What’s Wanda Doing in Hong Kong?

January 13, 2012 § 3 Comments

Not updating her blog on time, that’s what. Oops. But today, I should like to focus on my favorite haunts in Hong Kong. By favorites, I do not mean that they are the best things to ever try in Hong Kong, because no one could possibly eat everything there is to eat in Hong Kong, and gosh I’ve tried, but that’s like trying to read every book in the world; it can’t happen because more ideas keep spasming their way into reality! But these restaurants are pretty darn tasty.

When I wake up, I like to go to the Happy Cake Shop, at 106 Queens Road East, Wan Chai, HK for my morning bread, when I’m not busy eating cookies for breakfast. I like them because the owners don’t really seem all that happy, and they don’t really sell much cake. I also like them because I always get the raisin bread, and apparently their bakers are very stingy on the raisins and sometimes your raisin bread won’t even have a single raisin in it. So the days that your raisin bread has three raisins it in, oh boy, do you feel like a star! Also, bread is so very very fluffy and cheap.

Lunchtime! is 30 minutes after breakfast time, in my perfect world. In the short time that I’ve been here, I’ve been to 麗姐廚房 (Liza Veggies) at 2/F Harvard Comm. Building, 105-111 Thomson Road, Wanchai, HK four times! Go here for lunch, and you can pick a meal with 3 sides, unlimited rice, and a soup for the low price of $45 HK (little over $5 USD). Yay! And the owner is uncommonly nice, going to every table and asking how the food is going on a slow day.

Second lunchtime! is after lunchtime! Actually, you should have no lunch or breakfast before this next one, because it’s a vegetarian BUFFET! I think I may be hyperventilating from the excitement. This restaurant is called E-Vege Restaurant located at 288 Hennessy Road, Wanchai and provides you an all-you-can-eat buffet all day and all night. They have vegetarian roast duck, skewered barbequed chicken, steamed buns, eggplants, little dimsum things, and so much more. Today’s population at the restaurant consisted mainly of about 25 extremely buff and muscular, extremely hot women all in matching skin tight V-necks, cargo pants, and military style boots. Life is good…

My camera broke the other day because I was excitedly telling someone a story and knocked it off the table. It’s going to go to the camera emergency room when I get back to America, but I think it’s dead. Should I get a Rebel? Anyways, long story short, no pictures of E-Vege, but trust me when I say that there are so many varieties there that you could not possibly eat them all…but I can!

Want to hear tips on how to eat everything at a buffet from a master?  1) Remember to stretch your stomach a few hours beforehand, so drink plenty of hot tea with something that has a lot of volume but not a lot of calories (like melons or grapes).  2) Don’t drink soup at a buffet, unless you really like soup, because it’s a waste of space. On the same track, don’t drink water. 3) Eat really really fast for the first 20-30 minutes, because your brain takes about that long to figure out it’s full. You will feel pain later. I’m pretty sure that’s what it feels like to be pregnant.

You should also go to Three Virtues Vegetarian Restaurant at 1/F 395 Kings Road. Some of the food is a little sauce heavy, but the star of the show is the minced ginger on top of fresh rolled yuba skin! So delicate!

Other Things I Recommend:

– watching a movie with your cousin and then going to a candy store and then shopping for shoes and cell phone accessories while eating candy out of a bag. Ah, such a pre-teen way to spend the day!

– eating jook with yiu tiu for breakfast; it’s like having a savory donut with rice porridge…yum. Who says donuts and soup don’t go well together?

– If you’re thirsty, make sure to stop by a fruit stand. Some fruit stands (not all though) will feature a juicer and will offer freshly squeezed juice of any variety that you can think of. My mom likes the sugarcane juice, but I’m partial to the freshly squeezed orange or the blended mango.

– Eat roasted chestnuts! I have a unique ability to smell them 3 blocks away, so I can always find chestnuts to eat when I’m hungry. Which is always.

PS. This is the last of the travel posts for now! (See the two others here and here.) I’m going back to America tomorrow, sadly enough for my stomach. Next week will feature a regular recipe post, but I hope you’ve enjoyed the change of pace. If you like them, I will do travel posts for all my travels!

7 Things To Avoid Doing in China/HK

January 5, 2012 § 11 Comments

This is your tour guide Wanda speaking from the wonderful city of Hong Kong, back from a quick trip to mainland China. As your tour guide, I felt that it is necessary to present to you the “Seven Things to Avoid Doing in China/Hong Kong” so that you can avoid making the same mistakes.

Taking the train from Shenzhen to Guangzhou, just as the sun is setting.

Also, as a quick side note, can I just sing praises to the Western style toilet? How I’ve missed you, how I love you and adore you and would never ever leave you again. In mainland China, the dreaded squat toilet reigned, and whenever I saw a Western style toilet I felt like I could hear a herald angel choir in the foreground with someone in the background announcing that I had just won the lottery. There was one in a bowling alley that I went to, and I swear I drank more water there just so I could have the experience of the Western style toilet over and over and over.

I understand that it’s a more natural position, but I don’t think I’m doing it quite right, because it takes me twice as long as the next person. I went to the zoo, and some kids were using the toilet, and since kids never lock the door, I snuck a peek. I copied their exact position, so I’m pretty sure I was using the toilet the same way they were using it, but I guess I’m just not a professional squat toilet user yet. Some day…

Am I back in America?! Nope, this is just your regular old Mt. Rushmore in China. See the Capitol Building in the foreground?

Anyways, now that I’m done ranting about toilets on my food blog, here’s the list I promised you!

The Seven Things to Avoid Doing in China/Hong Kong

1. Don’t convince your relatives in China to go karaoke-ing with you if you can’t read Chinese, because the English selections will invariably suck. You will not know how to sing any of the Phil Collins selection that they provide for you, nor the random old 50’s music, nor the LeAnn Rimes selection that they have.

You will invariably end up singing “It Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy because that is the only song you recognize, fervently hoping that none of your relatives understand enough English to understand what you’re singing, but of course your cousin works as a English-Chinese translator and is laughing his head off at you. If you are not familiar with the song, I sang, with a straight face, “Picture this; we were both butt-naked, banging on the bathroom floor,” to all my relatives.

It wasn't me singing this song to my relatives...

2. Don’t trust your dad. More specifically, don’t trust your dad to know how to feed you if you’re a vegan. A few months ago, I told my dad very bluntly that I was now vegan, that I didn’t eat dog or cat or chicken or beef or milk or butter or eggs, and that if there was nothing for me to eat in Guangzhou, I wasn’t going to visit him. He responded very eloquently, with something that roughly translates to, “Guangzhou is a gourmet eater’s paradise, for meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans alike! Come visit me!” So of course, I naively trusted him and went to visit him in China.

Fast forward to the first night I ate dinner at his house with all the relatives, where he said that they cooked a dinner especially for me.They had “name brand” choy sum (extra expensive, about $100 RMB per stalk), broccoli, spring onions, and bok choy because apparently being vegan means that I only like to eat green leafy vegetables. The rest was Peking duck, roast goose, roast pig, fish, any animal you can name was on that table. Even their tofu contained pieces of meat! (My aunt suggested I wash my tofu in my tea…)

"Name Brand" Choy Sum. It kind of (exactly!) tastes like regular choy sum.

To show off their wealth, every single meal that my relatives cooked for me for four days in a row consisted of the “name brand” choy sum. How “name brand” can a vegetable even be?! So that is what I subsisted on for four days, choy sum and white rice. Breakfast choy sum, lunch choy sum, dinner choy sum. Oh, and the peanuts that my dad told me to put in my room in case I got hungry. I think I lost 5 pounds before I returned to Hong Kong. And I developed an intense hatred of choy sum.

Look, it's Wanda in China! Oh wait, that's a panda. Unlike pandas, I can't just subsist on vegetables.

3. Don’t smile too much. Americans smile at strangers, smile at trash cans, smile at the blue skies, and smile at cute dogs. Americans smile a ridiculous amount compared to any other nationality I’ve seen. And I smile a ginormous amount, even for an American.

Apparently it’s creepy. I would try smiling at people on the street and people would actively try and get away from me. I smiled at the bus driver for a good five minutes, telling myself that if I just kept smiling, he would smile back. He pretended not to see me and rolled his eyes for five minutes. Stop smiling!

4. Don’t take photographs of everything, speaking of annoying American traits that I embody. I tried taking a picture of a man welding something, and he got angry at me and started running after me and my nosy camera brandishing his sparking welding tool (what are welding tools called? welders? welderings?).

This resulted in me addressing everyone with, "Respected sir, may I ask, may I take a picture?" Here is a respected sir roasting chestnuts, a wonderful smell to behold.

5. Don’t forget that Chinese is a tonal language. That was nailed into me by my parents from a very young age, because the difference in tones (whether your voice rises or falls in a word) rather than just phonetics (like English) can mean the difference between “I’m hungry”, and “I’m experiencing diarrhea.” So of course I forget that when I go into a shoe store, and loudly ask the shop-girls if they have shoes made of “farting” rather than the similarly pronounced “fake leather”. Oof, the embarrassment!

6. Don’t eat the durian. Don’t try it. Don’t do it! My aunt told me not to try it, so I took a humongous bite of it, in the same vein as “Wet Paint, Don’t Touch.” It tastes like a wet smelly pungent old sponge. Then I tried to drown out the taste with a cup of tea that was just poured, which meant that I burnt my poor, already assaulted tongue.

7. Lastly, don’t recommend your WordPress blog to your relatives in China. They will tell you that it doesn’t exist, because it’s blocked. (I can update from Hong Kong, which is a special administrative district). Apparently my blog is very very dangerous, because I am a very dangerous fellow indeed.

It's probably because I post pictures like this bean curd dish, which is very dangerous political propaganda. This picture, by the way, was taken in Hong Kong, where my relatives actually understand how to keep my tummy happy.

Hong Kong

December 29, 2011 § 14 Comments

你好嗎?I’m in Hong Kong and later China on vacation for three weeks, and let me just brag about how completely wonderful it is! When people ask why Hong Kong, I usually say, “to visit family” to sound less shallow, but here’s a secret: I’m just here for the food…
Image

Just one corner of the Wan Chai market.

Everything tastes spectacular here! In such a competitive and high-paced city, if the food isn’t up to par, the restaurant or food stand quickly gets renovated into something newer and flashier. Since everything has been well tested by the food-obsessed and very discerning crowd of HK citizens, only the best survives. Even their Starbucks was better! Not that that’s saying much. At least they didn’t burn my coffee. Not that I had coffee, because I quit two days ago, forever this time…

The hand-made tofu, vegetarian meat, and bean curd stall!

Not only is the food in Hong Kong salivatingly good, it’s also so alarmingly cheap you feel like you must be ripping off everyone you buy food from. When you walk around, you see full meals priced around $24-32, which are not uncommon prices in America. Then you get to divide by 8!!! (the exchange rate) and so you can get a large non-fast food meal for about $3-4. This morning I bought 8 loaves of bread for little over $1, and pastries start at around 25 cents.

Mochi on a stick with azuki beans! My aunt took a bite before I could properly take a picture...

You’re tempted to gain weight but it’s such a fast city that it’s nearly impossible to do so. I discovered this morning, through falling on my ass in rush hour people traffic, that even the escalators in Hong Kong run faster than ones in America! And if you don’t ram your entire body onto the subway train, be prepared to be run over by hoards of extremely violent and deceptively fragile looking old women. So you need to constantly be eating just to maintain your weight. I think I spend a good 5-6 hours a day here either looking for food, eating food, or talking about it.

Sheep tea set...by a contemporary potter.

If you’re a vegan visiting Hong Kong for the first time, don’t be scared! It’s easy to be shocked at first at the strung up whole pig heads, not to mention the snakes in a cage. If you’re at a restaurant and don’t know what you can eat, remember this line: “Ngo hai so sik” (pronunciation guide: ng pronounced like the end of sing. If you can’t say that, say “au” like Auckland, hai like hi!,so like so what?, and sik like sick.) That will get people to understand that you are vegetarian. If you want to go further and say that you are vegan, I haven’t heard a word for vegan yet, but you can say that you don’t eat butter, eggs, or milk as well. (“mm sik gai dan, ngau yau, ngau lai”).

A turtle family! I think I may need to recover a bit from the CUTE OVERLOAD!!

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Birthday! Yum Cha!

December 22, 2011 § 6 Comments

It’s my vegan birthday!  One year vegan and going strong! Speaking of strong, did you know that lions, which are strong, can get their requirements of vegetables met through eating their prey’s stomach and intestines, which often contains undigested green matter.

Anyways, for my vegan birthday I planned to make myself a cake, but all I wanted was vegan dim-sum. « Read the rest of this entry »

Cheesecake

December 1, 2011 § 1 Comment

Thanksgiving was last week. Thanksgiving is unimportant, actually. It is merely the stepping stone to CHRISTMAS!!! The day after Thanksgiving is wonderful because it is then finally socially acceptable to hum Christmas music and hang up lights and look at trees and make presents for people…(also, ps. friends & family, I’m taking my first pottery class these past few weeks, so every last one of you is getting a misshapen and rather homely looking cup for Christmas. Just so you know.)

And what better way to kick off the Christmas season than with cheesecake? Cheesecake is like Christmas in that they both begin with the letter “C”, everyone gets excited about them, and they’re both cold!

Vegan cheesecakes fall under two categories. The first is the health cheesecake. That is the cheesecake that you eat when you want to look like the always-exercising-sports-bra-booty-shorts girl that is always gracefully exercising. Unlike how you feel when you run, which is a flailing chicken. Usually, these vegan health cheesecakes are made out of cashews and coconut oil. These are tasty, but definitely not what you want to give to your already skeptical of veganism mom.

Second category of vegan cheesecake: the overpoweringly yummy cheesecake! This is the type of cheesecake that you eat when you cuddle up to a heater, a hot boyfriend, and Battlestar Galactica! Hey, it’s Christmas, give yourself a:

Chocolate Cherry Swirled Cheesecake « Read the rest of this entry »

Vegan…Braised Ox-Tail?!

November 19, 2011 § 8 Comments

I hate to report that the following story has happened to me more times than I can count. It usually begins on a bus/train, because a bus/train is where all the slightly off-kilter botherings happen to you.  It is inevitably a short, scraggly, high-pitched man who starts the conversation, with a squeaky yet assertive, “aheeeeemmm. ahem ahem.”

I had been raised exceptionally well by my parents, so of course I respond with a, “Why hello there, sir!” And so begins the never-ending bus/train ride where I converse about different aspects of the weather and sometimes they tell me how pretty I am. (Oh lucky me!!) I just finished reading Bluebeard, in which a woman converses by starting with, “Tell me how your parents died,” but I have a slightly less invasive tactic. I figure, if I’m going to have a strange conversation with a stranger, why not make it even stranger by plugging my food blog?

I always advertise my food blog to the poor bus/train man who now probably regrets starting the conversation with me, and generally several decibels louder than the preceding snippets of conversation so that other unwilling citizens on the train can also hear about my wondrous food blog. Sometimes he’ll ask me what kind of food I cook the best. Do you want me to answer truthfully, sir? I will tentatively answer, “Chinese food,”…tentatively, oh so trepidatiously, because 9 times out of 10…

He will respond with, “Oh then you must know how to cook General Tso’s Kung Pao Orange chicken then! Wow, oh golly, I love Panda Express! Do you have a recipe for Sweet & Sour Pork?”

This very response is a murky swamp over the atmosphere of my soul. First of all, Mr. Bus/Train Man, Panda Express, despite what it says on its website, is not “Gourmet Chinese Food.” Strike that, it’s not even Chinese food; it’s this gloppy and overly sweet bastardization of Chinese food. Referring to Panda Express as Chinese food is like saying that Taco Bell’s Volcano Nachos is Mexican food or that your local Little Caesar’s is the best that Italy has to offer.

Second of all,  Panda Express is especially offensive to me because Panda sounds like Wanda. I would make a Wanda Express instead, but I might attract customers that instead expect a 5 minute hand job. I imagine that these would much resemble my bus/train conversation buddies.

Did you come here for a recipe on Sweet & Sour Orange Chicken? I can teach you how to make it.

Sweet & Sour Orange Chicken 
1. Melt a butt ton of sugar in a pan with some Kikkoman soy sauce. Scrape a little frozen orange juice concentrate into it.
2. Let stand in the back of your warehouse for at least 6 months, but preferably a year.
3.  Pour this on some chicken, then microwave to kill the Salmonella friends. TADA!

Third of all, EW.

What is real Chinese food? I could write a book. I should write a book. I will be rich when I write my vegan Chinese food book. If one of you beat me to it, I will be mad. Many people have written books. It’s hard to say what Chinese food is, because it spans so many regions and peoples and tastes.

But I would say that good Chinese food is food that is cooked until just that perfect moment. It receives just a kiss of a flame, just a tinge of seasoning, here and there, coating small crevices, perhaps a slice of ginger to permeate the steam. Food is cooked until it is soft enough to eat but still fresh enough to be transportive to when it last saw the fields it was in, or the sea from which it was picked from. It is stingy, but not in a bad way; I want to take back that word for good. It is stingy in that it uses every piece of a food, nothing goes to waste. There is use for everything; no vegetable is deemed too weird or ugly to eat. It is at once grateful for all the hard work put into it, and momentous in its flavors…

My favorite dish would have had  to be ox-tail.  It might not be quintessentially what people think of when they think of Chinese food, since it isn’t a quick stir fry. But I like it because it is stingy in using parts of the animal that typically aren’t featured in Western cuisine, and it is oh so flavorful. Imagine a thick unctuous 2 hours long braise with ginger and garlic and star anise and soy sauce…yum.

I have since changed my ways and wish for all cows to have their tails, so I have made what I believe to be a perfect recreation of my favorite Chinese food. If it only changes one person’s mind about Panda Express, then I will be forever happy. « Read the rest of this entry »

Coconut Tomato Bisque

November 9, 2011 § 7 Comments

I am generally an affable, well-mannered, elbows off the friggin’ table kind of person. I think about helping old ladies cross the street, apologize to trash cans when I accidentally bump into them, and smile at little kids in a non-pedophilic way. I even call my mom once in a while! (Mom, if you’re reading this, I’ll call you soon, I promise…)

All this drastically changes when I start getting hungry. The first sign: I start to feel slightly annoyed at the weather. The second sign is when I accidentally stub my toe on the table, and it’s all the table’s fault, and I start scolding the table for being rude. The third, when all I can focus on is how nice a warm avocado tempeh sandwich would be. The fourth symptom, and the most dangerous sign, is when I start looking at my friends and ponder the relative tastiness of each one of them…and I turn into an irrational angry snappy being.

I have learned to manage/live with what I now call the “Angry Hungry Hippo Disease“, or AHHD. The acronym looks like ADHD but it is treated with granola bars instead of amphetamine. (Although amphetamines might help treat AHHD as well, since it lowers appetite.)

Here’s a tip that I tried for a while when I wanted to impress my extremely hot now-boyfriend! I used to carry chocolate bars in my pockets whenever I would go on dates with him so that whenever I felt twinges of annoyance, I would nosh on the bars for an instant mood boost so I would not look like a raving maniac.

Apparently I neglected to remember this little tidbit when I went to Hawaii with my boyfriend. Here we were, driving along in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and he wants to watch the sun set over the ocean. (Can everyone say “Awwww….”) But by the time we get there, I am so hungry that I am muttering, “I hate fucking sunsets, they’re stupid, who wants to see them anyways, GODDDDD why are we looking at this, can we go nowww??!!”

And the car ride home is two hours long. I think I managed to angrily throw a hissy fit about how stupid the car was, how the whole island was useless, and about every single miniscule irksome thing that he had ever done…in the span of 30 seconds. Remember, I am already at stage 4 AHHD, and there are still two more hours trapped in a car with me!

Thankfully, my boyfriend is as intelligent as he is handsome, so he forced us to pull over at a restaurant to eat dinner before continuing onwards, despite my endless protests of, “gawd, I hate restaurants, I hate everything about everything!!” I distinctly remember still complaining about how much I despised juice when the first sip of this luscious coconut tomato bisque reached my mouth…and then…I was fine. A little sheepish about my temper tantrum, but mostly back to normal.

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