Saturday, May 17, 2008

One Day in Thriving Mongkok

Although Mongkok may sound like a curse word, it actually means 'thriving business'. It's actually a very congested & busy area in Kowloon. In fact, it holds the Guiness World Records as having the highest population density in the world. So to us, that means it's a good place to rub shoulders with the locals.

To get there, we took a train from Hong Kong island to Prince Edward Station (Kowloon), which intersects with Nathan Road.

We got there pretty early. I think everyone was still asleep.

Imagine three eager beaver tourists standing in the middle of the empty streets.

Hello, we're tourists. Show us what you've got.

Even the roadside stalls were still in their pyjamas.

Mongkok is like a time capsule. Everything's old there.

The buses are old.

The taxis are old.

Old bicycle.

Old trolleys.

Ok. I think you got my point.

Oh, wait. There's more...

If you're looking for the older, nostalgic 50s/60s Hong Kong, you may just find what you're looking for at Kowloon.

Old green building.

Old pink building. Definitely not for the men of machoness.

Imagine if you're in working at a rough & tough construction site & you're living in a place with that colour. You will not survive my friend. If the colour doesn't kill you, the construction site colleagues will.

Old baby blue building.
Look! There are two guys wrestling at the bottom left corner.
How geli can you get?

Some more apple green building.

This one reminds me of the longhouses in Sarawak, near the Indonesian border. So we're actually at par with Hong Kong in terms of technology access.

But as old as the place can get, modernity & commercialisation still plow on, invading every nook & corner that they can find.

Unfortunately we did not see Cecelia Cheung, nor Derek Yee.

Maybe they only come out to play at night.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Temaki Sushi ~ Hand Rolled Sushi

We have been eating Japanese on and off these two weeks to sort of cool down after the many rich Italian dishes. And sushi has to be the most common staple. It makes simple, healthy meal. Basically, sushi is a combination of rice and seasonal seafood and/or a varieties of vegetables, combined in many ways ~ maki sushi, temaki sushi, futomaki sushi, nigiri-sushi, chirashi-sushi.

Like most Japanese food, sushi can be made easily at home but it must be noted that strictness in terms of ingredients and precision in the making process makes it something that takes professionals many years to master. So homemade sushi will always be homemade, for it would be quite impossible to achieve the proper professional standards especially in the area of knife work. But hey, it is still as tasty.

Among them all, the easiest has to temaki-sushi which is a hand-rolled cone made of nori-seaweed sheets, filled with sushi rice and a variety of other things. This one is easy to do & does not need any special equipment. And in a party environment, you can even get your guests to DIY their own.

Make8-10 pcs
300gm of short grain rice (preferrably Japanese)
350 to 400 gm of water
20ml of Japanese rice vineger (more if you like your rice more sourish)
a pinch of sugar say 1/2 teasp.

1) Wash rice and cook in rice cooker. Once cooked, place rice in a wooden or metal bowl and stir the rice to separate grain. Try slicing motion rather than stirring.

2) Drizzle vinegar and sugar and distribute evenly. Continue stir-slicing while having a fan blowing nearby all the time. Let the rice cool till your hand can hold on to it. If it's too hot, you will spoil the nori sheets (becomes wrinkly). Too cold, rice will be hard.

The best rice texture is slightly sticky yet the grain looks separate from each other.

4-5 nori sheets, slightly trimmed off the two ends and cut into two pieces
1/2 cup of japanese mayonaise
wasabi if you like
You can do basically any filling. Some suggested filling, cut to about 6 or 7 cm long are as following:
Crab stick, fish roe, cucumber, avocado and lettuce
Unagi - grilled eels, lettuce
Fishes like salmon, tuna with cucumber and lettuce
Terayaki chicken, avocados, carrots and lettuce
Deveined and deshelled and cooked jumbo shrimps with avocadoes and cucumber.

3) Take a small fistful of rice and place on the halved nori sheets. Fill up half of nori sheet. Spread and flatten evenly but don't press too tightly. The thickness should be about 3-4 grains of rice. Lift onto your hand.

4) Spread mayonaise and wasabi, followed by fillings, pointing to top left corner of sheets. Take the left bottom corner and fold pointing to the top right corner.

5) Using your finger, start rolling into a cone shape, tightening as you roll.

6) Serve in Temaki stand or place nicely on a nice flat plate.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


When Greg and I first dated one another, he would take me to the more "high class" restaurants, even for lunch. Then as we went steady, we would frequent "road side" stalls. Now, we just eat at home. Ladies, see the trend? It's not that men are lousy creatures that don't appreciate their wives, but they do change their priorities after marriage, from getting the gal, to making sure they bring food onto the dinner table.

So, enjoy the moment while it lasts, and don't complain if they are working hard to buy you big bling-blings, expensive holidays and a good retirement.

One of the places we usually went to when we were dating were Korean eateries. And this is one dish we would always order, Bi bim bap ~ Korean minced beef with vegetables on rice.

This is a nice, healthy dish. That I can guarantee. With meat and vegetables lightly sauteed and topped with an egg and eaten with Korean chilli paste and rice, we have almost the entire food groups in place in just this one dish.

Serve 2-3:
200gm of minced beef
4-5 pieces of shitake mushrooms
1 no of small japanese cucumber, cut into thin strips
1 no of small carrot, cut into matchsticks thinness
50 gm of bean sprouts
100gm of fernbrake (subject to availabilities)
3 eggs, pan fried with sunny side up.
1 1/2 cup of rice, cooked as you normally would with rice
3 tbsp of korean chilli paste (gochujang)

1) Season minced beef with 1 teasp of garlic, 2 tbsp of korean soya sauce, 1 tbsp of sugar/honey, 1 tbsp of Korean cooking wine/japanese sake, 1/2 teasp of sesame oil. With 1 tbsp of oil, pan fry the beef till almost dry. Set aside.

2) Soak mushrooms in room temperature water till soft and slice thinly and season with 1/2 of the amount of seasoning. Pan fry mushrooms like the beef. Set aside.

3) Lightly pan fry carrots with 1 teasp of oil and salt and pepper to taste to semi cook. Dish out.

4) Lightly pan fry separately cucumber, bean sprouts and fernbrake like carrots. Keep separately.

5) Scoop out rice 2-3 portions into separate bowls. Arrange beef, mushrooms, carrots, cucumber, bean sprouts and fernbrake nicely in a circle. Place a sunny side egg right in the middle for each bowl. Sprinkle with some sesame seeds and sesame oil for extra taste.

6) Serve with chilli paste. To eat, stir everything together with chilli paste.

Kuih Salad

I am wondering what is the exact name for this piece of nyonya/malay kuih which has glutinous rice at the bottom and the kaya-like custard topping. In Kuching, the pronounciation for this ranges from kuih salak to kuih salas to kuih salad. I think the Malays called it Kuih Seri Muka.

Besides the confusion of names for kuih, it has become more and more difficult to tell which kuih is more nyonya or malay or chinese. The lines have blurred substantially over the years due to the interaction among the many races. Out of the 10 people I've asked, a few insisted this is malay while others insisted on nyonya and my FIL is very sure it is chinese hokkien.

I personally love all forms of kuih-muih (plural) but most of them are high in sugar content and coconut cream/milk and commercial ones are loaded with colouring. But if kuih is not sweet or 'lemak' (fatty), they are somehow not that nice. So my principle is if you want to eat something lke this, go all the way. Do not cut down too much on the sugar or even replace the lemak with low fat ingredients.

Like most kuih, this one is a typical breakfast or tea time snack that has simple ingredients. You just have to note a few steps in the process to make sure that the results are good.

Now it is time for some simple mathematics. For Coconut Milk:

a) 1st santan ~ 1 kg/RM2 of fresh coconut + 1.5 cup of water = squeeze about 500gm of coconut milk. Set aside.

b) 2nd santan ~ Add extra water to the coconut until you manage to squeeze another 900gm. Take 300 gm and add to 500gm before. and you are left with........????? 600gm.... good!!.

1st layer: Glutinous Rice
500 gm of glutinous rice, washed and soaked for about 10 min or so.
600 gm of coconut milk (From b, i.e. 2 nd santan)
1 -2 tsp of salt

1) Grease with cooking oil a 10 or 11 inch round baking tin, place the rice, coconut milk and salt in and stir till evenly distributed all over the pan.

If you want to have a blue coloured rice bottom, which is an in thing a few years back, take about 6-8 pieces bunga telang, wash and pound and squeeze the blue into the mixture. This is the most natural blue colouring you can get.

2) Steam on high for 15 min, then stir and flip the half cooked rice upside down. This the way to make sure that the coconut cream are evenly distributed. If you steam all the way without this step, you may get rice layer with a thick layer of cream on the bottom.

And at this stage, i would usually use 4-5 pieces of bunga telang, washed and pound and dab onto the rice. It will produce specks of blue on the rice layer. On the other hand, it is fine to leave it plain white.

3) Continue steaming for another 15-20 min on high. Test to see if rice are cooked. Using a flat presser, press the rice to create a flat even surface. This is to tighten the rice layer too. While steaming is going on, prepare the top layer.

Top Layer: Custard layer
800gm of coconut milk (From a and b)
200gm of castor sugar
3 no of eggs
115 gm of tapioca flour
2 tbsp of plain flour
6-7 pieces of large usual pandan leaves (for fragrant) + 8-10 pieces of green colour pandan leaves (for colour)

1) Wash and pound the pandan and green pandan leaves together. Stir some (say 200gm from the 800gm) coconut milk with pound leaves. Strain through a sift and strain the juice and colour out from the leaves back to the original coconut milk.

Green colour pandan leaves are a special type of pandan. It does not have much of the fragrance of our usual pandan but it gives a beautiful green. I did not have to use a single drop of colouring to get the green in my kuih. Greg's grandma would pound 15-20 pieces to get dark green.

2) Combine flour and sugar with coloured coconut milk and stir till evenly distributed. Beat eggs with fork lightly and add to milk mixture. Cook in a heavy pot over low flame till mixture thickens. Pour onto the flatten rice layer.

3) Steam on medium for 20-25 min til the layer is cooked. High fire may cause surface to be wrinkly.

Cool completely before cutting. Best eaten on the day it is made.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother's Day Cakes

We all know what Mother's Day is about. It's about taking one day out of every year to officially appreciate what they have done for us. Of course, this special day shouldn't be the ONLY day that we actually do that. That'd be horrible.

Another day with Mother's Day is that it would be about the only day in the whole year when strawberries would run out of stock in the whole entire Kuching.

You can ask us. Oh yes. We were running around town hunting for those little red darn berries yesterday. We weren't looking for a crate, not even a box. Nee just needed 10 measly little pieces for her one of her cake K ordered for his wife and mother. But they were nowhere to be found.

Out of desperation, we called everybody we knew, and pulled every string that we could. As ridiculous as it may sound, we even thought of going to all the bakeries in town to buy up any cakes with a fresh strawberry on it.

When we remembered Aunty Terri mentioning about receiving a box of strawberries from the UK, we nearly raided KK. But of course we didn't do that. Instead, we got a friend in KK to do it for us.

Fortunately, before all this was necessary, we found a big punnet at Giant (Riverside).

Behold, our conquest:

NEE: With extra berries, I did one fresh strawberry cheese cake for my mum.

NEE: And also a very traditional pandan kaya with pandan sponges for Mum-in-law. Excellent when taken really cold. And the colouring on the cake is 100% NATURAL pandan. Besides the usual pandan, I used another species which is smaller in size and has a very beautiful green. Will post the picture of the plant soon as my laptop is sent for reformatting.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Totally Cheated

This is one of the lowlight (if there's such a word) of our whole entire Hong Kong trip.

Disneyland had a way of warping our psychology. We returned back to our hotel with our hearts full of magical wonder & innocence, thinking what a wonderful world it was, where everyone was friendly & smilling & nice.

Going back to our food program, we hit the streets again for grub. According to our holy guidebook, there's this place which was excellent for Typhoon Sheltered Crabs.

So the three sakais happily trudged on to search for this 'special' crab, thinking that since Malaysia has no typhoon, these crabs must be good stuff.

And it was reassuring to see all the food reviews pasted at the entrance of the shop.

Plus all these stars couldn't be wrong, right?

I mean these people looked so happy, the crabs must be dang delicious right?

Even Stephanie Sun Yan Zi came all the way from Singapore.

Don't play play. Even Andy Lau eats Typhoon Crab here.

We didn't know whether it was the aftermath of Disney wonderland, or that we were just plain stupid. As soon as we sat ourselves down, the waitress brought us a big mean looking crab and quoted us HKD650. At that point we were probably still dazed with Disney. Maybe we saw Sebastian instead. So we stupidly nodded our heads and ordered another crab oil fried noodle and typhoon sheltered clams. As soon as the waitress left, we woke up, "Wait a min. That is RM300 for ONE SINGLE crab".

A RM300 crab must be freaking HUGE.

A giant crab that expensive must be so delicious that after you've had it, you'd never want to eat Malaysian crabs again.
Maybe the restaurant spent too much on the decor & that's why it's expensive.

We had one plate of noodle kosong and it is seriously empty because there was only chilli & crab OIL (probably 4-5 chopstickful for one person).

A small dish of clams

and ONE crab on a huge plate drowned in a mountain of chilli & garlic.

And when the bill came, we knew we were not in Disneyland anymore. For that three pathetic dish, the bill worked out to be more than HKD 1100 (RM500).

And of course when we called for the waiters and asked for clarification, they insisted that we agreed to everything and the crab is an XL one (which obviously was not) and they were imported from Vietnam. HELLO?...VIETNAM????

Wasn't this supposed to be HONG KONG Water Typhoon Sheltered Crabs???!!! We were SO CHEATED. It's not usually our custom to swear, but we were fuming mad.

To be conned like a typical tourist, experience the crap, I mean crabs at HEE KEE:
Shop H, Wai Sun Building,
392 Jaffe Road, Wan Chai
Tel: 852-2893-7565
Opens 12pm-4.30am
Directions: Causeway Bay MTR Station, Exit C

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