When a blueberry met a pancake

In Food, Hong Kong, Pancakes on April 16, 2013 by triotriotrio Tagged: , , , ,


A sad showing for a dish with such rich heritage

Throughout history there have been great food meetings. When peanut butter met jelly, ice cream and the cone and the hot dog and the bun, these are just a few.

But I would like to think that when the blueberry met the pancake, this encounter was just as important as the previous encounters mentioned. I have no historical proof, but I imagine that the blueberry is responsible for the pancake filling phenomena. The humble and simple blueberry took the pancake to its next level of greatness.

I enjoy a plain pancake but the ones that really get me excited are the ones that a little more complex.

Saffron Bakery

Stanley Beach, Hong Kong

Sunday was a beautiful day. It was clear and warm and I was spending the day checking out an art exhibition along the promenade. Saffron Bakery is an independent bakery that has a reputation for some speculator-baked goods. Their coconut tart is one of my favorites. As you can imagine, I was excited to see that the Sunday special was Blueberry Pancakes.

I will not go into much detail because they were a complete failure. The experience would turn me off from ever trying them again.

Low points:

1. Thimble of syrup, just plain stingy

2. No sides (butter or powered sugar)

3. Starchy (heavy and undercooked, I could detect pieces of uncooked baking power in the middle)

High points:

1. The blueberries were the small ripe type that still had a little pop in them.

I am sad to say that the McDonald’s next door serves a finer hotcake at 25% the price. Very disappointing outing especially since I like to support local businesses.

Final Rating:

Some Merit –  ★★



Campy evening

In Food, Hong Kong on April 13, 2013 by triotriotrio Tagged: ,

Too many glasses

Too many glasses

Bon jour

The evening began with our host stating, “Welcome to Burgundy.” But it didn’t look like France; I was clearly overlooking the dense haze of Victoria Harbour, high from the top of the Peak. But I am firm believer in the “suspension of display” so I took Pierre’s welcome and followed him through a five course dinner that included eight wine pairings.

All of the wines are from Maison Champy. The remarkable thing was the diversity that each wine brought to the conservation. Whites and reds combined to make a special evening. I cannot remember ever attending such an event. My initial thought was, “this is too much wine.” But I did my best to push through for the sake of science and adventure.


Home-cured salmon and caviar with steamed crabmeat frittata les suchots

Champy, Chardonnay Signature, 2007

Champy, Pernand-Vergeelesses Blanc, 2009

Cream of Jerusalem artichokes scented with black truffle oil

Champy, Chassagne-Montrachet, 2009

Champy, Puligny-Montrachet Blanc, 2009

Oven-roast crisp supreme of Petaluma duck

Champy, Pinot Noir Signature, 2009

Champy, Beaune Vieille Vigne, 2008

Brie de Meaux Sandwich with sweet onion relish and affila cress

Champy, Aloxe Corton, 2008

Champy, Vosne Romanee 1er Cru “Les Suchots”, 2009

Roasted almond sable, Valrhona guanaja chocolate tart white espresso gelato and caramel foam


Thank you to the staff of Café Deco who hosted the dinner. It was a wonderful experience.

Champy dinner


Pancake by any other name

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


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

“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.


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.


Crepes Are Not Pancakes

In Food, Pancakes on December 4, 2011 by triotriotrio Tagged:

When I see pancakes on a menu, I expect to get pancakes. But sometimes pancakes are actually crepes. What is the difference?

I believe the fundamental difference is that crepes are meant to be a delivery mechanism for something else. The best crepes are often touted for the wonderful berry flavor or that chocolate hazelnut spread.

But pancakes are different because the spongy grilled cake is the main actor on the stage with the syrup, berry compote or the powered sugar as merely a supporting role.

Note to self – when abroad consider what is meant by “pancake” on the menu. Because in the end it may actually pancake’s French cousin the crepe.

Corinthia Hotel London
“Pancake” 1 Star


Starbucks Pancakes

In Food, Pancakes on December 3, 2011 by triotriotrio

Starbucks Pancakes 

As a child I always loved traveling to far away places. That is because I would get to try the regional specialities of the local McDonald’s. Whether it was the Lobster Roll in Maine or the peach pies in Georgia.

With that sense of adventure I had to try the pancakes at the London Starbucks.

My local Starbucks doesn’t have pancakes. I ordered them with a sense of adventure, not believing they would be any good.

Point one – no syrup. Point two – rubbery.
Point three – premade and then toasted.

Overall score: 2

It scored a 2 mainly because I appreciate the effort.


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