Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tokyo Day 4

Tokyo Day 4 was quite interesting... to me the entire country is interesting, so bare w/ me.

We started out with Ikebukuro, which is the northeast part of Tokyo metroplex. You get to go out of the train and you see Seibu department store as you try to exit the station.

My mom and I love Seibu because we are used to having that in Hong Kong. It's a great department store and we can spend the day at the food court. Yes, we love food... But it is a special treat to be in Japan's original Seibu because they are really neat to the max.

When we exit the train at the station, the floor we first come to is the food court... not just a regular food court with different cuisine, it is all sweets, cakes, gift boxes. We are talking about bakery and patisserie from all over the world to have a booth there. We are talking about French macarons by at least 3 famous makers and I ended up buying from Pierre Herme's macaron, hello! It's just awesome!

They have another floor of food court, except that's more like a grocery store/food market. Most of the food are from farm or catch to the store, they are ready for you to take home and cook. Definitely can get all your shopping in one place. Oh, and don't forget to check out their top floor, which is ususally their clearance and/or special market. When we were there, one section were all clothes, and another sections were prepared foods like jerky, cookies, and such. Of course, check out the neat stuff Japan has to offer in this giant department store, but I digress.

Anyway, the goal is really to go to Ikebukuro, supposedly they have the largest Tokyu Hands and couple of stores that I wanted to peak at. The thing is that we needed to find the Sunshine City.

On the map, it doesn't look very far from Seibu, but when you actually walk it, it is quite far. It's the giant city blocks that kills ya. But, it's a nice walk nonetheless. By the time we got to Sunshine City we were starving. This place contains the famous Tokyo Prince hotel, the place is older than the pictures I've seen, but it's near the food court, so we journey on.

In reality, Sunshine City is a giant mall with few food courts, several on the top floor w/ the Observation Deck, also higher end, couple in the midst of the shopping. But the other food area are tucked away in an annex. We came across a teppenyaki restaurant. As you can see, the fake food looked good... how can you resist?

Well, when we actually come to it, it is actually a you-cook-it type of place. The poor waiter seeing that we don't speak a lick of Japanese and pointing pictures, he felt bad and cooked it for us. While we were more than happy to experience the cooking procedure, since they have pictures and all, but he just saw how pathetic we were, he just cooked it for us. We had ordered a teppanyaki dish which has meat, and egg, and noodle. But it dosen't turn out like they did w/ the fake food. It was yummy nonetheless... told you, it was an experience.

One thing, total side bar, I have to tell you is that there are several cats houses/playground. This one in particular is on the top floor of Tokyu Hands in Ikebukuro. As a matter of fact, it is called Nekobukuro.

You pay $6000 yen, go thru these cat doors, and you entered to their playground. Cats run around or sleeping, you can pet them, and play with them. It is the oddest thing to see in person, but also the funnest, and very true Japan. So, if you are a cat lover, make a point to go there. If you don't want to go to the crowd of Tokyu Hands (which can be listed as a department store type place), they do have a Cats Apartment/Cafe you can visit across from the Complex.

Later in the day, I headed over to Harajuku. That's more of a young speed, also more foreigners hanging out there. One thing I do see alot of are these crepe stands. In Texas, finding a crepe stand is like finding that diamond in the rough. They are very few and far between. If you have a good one, you better hold on to them.

That said, there are crepe place everywhere. I'm guessing it has the thing to do with Japanese love the French culture. Kid you not, my baby French knowledge I had, actually came into small use when it comes to reading a few menus, and no I wasn't having French food in Japan... go figure.

I did consult w/ a Japanese native, and she did say that Japanese people love their crepes, which is why you see at least 30 different varieties at each stand you walk by. Trust me, you don't have to purposefully go looking for them. You can smell them near you by any main area you walk around... (you can definitely find them by the Tokyo Tower). These booths are mostly small 2 people operations, but as I said, they can handle more than 30 different type of crepes, don't you worry.

At night, we decided to have dinner by where we stayed down in Hanzomon. We've been eyeing on their dumplings and Chinese food for quite some time, and finally decided to walk in and give it a try.

The funny part is, the staff, with the exception of the head waiter, are all authentic Chinese. By their accent, we guessed that they're from Shanghai. Of course, their cooking also gave that away.

We weren't able to speak it, and can only point to pictures, but the entire Chinese cuisine were cooking in Shanghai style, so we figured it out. Their dumplings are fine, and you could easily find these yummy dumplings if you walk around mainland China. But in Japan, it's really rare and strange to find such great artisan in a tiny neighborhood.

From the looks of it, they do most of the business w/ delivery, which is also in competition with the Indian food and Steakhouse across the way. But, it is very good and interesting to find the diversity in food in a neighborhood that no one speaks English.


In case you didn't know, I have this big obsession on macaron. Don't ask me why, I can't explain it, and I'm playing w/ recipes to try out different things.

As I said before, we were at Seibu, and they had several booths selling the world famous, top notch macaron the world has to offer. I've heard so much about Pierre Herme that I just HAD TO try them out for myself. Since I'm not going to Paris anytime soon, Japan will do.

Here's a very nice box, and in it, are the very nice macarons. They're light, not overpowering, flavorful and when you get the flavor card you can really appreciate the artistic love that went into the cookie. Every single one of them were delicious. I got overdosed on the sugar, but they were great... don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tokyo Day 3

I know, when you think of Japan, you don't think: Starbucks. But I think as Starbuck's popularity raise globally, it is getting as prevalent as McDonald's. I am by no means trying to compare Starbucks w/ McDonald's, but it's widespread-ness is to match for an American company aboard.

One thing Starbucks pride of themselves is the consistency across all stores, even if you are in Japan. (I know, I used to be a barista there when I was in college.) That said, there are differences. Obviously, they greet you as you walk in, that's just a Japanese thing. But in addition to the overhead menu board, they also have a very nice traditional printed menu. It allows them to print on nice glossy cardboard to impress all the customers.

I find it very interesting that they gave me this Soymilk card to note that my drink is soymilk... I do turn it in when I grab my drink, but I'm not sure it's helping me any, since I ordered it that way. Wouldn't it make more sense to give it to the bar??? Hmm...

Anyway, we were at Odiba to see the Statue of Liberty (tm) mini version, and really to go see
the Venus Fort. That is really an Outlet mall that has a new Hello Kitty's Kawaii's Paradise. (Sorry for the sideway pic) But as you can see, Hello Kitty's Pancake house offers not just sweet pancakes as you and I know it in the States. They also offer lettuce, tomato and other ingrediants between the shortstacks. Hmm... interesting.

I suppose pancakes is just cakes, doesn't have sweet or savory taste to it, which is why we add butter and syrup, but with things in between? That's a tad unusual for me.

While I didn't get to eat at the Hello Kitty's Pancake house, we did get lost to a sushi restaurant. The entire Venus Fort has several components to it, as you walk and walk and walk, you tend to get lost. We got to Snoopy World, which is a small booth w/ merchandise and snacks; it leads you to a hallway of more food.

Honestly, trying to find sushi restaurants were harder than I thought. Most Japanese go to these quick stores for fast food that puts these sushi places on the outs. I heard someone said that sushi restaurants are for old people. Hmm???

For me, I just love those sushi restaurant w/ a conveyer belt around. I know that's not exactly authentic, and as my friend Pat from Cali was saying that they do have something like that in LA, but these sushi is made by real sushi chef that are Japanese... to me, that's authentic... -ish.

You sit down, grab you a cup and get some matcha powder and there's a hot water sprout right there in front of you. Grab your chopsticks and you're ready to eat.

For those of you not familiar w/ the concept, you sit down at this bar, and there's a conveyer belt around the sushi chefs and they make the food inside and as they put out different plates, they put the food on this conveyer belt, and you grab what you want to eat. How they tally up at the end of the meal is by the number of colored plates. Each colored plate represent a price. It is very easy to get carried away. Not just because the food is good, but little by little you don't realize how much you've eaten until they started to tally up for the bill. I would say this is one of our more expensive meals in Japan.

This is just a random shot at a bakery in the train station... I was just so impressed that a tiny little neighborhood bakery, no claim to fame, produced the cutest bread around... I'm not sure I can bite into a cute bear or turtle.

The next stop we headed to Tokyo Tower. From one non-authentic Japanese landmark to another. The Tokyo Tower is a gift from France to Japan. It is exactly the same, I would venture to say that it is a bit smaller by size, but it's still pretty big.

The tower is literally 5 mins walk from the closest station. You do have to walk up to a half hill in order to get to the main lobby. On our way up, we saw this vendor selling....

Dim Sum. I don't think the guy wrapped all of these himself, either he represent some food truck or he has someone doing it. Or worst, buy them frozen and steam them there. But they are the biggest shu mai dumplings I've ever seen. No wonder he's charging 200Yen for them (that's about $2 US)

Funny antedote: when we arrived to the lobby, there was a JPop star in Japanese school uniform w/ her backup dancers giving a free concert. The site was a very uniformed crowd standing there, dancing along w/ the singer. Upon a closer look, all of the audience were doing the dance moves and singing along, to a T like the singer was... I thought that was neat.... Young people has tons of time to mimic their idol. I remembered that phrase. Then, look closer... these are all middle-aged Japanese men that are singing and dancing along w/ the singer. Urh.... hmm... interesting.

Anyway, I smell crepe as I walked up to the lobby, and this is the array of variations they offer. There must be at least 50 different types. They operate like a tiny food booth, which impress me even more to have that much to offer in that tiny of space.

At night on the way home, we decided that another 'MUSTs' in terms of Japanese food is the beef bowl. They are very popular and easy to make for the Japanese, not to mention yummy.

On a Sunday nite, we went to our nearby Beef Bowl place that's opened 24hr. Since we stay near a business districts we didn't expect alot of people. But at 8pm, there are people walking in one after another, so we either picked a very good place to eat, or no one is cooking at home. haha....

The beef bowl comes in 6 sizes... yes I said 6. They have kids size, lite women size, normal size, senior size (for older people), men size (means big), and supersize. Yeah, not sure if having 6 sizes is necessary, I think the lite women size and the senior size should be the same, but hey, I didn't make that up. In a place where everything is pretty much porportionate, I was suprised to see Supersize... why? Then, again, you don't see alot of fat Japanese, unless they're Sumo Wrestlers. They walk everywhere and can probably walk off that Supersize.

Anyway, for about $6US, you get the normal size beef bowl, I got mine w/ curry sauce because I'm addicted, and a bowl of miso soup. One thing I noticed is that instead of diced tofu, they now give you the fried tofu skin. While the taste remain the same, it's just different. I like my little diced tofu.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hello Kitty Day pt 2

I can't tell you how excited I was to go to Sanrio's Puroland (aka Hello Kitty Land). They actually have 2 theme park that's Hello Kitty and friends based. The other one is way down south of Japan, it was easier to get there via Russia or Korea than from Japan. Crazy, huh? I'll take this any way I can.

Sanrio's Puroland actually have 4 places for food, suitable for all budgets and taste. As you enter the park, you're technically on the 3rd floor of the place. The main level doesn't have much except Information, Gift Shop, some lockers, and characters photo spot. The next thing we did was to walk upstairs. They have a small gift shop which is really Viviex, a small Cinnamon Dream cafe, a very hidden fancy restaurant Yakata, and a Robot Cafe.
I had actually hoped to go to the fancy Restaurant Yakata, because on their site, it looked like a nice fancy buffet. But, we were so hungry after all the walking from the morning to Hello Kitty Bakery in Timbuktu, that we were happy to see a sign of food. It was also kinda getting late by the time we got there, we wanted to make sure to get food and squeeze in all the stuff we can inside the 'park'.
We ended up at the Robot Food Machine Cafe. It was cafeteria style, but the way they presented the food is very much on par w/ the name sake of the restaurant. You have this giant machine looking thing, which is a mask for the kitchen in the back. You go thru each 'station', which has rotating food or drinks. One would be for children, their food/snack/juice box; one station would be for appetizer, one would be for hot Westernized food, and one for Japanese food. Then you have a drink station, and then you pay. Much like Luby's. Their staff will help you w/ your tray and help you to your table. Each table is equipped w/ a Hello Kitty high chair, because not all people who go to Puroland is a crazy 30-something girl who drag her mother with her. Urm.. yeah, that was me.
There is a Gourmet Bazaar is inside the 'park' which is on the 1st Floor. It's a fast food style snack place. Things are relatively cheap as far as themed park goes. We walked in and took a quick look and turned around. By the end of the day, I was ready for some 'snack' so I got a chestnut tart from Cinnamon's Dream Cafe. I was sad to report the macaron wasn't fresh, and the tart was only dismal in taste, but hey, it sure was fun to be there.

On the way to the hotel, we needed to switch trains at Shinjuku. Their train station is a major hub for the working masses and also a jointing point for different JR lines so there are shops and restaurants built inside the station. This 'sub floor' between 1st and 2nd floor is basically built as a circle w/ food either to go, fast food, or sit down all in this circle.
One of my MUSTs was Unaju from the authentic place. So, Unaju it is... I must say, it doesn't taste any better or worst, but you feel the tradition and the food when it is presented to you sitting there. It came with miso soup, which by the way, they don't put in diced tofu anymore. Instead, they put in fried tofu skin, which is kinda crunchy but soften by the soup. Some small veggie and ginger.
That meal was the most expensive meal we've had in Japan. Most of our meals doesn't cost more than $10US per person, this one dish by itself was more than $20US. That's a shock to me because how cheap everything else is by comparison, this is on the higher end. But now I can check off my list of food to experience while I'm in Japan.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hello Kitty Day pt 1

So, one of the MUSTs I have set out for this Tokyo trip is to go to the Hello Kitty Bakery. It's really called Promenade de Kitty. This is the only Hello Kitty Bakery that they have in the entire country. =^.^=

Their website is all in Japanese and not updated very frequently. They did say that they recently renovated in preparation of Kitty's birthday, which was Nov 1st. So, I know that by the time I get there they'll be open.

Getting there, however, was not fun. When we asked the front desk of the hotel, the lady with her very broken English was trying to tell me how far it is. Which, I do know about that, just didn't really know how far it really is. The front desk lady was very nice and picked up the phone and called the place. The lady that was at the place had some very screwy instructions to get there. Frankly, their Yahoo directions was no better than the ones I got from Google.

There's never been English instructions to get there, and I think I'm going do this for my own memory and if there are other non-Japanese speakers that wanted to make that pilgrimage to see the big kahuna, this is it!

Now, I stayed in Central Tokyo, so getting there wasn't exactly a piece of cake. We stayed along the Hanzomon Line (半蔵門), they do have a train that takes you straight to Chūō-Rinkan Station (中央林間). If the train you took dead ends to Shibuya (涉谷), that's ok, you can switch to Tōkyū Den-en-toshi Line (東急田園都市線) and you can straight there.
Once you get to the station, you exit and head South towards a major roadway. Oh yeah, by the way, good luck in finding the name of the street... it wasn't easy. The way you know it's South, is that you have 7-11 behind you, and a parking lot w/ 2 wood board map of the surrounding area to mark. If you head down the street of where that parking lot is, and keep going, you'll deadend to the major street. And if you happened to see a taxi, grab it, because it is a very long walk. No lie! *If you do take a taxi, print out the Japanese address, since most of them don't do English very well.*
What we did was that we walked down that main through-fair till we saw Nissan, and turn left. That is the section of Komatsubara (小松原), 1st Section. You head straight down, and this is the not so pretty part. You have alot of warehouses, factory-like places. Tons of small homes but alot of industrious places where truckers pull in.

We walked alot of the pieces that doesn't have sidewalks and that's the not-so-pretty part. And again, since it's mostly residential and w/ some warehouses and factory, people and normal cars are scarce.
When you get close, you do see a flag type sign on your left, and the right side is another factory/warehouse. That sign will take you to the back of the building. So, you do have to walk past this back of a warehouse and parking lot to get to the 'front' of the building. By the way, dead giveaway, the columns of the place are painted pink. And here's why, turns out, that is one of the distribution points for Japan, Hello Kitty merchandise. They get any irregulars, discontinued stuff. So, I guess as the new stuff comes in, get processed here and distributed, the returned stuff comes in and they sell them at hugh discount... and I'll tell you why I know this shortly.

Let me tell you, when I saw this place I was absolutely estatic, of course this is after walking over an hour, I was thrilled to see anything that resemble life. That said, the bakery itself is very small, but you can definitely smell it. I bought everything Hello Kitty edible possible. The rest are really just a bakery shop w/ nice and pretty bread. I knew they just recently renovated and everything is new. Since we walked for over an hour to get there, we were more than pleased to see cafe-like table and chairs.
The staff doesn't speak any English and our pointing and smiling can only take you so far. That said, they are uber friendly and you can't hate the situation because they're so kind and polite about everything.
I ended up buying these bread-products. The 2 that are bread, actually has custard cream inside. The cookie-like thing is actually toast, in the shape of HK, and coated w/ sugar. And here I thought it was cookie, it was just toast.
When I tried to buy some of their Hello Kitty's in Bakery outfit, the staff pain-stakingly tried to communicate that they are not for sale. With big disappointment on my face, the guy w/ the most English (which is not very much) pointing and jesturing to follow him. Hmm... follow stranger???
Well, he took me to the back of the building where the pink columns are. There, they have a tiny aisle of Hello Kitty products. That's how I found out the leftovers from all over are located there. They have a sticker system like 2 for $1000yen and what not type menu. I actually don't need anything they have to offer and they don't have the HK Bakery to offer, but since he took me there, I felt bad and bought something.
To get back, you can try to wait for the bus, they don't run very often, so you may have to wait a bit. All you have to do is head South to the other major street and you'll see another 7-11 and you turn left that's the main street. We ended up taking a bus to Minami Rinkan Station (南林間) by luck that it came right by, which belongs to Odakyū Enoshima Line (小田急江ノ島線) towards Shinjuku direction (新宿行) and switched train at Shin-Yurigaoka (新百合ケ丘)and headed up to Puroland at Tama Plaza ((小田急多摩センター).
If you're going, good luck... have someone local call for you in case you need more help. But the level of English in a non-commerical area is very slim, so be prepared.
TEL 046-298-1800
営業時間 9:00~18:00
Promenade de Kitty (bakery)
Kanagawa-ken Zama-shi小松原2丁目23−30
Tel: 046-298-1800
Hours: 9a-6p
*this is the only Hello Kitty Bakery in the entire country of Japan*

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Airport and Airplane food

My orders of the entires are all wrong because I totally forgotten about these pics I took of the journey from Hong Kong to Tokyo. Amazingly, the airport has a wide variety of food at the airport. They have the traditional Chinese (i.e. noodle & congee) to dim sum, to set meals, to Burger King. I thought I saw Italian and seafood bar as well. So you'll definitely not starve at the airport, not only that, you would be pleasantly surprise how decent the food and food choices are.

That said, one of the 'fast food chains' in Hong Kong set up shop in the airport food court. I had to highlight the fact that they are 'fast food' like that is because their fast food is not the run of
the mill fast food you and I are used to in the States. We have the McDonald's, KFCs, Burger Kings. Don't get me wrong, they have those too, but their version of fast food is really a cooked meal fast. They have rice dishes, noodle dishes, play on traditional Chinese dishes but fast. So, yes, they are 'fast food' but not as bad for you as the other ones.

I got the soy sauce chow mein, which is very traditional dim sum dish. It's oily and greasy, but that's kinda the charm of it. I'm not quite sure why they put a slice of ham on top like that's giving me the protein I needed. My mom got the set breakfast. As you can see, that's a ton of food but seems to be just right. Urm, hello, they still have this thing called portion! The set breakfast comes with macaroni and ham, broth style, cup of coffee, sausage and egg. For about $40HKG, which is a little more than $5USD you get all that food. It's really a bargain.

The other surprise I had when going to Tokyo was that the other airlines are still serving the food meals we once know and love on the plane. Yes, you can insert the airplane food jokes here, but look at the presentations, even if the food is not that great, you don't see these in the States anymore. You do see something similar on International flights by US airline companies, but let me tell you, something about the foreign airlines that they are doing it up right and you do feel special flying like they do back in the glamourous days.

That said, since alot of Japanese fly that flight, they suit the menu to the audience. They have chicken w/ rice and some veggies, soba noodles (yes w/ wasabi) a cake and a roll. Yes, it's weird, but that's part of the lunch. I would say that the entree and the noodle is good enough to fill you up. That's 2 starches so on top of the cake and the bread, you're really starched up.

Upon arrival, it was dinner time after we settled down. Across the way from the hotel is this cute little restaurant, and again this is the Asian Fast Food... you put money in the vending machine, turn that into the counter and they give you food. The problem is that we don't speak a lick of Japanese, the pictures we see at the outside of the store, which lured us into the restaurant doesn't have a picture inside. So when we tried to paid we don't know which one to pick.

How nice was this little lady who spoke more English than the front desk of the hotel, came up and helped us. Except, she picked the Special they're offering instead of what we wanted. But it was late, we were greatful someone spoke English and helped us. So, we ended up with tempura over rice, which by itself is already tons. But the special came w/ soba noodle, which is another style of making it than the one from the plane. This is w/ warm soup and usually soba is w/ cold sauce, and that gives it a different flavor. And again, that's tons of starch. But since that little old lady was so nice to us, we felt very much obligated. Most of these places offer you water for sure, and they do have tea bags for green tea, not much of a soda nation, altho most of them for extra $100yen, you can get a small cup with your meal.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tokyo Day 1

So, the first day we went to Asakusa in the Northeast part of Tokyo metroplex. I've always seen pictures of Asakusa temple growing up. This is such an icon for Japan and what they represents, their tradition despite the fact that we're probably driving a Japanese car or use any Japanese appliance at our home representing how much technology they have to offer.

After the morning touring, we were hungry for some real Japanese food. "Real" being made by someone really, truly born Japanese. Not like the Japanese food in Texas that is made by some underpaid migrant worker. Just as hard working just not authentic.

Anyway, they are very much into set lunches. Unlike in the States, they come with soup and small sides. Oh yeah, they have the proper portion on food too. I *heart* Japan!

The first one was spicy curry sauce with ham over rice. They come with miso soup and veggies. Of course, that glass of green thing is melon soda. Urm, yeah, if you ever go to the World of Coca Cola and get to the tasting room, you'd get to taste the sodas they offer all over the world and this is one of them. Mind you, it doesn't taste like melon just more like fizzy green soda.

The next thing I love it there is my favorite bean paste pastry. Basically, it's a soft waffle on the outer shell, inside they have red bean paste traditionally. That day I've seen one filled with cheese, apple & cheese, chestnut, pastachio, and strawberry. What I like about that is the new shape they have. As you can see, this is a birdie and a lantern like the one hanging on Asakusa's temple.

They have tons of booths that sell these. Some do it with a machine, which fill the molds put the fillings and bake them. Once it's baked it seal them into little packs. I did find 2 booths that did them by hand.

At night we walked down to a Curry Shop around our area. It's very neat that you buy a ticket from the vending machine. Then you take the ticket to the counter and they give you water and food. Of course, we don't know a lick of Japanese, so we relied heavily on pictures. There's no telling if we're getting exactly what we see, the pictures on the vending machine is tiny (that fits the buttons) so there are no way to see if you're getting exactly what we thought we are ordering.

The way they operate feels like going to Waffle House style that just cooks you your food right in front of you, except not cheap or greasy or dirty. Of course most of the food is pre-measured and needed to heated up. It just the Japanese fast food. It literally did not take more than 5 mins. There are businessmen that just comes in after work, on their way home, and just grab one of these meals. You do get alot for little price. I would say most of time we paid less than 5 dollars US per person per meal. So, I can totally dig this type of fast food.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hong Kong Day 1 ~ Food.

The first thing I usually do when I get off the plane is to fine my favorite food that I don't get when I'm in the States. Most of them aren't super awesome good, 90% of it is really sentimental reasons.
The first thing I do is to gothese mom and pop shops and order fried cheung fun w/ plum sauce and soy sauce fried noodels. It's not that this place in particular famous for this dish or anything. As a matter of fact, you can get this dish in almost all neighborhood, almost everyone has a shop in every neighborhood. Unlike 7-11s and Circle Ks, which were neck-to-neck 3 per block and one set for 7-11 and one set for Circle K.

The soy sauce fried noodle is very no frills. It's really cooked noodles w/ soy sauce. This dish is mostly found during dim sum but slowly went to the streets. They usually have these at shops that sells cheung fun but they also have them at the tea restaurant. What exactly is a tea restaurant, it's really a small scale 'fast food' restaurant that serves everything from egg an
d toast to noodles like this, to fried rice, to congee. A variety of things...

For lunch, we went to Stanley Market which is a tourist hot spot. It's mostly known for it's flea market style shopping. 90% of them are souvenir related but occasionally you can find some good deals on factory outlet or something like that. I used to come here all the time because there's a beach near by and it's not very deep and that's the closest 'beach' there is. Now that I'm grown, that place seems small. When I was younger, I felt like we can walk and walk and walk on forever. Now, we polished it w/in an hour. Mind you take about just that much to get there thru this windy 2-way road that took alot of skills to avoid the mountain on one side and on coming traffic w/ the other. Let's just say one lady sitting in front of us was squealing because she knew back home you wouldn't drive that way.

Anyway, the food we had also from the reminiscent category. It's fish egg (not roe/caviar) noodle w/ iced lemon tea. Here's the thing about drinking tea in Hong Kong, most of them are already sweeten w/ a couple of exception. They use syrup to help sweeten whatever cold. None of the pink stuff, blue stuff or yellow stuff. It's straight shot to the tea.

This noodle dish is super easy. It's egg noodle w/ this fish mixture in a shape of a ball and some yummy soup, and there you have it. We added some Chinese broccoli for good vegetable serving.

For dinner, my aunt and my uncle, sister and brother of my mom respectively, wanted to have dinner w/ us. My aunt picked this Teochew or Chaozhou Cuisine. Chaozhou is a providence of China. While they share characters w/ the Chinese language, the way they speak it is entirely different. When my family get together and talk excitingly, that's what they speak. They are known to be very fiery people. Everytime they talk it feels like they're yelling at each other.

Anyway, their food is supposed to be famous. For this one restaurant in particular is so famous that he opened 3 shops all 3 next to each other w/ a couple of things in between. And it was funny as we walked up and tell them how many in our party, they asked if we have any reservations. Before they moved into the shops, they cooked on the side of the street. Who was taking reservations then?! But after waiting for 4o mins we got our table. This is located on Upper Central where there's still alot of Chaozhou people live and conduct import/export business there. They mostly deal w/ rice or dried goods and they still use an abacus to calculate things.

That said, their food used to be cooked on the side of the street but they are known of seafood. You can read more about the cuisine characateristic here. We had the meat platter, which as fattening that must've been, it was good. All were braised in one shape or another. There are pork, chicken, tofu, and I don't remember if there was duck or not. Then we had the cold crab. We also ordered fried oysters and they gave us a dessert and the Gungfu tea. It is said to help you be strong... I'm thinking it's because it's loaded w/ caffeine, but hey... That's part of the tradition.

Meals in Hong Kong

Friday, November 12, 2010

Going International

This new few entries will be Patty going international. I have a leave from work, so decided to go 'home' for the time I have. Home is actually Hong Kong, but we'll be side tripping to Tokyo as well.

That said, let me just tell you that nowadays airline service not only horrible, they don't give you peanuts or pretzels anymore. But for the low low price you too can get whatever you want, just select it from a menu. No, seriously, we went on board and the front pocket has your usual barf bag, the airline's magazine, the SkyMall, and now this menu. It cost $2 for a prepackaged muffin, and by the way, they don't take cash. So the 'correct change is always appreciated' is no longer needed. They only take charge anyway. They have anything from breakfast such as muffin, parfait to classic snack box that cost $5. Yeah, it's not exactly worth my money. For now, soda and water are still free.

Now, International flights on the other hand, night and day difference. We are served 3 meals and free movies. I must've watched 4 movies, 5 tv shows and just dozed off in between. But don't worry, I didn't missed the food portion.

Dinner wasn't half bad. I had the beef and rice w/ salad. It's very no frills. Beff w/ sauce and rice. You have some
vegetable and that's about that. They had a triple brownie on the tray, but I kept it for later.

Almost till about 4 hrs when we are getting ready to land, they served 'snack'. Which was cheeseburger and ice cream. Don't get me how they came up w/ that combo... but such as it is. I skipped the burger and stuck w/ ice cream; and added my triple brownie. So, here's the thing... the ice cream is good, but the brownie wasn't so much, which was disappointing because I had hope it'd be yummy and good. But it wasn't.

An hour before we land, they served 'breakfast. It was either omlete or Chinese noodles. They were trying to mimic the Chinese street noodle where it is essentially fried noodle plus soy sauce to give it that flavor and color. Now? Well, the airplane meal was hard and crunchy. They did come w/ dumplings except it was totally dried up.

Overall, I say it's not the best food ever, but for airplane food, you can't ask for more... sad, but true.

Service/Menu by Continental Airlines.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

McDonald's... hmm

First it's people getting married at Mickey D's...

Would you like a wife with that? McDonald's offers weddings | CNNGo.com

Then, you get a lady who shows you what a Happy Meal looks like in 6 months.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010


So, Anthony Bourdain of No Reservations was in town. Of course, other than being a chef, a tv host of TV show and guest judge for several other reality shows; he's also a writer.

That said, last night at the Jones Hall talking to a sold out crowd. There are people from all walks of life that was there. I'm presuming that it is really because of his show, honestly I was hoping more foodie there. Whose to say that they're not, but from some of the questions in q&a you can tell that they're there because of his show. (Yes, I'm a snob, so sued me)

Anyway, this 'speaking engagement' was really good, in my opinion. Now, albeit that I am not a food nerd that goes out to buy his books and watch every show he's on. But from what I heard the entire speaking engagement was almost verbatim of the book. To me, it's a good rambling from him. He has some good stories to tell and some sidebar antidote.

Some reviews I've read were harsh as though, you don't need to waste your money to see him live just read the book for $19.99. Here's the thing, not that I don't like to read, or his books (haven't gave it an honest try yet), but the real thing is not the same as words on pages. So, as pissed as these people are, I don't agree. It's like would you like to hear a story at storytime or would you rather sit there and read it yourself? Well... ok then.

So, after he talked for over an hour, about how to be a greatful American traveling aboard rather than the stereotypical ugly American with those ugly shorts with black socks with white sneakers. Go eat what the locals eat. One of the stories he told was that he was sent to a restaurant that is spotless with several other foreigners. That's a sign that you should run the other way because that's not where the locals go. He said he passed by a taco truck that is at some construction site with 50 people lined up waiting in line, THAT's the place you want to be at.

The Q&A that was annoying... some people were like, I want your job how can I get it? Urm... you're not that lucky. There's this one girl was basically doing self-promotion when she got a chance to ask him a question, that's just annoying... dude... it's about the guy, his book, his show, his experience, not to promote your own agenda. Grrr. Some people was asking dumb things like how to eat good meat without bone. WTF?! Urm... yeah.

Overall, I enjoyed his talk. He made sure to ham things up and not be a generic asshole act that I know that he is capable of doing. Even if the show is verbatim of his book. I take a dose of the real Bourdain any day over words on pages.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Let's talk macaron, shall we? Not the coconut w/ chocolate ones, but the French ones... you know the one w/ only one 'o' instead of 2.
Anyway, the recipe I tried this weekend is here. This is a better recipe that I've tried. I think too that since I know how to do it, I did alot of prep work overnight. First thing you should do ahead of time is set the egg whites aside ahead of time. And take it from me, using pre-made egg white yield to a very different result. This time I used real eggs and separated them apart the night before.

I was baking something else and I thought while I was at it, I also went ahead and sift the flour ahead of time. Here's another tip for you, do not use the sifter that has 2 layer sift. In theory, that was a good idea, but in reality, you can't clean that thing. What's more ridiculous was that I was searching online if there's any info on how to clean, some people say don't clean it. WTF??? You need to have to have a way to clean it because stuff gets stuck and it will remain stuck in between the layers. Bleh! Either use a grinder style to sift or use a tamis. A tamis will be a pain, and your arm will hate you the following day, but it will get the job done and cheap.

That said, this time around, I didn't achieve the 'feet' that a French Macaron would. Unlike last time w/ the beginners luck. However, the taste of the cookie was not shabby. The consistency was good. According to recipe, it was supposed to bake for 11-13 mins. Personally, I left them in there while working on piping the batter and about 16 mins or so, and that was nice and golden brown. Now, I have yet to try to add food coloring in there, so that obviously will come into play. But for plain janes, wait till they are golden brown.

The whole piping thing too, there's a trick to it. I used a size 12 piping tip and as someone described, its like making a chocolate kiss and have that little tip on top. When it bakes, the tip disappear. So, don't worry.

That said, I did space them out, and made them smaller. Last time I made them too big. But, because there's nothing in the batter to raise the dough, it won't expand more than what you pipe out. Oh, and parchment paper, saved my butt. If it's golden brown, it'll pop out nice and easy. If it's not golden brown (read: under baked) it will stick. As a matter of fact, it sticks together even a day after it's been out of the oven.

Another thing to note, the recipe only called for 4 ingredients, but when in fact, they had left out granulated sugar. You need granulated sugar in order to whip the egg white (and a pinch of salt) to nice and stiff peaks. From my research, 2 tsp of sugar slowly added will do the trick.

Now, on to the filling. This recipe has a nice little ganache filling. I must say, it wasn't as difficult as I thought it'd be. It came out pretty nice too. I'd figured that it'd be over empowering-ly sweet. But it came out nice and easy. When you put it between the two almond cookies, it balances out nicely.

One thing I would say on that recipe is that it yielded way too much ganache. Now, maybe I'm not generous enough with the filling, which I didn't think that was the case because I squish them nicely and neatly. Not alot of overages coming out of the cookie. So, don't know. But let me tell you, when I was done w/ the cookies, I had to throw away half of the ganache batch, I felt very sad. :(

All in all, great recipe. If I were to do this again, this will be my go-to. It has only 5 ingredients that you can easily locate. Yes, you do have prep work to do ahead of time. But if you do half of them the day before you bake, it came out to be pretty easy.

Don't forget the sifting tip, don't forget your granulated sugar, cut the ganache recipe in half, and you're good to go!