Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Singapore is my birthplace, so it's with not an ounce of bias that I say it's one of the most boring places on the face of the planet: the shopping is overpriced and generic (Chanel across the street from Chanel!), the heat and humidity are unbearable, and everything is intolerably clean and hygienic. But it's also with not an ounce of bias when I say that it's probably got the best food on earth.
|Chendol Ice at Blue Ginger Restaurant|
|Toa Payoh Rojak at Old Airport Rd. Food Centre|
Singapore's food culture is so rich because it is influenced by European, Malay, Chinese, Indonesian, and Indian cuisines. Singaporean food is somehow all of these and yet not any one of them in particular. It's each of these cuisines amped up: more spicy, more savory, more unami, more sweet, and more delicious.
|Tian Tian Chicken Rice at Maxwell Road Food Centre|
I had two gastronomic goals for this trip: (1) eat only "classic" dishes, the ones of my youth, the ones that my mom will not stop talking about, and (2) attempt to find the best -- the most "authentic," flavorful, famous, well-tested . . . however one wants to define "best" -- of each type of dish. We definitely succeeded in the first. And I'm fairly sure we came close to achieving the second. Either that or even the not-so-great in Singapore is pretty fantastic.
|Fried Banana Fritters with Kaya Fondue at Makansutra Gluttons Bay|
Precisely because there's so little to do in Singapore, my family and I spent literally all day, every day eating. We could barely start one meal without thinking about where we were going to eat next. We're talking at least five meals a day -- so much food that I could scarcely fit into my clothes after three days of exhausting and happy gluttony.
|Hua Kee Hougang Famous Wonton Mee at Old Airport Road Food Centre|
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
As you might remember, I researched dslr carrying bags quite extensively. I needed something that would be stylish, roomy, and comfortable, and something that preferably wouldn't scream "camera inside! steal me!" The B-Hobo bag ended up being perfect.
|No wooden reindeers were harmed in the creation of this photo.|
Monday, December 27, 2010
Everything in Hong Kong moves fast: the elderly walk fast, escalators run fast, and people eat fast. But grabbing something to eat quickly in Hong Kong doesn't mean stopping off at McDonald's or KFC. More often than not, going for a quick bite means stopping off at a cha tzan tang (literally, "tea cafe") or getting a fan hup ("rice box").
One of the oldest cha tzan tangs still in operation is Lan Fong Yuen, a literal hole in the wall located in an alley under the Mid-level Escalators. In the olden days, the "restaurant" would only be able to serve two patrons at a time, on those wooden stools you see on top of the green bench in the photo above. Nowadays, you can still eat your meals on those stools, but the cafe has extended behind the old storefront to accommodate more diners. Note, though, that this is not the kind of place where you comfortably chill with your laptop for hours. You sit down at whatever seat is available, sharing the table with whomever else happens to fit there, and you stay only as long as it takes you to order, eat, and get the hell out.
The most typical drink, though, is tea (iced or hot) with evaporated milk and lots of sugar, otherwise known as "Hong Kong-style" milk tea or "pantyhose" tea. Lan Fong Yuen claims to have invented "pantyhose" tea, so named because the filter used to brew the tea (always Lipton, always looseleaf) looks a lot like pantyhose. As the video above (courtesy of Wokwithnana) shows, brewing a good cup of pantyhose tea is a practiced art/tradition. When in the U.S., I always crave milk tea, and I can never get a cup that tastes authentic.
While a cha tzan tang is where you'd go for a snack, to get a proper meal fast, you'd grab a fan hup at a roast place. There's practically one of these roast places on every corner -- you'll know these restaurants by the roast chicken, barbecue pork, and other roasted goodies hanging in the front window -- but the very best one is Tai Hing.
If instead of taking your meal to go in a fan hup, you choose to eat in, seating is no more comfortable and the service is no less brusque here than at the cha tzan tangs. You sit down at whatever seat is available, again sharing a table when necessary. You reach into the drawer on the side of the table to fetch a pair of chopsticks and a spoon, which you wash in the cup of weak tea that the server rudely shoves at you.
Then you wait . . . for scarcely a minute . . . before a plate of awesomeness appears before you, like this plate of barbecue pork (cha siu) and crispy suckling pig (siu yok). At Tai Hing, you generally choose one type of starch (rice or glass noodles called lai fun) and pair it with two or three types of roasted meats.
And you finish your meal with -- what else? -- Hong Kong-style milk tea, for which Tai Hing has won awards. (Tai Hing is so serious about the taste of its tea that it never adds ice to the tea itself, but rather sets the cup in ice to keep it cool.)
I could use a large cup of that tea right now.
What do you crave when looking for "fast food"?
Sunday, December 26, 2010
This is a dynamic, gorgeous contemporary piece by Chicago choreography Kate Jablonski. It feels like a deep breath.
Here's what I hoped for:
Lots of joy.
A little beauty.
A bit of sweetness.
Just a smidgeon of sassyness.
And oodles of love.
Friday, December 24, 2010
My extravagant purchases -- a box of fresh macarons, a box of chocolate-covered macarons, and a tiny box of nougats -- were packaged for transport in special "Laduree for Joyce" bags.
The shells were so, so crisp and airy, and the fillings were perfect: intensely flavored and with just the right amount in each one.
But the boxes . . . oh the boxes are what I love most. I can't wait to repurpose them for jewelry and other knick-knacks.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
It was a warm, sunny day in Hong Kong -- perfect weather for a stroll down the waterfront.
|Financial District Skyline|
|Looking toward Kowloon|
|Looking toward the Convention Center|
|Looking toward Wan Chai|
And here are some scenes taken from the Mid-levels Escalators, which my research assistant Wikipedia says is the longest covered escalator system in the world. (If you blab to my students that I did my research on Wiki, I will deny it.)
|Old Residential Bldgs. from Mid-level Escalator|
|"Part Massage"? (I wonder which part?!)|
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Ostensibly, this post is about Fu's Kitchen, a chic little dim sum bistro in Causeway Bay. But -- cue tiny violin -- I'd actually like to take the opportunity to whine about how hard it is to blog about food. You're hungry -- hell, everyone at your table is starving -- and the food arrives, all steamy and delicious, and what do you do? You have to yell at everyone, including yourself, not to touch the food until you photograph it.
|Steamed scallop dumplings|
Then in your eagerness to get to the actual business of eating the food, you take crazy shots with your camera.
Shots that are out-of-focus,
|Stir-fried Eggwhites with Crab Meat and Dried Scallops|
|Baked Barbecue Pork Pastries|
and terribly lit.