit stall just outside. And no, please, that's not all we ate.

If I remember correctly, this should be a four star hotel.

Well, it looks four star and it certainly feels like it. Got a lot of angmo in and out.

You can actually buy Disneyland tickets from the girl at the counter at bottom left. I don't know what else she does besides that. She's just sitting there all the time.

Hong Kong hotels are not like hotels in Malaysia. There's no complimentary breakfast, nor free drinks, nor mineral water in your room, nor fruit basket.

You pay for a room, you get a room. You pay, you stay. FULL STOP.

Hong Kong in a Day

Hong Kong is an ultra-vibrant city, if that word exists. Within one day, we saw so many things. And whatever we saw, we ate. Come to think of it, I hope we weren't acting too much like primates.

There were many street stalls like this which sell fried, lok-lok kinda stuff ~ fishballs and curry fishballs being the most popular and commonly seen. We tried some. Not bad for street food,

Now looking back, I wish we had eaten more of this.

The problem was we were always so focused on looking for the famous shops (our hitlist) that we tend to bypass these stalls. And when we do come across these stalls, it's already after a heavy meal with no room to spare. I am in deep regrets now. If you visit HK, please do try lots of these. Not exactly the super healthy and hygenic thingy but that is best way to try the local way of lifes.

These are called Little Eggs (Kei Tan Chai). Very good. Must try. Not too sweet. Crispy outside and soft inside. A little like our Egg cup cakes (kei nun ko).

Nee is having pig's intestine. I almost puked when I tried it. Nevertheless, I have been trained well, and I can tell that for people who know how to take this, it is d*mn good. Nee is nodding. NEE: Die hard kiasuness! Everything must try!

You can easily tell that Hong Kong is a very old city. We were mainly on the Hong Kong Islands with some evenings spent at Kowloon. We did also took one whole saturday to walk from Mongkok ~ where the flower market, bird garden and Women street are, to Temple street around the You Ma Tei area and reaching Tsim Sa Tsui. Photos were those we see in both Hongkong Island and Kowloon. Of course, we did not visit to super rich residential areas.

Most of the old buildings look like it's a blast from the past, with 60s/70s design.

In Kuching, you don't get to see these type of buildings anymore. The closest one that I can think of has to be the Seven Storey Flats (Cheet Ian Lao) at Padungan.

Most of the old buildings consist of living flats above with shops below.

I can't help but imagine the millions of Hong Kong kids who grew up living in a place like this - Jackie Chan included. His parents being too poor, signed him off to a Chinese Opera troupe. It was on one of the floors of a building similar to this that he trained everyday, ate, slept & lived his life.

Hong Kong is a small place. Land is scarce. You built your house wherever you can.

Our First Grand Opening Ceremony

If there's one way to sum up our trip, it would be what the title of this book says.

The ultimate guide to the secret gastronomical pleasures of Hong Kong.
Special thanks to Josephine for lending it to us, on the night before our departure the next day!!!

Food was our top priority. Honestly, we practically ate our way into & out of Hong Kong. If The Amazing Race was about the race for food, we would have won.

Allan Wu would have been impressed with us. He would have said we've got guts! Gastronomical guts, that is!

The first stop on our checklist was a place called Keung Kee which was famous for having one of the best roasted meats in Wan Chai.

As a guy, I'm not very good at writing food reviews. Therefore, I usually write from a man's perspective.

The shop was quite easy to find. It reminded me of a car accessory shop where the spare parts are on display at the window.

As you walk in, you could see all sorts of other internal parts.

This is one of the few shops with a better interior. Everything looks newer inside.

We were just glad there weren't a lot of people then. This meant that the food would come out fast.
I was surprised to find those two paintings in a place like this. Don't look no up. Somebody has actually got taste. The artwork seemed quite contemporary, with a line of multi-national chefs.

Most famous old shops have old waiters to match. I imagined them to be loyal workers from a long time ago, who worked their way up to become business partners.

This uncle could probably tell you the whole history of the shop. And while he's at it, he could also tell you the story of your mother & your father.

You get a sense of satisfaction, a sense of security that you are being served by someone who knows what he's doing, someone who's as old as the shop itself. And he was fast. Wham-BAm! and 3 cups of Chinese tea were already on the table.

This lady had a face which can scold a thousand ships. But Hong Kong has come a long way. In the days of old, they would scold you out of the slightest irritation, even though you were the customer. Tourists would tremble in fear at their mercy. Today, it's a new Hong Kong. Lots of kind words, warm welcome, smiles & thank yous. We quickly took advantage of that hospitality by taking photos of everything. We milked the cow dry.

We wanted to order the special Glutinous Rice, which were supposed to be available during winter (Dec-Mar) but unfortunately out of all the months the Chief Chef could have picked for his holiday, he chose January. So we ordered the next 4 things this shop was famous for.

Goosey goosey gander.
This was the first goose ever we had in Hong Kong. It was excellent. The meat is much much more tender than ducks.

The sauce that comes with the goose.

Kai lan. Every shop has this. It is as common as water.

The coconut, white fungus & red date soup. Imagine sweetness with a hint of coconut.

The roasted twice juicylicious char siew & siew yuk.
After coming back to Kuching, I am always reminded of this when I see a fat kid.

And that was our first meal ever in Hong Kong- our grand opening ceremony.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pineapple Tarts

Pineapple Tarts is seriously our favourite Chinese New Year Snacks. I would generally tried this at every house we go visiting to especially it is politeness to at least eat something at every house.

There are generally two versions of pineapple tarts ~ one with the jam wrapped in and the other with it exposed. We prefer the wrapped-in ones. It is rather hard to find really good exposed ones as those available outside are very dry.

Almost all Chinese New Year goodies are labour intensive and time consuming in making them. Pineapple tarts are one of those most time consuming ones. The wrapped-in ones should be nicely wrapped and each should be bite size, about 1/2 of our thumb size or 1/3 of our fourth finger. Some say exposed ones are easier as most are made with molds and jam is just placed into it. But traditionally, lines are made with clippers to make them look more flower-like and prettier. So that is too me no less labour intensive. Also you must make sure jam cooked is not too dry for this type as the jam is baked exposed.

I started mine by making the jam in December. Good jam is a must. The pure fragrance of 100% pineapple, especially good ones, cannot be compromised.

The Jam:
3-4 no of pineapple, nicely ripe
4-5 no of cloves
1 tablesp of minced ginger
1:3 ratio of sugar to pineapple juice and pulps, i.e. 500 gm of coarse sugar to 1500gm of pineapple juice and pulp

1) Skin off and rid the eyes. Cut pineapple into small pieces and blend in a blender. Add 1/2 cup of water with the first batch blended. Strain to get the juice, which will be used for subsequent blending. Weigh the juice and pulps before deciding on the amount of sugar.

2) Put all ingredients in a good pot and boil uncovered. Once boiled, turn to small fire and let it cook into jam like. Stirring all the while. It will take approx 4 hours for about 2 kg of pineapple juice and pulps. If you used good, thick, stainless steel pot like AMC, you can let it simmer over fire, only stirring 4-5 times in one hour while you go about doing other things.

3) Cook until when you stir the pineapple jam, you can split the jam and see the bottom of pot without it flowing back immediately.

4) Keep in container, cool and chilled in fridge and use only the next day. If you cook it well, this will keep even up to a year. Please dont reduce too much sugar cause without the right amount, the jam will grow fungus in no time.

The Skin Dough:
This is the best skin dough i have. It is really short and will crumble in your mouth yet it does not break during baking. It is definitely a money making recipe for some people. It seems that one tub of 100 tarts is going for about RM 38 to 40 in Kuching.

260gm of good butter, salted
70 gm of castor sugar
1/2 no of egg
380 gm of plain flour sifted

1) Beat butter and sugar til white and fluffy. Add egg and finally flour. No additionaly flour is need for moulding/shaping. The dough feels sticky but it does not stick onto your hand. Let it rest in fridge for an hour or so before moulding. It's easier tp shape it that way.

2) Egg wash your tarts with 1 egg + 1 egg yolk with a few drops of cooking oil.

3) Grease your pan and bake your tarts at 160 deg without fan for 15-20 min till lightly brown.

4) Take out and egg wash again. Bake at 180 deg without fan for 8 to 10 min till glossy golden brown.

5) Cool slightly before keeping in containers.

Definitely time consuming especially when it is one bite only. But hey, homemade ones are different and worth the effort.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Arrival of 3 Celebrity Bloggers in Hong Kong

As we were world famous celebrity bloggers, we did not want to attract too much attention in Hong Kong. It's hard to fend off those fans. We knew how Jacky Chan felt, so we decided to go low profile & took the MTR subway directly from the Ferry terminal.

We were never demanding celebrities nor primadonnas, so we quietly bought the Octopus cards like everybody else.

It's a very convenient way to travel - just flash the card at the turnstile & you're ready to go. It's like a one card tapau all - good for all MTRs, buses, trams & ferries. We paid HK$150 each for a card worth HK100 (RM50). The other HK50 is for a non-refundable deposit (next time we go, we can use the same card). Guess what? It lasted us almost for our entire 7-day stay. Excellent.

It was interesting to take the subway. That was one way to really see the local people & rub shoulders with them. Well, maybe just see, but no rubbing.

We saw angmos instead.

We took the train at the Sheung Wan Shun Tak Ferry point (where our ferry arrived). We took the Sheung Wan ~ Chai Wan Line, which is the main line in Hong Kong Island.

Sheung Wan and Chai Wan are at opposite ends with places like Central, Admiralty, Wan Chai and Causeway bay in between. Our stop is about 5 mins away, Wan Chai.

We noticed that certain stops have certain colours which were unique & easily identifiable.

So even if you do not look up at the signs, you'd know where you are by the colour, unless if you're colour blind.

You must remember that all this while, right from the ferry terminal, we have been travelling underground, and this is the moment we have been waiting for...

Hong Kong!

All our hard earned money was saved up for this!



We have finally arrived!

Turbo Jetting to Hong Kong

I had very little encounter with boats before. I was told that when I was a baby, my parents brought me to Sibu (just after I was born) in the infamous lightning-speed Kuai Teng (Express boat). They don't sail. They fly. So in a way, you could say I flew to Sibu.

There's another kind of boat that flies, well... float actually. And here's Jackie Chan getting squashed & runover by one in Rumble in the Bronx.

And I think we were on a similar kind of hovercraft-ey boat when we crossed the straits from Macau to Hong Kong.

We had to take the boat at the ferry terminal, which didn't look like a boat terminal, but neither did we know how it was supposed to look like anyway.

It was strange, almost surreal-like. We thought some kind of Canto-pop superstar called Wynn was arriving in Hong Kong. Turns out that's the name of a casino. Heheheh, actually we knew that lah!

This was how the inside looked like. We were lost & didn't know how & where to get the tix.

CK was trying to find his bearings. And Nee was trying to attract some attention by standing right at the centre.

Fortunately a lady came over to us & brought us upstairs to the tickets counter. At first we thought she was a pirated boat operator. While we were following her, we felt a bit of regret as images of us being forced to cramp in a dark & rocking sampan flashed into our minds. We thought that could be the end of us. We were going to be sold off as kitchen slaves in Shenzhen.

But of course, we were not in KL. This was Macau, and pirated transportation does not exist.

The Turbo Jet tickets cost about HK134 each for a one-way trip. That's about RM60.

My excitement grew when I saw the boats.

And I didn't even know they had some kind of built-in hovercraft technology.

The old folks in front probably have taken this a thousand times. To them, it was probably as common as drinking water. To me, it was as good as going to Disneyland.

Wahhh. So like first class. Got TV some more.
Nee was a bit dissapointed that they didn't show TVB series.

The Cantonese usually have altars in their homes, and in their shops, or when they're shooting a filmThis is the first time I saw one on the docks.

The boat very professional. Got Sea Steward to take your food order.

The tickets did not actually include food. You've got to buy them like AirAsia. But some people brought their own Char Siew rice & McDs.

Goodbye Macau! We don't miss your food but we will see you again on the 8th day & we shall have our revenge!

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