Archive for the ‘Updates’ Category

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Just another day

In Updates on July 4, 2013 by triotriotrio Tagged: ,

Flag from Fort McHenry

Flag from Fort McHenry

Is the 4th just another day?

It is in Hong Kong. This is my third Fourth of July in Hong Kong and I find myself a little more reflective than usual. I do not tend to be a flag carrying, apple pie eating kind of person but being away from America at these key junctures and has given me a new perspective on what it means to be an American.

I find myself not only missing the food and places but also the small nuances that make us unique. On a recent trip to America I was totally absorbed into listening to the accents. I was savoring the turn of phrases that people use. And I especially soaked in the patriotic symbols that are around every corner that only came to my light when they were absent so long.

So Happy Birthday USA!

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Arrivederci Pizzeria Publico

In Food,Hong Kong,Updates on July 1, 2013 by triotriotrio Tagged: , ,

NYPI know that I am not the first person to contemplate New York pizza. Though its origins are obviously Italian, early immigrant to the New World made it their own. In a process of reverse migration, the pizza returned to Europe and later to the rest of the world, even Hong Kong.

When I consider the New York pizza, I believe there are certain elements that distinguish it from other varieties:

  • Thin crust
  • Pliable (ideally eaten by folding the piece in half)
  • Cut into long tapering triangle slices
  • Basic ingredients (marinara sauce, mozzarella, fresh basil, pepper flakes, and hard cheese topping)*

Though there are a lot of choices when it comes to pizza in Hong Kong, Pizzeria Publico (PP) has in recent years has distinguished itself as a slice above the rest in the New York genre. Situated in the heart of Soho, PP provided an informal locale where one could buy an individual slice, a cold beer and a deli sandwich.

I was dishearted to learn that the owners had shut down their little shop and relocated to Queen’s Road Central. PP has been folded into their Linguini Fini location.

Since PP has been relocated I had the opportunity to visit and do a small evaluation. I understand that Hong Kong rents are high and it is difficult to run a small business but the consolidation of the two locations does not work.

There are three points that I would like to make in this regard:

  • Pizza can no longer be bought by the slice
  • They have removed their deli sandwiches from the menu
  • The casual nature has now been replaced by a formal dining area

The pizza is still good but I can longer think of this a pizza parlor. The unique space located off the escalator has been lost. That little piece of New York is gone and PP has faded into the endless number of Hong Kong pizzerias that strive to make a good pizza but just can’t make the cut.

Arrivederci Pizzeria Publico – I will miss you!

* This is not intended to be a definitive list

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Pancake by any other name

In Food,Hong Kong,Pancakes,Updates on April 8, 2013 by triotriotrio

JQBC

JQ and the Beggar’s Chicken

The Ching Ming Festival in Hong Kong is one of the traditional Chinese holidays that give people an opportunity to remember and honor their ancestors at gravesites. Sometimes known as Tomb Sweeping Day, it is a family day where remembrance and celebration are combined to create a special period where busy families can be together.

Like many Hong Kong holidays, I feel a little out of touch. I have no tombs to visit and no relatives to commune with. But like many expats I have taken the opportunity to embrace the day and celebrate it my own way. After all, a day off is a day off.

It was on this occasion that I celebrated with several friends (new and old) at a traditional Chinese restaurant. This place is best known for their Peking duck and their Beggar’s chicken. This is a dish that the chicken is baked in a clay enchasing with herbs and other spices. The clay hardens during the cooking process and one of the joys of this dish is one of the luck party gets to take a big hammer and smash it open. It is delicious.

The meal came to an end and the dessert menu appeared. There are several points that I would like to make at this juncture:

  1. After such a gluttonous meal, there was no need for dessert
  2. Chinese desserts tend to be very different from Western desserts
  3. Pancakes are not a dessert dish

It is times like this that I should forgo with dessert but the menu did sport two pancake selections, and being a person with a considerable curiosity, it was imperative to try them. The first pancake had a red bean filling and the second had a date filling.

“A pancake by any other name would be just as sweet”

The problem is that these were not pancakes. Like many other products on the streets of Hong Kong, things are called pancakes but in reality they are not. As a reminder, a pancake must meet four criteria:

  1. It must be made from a batter (flour based which is in liquid form before cooking)
  2. Must be prepared on a grill
  3. Must have a topping
  4. Two sided
c-pancakes

“Pancakes” – photos by J Theunissen

As I suspected, these pancake imposters were in fact fritters. For simplicity sake, I will rate them based on the criteria standard.

  1. The mixture was made from a dough rather than a batter
  2. They were deep-fried
  3. No topping
  4. As stated, they had a filling

I will acknowledge that they were good, especially the date one. The deep-frying process however made them far too saturated with oil.

Hong Kong is a world city that gives the outsiders a unique insight to the Chinese diaspora. Along the way, culture has a way of getting side tracked and the nuances that make something so unique are lost. In the same way that I will never quite understand Tomb Sweeping Day, I am not sure if Chinese people will really understand the pancake.

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The Pancake Queen

In Food,Pancakes,Updates,Vacation on December 30, 2011 by triotriotrio Tagged:

Nestled in the heart of the Ferringi neighborhood of Penang is a wonderful night market. It is a great setup. Haukers are lined up around the periphery and hundreds of picnic tables are in the center. Each table has a number and when you place your order at a stall you tell the attendant your table number and when the food is prepared they bring it to your table and collect the money.

This night market really has it all. Traditional Malay dishes like satay were available right off the coals. Indian food was abundant. The absolute best vindaloo I ever had was there. And there were also Chinese and Western stalls from everything from hamburgers to roast lamb.

But it was the sign that first caught my attention: The Pancake Queen. Let me begin by saying that I am suspicious of any royal titles when it comes to food preparation. With the Papaya King hotdog stand in New York City as a notable exception, titles often don’t stand up to the hype.

I was pleasantly surprised when I inspected the pancake menu to discover that in fact these were indeed pancakes and not those flat rice wafers that are sometimes served with some Thai dishes. No – these were cakes from the griddle complete with maple syrup and an endless number of toppings.

I quickly scanned the selections: strawberry, chocolate chip, pecan, sourdough, gingerbread, apple, cinnamon and the list went on and on. Each selection was accompanied with its own photo.

I was overwhelmed. In part because I had no expectation to find pancakes on this trip and to boot pancakes of such variety. Over two separate visits I tried two creations. I wish I had had more time to try them all.

Banana and Walnut

This is a classic combination. In some ways this was my first choice because it is such a diner staple that it provided a great point of comparison. Hands down this was the finest assembled stack that I have ever had.

In Chinese cooking, wok dishes are often cooked separately and the at the end all the wonderful pieces are put together. This dish was made in that same spirit.

The cakes were grilled, light and had wonderful lift. They were complex but were not overpowering. The walnut concoction was not mixed into the batter, but the nuts had been lightly toasted and candied to make them slightly sweet and sticky. This treatment allowed easy fork grabbing of equal portions of nuts to cake. Maple syrup – check. Light dusting of powered sugar – check. Butter pat – check. Scoop of premium vanilla ice cream – check. Lastly a whole banana split down the middle was placed on top. It had been sautéed in butter and was firm but tender to the fork.

★★★★★ Five Stars – it was a beautiful presentation and not a single addition could have made them better. Total cost – $3.00

Raisin Mix

Raisins are not a traditional pancake topping. I went with raisins as a second choice because I wanted to see how far the Pancake Queen could push her talents. Was she so bold that she thought she could pull this off or did she have the chops to impress me again?

The first bite made me immediately think of fruitcake. But good fruitcake! Perhaps this was a seasonal offering? But where fruitcake can be dry and stale this was moist and full of taste.

I quickly drifted off to a childhood dream where I thought of coming in from a fictitious sled ride, cheeks all rosy. There was snow on the ground and a roaring fire. On the kitchen table was a prepared stack of my mom’s pancakes waiting for me.

I awoke from the dream to discover that I was in southeast Asia, it was 85 degrees, the air was filled with gnats, I was sitting at a rickety table with an unknown Chinese family and that my reality was better than my fantasy.

★★★★★ Five Stars – Total cost – $3.00. I did not think it was possible to take a well-known entity like fruitcake and improve upon it to the point where I will never again be happy with Christmas cake.

I asked her majesty, the Pancake Queen for a photo that she happy to oblige a humble servant an audience. I got the feeling she gets this requests a lot. I walked away with a feeling of regret. It’s never going to get any better than this I thought.

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Hong Kong Thanksgiving

In Updates on November 25, 2011 by triotriotrio

Hong Kong Thanksgiving

One of my favorite holiday movies is Christmas Story.  There is a wonderful scene towards the end of the film where the family is forced to go to a Chinese restaurant because their meal is destroyed by the neighbor’s dogs. And although Peking Duck is not turkey, the family does it best to cope with Christmas in a foreign environment.

So I found myself in a similar situation to Raphie this Thanksgiving. No cold weather. No turkey. And no sweet potato casserole. Now some artists work in oils and clay but my sister Dana has perfected the yam medium. She is truly a master.

The highlight was that Jennifer’s parents were here to celebrate with us and in the end it is really about being with family.

We ended up renting a boat and taking a short cruise. It was a beautiful and somewhat lazy day. We feasted at the Rainbow Restaurant on Lamma Island. We enjoyed steamed shrimp, tasty scallops, and a deep fried fish that was out of this world. And amongst the bounty we enjoyed each others company.

When the whole fish arrived at the table I could not help but remark, “The fish is smiling at me.”

Rainbow Restaurant on Lamma Island

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Pirates and Parents

In Hong Kong,Updates on November 6, 2011 by triotriotrio

IMG_2635

Jennifer’s parents arrived on Saturday morning for a three-week visit. We immediately went into a tour mindset. By the end of the first day they had eaten a Chinese meal, floated across the harbor on a ferry, rode the ding ding, and climbed to the top of the peak on the tram. Wow – what a start.  It is important for visitors that have crossed the dateline to stay up as late as possible on the first day or else they will never adjust to the new time difference. I am happy to report, both of our guests crashed Saturday evening and were ready bright and early on Sunday to get started again.

Sunday was intended to be a more laid back day. We decided to take them to the outlying island of Cheung Chau. This island is best known as a notorious hangout of pirates back in the day and the annual bun festival.Fisher Woman

Departing from the Central Piers, we took the ferry to out to the island. It takes about 45 minutes. We took a leisurely walk that turned into a strenuous hike. Along the way there were some wonderful view, wildlife and plant life.

One of the highlights was taking a short sampan ride to the other side of island where we saw the cave of Cheung Po Tsai. He is reported to have stashed all his treasure on the island. IMG_2665

We ended the evening by going to a Japanese restaurant for pork tenderloins. All in all, a pretty good day!

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Chasing the Dragon

In Hong Kong,Updates on October 16, 2011 by triotriotrio

From the top

Today may have been the most beautiful day in Hong Kong since I have arrived. It was a warm day with a gentle breeze along with a sunny sky. The air was also crisp and clean. (Not a usual occurrence for HK) Trail

So we decided to spend some time outdoors. We choose to tackle the Dragon’s Back, which is a well-known hiking trail on the south side of the island. The guidebooks say that it is an easy hike but there were a few tough spots. Shek O

Three things one should know about the hike is:

1. Beautiful Scenery – the trail takes you down the spine of the hill and there are beautiful ocean views on either side. Beaches, home and natural wonders are around every corner. We were also amazed by a paraglider (Watch the video) who was enjoying the day.

2. Lots of spots to rest – Although there are a few spots that are steep, benches and natural stops can be found along the way. Flora

3. One-way – Sometimes the end of the hike is marked by the prospect that you now have to retract one’s steps. However at the end of the trail is a bus stop, which took us to a wonderful outdoor lunch.

All in all it was a pretty perfect day. Paraglider