Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hong Kong Po Lor Pao ('Pineapple Bun')

One of the best selling buns in Hong Kong and simply in each and every Chinatown bakery in the Western Hemisphere. This bun is unique for its separate sweet crust top that is made up separately from the dough of the bun itself, and placed on top of the bread dough prior to the baking. The crack appearance which is also crumbly and crusty at the same time is a nice texture addition to the soft bun itself. Originally this bun is without any filling and is called the pineapple bun for the reason that the crust part looks like pineapple but has nothing to do with the fruit at all in its content. You can see trays of these buns around early mornings and afternoon tea time hours lining the glass display cases of Hong Kong's local coffeeshops and they are best eaten when freshly out of the oven.

I inserted luncheon meat into some of the buns for a different taste option. The crust itself contains sugar and the luncheon meat adds a savory salty taste to the whole of the bun. As there is already sugar mixed into the bread dough itself, I reduced the sugar amount by 2/3 of the amount required for the crust part in the recipe. I omitted the addition of the condensed milk as I don't think it is necessary and the amount stated in the given recipe was negligible afterall.

For the bun part, I used the same recipe as the Taro Bun which yields 14 buns altogether for this recipe. The weigh of the bread dough for each individual bun will remain the same at 40g each and the crust also 40g each as it must cover the top half part of the bun dough prior to baking and once baked, the bun will expand, hence pushing the top crust apart. For the original version without filling, the dough is shaped into balls while for the one that contained the luncheon meat, I roll it out a little to 1/2 inch thick and rectangular and placed the meat in the middle and fold the 2 edges together to enclose.

The luncheon meat takes more time to cook and bake, around 15 mins and the one without filling will take between 10 to 12 mins. Egg wash is applied to give the yellow browning. The sizes of these buns were intently made smaller than those found in the coffeeshops for easier eating, especially kids.


Recipe :

For Bun , refer to here omitting the taro filling ingredient:

Extra:

5 to 7 slices of luncheon meat/SPAM (1/3 inch thick)

Crust :
1 cup all Purpose Flour
1 tbsp butter softened (room temperature)
1 tsp baking soda
5 tbsp dried milk powder
4 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup vegetable or corn oil
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 egg yolk
1 egg, beaten

Method :
For Bun, refer here omitting the taro filling part

For Crust :
1)Place the flour, sugar, dried milk powder and baking soda into a large bowl. Stir with a fork to mix.
2)Beat in the egg yolk. Stir roughly with the fork to get clumps.
3)Pour in the evaporated milk and continue to mix. Stir in the vegetable oil and mix thoroughly.
4)Cut the butter into little pieces and drop randomly into the flour & oil mixture. Using your hands, knead and rub in the butter to form a soft mixture, resembling cookie dough. Do this for 1 min. Divide this into 14 balls of equal size and set aside.

Assembly :
1)When the bread dough has been rested, risen and kneaded twice in accordance with the recipe for the dough, divide the dough into 14 balls. Place 7 balls into a foil cupcake liner each. For the remaining 7 balls, roll each by using a small rolling pin to a rectangle of 1/2 inch thick. Place one slice of the SPAM onto one dough and fold up on 2 edges to enclose. Repeat with the rest and place on aluminum liner or greased baking pan.

2)Take one of the crust ball and flatten it slightly on a clean surface, slightly bigger than the top surface of the buns. Use a scraper to lift up the crust and place on top of the bun, overlapping the top part of the buns. Continue with the rest. When done , cover with cling film and let everything rest for a further 20 mins.

3)Preheat oven to 400F. Place the rack to the lower part of the oven. When ready, brush the beaten egg on the crust and the buns. For the plain bun, bake between 10 to 12 mins and for the SPAM bun, bake for 15 mins. Rotate pans half way.

4)Remove from oven and let cool or serve warm.



Makes : 12 to 14 buns

Friday, January 29, 2010

January 2010 Bento Days (3)

I am so relieved that January is coming to an end. Of all the months in a year, January is my least favorite. Blame it on the season! And when January is over, another winter month less and February looks more promising with a little sweetness from Valentine's Day and Chinese New Year and shorter calendar days!!!

It was below -10C today with gusty biting wind and standing by my kitchen window I imagined the Tundra cold weather out there! When my dad was alive, we used to watch nature programmes together and he always asked a silly question, "Sigh, why do the penguins want to go and live there (South Pole), it is so cold!" And I would say "oh Yes, if I was a penguin I want to live in a zoo! Everything taken care of and the temperature is perfect". Just like me in my 66F heated house now. Warm and cozy is the only way I will have a long life!

Miss E just recovered from an ear infection and was off to school today as she complained being bored staying home. Whereas I do believe that her little brother, Prince D wishes that his sister will stay home everyday and be his playmate. I thought of the penguin story and made these Bento boxes for my kids lunch today while the outside cold kept lingering.

I have no idea on how to wrap a rice ball with the nori. Perhaps the nori that I used was toasted beforehand and it was brittle when I tried to shape it around the rice ball, hence not a very neatly wrapped penguin! I attempted the all black penguin first and found it a bit discouraging and only made the head part black for the next penguin. I pan fried some pork patties, mixed in with some cut carrots to give them extra texture and color. My kids love quail eggs, although they are really not very good for adults as each individual egg's cholesterol is higher than a normal chicken egg. But kids have more allowance on this and I let them have 2 each. The Japanese fish cake (Kamaboko) has a slight fishy smell that kids can take and the Umami taste. It comes in pink or white.



Thursday, January 28, 2010

Taro Bun

I haven't baked bread for a long time and I am starting with a new recipe this year. There is a coffeeshop in my hometown of Sabah, Malaysia that sells these type of lovely buns with a crackling crust on the outside and a very soft velvety inner part. The filling is an option and any types of fillings, sweet or savory can be good for these buns.

I inserted the buns into cupcake foil liners before baking, hence only the top part was browned and the bottom part remained white. The dough for these buns were quite sticky and you will need to have extra bread flour for dusting when it is kneaded and let to rest and risen twice during the whole process before the filling is inserted.


I find this recipe relatively easy as long as you follow the steps of adding in the ingredients and aim for a slightly wet and sticky dough. During the kneading, release as much gas as possible from the built up inside the dough. I did these randomly without measuring the individual dough balls and each filling portion but for a first timer, I recommend some weighing to be done. Usually for buns shaped into a ball, the individual dough portion should weigh 40g and the filling around 30g, and if wet, rolled into a ball for easier insertion and shaping of the dough.


I used canned sweetened taro, around 400g in total to yield between 12 to 15 buns. I found it strange that the Taro filling from the Wei Chuan line of canned fillings is lightly brown rather than the light purple that fresh taro yields and its ingredients list has brown sugar and bean butter added. One thing about these buns, they brown very quickly and must be removed from the oven once the recommended time is up or else the color will be too dark and not appetizing. Ever since I moved to America, I am very comfortable using the measuring cups and spoons to do all the work and have converted this recipe from the original metric measurement to using the system here. Although most bread recipes require you to weigh the ingredients, I find it too much work for a housewife and mother like myself and if I can get the same result with using scoops, why not!


Recipe :

3 cups Bread Flour (extra for dusting)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp yeast granules
2 tbsp butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup warm milk
1 large egg
400 gm taro filling


Method :

1)Divide the taro filling into 12 to 16 balls, measuring 30g each.
2)Stir the bread flour, yeast and sugar together with a fork to mix.
3)Pour in warm water and using a spatula to mix into a rough mess. Next add in the warm milk and do the same thing.
4)Beat in the egg and stir in to mix.
5)Drop in bits of the softened butter and using your hands, knead and rub the butter into the flour & liquid mixture till combined. Dust with a little flour if it gets too sticky to knead.
6)Dust working surface with some flour, and knead the dough for 1 minute, folding at intervals and pushing down to knead again. Dust with a little flour as you go, the dough will get less sticky and still feel slightly wet in your hands.
7)Let the dough rest in a big bowl, covered with cling film and let to rest and rise for 1 hour.
8)Remove to the working surface and knead again for 1 minute, pushing out all the gas that has built up inside the dough. Shape into a ball again and throw the dough down a few times to release more gas. Let it rest and rise, covered again for 30 mins to 45 mins till double the size.
9)Divide the dough into 12 to 16 balls, weighing 40gm each. Using a small rolling pin on a dusted surface roll out each ball into a circle, to 1/2 inch thickness. Place 1 ball of filling in the middle and gather up the edges of the dough to enclose the filling. Put it down on the working surface and pinch the edges closed and gently roll it with your palm pressing down slightly to get the round shape. Place the bun in aluminum cupcake liner. Continue with the rest and let the taro buns rest for 30 mins, covered with cling film. Preheat oven to 400F and place rack to the bottom part of the oven.
10)Bake the buns for 10 to 12 mins, rotating the pan halfway. Remove from oven immediately, let cool a bit before eating. Filling may still be hot.

Makes : 12 to 16 buns

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Blackberry Marzipan Pound Cake

I am one of those people who likes to buy one or two cake ingredients when I read about them in my cooking magazine. Although I am not totally drawn to super sweet stuffs, I was curious about marzipan and bought one log last year. I don't remember what I used it for and there was still half log left in the freezer and I just had to make use of it rather than chuck it into the bin.

I am taking a break from mousse cakes and going for the quintessential loaf and simple cakes this year. One cake that I particularly love to eat is the pound cake. Basically it is a very dense butter cake, very buttery and contains quite a number of eggs that yields its denseness. I think it is the best cake to go along with coffee!

Still in line with my diet plan, I used the portions control widget in allrecipes.com for its pound cake recipe to yield a smaller portion for 4 to 6 persons, baking them in two pans of a 1lb loaf pan. The size of the loaf pan was perfect, a small rectangle measuring a little over 5 inches in length, 3 inches in width and a little over 2 inches in height! Yes, very soon I will be a health freak with all these number and calories counting but I figured, this is the only way I can have my cake and eat it too!

Instead of using the marzipan to make sugary confections to decorate the cakes itself, I crumbled it with the flour portion of the batter. This takes a bit of an effort but the taste and aroma of the marzipan really blended in and makes the cakes super good! Initially I wanted to try to make swirls to create a marble pound cake but not successful. Blackberry is a lovely fruit, whose seeds add an extra bite to the texture of the cakes and of course, its deep reddish purple color makes the cake prettier than plain yellow. I first blended 10 blackberries which yielded 1/2 cup of puree and reserved 6 blackberries to drop into the cakes themselves. Instead of heavy cream, I substituted with low fat milk and reduced the amount of sugar from 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup in view of the added sweetness from the marzipan. When these cakes came out perfect, I was so proud of myself as I know I am on the right track of learning the art of amending the ingredients of recipes to suit my diet plan and although it required time to re-do a whole given recipe with more healthier choices of ingredients and to get the correct measurements for everything, I am absolutely gamed for it! Take it as a better way of keeping the weight on track compared to the puffing & panting on the threadmill!

Recipe :

Ingredients :
1-1/2 cup Cake Flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter (4oz) (room temperature)
1/4 cup sugar & 1-1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup low fat milk
3 large eggs, white & yolks separated (room temperature)
2 oz marzipan
1/2 tsp almond extract
10 blackberries, pureed to yield 1/2 cup
6 extra blackberries
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp water




Method :

1)Preheat oven to 350F and lower the rack to the bottom of the oven. Grease 2 small loaf pans with butter and dust with some cake flour. Tap out excess.

2)Crumble the marzipan into coarse meal state. Sift the cake flour, baking powder and salt together. Using hands, crumble the marzipan into the flour mixture, till there is no big lump visible.

3)Beat the butter till soft and add in sugar, continue to beat till light & fluffy, about 2 to 3 mins. Beat in the egg yolks till well combined. Next beat in the milk and almond extract.

4)Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl and when foam starts to appear, add in the extra 1-1/2 tbsp sugar and beat till stiff peaks. Leave aside.

5)Using a spatula, fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture in 2 batches, combining thoroughly at each time.

6)Lastly fold in the beaten egg whites. This will instantly lighten the batter. Fold till well combined.

7)Divide and pour the batter to 1/2 full into the 2 loaf pans. Half way, insert 3 blackberries into each of the pan and continue to fill it up. Reserve 1 tsp of the blackberry puree and spoon the rest randomly onto the cake batter in the 2 pans. Swirl with a fork, poking towards bottom at intervals.

8)Bake for 50 to 60 mins till cake rises, slightly brown and use the toothpick test to determine if they are done. Leave in pans to cool for 10 mins.
9)Sift the powdered sugar and dissolve in the water. Stir in the 1 tsp blackberry puree. Drizzle randomly over the cakes.


Serves: 4 to 6 persons (small size)


Friday, January 22, 2010

January 2010 Bento Days (2)

Ever since I returned from Asia, I find myself very slow in doing everything. Or perhaps lazy! My mom said "Wow, your house is really messy!" If she could see that through the miserable little webcam of my laptop, then in actual it must be really messy!! I have long given up on hope that my house will ever look like those in the IKEA catalog with my 2 kids constantly thrashing things all over and even they do clean up after a harsh tone from me, they will migrate to another room and do the whole process again. In other words, it will be totally impossible to have a totally neat house unless and until I myself thrash all their toys to the garbage ! But then, they will bother me all the time and I will have no peace time at all, and so I reluctantly chose to live with the mess and be their cleaning lady.

Miss E stayed home today with her cold symptoms. Even though full of snot and a husky voice, she still managed to spend half of the day reading and doing crafts with her brother and even argued along the way. I was glad that I took the initiative to take out a craft book from the library yesterday and let the kids maneuvered their ways with the scissors, foam, glue and glitter while I ran into the kitchen trying to think of something to keep my sanity knowing that a big mess will be waiting for me by the time they finish. All I can think of for the day was Bento lunches and I was creating as much mess as my kids with their craft supplies.
I am beginning to like the various rice moulds that I have. Most were given to me by friends and relatives. The bear one was extremely useful and also versatile for other animals beside the bear and I am yet to explore the other options. The side face of the dog rice ball was shaped free hand and obviously, my girl eats more than my boy and had more portions in her box. I am still perfecting my skills on making the Japanese omelette and I used SPAM/luncheon meat for these Bento boxes. I have also resorted to buying those individual servings packs of nori slices that is eaten as snack rather than the big slices that are used for rolling sushi rice, as I don't really use much each time and the individually wrapped one seems to have more flavor added to it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

January 2010 Bento Days (1)

Throughout the whole week, I was glued to the TV on the news of the recent Haiti earthquake. It was very heartbreaking to see children as young as my own suffering from the aftermath, be it physically, mentally or emotionally. I hate to admit it but I do get wet eyes looking at the scenes and Miss E kept asking me what happened to the people who were rushing and fighting for packages dropped from the chopper, what happened to the baby and so on. In the past, perhaps exposing her to such calamities and catastrophic happenings may be too much to handle but I am proud to say that my daughter understands the situation well and learning to be very civic minded about things like that. Or perhaps I am just insensitive and have to lead my kids into everything, even the news I am watching! Even Prince D who is 3 plus learned his numbers through reading the TV remote control, thanks to me who ask him to switch to CNN all day long. Anyways, we done our part via UNICEF and I just hope God have mercy on those who survived, especially the young ones who practically have to rebuild their lives from zero.

Snowy day today and school was out in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. day. I have been re-arranging my Bento stuffs last week and really, most of my loot from Malaysia and Hong Kong are still in their plastic baggies and I am still figuring on how and where to locate the biggest portable box to contain them all. They are currently like my kids toys, scattered everywhere in a big bin and still impossible to compartmentalize and identify them by types and usage.

I would like to thank Heidi for getting me all the cutest Bento stuffs from Japan and seriously, no Daiso nor anything online outside Japan can offer more choices. When I stayed in Japan in early 2001, I was not sucked into the Bento craze as I had no kids then and rightly to say, my cooking skills then were not good enough and Curry loved his neighborhood Obachan's family restaurant so much that he can eat there for all his 3 meals. I can imagine if I was there now, I will be the first one at Daimaru or Isetan when a new Bento tool or box is introduced into the market! At the meantime, I just have to curb my enthusiasm and limit my spending on these appealing stuffs or else I will never get to the point of arranging the Bento tools!

For today's Bento boxes, nothing fancy and I just let the colors of the ingredients bring out their best. Grape tomatoes is a change to the usual baby round tomatoes and they seem to have a brighter red and its oblong rather than round shape makes stuffing the boxes easy. I love the apple shaped mini cups that contained the blueberries as they blend in with the other ingredients well and still separated the fruits from the cooked rice and chicken meat. I managed to get alot of new food picks from Daiso and when I have no idea what to make with the rice balls or tired of the nori punched outs, these picks will brighten anything that you poke it with! Furikakae or nori flakes comes in various flavors and easily located at any Japanese or Asian grocery. They do perk up the white rice in taste and in appearance.


I got up very early to make Curry's Bento box first which contained mostly the same thing as the kids, except his box has the additional long bean omelette and julienned carrot. Due to the late rise of the sun, my camera didn't worked very well in the yellow soft light. Thank you Auntie Mary for giving me 2 of these lacquered Bento Boxes and be assured that they will be put to full use.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Red Velvet Cupcake

Me and my new resolutions. Ya right! By the look of that cupcake, who am I kidding right?
All the initial thoughts of calories and pounds aside, I really am serious going on a healthier eating and exercise regime. But even the diet gurus and experts said "Reward yourself Once in a While" . I agree 100%, I will skip a dinner meal or two and an extra 15 mins on the threadmill to make up for the calories I taken in with this lovely reward that I made for teatime today!
Red Velvet cupcakes are named aptly for their deep red hue, made up of cocoa powder with a little red coloring added to the cake batter. I thought this will be a lovely idea for Valentine's day and I would like to thank my Auntie Cat who bought me boxes of lovely royal icing rose buds and pretty daisies during my vacation back home in Malaysia. The rosebuds sit pretty well on this cupcake and I shall leave the pretty daisies for my spring cupcakes. I also dropped in a non pareil pearl to add a lovely accent and shall I say 'a touch of class' . Pearls are my favorite. Very simple and yet outstanding in looks!


I adapted this recipe from allrecipes.com and adjusted the amount of the ingredients to yield only 4 cupcakes, one each for the people in my household. On my healthy track, I substituted everything low or fat free except for the butter which only yielded a small amount and I can never bring myself to bake with margerine. Nothing against it, just that the taste of it doesn't sit well with my palate! Ever thought that you are making too many cupcakes or muffins out of a given recipe when there is not enough people to eat it and you feed them on yourself in the end? I find the allrecipes.com website absolutely useful in reducing the amount that I am making and I believe over-eating is the main factor that makes me fat, so I will only bake or cook the amount enough to feed me and my family for 1 meal or in this case, 1 teatime treat. With yogurt added and only cake flour used, the texture of these cupcakes are very good and moist. I have given up on my piping bags and tips and simply used a plastic baggie, snipped at the end and piped in a swirl and random motion. The cream cheese icing will be easier to pipe at room temperature. The only thing with this amended recipe is that there are alot of measuring. Hey, that is why losing weight is so complicated! But all it takes is effort. Happy Baking.
Recipe (adapted from allrecipes.com & certain ingredients substituted)
Ingredients:
1/2 cup cake flour
1 tbsp & 1-3/4 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
3 tbsp butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp & 1/2 tsp fat free yogurt
1 tbsp & 1-3/4 tsp fat free milk
1/4 tsp red coloring Paste (Wilton)
Cream Cheese Frosting
3/4 pack of an 80z low fat cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/3 cup powdered , sifted
Method:
1) Preheat oven to 350F and line 4 muffin tins with paper liner.
2)Sift the cake flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder into a bowl. Leave aside.
3)Mix the red coloring paste into the milk. Leave aside.
4)Using a hand mixer, beat the butter with the sugar till creamy. Beat in the egg to mix. Add in the yogurt and then the milk and stir to mix in thoroughly.
5)Using a spatula, fold the flour and cocoa mixture into the butter mixture. Do not overmix.
6)Spoon the batter into the lined muffin tins, filling up to 2/3 full.
7)Bake for 25 mins. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 10 mins. Cool completely before applying the frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting :
1) Beat the cream cheese and the butter together till creamy and soft.
2)Stir in the powdered sugar till no lumps are visible.
3)Pipe onto the cupcakes and decorate with your choice of non-pareils or royal icing flowers.
Makes : 4 Cupcakes

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Oatmeal & Cranberry Muffin

Taking a short break from my travel posts. Still stuck in the year 2009 with all the photos from my trip to Malaysia and Hong Kong, I forgot to wish my friends, relatives and readers of this blog a Happy New Year 2010. Again all the best to you all and keep me company by coming to visit often.
Same old resolutions and some new ones for me. I had a great time with my mom and all my relatives back in Malaysia and can't wait for the next trip again. My resolution is to be healthier than last year and really keeping track of my threadmill walks this year. Given the current miserable cold, the outdoor is not an option and I guess I just have to turn on my FitTV and add on the workout. I emphasized 'healthier' and not the words 'to lose weight' as I find that wanting to feel healthy and upkeeping it is easier done than the said 'lose weight' phrase. Let us all see how far can I go by the next new year resolution!
To start off a healthy new year, I opted for muffins made with the much acclaimed healthy oats and anti-oxidant packed dried cranberry. I think they are a very good pick me up item for this cold winter time when the tummy growls at the most unexpected time of mid morning and mid afternoon! Cream and mousse cakes are more appropriate for spring and summer in my to make list and at the meantime, I will just take things slow and simple. My muffin recipe is rather eggy than crumbly, perhaps very little added butter and I opted to use all purpose flour instead of a combination with cake flour, which might explain why it is more spongy in texture. I reduced the amount of sugar to get my kids back on track on healthier eating as they are very keen on sugary drinks now that they have been surviving on juices most of the time during the trip away!


Recipe :

1-1/4 cup all Purpose Flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/8 tsp salt
2 eggs
3 tbsp butter, melted
3/4 cup low fat milk
3/4 cup oat
1/2 cup dried cranberry

Method:

1)Preheat oven to 375F. Line muffin tin with paper liner.
2)Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together.
3)Beat the eggs with the sugar till pale yellow. Add in the melted butter.
4)Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture in 3 batches. Fold in the oats.
5)Lastly fold in the dried cranberries. Spoon and fill up to 2/3 of each paper liner. Decorate with more dried cranberries.
6)Bake for 30 mins. Turn off oven and leave in oven for another 10 mins. Remove and let cool on rack.


Makes : 8 muffins




Hong Kong & Macao Trip (Part 4)

Macao was on my day trip plans and we chose the worst day of all days to go! Or maybe it was like that everyday with tonnes of visitors and tourists queuing up for tickets, poorly defined line for immigration checks and another bout of the same thing arriving upon the port of Macao! Remember when the media televised the mayhem of the visitors that went to Hong Kong Disneyland when it first opened, when everyone was eager to enter and packed like sardines in rows, shoulder to shoulder, front face to back head, tensions built up and no chance of running to the loo for hours standing in queue? Well, I was like one of those sardines on Boxing Day and from entering the Kowloon port to exiting the Macao port, it took me almost 4 hours! My advice: get your tickets days earlier and don't bring the young kids.
Despite the unpleasant travel, Macao is a very nice place. Far from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, it still retained some of its Portuguese flair in many sites and way of life. Mixed in with the boisterous nature of the locals and the smell of sea and cleaner air, my short and abrupt 4 hours day tour in the Macao Peninsula side was a very fun trip! The tourists maps available were very clear on all the locations of the interesting sites and to save time, just hop on a cab and head straight down to the main tourist square called Senado Square opposite the Macao Public Administration Building along the Rua Do Campo Road. The fare is pretty cheap about HK$23. From there, Curry and I raced to fill up our stomach with a delicious deep fried pork bun and along the way, sweetening up with Portuguese tarts, freshly baked almond cookies and samples of pork jerky! Since time was very limited before we need to beat the human traffic and catch the next jetty back to Kowloon by 6.30pm, we narrowed down to 2 must see sites, the Realms of St Paul and A-Ma Temple. Most of the Portuguese churches and local food vendors are located within walking distance of the Senado Square, with cobbled and narrowed streets winding up and down from one square to another and makes for a very interesting walk.



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Friday, January 8, 2010

Hong Kong & Macao Trip (Part 3)

Throughout my whole 10 days in Hong Kong, I stayed in the Kowloon side and totally forgotten the joy of hopping onto one of those Star Ferries to sail over to the Hong Kong Island side. Indeed, there are more upscale malls and business districts over there and all the interesting attractions for a person like me are situated in Kowloon. To say Hong Kong is small compared to other places is true but it takes days, time and a good planning of a schedule to see everything it has to offer. Although a far off from the usual things that tourists see, I am very happy to go around and simply snapped everything that looked interesting and post it here! To sum it up, my mini de-tours from the usual beaten paths of Hong Kong were pretty unique.
I made Nathan Road and also the Tsim Tsa Tsui, Mong Kok and Prince Edward subway stations as my main pointer and transportation stop for all these mini tours. My advantage is that I can speak Cantonese and my disadvantage is that my sense of direction is really bad, especially within concrete building areas and multitude channels of smaller streets that can actually make one very claustrophobic and delirious at the same time! Best advice.... bring along a local if you can like I did and tell them beforehand what you want to see!




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As with my interests in all things culinary, I got a very useful tip from my monthly BBC Good Food Magazine on where to buy kitchen stuffs! Shanghai Street which is accessible from Exit B1 of the Yau Ma Tei subway station was a brilliant place. Again, all the shops selling pots, pans, cookie cutters, big and small woks to all sorts of utensils were concentrated on a 2 blocks stretch. And here, my money flies faster than any where else in Hong Kong as I was really lost amongst the choices of unique mooncake and biscuit moulds, mousse cake moulds, cutest cupcake liners and specially shaped vegetable cutters with the patterns of the auspicious Chinese pheasant and dragon. I highly recommend this street to anyone interested in the art of food preparation. Curry was impressed that I was able to fish out this place as he had never been there and he begins to believe that food bloggers like myself do mean business when we say we are food enthusiasts who will hunt down anything related to food and not simply a waste of time to write up a food blog! So far, I haven't seen the Bento craze sweeping the Hong Kong market yet and Bento tools were not available.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hong Kong & Macao Trip 2009 (Part 2)

Hong Kong is definitely known as a shopping mecca. Malls, shops and business retails that adorned each and every streets attract customers with nice displays, salespersons standing ready from the door to the cashier counter to take your dollars and multitude of varieties of things that you might never know existed nor found in anywhere else. The qualities ranges from cheap and tacky, reasonable and useful to expensive beyond beliefs! All you ever need to carry out from your apartment or hotel room is your wallet and a carrying bag! And of course lots of cash as HK$100 flies within minutes if you are a shophaholic, or simply a usual window shopper like myself who is bound to be attracted to spend money no matter how frugal I am!
Lucky for Curry, I am not into fashion nor handbags. For this trip I came with a list of places that I must go and see rather than must buy. I tried my best to cover all the backstreets of Kowloon first which I think I succeeded and had to leave the Hong Kong island side for the next trip. And best of all, my sister in law was kind enough to babysit my kids while I roamed around without much concern for tired feet and hungry tummies.





The street markets that I ventured out to see was Temple Street ('Miu Kai'), Ladies Market ('Lui Yan Kai'), Flowers Market and Goldfish Market. All these are located in the Mong Kok area which can be very confusing to visitors like myself and I admit that I wouldn't be able to cover everything if not for the help of Curry's cousins. A big thank you to them for this wonderful experience. I was amazed by the number of stores located in both the Flowers Market and Goldfish Market, which stood next to each other, opposite facing and running for at least 2 blocks! And each of them sold the same thing and according to Curry, they can survive by offering one or two unique and exotic species with eye catching displays of their commodities. I guess that is the very basic way of doing busines in Asia and no matter how big or small, competition is fierce. And I would like to add, there is ample consumer potential in Hong Kong itself that keeps these businesses running. In short, I enjoyed the walk along these 2 markets despite the fact that I have nothing to buy for the one reason that all are concentrated in one street and you can see alot in one place. For Temple Street and Ladies Market, counterfeit and cheap knock off fashions are plenty coupled with souvenir stuffs and whatever stuffs that never crossed your mind! I managed to find stalls selling paper punches that I have been locating for my Bento nori punching quest and oh boy was I spoiled for choices! But beware at these markets, once you touch the stuffs, the vendor will come selling and you might get an unpleasant smirk or even a scolding for not buying. Well of course, a thick face can always shield you!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My Hong Kong & Macao 2009 Trip (Part 1)

Although I have been to Hong Kong several times since I was a young kid and now married to one from the same place, I never really take the time to explore this crowded lively city. I dislike the ever so busy lifestyle with its days and nights all conjured up with lots of activities going on at every corners at every minute and Hong Kong people seem to be always in a rush in their daily doings and sometimes their frustrations are not well contained where you just have to move faster on their streets, eat and drink quickly at their local restaurants and expect to queue for almost all public transportation at all hours!
This time I decided to travel like a tourist. Tagging along Curry and sometimes his cousins, I took my camera and palate on an adventure that I never attempted before. Despite all the tempting high end and affordable malls and street vendors alike, my aim was to explore the backstreets that defined Hong Kong since the 1960s and ate anyting edible that may be deemed gross by some but definitely a treat to me! Within the last 10 days of my vacation, I did alot and infact very satisfied with this trip as I have seen alot and learned something.



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Surely street food should only be consumed with a feisty and daring heart especially in the compact Hong Kong with people, buildings, traffic, dust and particles existing together in a very crowded place. I was happy to try out the famous stinky Tofu, made popular and known to me through those TVB dramas in the 1980s and my take on this is that if you can take durian and fermented tofu used mostly in Chinese cooking, this notoriously named 'drain water tofu' is nothing! I liked mine plain while I poked around and saw others dowsed theirs with chilli paste. My absolute favorite would be the pig's intestine, deep fried on the skewer upon your order and its taste was so good with the crispiness and crunchiness on the outside conjured up with the soft juicy inside. The mixture of beef offal and curried fishball were amongst the best sellers and costs around HK$30 for the smaller tub. I find it very funny to see well dressed and fashion conscious HK people slurping and munching on these delicacies by the street, ignoring all etiquette of the fork and spoon with table manners.

Another must go and try are those small local restaurants on every street. I absolutely love the pastries and buns when they are served hot and fresh and with a cup of hot milked tea, it made my day. They are surely in my list to make this year for my blog updates!

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