Tag Archives: travel stories

Wontons in Wanchai

11 Jun

I arrived in Hong Kong late in the evening after a 9 hour flight from Brisbane, feeling jaded and starved. Eager to get to my hotel in Wanchai, I skipped the MTR transfer from Hong Kong Station and jumped into a taxi for a 10 minute ride. I dropped off my bag, showered and went scouting for food.

Wanchai, the suburb I would call home for 5 nights was not only littered with working girls, lager-louts, out of shape drunken expats, Go Go Bars and pubs but also some of the best eateries, offering just about everything imaginable. Options not only include handmade noodles, wonton, soups, barbecued duck and pork, Hainanese chicken, but also Thai and Philippine cuisine to cater for sex workers from those countries.

I roamed around for a while, totally lost in all the variety until I caught a glimpse of an elderly man working the wok in window of a cheap eatery. He looked like he could have been the Mr Miyagi of noodles, so the choice was clear. I stepped into the Wing Wah Noodle Shop and as I made my way to the only vacant table noticed that other diners were either slurping noodles or soup. So I ordered both: shrimp wonton soup with soft egg noodles and within 5 minutes, I was “chop-sticking” noodles and ladling seafood broth. Hiding beneath the noodles were the to-die-for shrimp stuffed wontons, with the softest wrappers, so soft that they were possibly even made that evening. I ended up also ordering the Gai Lan with shrimp powder too and returned twice on separation occasions to try some other dishes, but for me the shrimp wonton noodle soup took the crown.

So that was my run down of my first local meal experience. What else did I savor in Hong Kong during my stay? Unfortunately not as much as I would have liked, at times even wished that I had two stomachs! I’ve included a few photos with a brief description as life on-the-road doesn’t spare me too much time to tell the story of each dish. I hope that you enjoy.

Wing Wah Noodle Shop – Wanchai

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Shrimp Wonton Noodle Soup

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Gai Lan with Shrimp Powder

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Sticky Rice Shop – Soho

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Sticky Rice with bbq pork

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Hawker Stall – Soho

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Hawker Stall Chow Mein with Tofu and Bok Choy

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Dark Soy Rice Noodles with Cuttlefish Balls and a side of Offal Soup – Kowloon

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Menu at Maguro – Wanchai

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Cold Soba Noodles with Canadian Salmon Tataki with Sesame Soy Dressing topped wi Corn Flakes (sounds weird but the crunchy texture was a welcomed surprise)

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Grilled Soft Bone Chicken and Stake (perhaps with was Skate?)

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Grilled Fresh Shitake Mushrooms with Bonito Shavings

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One Dim Sum – Prince Edward (according to the locals probably the best in Hong Kong, well the best I’ve tasted)

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Japanese Boat – TST Ladies Market Area

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Fish Noodle Soup with Seaweed – Can’t remember where (probably a 5am snack)

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Japanese drip coffee – Rabbithole Coffee and Roaster

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Bye Brisbane…Hello Hong Kong

4 Jun

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When major life changes are imminent or being experienced, we can’t help but reflect on where we have been, where we are and where we are going. Right now for me, it’s more about where I’ve been. I’m on a plane, feeling a little overwhelmed and sinking into deep thought. All I have is a medium sized travel bag, some gadgets and memories to take with me, some of which will fade, others nostalgically remembered.

56 months ago, I arrived in Brisbane for a 6 month contract. Everything I had thought would happen, didn’t. I never imagined that I would work in India for a project located in PNG, become single, start a blog, quit smoking, watch a ballet, take up running, cycling and forge friendships with people very different to me. The list is endless. If I could, would I change anything about this experience? Probably not. The whole experience was the sum of all the small decisions I made which I’m totally content with. It’s what has brought me to where I am, made me who I am, now.

What lies ahead? Will I return to live in Brisbane? Nobody really knows. I have a mud map of where I want to be in the future but it’s totally in the hands of opportunity. All I know is that I’m embarking on exciting five week round-the-world trip with the first stop being Hong Kong. Then it’s Dubai, Doha, London, New York, Miami, Orlando, Miami, Houston, Dallas and Sydney. Perhaps from Dallas I may extend my trip, and, continue onto Vegas, revisit San Francisco and drive down to LA. But that hinges on whether a new contract surfaces. Let’s see.

Prior to departure, I reconnected with someone very dear to my heart over a phone call. She asked me an interesting question, at least to me it was: “what are you most excited about?” I admit, it caught me off guard as I had been so engrossed in travel planning that I had almost forgotten about the trip itself. So the thought of interviewing myself came to mind for my first on-the-road post. I wanted to reflect on my expectations and excitement. I hope that you like it! Here goes…

What are you most excited about?
I’m excited about meeting up with my friends who are scattered across the globe. With the exception of Miami, I have at least one friend in each of the cities that I will visit. I’m looking forward to experiencing the pace and energies of both Hong Kong and New York, the contrasts and similarities between them.

Being “another food blogger”, you must be looking forward to discovering new food, right?
My interest in food consumes me as much as I love to consume it. The street food and markets of Hong Kong I hear are not to be missed. Bagels, pizza and hot dogs are a must in NYC so I’m hoping to sink my teeth in the best of the bunch. I’ll be in search of Cuban cuisine in Miami and Texan BBQ, well is there anything else to do in Texas? Alain Ducasse has recently opened a restaurant in Doha so I’m keen on trying that out too. Experiencing unfamiliar food is definitely one of the most exciting part of travelling.

Do you have an itinerary for each city?
Kind of. I have a list of tourist attractions I would like to see but with no real priority. In Hong Kong I really want to just get lost among the crowd, trek up to the Dragon’s back, do an overnight trip to Macau and see the markets. In Dubai, well I’ve been there twice and Doha it’s mostly about job hunting. I’m familiar with London so I’m not planning much except a quick catch up with friends, a run in Hyde Park, dinner on the Thames. In New York its Brooklyn, the Highline, Chelsea Markets and Rockefeller building, MOMA, MMOA, Meat Packing and East Village. Miami, it’s art deco and South Beach. Orlando is all about bonding with my daughter for eight days in Disney World.

Is there anything that you’re uneasy about or weary of?
Hmm, driving. When I travel, I don’t normally drive especially on the left hand side of the car. I will be taking the plunge this time and driving from Miami to Orlando, and, possibly from San Francisco to LA.

Are there any activities that you like to do without fail in every city?
Yes. I’m a big fan of rooftop bars and appreciate an Old Fashion or a glass of bubbly should I be sharing the vista with someone special (wink wink). The attraction for me is being able take in a birds-eye view of the city. For instance, if you’ve tried Aer in Mumbai, At.Mosphere in Dubai, Unique in Sao Paulo, Sky Bar at The Lebua or Vertigo at the Banyan Tree in Bangkok, you won’t be disappointed. I’m also looking forward to Oxo over the Thames and Ink48 in NYC.

Are there any activities that you plan on doing that you haven’t done before?

Yes. I’d never gone out to see a band in a foreign city during my travels and have tickets in hand to see The Boxer Rebellion at Webster Hall in NYC. I’m also aiming to complete a 10km run in each city, weather permitting of course. And just between you and me, maybe even some line-dancing in Texas!

As a frequent traveller, do you have any inside tips for other travellers?
If you have to travel economy, pay extra and get emergency exit row seating. The extra leg room is well worth it, especially on long haul flights.

Order a “special” meal. The truth is no meal is special on a plane even in Business. However, ordering a special meal means that you get your meal quickly, can eat at a reasonable pace instead of scoffing it down, and in doing so can get on with other things that you like. Even better, bring your own food. On a 16 hour direct flight from Vancouver to Sydney, I packed some leftover kale pie, nuts and bliss balls. It was definitely better than anything Air Canada could offer!

Join a frequent flyer program with the airline that you travel with most. The points will eventually accumulate and lounge access shall be granted where free booze, wi-fi, nibbles, comfy sofa and sometimes even a massage await (perfect after a long-haul).

Travel as light as you can. Avoid drinking alcohol on the plane, save it for your arrival. Plan a little and go with the flow because inevitably plans will change.

Also travel tips, suggestions and feedback are most welcome 😉 so please do share.

The not so special meal…

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Mexico revisited – Frijoles Refritas (Refried Beans)

26 Jun

The colonial city of Oaxaca was the standout city of all the cities which I visited during my travels in Mexico. The opportunity to explore its gastronomical delights was complimented by its backdrop of vibrant coloured homes, museums, colonial architecture, cobble stone streets, archaeological sites and flea markets.

Exceptional dishes were sampled on the streets and in restaurants of which many will remain etched in my memory for years to come. Tlayudas, memelas, mole (pronounced mo-lay), quesillo and hot chocolate made from freshly ground cacau beans to name a few. Oaxaca is also home to Mezcal a variation to tequila which in my opinion is an essential digestif and indispensable companion with the rich Oaxaqueña cuisine.

At a cantina in the heart of this city, I recall having the best refried beans to date. We were scouting for a late breakfast and whilst the cook was actually preparing almuerzo (lunch), she still greeted us with her warm hospitality and encouraged us to sample the buffet as the dishes were being laid out and garnished. The refried beans sat proud, clearly elevated and still bubbling in their earthenware dish, two servings and I couldn’t resist the temptation to ask. The key she told me was to use lard or bacon, especially if its smoked bacon. Up until that point I had avoided using lard for health reasons but with one mouthful, I began to understand why people would risk cardiovascular disease for these beans. Vegetarians may use ghee, butter or oil to saute the onions and the result will be similar but without the bacon flavour, and, of course meat free 😉

  • 200g of Pinto Beans or Black Beans (I used black because I was out of Pinto)
  • 1/2 white onion, diced finely
  • 100g of streaky bacon, diced finely
  • 4 Tablespoons of ghee, butter or lard

Soak beans in cold water for 24hours, then rinse, add to a heavy based pot or pressure cooker, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer until they are cooked. Do not add salt at this stage as it will retard the cooking of the beans and they’ll end up crunchy on the inside ;).

Saute onion in a non-stick or heavy based pan in at least 4 tablespoons of melted lard, butter or ghee, add a good pinch of salt to ensure onions don’t brown. Then add the streaky bacon, saute until the fat in the bacon has melted away and fused with the rest of the ingredients.

Once the beans are cooked, ladle into the pan straining off the water and mash with a wooden spoon. Repeat gradually until you have mashed up all the beans adding water from the pot until you get the desired consistency. Alternatively use a blender and add water gradually. Either way will yield tasty refried beans.

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Mexico revisited

17 Jun

When it comes to cooking (and other things too), I often wonder why I can’t do things half way, why it always has to be a multitude of dishes instead of the basic few. It probably has to do with two things: influences and experiences.

My upbringing has a lot to do with my influences, particularly in relation to offering the utmost level of hospitality. My family background is Lebanese and ever since I could remember sitting around a table, almost every meal was elaborate, varied and complete. Elaborate because dining is sacred, varied because not everyone likes the same thing and complete because one must tantalize with a starter, enjoy the main(s) and end off on a sweet note, dessert.

Experiences? Besides offering a satisfying meal, I feel it’s vital that I share my dining experiences with my guest and try to recreate with as much authenticity the dishes that I have indulged in. I have traveled to several countries and almost on every occasion emphasis has been paid to food ahead of sight seeing, and, souvenir shopping. From street food to fine dining, local markets to supermarkets, sipping on the local street beverages to the luxurious rooftop bars, I believe it’s a must that we delve deep into the gastronomical zone as it gives a greater understanding of the culture. It’s what makes us culturally different that is of great interest and food definitely forms a great part of people’s culture and must not be overlooked.

So what’s on Sunday’s menu? Pollo Pibil, Carne Cozida, Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, Corn Tortillas and Frijoles Refritas inspired of course by the streets of Mexico from Mexico City to Oaxaca and of course the Yucatan.

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