For a friend’s birthday dinner, I recently made these stuffed peppers, which were paired with an asparagus and mushroom frittata and went well with some red wine. Even though 1) my inattentiveness resulted in the peppers’ overcaramelization in their first trip to the oven and 2) I accidentally left out the capers I had planned to include in the stuffing, I still thought it turned out decent. The scallions provided both an onion-y and grassy edge and the (canned) tuna added some texture and saved it from being a vegetarian-friendly dish, which is always a plus . Perhaps if all goes as planned next time, the result will be closer to the fabulousness I had originally envisioned.
A few weeks back, one of my fellow foodies suggested a “day of progressive eating.” The idea was novel to me and the territory unknown — an entire day devoted exclusively to eating – and I’m always one for stretching myself and my stomach capacity, so I eagerly got onboard. This also gave us an excuse to try some of the best-rated restaurants in Hong Kong according to the local food website, openrice.com. An itinerary was mapped out: 11 restaurants/food stalls were chosen for the task, most within walking distance of each other, cuisines spanning Chiu Chow, Malaysian, Thai, and local Hong Kong specialties like wonton noodles.
Our first stop was a place I had been meaning to visit for months, Australian Dairy Company. I’ve heard nothing but the highest praise for this restaurant’s simple fare of eggs, toast, and macaroni soup. At the entrance I ran into some friends of my parents, who apparently recognized me even though I had not the slightest clue who they were (and still don’t). It’s always a bit awkward and disorienting when people you don’t know claim to know (of) you.
Though I didn’t know it at the time, ADC was to be my favorite restaurant of this day. But the scrambled eggs and thick-cut toast were spot-on and satisfying in the visceral way that only foods like scrambled eggs and toast could. I could see why even the humble-sounding macaroni soup had secured a faithful following, as the salty broth with supermarket ham tidbits and elbow macaroni could very well be the Hong Kong equivalent of chicken noodle soup.
Australian Dairy Company:
47-49 Parkes St, Jordan
Scrambled eggs with toast.
As I was reaching to grab some milk cartons this morning at 7-11, I jerked back in silent exclamation when I noticed that to the left of the milk section, there was a display of assorted sushi and hand rolls for sale. I studied it curiously for a moment, taking in the neat rows of individually-wrapped servings in such ‘flavors’ as radioactive green seaweed, a burnt orange seafood concoction, and dried pork floss. I’ve long accustomed myself to the 7′s curried fish balls, garlic-laced ramen noodles, and those shiny mystery meat hot dogs churning slowly on the electric grill, all party to the certain kind of fast food the 7 specializes in. But the sushi definitely caught me off guard, even if it may not be sushi proper. I haven’t tried it yet though I’ll be sure to, but in the mean time, I wonder if this taking of the supermarket/deli-zation of sushi one step further is contributing to the denigration or democratization of it. THoughts?
Tteokbokki with eggplant has quickly become one of my go-to dishes. This is only my 4th or 5th time cooking it — though that’s probably the most I’ve ever cooked a single dish — but I’m confident I have this one in my back pocket. By that, I mean I know what to look for in the supermarket, how to prep everything, how long I’ll need to cook it, and have thought up enough variations to keep it interesting.
When I dog-earred this pound cake recipe from Nicole Rees via Serious Eats, I had every intention of making pound cake loaves that were true to form. The tender, golden crust and moist, rich crumb spoke to me this rainy morning, and having superfluous sticks of butter in my fridge did not hurt. After removing the loaves from the oven and letting them cool, I eagerly prodded the cakes out of the loaf pans, only to discover that they would not budge. Even after knifing clean the sides, the cakes resisted removal. And when the tops of my loaves finally did break free, the lower halves did not follow, remaining stubbornly clung to my insufficiently-buttered pan bottoms. So much for proper pound cake. But, rather than mope around and proclaim the failure of a lost cause, this blog entry by David Lebovitz on the non-difference between banana bread and banana cake sprung to mind. Who needs pound cake in bread-shaped form, anyway? So I scraped everything out and packed it all — tops, bottoms, pan crumbs — into a casserole dish and baked this collection of former pound cakes for an additional 10 minutes. Dress with some makeshift chocolate ganache to hide the blemishes and voila, the end product bears a strong resemblance to the classic yellow cake with chocolate frosting, which, like blessed few things in life, never goes out of style.
Recipe: lemony chickpea and vegetable medley
In Hong Kong, summer is looming. I say looming because to me, summer in Hong Kong is far from a good thing. Granted, it makes for nice beach weather (as i found out this past weekend) and gives you license to whip out those flowy dresses and flesh-baring attire. But when you’re not lounging out on the sand or riding the waves, the humidity can be brutal, like a layer of plastic wrap clinging to your skin whenever you step outside. Throw in the crowds, compactness, and overall congested nature of Hong Kong, and the unpleasant effects of the air only multiply. I remember arriving here last summer amazed that people willingly subject themselves to a place as sticky and suffocating as Hong Kong in August.
Last weekend, I made the trek to Cheung Chau Island for its annual Bun Festival. As expected, the island was packed, mostly with local Hong Kongers who ferry-ed their way over for a day of buns and fun in the sun. Along the ferry pier and all around town, vendors peddled adorable bun-themed paraphernalia and, of course, food. The festival’s namesake is a simple steamed white bun filled with traditional lotus paste and emblazoned in pink with the Chinese characters for ‘peace’ (so I’m told). For the entire day these buns were sold up and down every street, filling the air with puffs of smoke and the sweet smell of fresh mantou.
The last-minute cancellation of a potluck left LJ (L and J) with lots of chicken breasts and mangoes to use up. Luckily for them I was one call away and, being the good samaritan that I am, came running to the rescue. They each decided on a dish to cook that made use of both ingredients, with me serving as a guest judge a la Frank Bruni. I love cooking, but this was totally their show, and it was a rare treat for me to step back and simply wait for the dinner bell to toll.
Diminutive as their kitchen is (though not shabby by HK standards), all year I’ve envied the fact that they actually have one. Some action shots:
Part J of LJ went with a curry chicken and mango salad — competitor 1:
Part L decided on an Americanized stir-fry of chicken with red onions, bell peppers, and mango — competitor 2:
The competition-neutral string beans with garlic:
The beautiful, bountiful spread: the main dishes were supplemented by croissants, a farmer’s loaf, some raw onions and celery, and white rice. Definitely a home-cooked meal with high visual appeal. They even whipped out the chopstick holders – major style points for the hosts. Both dishes were sexy, but I think we all agreed that the curry salad won out this time – the moist and aromatic chicken with crunchy bits of celery tucked into the buttery, slightly sweet croissants provided a wonderful interplay of flavors and textures. L’s stir-fried chicken was also satisfying in its own way, answering my craving for the American-style Chinese food that was a staple of my high school years, when I’d work the counter at Ruby Palace on weekends (the name alone says all you need to know).
Cheers to a job well done
You would be hard-pressed to find a guidebook on Hong Kong that doesn’t mention afternoon tea at The Peninsula as a “must-do.” As such, I felt obligated to go at least once during my year here, even though 1) I am not a tourist and 2) the institution is an overindulgent glorification of the region’s colonial past. It also just seemed like a fun, moderately-priced midday outing that would let me feign classiness for a day. Classy I am not.
It’s often difficult mustering up the energy to cook for one. Combined with a severe lack of kitchen space/appliances and the fact that casual Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong are ubiquitous and cheap (a large steaming bowl of soup noodles with a generous topping of ground pork and pickled vegetables is about $3.50US), it also just tends not to be worth doing, practically speaking. And in instances when the calling for cookery overwhelms the pragmatism within, the results are spotty and always well short of sublime. While I might get a healthier, heartier, or more rewarding meal from my pains, the principles of cooking for one — time-efficiency, minimal use of cookware, adherence to the tried and true — do not lend themselves to effecting extraordinary, or even memorable, gastronomic experiences. Every once in awhile, however, the stars in one’s culinary universe will align, and the joint efforts of a craving, idea/recipe, and the final execution (especially when the dish calls for nothing more than tossing and blending) forge a harmonious, delightful sensory interlude.
Such was the case earlier this week. I came back late at night from a particularly wearisome tutoring session, badly craving something light and refreshing. Hong Kong restaurant food is anything but “light and refreshing,” so I was forced to look elsewhere, namely at own two hands, to conquer this beast. I had a pack of Japanese cucumbers and some corn and mentally fast forwarded to the summer, when pureeing such ingredients to concoct a chilled soup would have been a no-brainer. While the weather wasn’t perfect, the timing was, and this recipe was an ideal guide while allowing some room for improv.
Chilled corn and cucumber soup:
- serves 3-4 as an appetizer or 2 as a main -
(Adapted from sassy radish)
1 can corn (reserve can juice)
3 Japanese cucumbers
juice of 1 lime
1 clove of garlic, minced
diced jalapeno peppers to taste
salt and pepper to taste
1 200g cup of plain yogurt
(Possible additions: avocado, tomatillos, onion, cashews, cilantro)
Cut cucumbers into 1 inch pieces. Combine cucumbers with lime juice and salt, and let rest for a few minutes to draw out water.
Combine cucumber mixture with remaining ingredients and pulse in blender until you reach desired consistency. Add corn juice as needed.
Season to taste and preferably chill before serving.