Thursday, December 30, 2010

Eat, Shop and Eat in Hong Kong

       At Disneyland

I’m back in Manila about more than week ago for a short vacation. A day after that, I left for Hong Kong with my mom, my sisters and their family. I haven’t been to Hong Kong for more than 10 years and obviously so many changes has been made. The Hong Kong International Airport itself is so impressive that Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport with three separate airports are just a mere embarrassment to other travellers. The normal routine upon arriving the airport is to be picked up by the hotel service but this is not the case in Hong Kong anymore. Taking the airport express via the MTR to Kowloon before transferring to a shuttle bus onto your hotel destination is as convenient as taking the taxi. It was tiring but it was also a great experience to travel. Just imagine the work that needs to be done in every area and detail of their infrastruture just to make our travel to and/from the airport into a remarkable journey.

The MTR in Hong Kong

Seeing all of these changes including how the MTR has been developed every single year makes me feel obsolete on where I came from. (Just imagine how much time it took for our rail transit to be finished and still not as efficient as it should be.) The MTR first started their service in 1979 but throughout those many years, you can see the changes that makes travelling reliable, fast and safe. Today, the MTR covers all major districts in the territory, and includes stops at the boundary with Mainland China, and of course stops at Disneyland Resort and Lantau Island.

Travelling without my DSLR camera feels different. I sold the camera back to my sister and exchanged it for a Nikon D90. But since it didn’t have a traveling case yet, I have to rely solely on my point and shoot camera which I find taking pictures much easier.

Visiting Hong Kong is not complete without a trip to Disneyland. Those were the days where I long to see the magical world of Disney and I still looked forward to it. Although they’re not as big as the one in Japan, visiting Disneyland brings back many memories during my childhood days and even until today. But one day at the park is enough.

Hong Kong Disneyland

People go to Hong Kong to shop till they drop and eat until they could no longer breathe. Those are the two things that people do in Hong Kong more than sightseeing. Maybe on my next visit to HK, I would include sightseeing on my list. In Kowloon, particularly in Harbour City and along the street of Canton Road are where all the major brand names are located. From Armani to Zara, just name it, they’re all there. And if you’re looking for a particular type of brand, you do need a map. I didn’t shop till I drop but shopping in Hong Kong during the holidays (or even on a regular day) is a big thing. The shops are filled with people and they even have to let the shoppers fall in line and enter the shop a batch at a time. They’re even on sale on or before Christmas and shops are still jammed-packed all through the holidays.

At Crytstal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao

Restaurant is another story but they’re still filled with hungry people wanting to eat something really good. There’s really not enough time to try out the other restaurants that was recommended to me by my food blogger friend Taste Hong Kong. We tried two of her recommendations and it was really, really good. If you’ve tried eating hand-pulled noodles in Manila, that is nothing compared to the hand-pulled noodles at the Crystal Jade. They have a lot selections to choose from but I’ve tried the hand-pulled noodles soup with pork and vegetable dumpling. The noodles have a nice bite to it; they’re chewy yet tender; each succulent strand is made into the right thickness for the best texture and taste. It also has sweet undertones after each bite and the long strands of the luscious noodles are a delight to eat as they don’t break easily. I could give up my job just to be an apprentice on how to make these noodles. The dumplings (with the noodles) are also filled with juicy and flavorful filling of pork and vegetables. They’re not salty and you can actually taste the flavor of the ingredients instead of the overpowering monosodium glutamate that is normally used in Chinese cooking. The Steamed Soup Pork Dumpling Xiao Long Bao lives up to its name. You can taste the rich broth of the pork soup inside the dumpling. You need to eat them with the Chinese spoon to savor all the juices inside the dumpling. Enough said, you can actually go to the Greenhills branch of Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Liong Bao but I don’t think it would match the Hong Kong experience. Just make sure to go there early.

at HIP Katsu, Harbour City

Sweet dreams are made at the Sweet Dynasty. They are the leading trend in Chinese desserts. I never appreciated Chinese desserts but a few years ago, I wanted to learn how to make them. For our first visit, we only ordered desserts. But we’re so full we only ordered the tofu pudding. But you can choose different flavors from plain syrup to almond, walnut, red beans or black sesame seeds. Sweet Dynasty is also open for dimsum, lunch and dinner. I haven’t eaten a good dimsum meal since my stay in Vancouver and dimsum at the Sweet Dynasty is a must have. And again the flavor of the ingredients shines more than the seasoning that they add. For our early dessert, we had Tang Yuan (glutinous rice balls filled with black sesame seed paste) in ginger syrup, which is one of my all time favorite things to eat. The glutinous rice balls are chewy yet soft and moist with a not-so-sweet heavenly filling, while the ginger syrup is warming and comforting to the throat, lungs and the nervous system. I wanted to eat there every meal just to try all of their desserts but the lineup is always extensive the whole day.

at The Sweet Dynastry

What impresses me most with these two restaurants and other good dining places in HK is that they would serve quality food for 200 guests the way they would serve even if there are only 2 people dining. People do line up if the food is really good and it was worth lining up for it.

    Dimsum at The Sweet Dynasty

After 4 days of eating, shopping and more eating in HongKong, I feel a few pounds heavier but on our last day, there’s really not much to shop and I’m not interested to buy a Louis Vuitton bag. So, after roaming around the street of Canton Road, my sister, mom and I followed where the ice cream is located and we’re eating again after 2 hours. There on that same building, I pointed to my sister, a stall of mochis. If you remember how I experimented in making the filling for mochis, then you’ll know how much I love them. Mochi Sweets have 18 flavors and we ordered all the flavors without having second thoughts. They’re still frozen and we can only eat them after 4 hours. While at the airport, we regretted not buying another box. They’re actually good but I know that if I have to make them or even sell them, I would need a mochi maker to make my life easier. The mochis is filled with whipped cream and then encase with the flavored puree before they are covered with the glutinous rice dough. Since I took home the box with me, my sister told me to make her these mochis with all the different flavors. And you do need to eat them on them on the same day for the best flavor and texture. 

Mochi Sweets

Maybe Chinese or Cantonese restaurants are believed to add flavor enhancers to their dishes but not with my food experiences. I hate comparing foods here in Manila and in Hong Kong,  but this time, I really have to. After dining again in Hong Kong after so many years, I noticed that the flavor of their food is clean and fresh yet flavorsome and appetizing. So far, I didn’t taste a lot of black pepper that people in Manila normally add, most especially with sio mai. I didn’t savor the abundant salt just to cover the mediocre ingredients that people use. I didn’t even notice the flavor enhancers just to enhance the flavor of the dish. I didn’t feel thirsty or my throat dry after eating a meal. I think that’s a good sign that your food is just good because of the ingredients and how they’re prepared. Maybe I could give up my job to live in HK or China and learn the foods of Cantonese and Chinese cuisine (in general). But for now, I’ll let my memory palate remember the taste of the foods that I’ve enjoyed and now I do remember how much respect I have for Chinese cuisine and Chinese cooks in mastering the craft and art of cooking traditional food.
Night Market
I’m back in Manila and back to reality. I feel a bit bloated and heavier than a few days ago. But tasting and experiencing cultural foods will always be a learning and unforgettable experience for me.

Love and light,