Tuesday, November 30, 2010

AFC & GH Mumm Champagne present Anna Olson @ Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur

beautiful and witty Anna

Recently, Kuala Lumpur got treated to a big sweet treat in the form of television celebrity chef Anna Olson who visited our shores. She was brought in by AFC, which airs her two shows: Sugar and Fresh with Anna Olson. A series of events were held for fans to meet their sugar goddess: a media event on Thursday where she prepped up maple ice cream, apple cheddar muffins and butter tart for the press, and lunches on Saturday and Sunday that saw participants dine from dishes prepped from her recipes together with GH Mumm champagne and where she demonstrated lady baltimore cake, banana caramel cheesecake and cappuccino nanaimo bars. Last but not least Astro held under event at Electrolux where fans got to see her baking up her banana caramel cheesecake. She's left Kuala Lumpur now for Phillipines, where she'll also be doing more appearances and cooking demonstrations. (Her Asian tour started in Singapore first before coming to KL).

GH Mumm champagne, AFC co-founder Hian Goh and Anna Olson

According to Hian Goh, AFC's co-founder it took them about two years legwork to get Anna here to Asia. I'm glad they pushed through their efforts since it's always great to meet the people behind the television screen. They have been champions as they had brought in people like Laura Calder and Robert Rainford to our shores. Hopefully there's more to come...

beet and goatcheese terrine

Prior to our lunch, Anna demonstrates the three desserts while we sipped on our GH Mumm champagne. Similar to how she runs the Fresh episodes on television, she asks us to imagine that it's her dinner party that she's throwing. Incidentally kudos to the AFC team again, as they also scored Fresh with Anna Olson cookbooks for the fans to purchase. We were lucky batch as the book sales did so well, there weren't any left for the Sunday crowd to buy. One of the items served for lunch is also in the cookbook.

demonstration pixs with her husband, Michael who shows us how he poses

Anna is wonderful on stage, regaling us with stories while she iced a cake (her fav toy is the offset spatula as she shows all of us), beats up the cheesecake mixture, dribbled chocolate and caramel sauce and etc. I especially liked the caramel disaster story since I'm a little scared of that sauce even though it may appear simple. She tried a few times with it being too solid hard or even too flowing it refused to stay on top of the cake, and when she thought she had aced the perfect chocolate caramel cake, Anna discovers while cutting the cake, she had forgotten to remove the cake's baking paper layers!

raspberry pecan tart from the dessert buffet

Anna also shares that in television, they often create scenes that can get all our senses tingling like the caramel and chocolate....the perfect tools to make us go ooooh and aaah. Hence when she dribbled that luscious amber caramel on the cheesecake, even though she cued us to all go "ooooh", it wasn't too hard as one can completely imagine how wonderful it'll taste eventually (and it did!). She also took questions from the floor such as baking quandrums and even shared with us how she loves durian. Hian Goh had taken her to try the D24 durian in Singapore. Another items she absolutely loves is coconut so she's planning to bring back some kaya.

beef tenderloin, mushroom bisque and grilled cod

After the demonstration, lunch was served. The beet with goat cheese terrine served with grapefruit and pisatchio is striking in pink. Not a dish for everyone though as some didn't quite enjoy the creamy (and pungent) cheese. The first course was a choice between seafood in parchment parcels or mushroom bisque under a puff pastry hat. Anna said she wanted to create wonderful smells for this dish especially when you break open the paper or crack through that puffed lid. The seafood is light tasting with a generous amount of scallops and prawns on a bed of onions and vegetables.

GH Mumm champagne, walnut, fig and brie tart, desserts, chocolate mousse tart

Main course saw a choice of slow roasted beef tenderloin served with maple onion cream, potato perogies and roasted root vegetables, and grilled cod with tomato vinaigrette with lemon risotto and asparagus with avocado cilantro "butter". The perogies (a dumpling stuffed with mashed potatoes) is one of Anna's family recipes as she used to prepare this with her grandmother. I kinda suspect her avocado cilantro "butter" for the fish is her take in getting a creamy sauce (minus the butter) by emulsion. There's a similar recipe in her cookbook where she creates a smooth tomato cream by emulsion with oil, a trick she writes that she discovered from her husband Michael.

lemon olive oil cake, cappuccino nanaimo bars

After the heavy but wonderful meal, it was the cheese course - a walnut, fig and brie tart with a frisee salad. Last but not least, it was the trio of desserts. I loved the cheesecake since the whole combination of the oatmeal crust with bananas, caramel and smooth creamy cheese was so decadent. Anna had also demonstrated the cappuccino nanaimo bars that is the third most popular dessert in Canada (first is the butter tarts she did for the media event and second is date squares). A layered dessert - you start with a chocolate biscuit crust which also has grated coconut and toasted walnuts, a coffee layer that was very fragrant but too sweet for me followed with a chocolate layer. The lady baltimore cake sounded wonderful but strangely enough it tasted quite ordinary - a chiffon cake with a 7-minute light meringue icing with a chopped figs, dates, pecans and cherries layer.

banana caramel cheesecake

Most of the audience was surprised with more desserts at a specially set dessert buffet - coconut creme caramel, raspberry pecan tart, lemon olive oil cake with citrus and cream, cashew cookie selection and  chocolate mousse torte. Since pictures will always be taken at dinner parties, Anna gave tips on how to pose (without looking like you had a super calorie laden meal!). She subsequently introduced her husband Michael to the audience, where he also demonstrated how he has learnt to pose (vs the slouch!). The event ended with a cookbook signing where fans (including me!) got to have a few words with Anna and get their books personalised with her autograph.

I thought I'll share with you the cheesecake recipe she demonstrated as that was my favourite item I tasted. What I like is the unusual banana layer above the crust that gives it a subtle taste. Anna explains that to prevent the cheesecake from cracking, she lowers the heat during the baking and allows it to cool down before she chills it. Give it a try and discover its own awesomeness. For more pictures of the whole event, see the Flickr set. Thanks to GH Mumm Champagne for the invitation.

Banana Caramel Cheesecake by Anna Olson (Makes a 23cm cheesecake)

12 crunchy oatmeal cookies
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

banana layer
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon rum or lemon juice
3 firm bananas, sliced

910g cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
5 large eggs

caramel topping
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon corn syrup or lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease the bottom of a 23cm springform pan and wrap the outside of the pan in foil.

To prepare the crust: In a food processor, pulse oatmeal cookies with pecans to an even crumble. Add melted butter and pulse to combine. Press into the bottom of prepared springform pan (not up the sides) and bake for 12 minutes. Allow to cool while preparing bananas.

To prepare the bananas: Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add butter and brown sugar, stirring until melted and bubbling. Stir in the rum or lemon juice and add bananas. Stir just to coat and warm. Pour into cooled crust.

To prepare cheesecake: Beat the cream cheese until fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Add sugar in 2 additions, beating well after each addition. Beat in butter and vanilla bean seeds. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour the cheesecake batter over the caramelsied banana layer in springform pan. Place springform pan into a baking dish and pour hot tap water around it to come halfway up the pan. Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 160 degrees Celsius and bake for another 30-40 minutes, until filling puffs up slightly around the edges but still moves a little in the centre when shaken. Remove the pan from water and allow to cool for 2 hours before refrigerating overnight.

To prepare caramel topping: Combine sugar, water and corn syrup or lemon juice in a pot. Bring to a boil without stirring and cook, uncovered until it turns a rich amber colour. While cooking, occassionally brush down the sides of the pot with a brush dipped in cool water. Once sugar has reached desired colour, about 7 minutes, remove from the heat and carefully stir in whipping cream (watch out for the steam and bubbling). Return to medium heat and simmer until reduced y a third, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Chill until thickened but still fluid about 15 minutes. Pour caramel over cheesecake and chill completely. This can be done up to 8 hours before serving.

To serve: Run a knife carefully along the inside of the pan to loosen, remove pan and slice with a hot dry knife.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dining Out @ Plan B, Bangsar Village I

reminds us a little of Bread Shop rite?

Hold your horses everyone, ditch your plan A and opt instead of Plan B - the latest dining outlet at Bangsar Village I. Taking over the lot which used to house Theobroma Chocolate Lounge, it's a snazzy little place that has an industrial-like face with a touch of New York. Don't worry, it's not completely Americanised as it has Malaysian touches like old black-and-white P Ramlee movies on their big television screens and tummy favourites like Nonya Laksa, Nasi Dagang, Nasi Lemak in their menu.

raspberry lemon meringue cakes, muffins

We absolutely lurve this place and I envision it is going to be our new hangout place in Bangsar. I've got fond memories about this particular space in Bangsar Village since it was originally Bakerzin, one of my favourite joints in town long long ago. You got to fall in love with a place that has such a wonderful tagline stamped on their take-away brown bags - "When life gives you lemonade...make lemonade" and "Always have a plan b, because coffee makes you groovy". I reckon, the owners aren't just going to stop at this outlet since it's a very good sign, they have labeled this as their first outlet.

fisherman's catch

Before I get into the food (so zoom down if that's all you need!), a word on the interiors. It has an unfinished look with the unpainted cement floor and the exposed ceiling with the pipes. I love the industrial touches - the garage door entrance (that slides on top to save space) and the exposed lights. There's also a little old in the space with those round black flip light switches and old looking clock. Now all they need is a little grime on their clear windows and they'll really look like an old New York bistro.

lasagna, simple menu with a dog clip, spicy crabmeat linguine

The interior is only part of the whole story as the food makes up the whole tale - all beautifully displayed on a long counter in stainless steel glass domed cake stands or wooden boards and their huge glass display cabinet. It's not hard to imagine noses and hands pressed against that glass oohing and aahing over the delicious display since that was what we literally went gaga over: cakes, muffins, bars and breads - the works!

enjoying the duck confit ciabatta

For dinner, it was a mix of sandwiches and pasta. I lurve my recommended spicy crabmeat linguine (RM19) - a tomato based pasta aromatic from the prawn oil, lemongrass and kaffir lime. PL indulges in the wild mushroom linguine (RM18) with thyme truffle oil and lemon. Splashie Boy wanted to steer clear from meat (he was eating a huge Turkey Thanksgiving lunch the next day) so it was the fisherman's catch (RM22). He raved about the milk bun studded with black and white sesame seeds that sandwiched his fish fillet with its homemade tartare. A dash of lemon juice seemed to add an extra oomph to the whole ensemble. I like how they give unusual crisps with the sandwiches - sweet potato and yam ones.

mushroom ciabatta, enjoying themselves

I got a taste of HK's roasted mushroom ciabatta (RM23) and loved the silky texture of the mushrooms. They ran out of ciabatta so instead they gave her a wholemeal bread instead. There's even a little pesto spread on the bread. J had a duck confit ciabatta (RM24) with caramelised onions that she thoroughly enjoyed.

Once mains were done, it was down to serious business....choosing out desserts. Splashie Boy and J took up that task valiantly and returned with loads of stuff. The table was literally groaning from our sweet choices - lemon meringue tart (not too tart with a light crust), passionfruit tart (a little like a custard tart with very little passionfruit taste) and carrot cake (nifty in its baking paper folded cup and tasting like a homebaked one).

petit fours, yummy stuff

The winner of the show initially was the chorizo gruyere cheese muffin - a chunky one (fit for a brekkie!) with chopped chorizo sausage, tomatoes in a gruyere cheese fragrant muffin. Simply wonderful, we were all fighting for this. But coming out ahead like a dark horse, was the chocolate truffle tart - dense but silky to the tongue chocolate with a thin layer of biscuit crumbs to drive you round the edge of heaven. Decadent but so good!

display of cakes

There's loads more to try I reckon, so we'll definitely revisit again and again. HK packed back an apple muffin for breakfast. She gave it her thumbs up the next day as it has a moist crumb after it was heated up.

chocolate truffle

Judging from the crowd of familiar faces there, I reckon word is out that a great place has opened up. Hopefully they keep it up the standards as there's a whole lot of hungry people out there looking for a decent place to dine.

Plan B
Ground Floor
Bangsar Village I
Kuala Lumpur

(Pork Free. Open from morning to 10pm. Located opposite Starbucks in Bangsar Village I. More pictures are in the Flickr set.)

*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here is entirely based on my personal tastebuds and may vary for others. This review is time sensitive; changes may occur to the place later on that can affect this opinion. The reviewer also declares that she has not received any monetary or non-monetary compensation from this place for writing the review.

Other reviews:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Time Out KL Food Awards 2010 Winners

Four Colour Tomato Salad from Lafite

The winners for Time Out KL Food Awards 2010 was announced last night at a special award ceremony at MAPKL, Solaris Dutamas. Picked by the public through voting vide the computer, here are the winners:

* Best Continental - La Bodega
Specially Commended in the Best Continental Category - El Cerdo

* Best Healthy Eating/Vegetarian - Marmalade

Best Chinese - Chynna, Hilton KL (2009 winner)

Best Indian - Bombay Palace (2009 winner)

Best Italian - Prego, Westin KL (2009 winner)

Mentai Sushi from Fukuharu

Best Japanese - Fukuharu, Terrace at Hock Choon (2009 winner- Kampachi, Specially Commended - Zipangu)

Best Malay - Bijan (2009 winner)
Specially Commended in the Best Malay Category - Enak, Starhill Gallery (2009 winner)

Best Middle Eastern - Al-Amar (2009-Specially Commended)
Specially Commended in the Best Middle Eastern Category - Tarbush (2009 winner)

* Best Mamak - Nasi Kandar Pelita

Best Pub Grub - Jarrods & Rawlins (2009 winner - Finnegan's)
Specially Commended in the Best Pub Grub Category - Sid's Pub

Monkfish from High Tide

Best Seafood - High Tide, Menara Taipan (2009 winner - Fatty Crab, Specially commended - Magnificent Fish & Chips)

* Best Steakhouse - Prime, Le Meridien KL
Specially Commended in the Best Steakhouse Category - QBA, Westin KL

Best Thai/Indochinese - Tamarind Springs (2009 winner - Tamarind Hill)

* Best Independent Restaurant - Albion, Jalan Berangan
Specially Commended in the Best Independent Restaurant Category - Rama V, Jalan U-Thant

Best Fine Dining - Lafite, Shangri-La KL (2009 winner)

Outstanding Chef This Year - David King from Westin KL (2009 winner, Specially commended - Damon Campbell from Lafite)

*Best New Restaurant of the Year - The Pressroom, Bangsar Shopping Centre

*Best Restaurateur - Edward Hyde of Gastrodome
Specially Commended in the Best Restaurateur Category - Benj Conway of the Nero Group

*new categories

Unlike last year, the announcement of the winners is just a beginning as Time Out KL has now partnered with American Express for a year-long dining programme that will run till end of 2011. Hopefully this partnership will yield dining promotions that will ease our pockets a little since salaries don't seem to moving upwards as much as our daily expenditure.

So what's your opinion on the awards? I must admit I was a little surprised with some of the winners that made me think whether a readers' choice award is good enough.

In Hong Kong, I managed to pick up Time Out Hong Kong Dining Awards issue (it's done in November since they need to pre-empt the Michelin awards that comes out in December) and their format is different as it's a 2 prong approach. An expert panel of 9 judges (food critics, journalists and food bloggers) pick their favourite places to dine that is also written up with the readers' choice. Strangely enough, only one category (from 20 categories) saw the experts agreeing with the readers' choice. I know it's a matter of taste for their choices but these differing results kinda makes you think what's the best way to approach these type of food awards.

Opinions are welcomed including bouquets and brickbats.

Full list of winners and the comparison with 2009 results can be found at this spreadsheet.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hong Kong 2010 - Fab Eats, Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival & Halloween

ever bustling Hong Kong - diorama picture taken during morning rush hour at Central

Here is the post most of you have been waiting for with bated breath. It is a mammoth post - the longest ever to nail down - eating up endless  nights of editing pictures and words. I reckon I was over ambitious cramping everything in one blog post. It was (and still is!) a crazy idea but experience tells me I don't have the patience to break it into bite size posts and blog over a period of time. Hopefully it'll act as a useful guide. Similar to my previous Hong Kong post, it's broken down to locations to easily track down and this time round, also by occasion. To help you navigate the bustling metropolis, I've also included the addresses, telephone numbers and the opening times (if available). Run through the flickr sets for a feel of the place as space is a constraint here so it means less pictures.

A luscious lip smacking journey into Hong Kong; fruit stall in Central diorama style

Being food obssessed, the trip was literally a constant pursuit of good food around the city peppered with a fright night experience and of course, every budding wine lover's dream aka the Hong Kong Wine & Dine festival. I managed to consume an eclectic mix of high brow Michelin starred restaurants, hole-in-the-wall eateries, street food - all with one common thread - great food. It's weird but even though it's my second trip for the year, I still walk away from Hong Kong with the insatiable hunger to return for my favourite eats or try new eateries I missed out. I guess Hong Kong definitely has weaved her magic around me that I'm enamoured with the city's offerings.

Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival (28-31 October)

sampling a sparkling rose

I was invited by Novotel Hotels together with a mixed group of bloggers (art, travel and food) from all over Asia, Australia and New Zealand to attend the Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival - an extravaganza of wine and food from all over the world. The yearly festival is organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board, this was its second year. Following the enormous response last year, this year saw a bigger expansion with more than 160 booths representing various wineries from France, Italy, Australia, Spain, the US and Portugal. China and Hungary wines were also showcased for the first time. Also represented were around 60 food booths with dishes ranging from cheese, ham, Chinese food, burgers, chocolate, ice cream and etc. To facilitate our tasting trail, we were given a wine glass to carry and token passes that gave us access to wine and food sampling.

hams and more hams from France and Spain's Pata Negra, French lady and wine bottles

France was the big focus as a special Bordeaux section was set up to feature various wineries from the famous French area. French cheeses and hams were also available. Special tasting sessions at the L Ecole De Vin was also held to introduce to budding wine lovers the virtures of Bordeaux wines. Various wine classes were also conducted by the Hong Kong Sommelier Association and a more formal Wine School with intermediate and advanced level wine appreciation classes. Another must-do was the Grand Tasting Pavilion, where premium wines (someone mentioned they sampled Dom Perignon champagne here), cheese and ham were housed within the covered area.

HMS Bounty rides the seas, abalone sauce with egg and rice, lights from the festival

The Western Kowloon Waterfront Promenade setting for the festival was picture perfect - a sweeping view of the harbour with its twinkling lights. Held for four days, the extravaganza marked the start of a string of activities for Hong Kong Wine & Dine Month including street fairs and another big event that was the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair from November 4-6. More details can be found at http://www.discoverhongkong.com/ For more pictures, see the Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival Flickr set.

Halloween - Ocean Park & Lan Kwai Fong

Ocean Park: Nemo; jellyfish galore; ferris wheel

Halloween is celebrated in a big way in Hong Kong with revelers hamming it up for the occasion with outrageous costumes as an excuse to party all night long. The people from Novotel Hotels had kindly arranged for us to visit Ocean Park (Aberdeen, 852-3923 2323) for their infamous Halloween Bash (already 10 years old) that runs from 23 September to 31 October. As it only started from 5pm onwards, most of the marine animals had called it a day except the ones in the aquarium.
Ocean Park: pumpkin decoration; Thriller comes alive; skeletons add to the fright; everyone is all dressed up

Since it was the weekend, throngs of youngsters had joined the big party that kicks off in the evening. For the special haunting season, the theme park had 444 ghouls to scare and shock. Being a person who normally does not do scary horror movies, I admit I had a frightfully fun time going through quite a fair amount of their haunted houses that night. My favourite one was based on the Pang Brothers' movie The Child's Eye whereby it was set in a creepy hotel - a spine chilling setting with a huge thrill factor. Another fun one was Terror Park, where your mission was to save lost souls using this RFID technology (or more like touching this "camera" to various checkpoints). Once you finish that, you got to print out a sticker telling you how many souls you had saved. A little juvenile though but still loads of fun with the ghouls popping up at unexpected spots to fright. For more pictures, see my Ocean Park Hong Kong flickr set.

Lan Kwai Fong scenes: the witches and devils of Wellington Street; YMCA fellas

Being a Saturday night, the party still continued on with a little more grown up fun at the infamous Lan Kwai Fong. Like all special occasions, throngs of people were also there for the big street party. To control the crowd, the police had cordoned off part of the area, making sure there were proper routes for the crowd to move up and down the street in an orderly fashion. It was double the distance to walk up with the new route but I didn't mind the extra legwork since I had the side entertainment of spying who had the most outrageous costume along the way.

Lan Kwai Fong scenes: caveman; gory pumpkins, the bride wore red and white, Ronald McDonald

Everyone was literally dressed to kill - guys imitating the blue avatar complete with the tail (that grabbed the girls attention), one group in caveman costumes including furry shoes(!), Ronald McDonald imitators with his mop of red crazy hair, girls dressed up as witches, devils and even one who came as a bride (white with a dash of blood) and etc. My favourite were the YMCA guys, in their workmen costumes complete with goggles and the torchlights. Strangely enough, the cobbled streets were lined with loads of photographers (and some videographers) hanging around to capture the most outlandish looks. For more pictures, see my Lan Kwai Fong - Halloween Time flickr set.

The Whiskey Priest: fish and chips; spicy chicken wing; cheese nachos; a pint of Guinness; jalapeno cheese

We left the busy streets to take shelter at The Whiskey Priest (Grd Flr & 1st Flr, 12 Lan Kwai Fong, Central, 852 -2869 0099) for a late supper. The Novotel Nathan Road's Marketing Communications Manager Irene had arranged with her friend Caroline who works with Lan Kwai Fong Entertainments (which The Whiskey Priest is part of) to meet up with us. Coincidentally, I found out later that Lan Kwai Fong Entertainments also owns Ocean Park. We are all famished from our frightful experience and the long trek we took around Ocean Park that we quickly polish up the pub's specialty, the light crisp beer battered fish and chips with a dash of malt vinegar. Another favourite was the deep fried jalapeno chillies with cheese - a sinful but oh-so-good combo. Spicy chicken wings, potato chips and a tender chicken steak completed our late night meal washed down with Guinness and chardonnay wine. For more pictures, see my Whiskey Priest Flickr set.

Jordan, Kowloon

my super comfy Premier Room; pillow menu for sweet dreams; dessert from Novotel welcome dinner

Thoroughout my trip, I was at the Novotel Nathan Road Hotel (348, Nathan Road, Kowloon, 852-3965 8888. Novotel also has hotels in Citygate near the airport and another one in Wan Chai, Hong Kong). Strangely enough I remember coming to this area for my last trip as I met friends up at Nathan Hotel, which is just round the corner from this place. The hotel is kinda tucked away in one of the streets off the super long Nathan Road so technically it's at Saigon Street right opposite the porridge place. What I loved about the hotel location was it took us 5 minutes to walk here from the Jordan MRT station, making it so easy for us to move from Kowloon to Hong Kong island.

Premier Lounge; fish, scallop carpaccio and beef carpaccio from Novotel welcome dinner

The hotel is the newest of the trio of Novotel hotels in Hong Kong - all outfitted in a modern style. I liked the nifty design in my room that utilised the small space - my toilet door was a sliding one that doubled up as my wardrobe door! It seems the hotel is also the first one in the Novotel group in China to get the Green Globe Certification Program. Hence in the room, you had reminders to save water, use your towels again (which I did), recycling bins (excellent for me when I was clearing up all my shopping bags and junk) and eco-friendly toiletries. Another plus point for the Premier Rooms where I stayed in was you are granted access to the Premier Lounge, which serves continental breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails. I can't live without the Internet (I had to pay a bomb in Italy during my 2 weeks stay for access) hence I was in love with my high speed broadband and free wifi. Even though you're not staying in the Premier Rooms, there are Macs in the reception area for you to check your internet, update your Facebook and Twitter. It was also very unusual to discover they had a Pillow Menu - all kinds from fluffy to hard ones and even a lavender one to make sure you had sweet dreams. For more pictures, see my Novotel Hotel Hong Kong Flickr set.

Nathan Congee: comforting chicken and abalone porridge

Best of all, since I'm food obsessed, it was within walking distance to the infamous Nathan Congee & Noodles (11, Saigon Street, Jordan, 852-2384 7355, Open: 7.30am-12pm). This place seems popular with the tourists especially the Thais who reach it through the help of a guidebook (as seem from each Thai tourist who clutches on to it like mad). The owners have even taken the liberty to stick Thai written menus on the wall to cater to their overseas customers. Most of the activity is right at the doorstep where the cook presides over his kitchen. The porridge is cooked ahead to a smooth consistency and kept warm in a large pot. Ocassionally, they'll mix it with a long wooden stick (that looked like it was recycled from a broomstick) to keep it from thickening.

Nathan Congee: pig's liver; abalone; century eggs and the stick in the porridge

You can order a variety of porridge with various side orders. They're famous for their chicken and abalone porridge that is watered down a little with the reserved liquid from the canned abalone. I especially love how each chicken piece has a distinct taste and aroma of Shaoxing rice wine it is soaked in. The frog porridge failed to impress though since the frogs they use are pretty small. Side dishes like century eggs, deep fried crullers (yau char kwai) and pig's liver are also available. For more pictures, see my Nathan Congee & Noodles Flickr set.

Man Mak Kee Noodles: beef brisket, vegetables, noodles and the cooking area

This time round I didn't venture into the Australian Dairy Company as the queues were crazy long. Instead, we visit Mak Man Kee Noodle Shop (Grd Flr, 51, Parkes Street, Jordan, 852-2736 5561, Open: 12 noon - 12.30am), which is right next door to the famous cha char teng with one of the Hong Kong food bloggers, HK Epicurus. Personally I wasn't too impressed with the food here. The noodles lacked the requisite chewiness, the prawn wantan didn't have the bouncy texture you want from fresh prawns and the broth lacked any dried sole (chor hau yee) aroma. The beef brisket and suprisingly the sweet tasting vegetables were their saving grace. For more pictures, see my Mak's and Man Mak Kee Noodles Flickr set.

Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon

Just before he flew off to Italy, HK Epicurus was very kind enough to show us around the neighbourhood and where the eats were. We discover Kimberley Street, which has the Mira Hotel, Miramar Shopping Centre, Kimberley Hotel (said to serve the heavenly boneless stuffed suckling pig per Singaporean food blogger Chubby Hubby) and loads of Korean diners. Later on, we revisit the place again on our own and pop over to Hong Kong Old Restaurant (4th Flr, Miramar Shopping Centre, 1 Kimberley Street, 852-2722 1812, Open: 11am-3pm, 5.30-11pm, Branch in North Point). It's a place my wine expert friend Ronny recommends since it's old school Chinese food popular with the locals. He warns us not to order hairy crabs (sniff!) even though it is in season as it seems this year, the rainy season has meant the crabs are too tiny in size to even bother eating.  Instead we savour xiao loong baos with a fragrant broth. Unlike the ones we get here, the skin is a little thicker but still smooth enough to savour. We also order the smoked pigeon that is finger licking good. For more pictures, see my Hong Kong Old Restaurant Flickr set.

It was a light meal as earlier on we had snacked on Lee Ken Egg Waffles (78, Nathan Road, Jordan, Open: 7am-2am.). Located two doors away from McDonalds, everyone stops by here for the egg waffles and patiently takes a queue number. Our wait is rewarded with crispy egg waffles with a soft light texture within. Simply addictive that one crispy bit is just not enough. The walk on Nathan Road to Kimberley Street after this stall is especially lovely since old trees line the walkway and St Andrews Church is also adjacent to the busy road. Further down along Nathan Road, you'll find the mosque and round another corner is the harbour including Harbourcity, which is where I stayed the last time. For more pictures, see my Lee Ken Egg Waffles Flickr set.

Sun Kee: food that sticks to the ribs aka cheese instant noodles with grilled pork neck

We wanted to end the night with one of HK Epicurus' recommendations hence to cope with the neverending food stops we kept making, we'll kill time by doing a side of shopping. Uniqlo was packed with people who were going ape crazy over fleeces and winter clothing. Since Malaysia and Sydney won't be experiencing cold weather in the near future, we abandoned ship. Instead, I found solace in one of my favourite places aka Muji. A quick walk around the streets also revealed that nestled in between the Korean diners were loads of wedding shops and Sasa, a must for those who love face masks, cosmetics and etc. Eventually we ended up at HK Epicurus' highly recommended place aka Sun Kee Restaurant (Shop 13-14, Grd Flr, Champagne Court, 16-20 Kimberley Street, 852-2722 4555). This small hole in the wall joint is well tucked within an old fashioned shopping centre that is just two doors away from the mod looking Mira Hotel. Their pulling attraction is their cheese noodles - curly strands coated in a not-too-cheesy creamy sauce with pieces of char grilled pork neck - a favourite of a string of HK stars (as per the pixs that line the walls). Literally food that sticks to your ribs, it is popular with the young clientele since it's a darn reasonable sum (about HKD 30 plus) to pay after clubbing. I spot another dish on every table and decided to give it a try. We end up with cuttlefish drizzled with a sweet thick and sticky soy sauce garnished with sesame seeds. It tastes nice in the beginning but got cloyingly sweet at the end. For more pictures, see my Sun Kee Flickr set.

Mongkok, Kowloon

Tim Ho Wan's infamous buns

For this particular trip, Tim Ho Wan (Flat 8, Grd Flr, Tsui Yuen Mansion, 2-20 Kwong Wa Street, Mongkok, 852-2332 2896, Open: 10am-10pm. Branch in Sham Shui Po) was on top of my list of must-eats since I had missed it out the last time. Horror stories about their legendary queues made me a little "kiasu" hence we reached their doorstep around 9.30am even though they start at 10am. A small queue had already started out when we arrived that seemed to consist more of foreigners vs locals (we later discover that loads of Australians and Kiwis were in town for the Bledisoe Cup that pitches the All Blacks and Wallabies together). Literally a hole in the wall (with a capacity of 29 people), it is best you use your waiting time wisely to select and tick your order. To cater for their international clientele, they have an English translated order sheet making life easier for non Chinese speakers.

Tim Ho Wan: the queue; ham siu kok and the steaming baskets

The place is cramped so be prepared to share your table with strangers. We end up joining tables wih an Australian family who was so impressed with their first visit there, they did a revisit. I get a peek of the kitchen that looks cramped and soon the food keeps coming out. The crispy char siu pau that marries a polo bun lardy crust and a char siu filling is worth all that hype. The char siu filling is perfect - not too sweet nor overdosed with rose wine - making us not regret placing double orders for the small crispy buns. We were a little ambitious with our ordering hence the food piled up quickly. I was most impressed with the ham siu kok and the Teochew dumpling (fan guo).

Tim Ho Wan: teochew dumplings

Here was the stuff of my dreams - chives, a little crunch from peanuts and radish - wrapped in a paper thin transculent wrapper. The glutinous rice was pretty decent but nothing exceptional. I liked the fluffy mah lai koh and the hearty pumpkin with bits of chestnut that we finish off as dessert. For more pictures, see my Tim Ho Wan Flickr set.

On the way to Langham Place, we walk past a street market that is a little different from my previous market walk as now you can spot the seasonal ingredients - chestnuts and waxed meats. I also spy burnt orange coloured persimmons and dried orange peels. For more pictures, see my Hong Kong Markets flickr set.

Ming Court's Sharksfin Delight

Determined to sample the Michelin starred restaurants, we made reservations for Ming Court (6th Flr, Langham Place Hotel, 555, Shanghai Street, Mongkok, 852-3552 3300, Open: 11am-2pm, 6-10.30pm) for lunch to savour their food and to see for ourselves if they deserve that elevation from one Michelin star to two Michelin stars in the 2010/11 guide. Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to dine in their main dining room but instead at another area that seemed to resemble the banquet section. What struck me about this place though, it is definitely a little different from normal Chinese restaurants - all the tables are placed sparsely between each other - a weird sight since usually Chinese restaurants tend to cramp in as many tables as possible to get more covers.

Ming Court: gorgeous oozing custard buns

Since it was the two of us, choices were quite limited but we manage with some dim sum offerings and their signature dish, the stir fried garoupa with mushrooms and dried shrimp roe. A word about the menus, everything was a little confusing as we got handed so many types: the specials, the main menu, the seasonal menu and etc, that ordering was so confusing. Luckily I did some research and could zoom in to their signature dishes.

Ming Court: Pan fried mushrooms buns; mango layer; stir fried garoupa

I like the pan fried mushrooms buns(HKD 36) as there's definitely a sense of refinement in the dainty buns filled with a variety of umami-laden mushrooms. On one side it has a beautiful fern pattern while the bottom was pan fried sesame seeds giving you a lovely crunch. The simple yet beautifully executed custard buns (HKD36) were also a favourite, wonderfully aromatic and creamy that flowed beautifully when we broke into each plain looking bun. Even though our main dish was rather large for the two of us, I still enjoyed every morsel of it - sliced garoupa and mushrooms coated in dried shrimp roe (HKD458). Our big dissapointment was dessert though - their infamous show stopping sharksfin delight (HKD98). It's a sight to behold since it comes in a long black ebony box filled with dry ice to create an ethereal effect but the taste of the mango pudding with a sharks fin top layer left us a little cold though since it was a tad too hard with not much of a mango taste. While it's hard to judge a restaurant with such few dishes, I must admit I was impressed with whatever little I tasted and wouldn't mind returning again. For more pictures, see my Ming Court Flickr set.

Elements Shopping Mall, Kowloon

Elements display diorama style

For this particular trip, I clicked with a few dessert fans who introduced us to Chez Shibata (Shop 2003, 2nd Level, Elements, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon, 852-2196 8921, Open: 11am-. Branches in Shanghai and Japan.) It seems this particular shop is now the hottest place around for sweet treats ever since its recent opening, hence a whole group of us decided to adjourn here for a little sugary interlude.

Chez Shibata's The Heart - filled with raspberries

I guess space is always a big issue in Hong Kong as most of these dessert places don't have lots of tables and chairs for you to sit and enjoy their treats. Instead, taking them away is so much more common that the counter gals don't bat an eyelid when you ask for a fork and napkins to savour their sweet desserts elsewhere. It was hard to choose from a colourful array but we narrow down to our choices. We adjourn another level up to discover an oasis on top - a garden courtyard area that is a communal park for the people who live around Elements: the high rise luxe apartments, The W Hotel and the infamous ICC building.

Chez Shibata: Verrine Plaisir with white chocolate and passionfruit layers; Caramel Eclair with salted butter cubes; Tranche Macha; fruit tart

We enjoy our individual desserts and everyone's favourite was the bright red heart or Couer Du Bois (HKD38) - a pillow soft mascarpone cheese mousse with a raspberry mousse centre that gave it its oooh-la-la taste. Famous for the Tranche Macha, I didn't quite like the taste of the chocolate and macha layers probably because neither had any distinct taste. The shocking green part was a little disconcerting though. The fruit tart looked lovely but had a pretty hard almond crust though. Definitely very pretty to look at but I kinda thought the pastries was a tad dissapointingly subtle in taste though. For more pictures, see my Chez Shibata flickr set.
La Maison Du Chocolat: Pistachio Entremet; Passionfruit and Porcelana Macarons; Coffee Eclair

In another visit here, I made it a point to drop by La Maison Du Chocolat (2040A, Elements, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon, 852-2196 8333, Open: 11am-. Branches in Pacific Place, IFC and Prince's Building) that came highly recommended by my friend CS. Again, you have to pack these back hence I only managed to sample them later.

La Maison Du Chocolat's ice creams: Salted Caramel and Tonka Chocolate

The ice creams are darn yummy especially the uber rich Tonka chocolate (HKD56). My salted caramel (HKD56) is just a shade less nicer probably because it was a little soft from the journey back. I loved the macarons (HKD20 for one) especially the rich porcelana chocolate one. They're super light with just a little filling to make it not too dry - simply gorgeous nibbles that don't kill your tastebuds with their cloying sweetness like the ones we get here. The pistachio entremet (HKD60) was nice but nothing earth shattering spectacular. Next time, I'll just stick to the chocolates and the macarons. For more pictures, see my La Maison Du Chocolat flickr set.

Central, Hong Kong

Tai Cheong Bakery's egg tart that Chris Patten hearts

Strangely enough this trip saw us traipsing around the hilly streets of Central more than we did around the Jordan area. On our first free day, we end up here and since Brad from ladyironchef is a self-confessed egg tart addict, we sample the infamous biscuit crust version from Tai Cheong Bakery (Grd Flr, Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, 852-2544 3475, Open:7.30am-9pm, 8.30am-9pm for Sundays and public holidays.) It's decent stuff especially with the light biscuit crust and wobbly egg custard portion. I guess it would have been better warmed. We also sample the century egg pastry said to be one of Time Out's must eats - a bit weird tasting with the crumbly pastry and soft lotus seed paste with the hard century egg within. For more pictures, see my Tai Cheong bakery flickr set.

Princess Cafe's Goji Berry Cake

We're all a little full from brunch hence by the time we decide to eat, it's peak lunch time and we give up trying to get a seat around the area. Instead, we stumble onto Princess Cafe & Bistro (Grd Flr, 115, Wellington Street, Central, 852-2866 9062), right across from Lin Heung Dim Sum. Admitedly, we all walked in for the free wifi (we're kinda wifi fiends since free wifi in Hong Kong is pathetic and even limited to 30 minutes in Starbucks if you can ever get in!). We discover a small cafe run by a passionate young lady who serves light tasting cakes. She's got an unusual touch - the chocolate one is my favourite as she infuses the ganache with milk. The goji berry cake is also very unusual with bits of the red berry and dried longan within. For more pictures, see my Princess Cafe flickr set.

Sing Heung Yeun: The crowd; tomato beef noodles

One of the places we were eyeing for lunch was Sing Heung Yuen (2, Mei Lun Street, Off Gough Street, Central, 852-2544 8368, Open: 8am-5.30pm. Closed Sundays) but since the lunch crowd was crazy, I only managed to find out what the hype was all about much later. Perpetually packed with people, you have to share tables with strangers. They're super popular for their tomato noodles - usually macaroni or instant noodles served with a tomato beefy broth with pieces of beef and a dollop of canned tomatoes. It's a little on the sweet side from the tomatoes and extremely hearty from the beef slices. A nice combination that gives a home-like taste. For more pictures, see my Sing Heung Yeun flickr set.

Island Tang: Old school charm; shrimp paste pork ribs; prawn toast; mushroom dumpling

On another day, we return back here for lunch at the one Michelin starred Island Tang (2nd Flr, The Galleria, 9 Queen's Road, Central, 852-2526 8798, Open: 12 noon -12.30pm) that is hosted by Hong Kong Tourism Board. Owned by the flamboyant David Tang who runs Shanghai Tang, the dining room is charming Shanghai chic complete with chandeliers and leather chairs. It's a great place to catch some pretty decent dim sum with a great atmosphere. What stood out from our meal here were the old school Chinese classic crunchy prawn toast laden with chunky chopped prawns,  the perfumed matsusake broth with the steamed vegetable dumpling and the fork tender deep fried spare ribs with just a hint of pungent shrimp paste. For more pictures, see the Island Tang flickr set.

Mak's Noodles - small but packed with flavour and crunch

On my last full day in Hong Kong, I'm frantically making my way over to Mak's Noodle (Grd Flr, 77 Wellington Street, Central, 852-2854 3810, Open: 11am-10pm. Branches in Causeway Bay, The Peak Galleria, Jordan and Tsim Sha Tsui.) as my mother had strict instructions to me to pack back their plain noodles for her. They keep well in the fridge and are great for a quick and simple meal at home. We end up sampling a small bowl between both of us and gave the thumbs up - noodles with a good bite and a broth fragrant with the dried sole powder aroma. Even the prawn wantan was equally good with a crunch.

Nan Tei's amazingly good duck tongue yakitori

Walking off our small bowl of noodles was pretty easy since the Mid Levels can qualify for any exercise machine. I especially love the poky little shops around especially this cool vintage one we discover around one of the streets. Being a little sick of Chinese food, we took a plunge of faith and ended up at Nan Tei (Grd Flr, 55 Staunton Street, Mid Level, Central, 852-2559 6221, Open: , Branches in Causeway Bay Happy Valley and Tsim Sha Tsui). We only noticed this place as lady edged past us to pull their sliding wooden doors. A look at their menu got us savouring over the food, hence we decided to give it a try. We wanted the unusual sounding chicken wings stuffed with goose liver but sadly that was sold out. Instead we consoled with other choices that was really good and went well with our sweet tasting umeshu (HKD40 for a glass) - the awesome duck tongue yakitori (2 sticks for HKD40) with its caramelised edges and salty edge, shrimp and chicken skin roll (2 sticks for HKD52) - had to love the crispy chicken skin edges, the stuffed mushroom with chicken (2 sticks for HKD40) and the sweet corn of the cobs (HKD35). For more pictures, see my Nan Tei flickr set.

I end my whirlwind trip at The Krug Room (Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 5 Connaught Road, Central, 852-2825 4014, Open: 7.30-10pm. Closed Sundays.), a well hidden private dining room within the confines of the deluxe hotel. I won't go on with the details but the food is incredibly awesome especially the playfulness expressed by the chef in his unique Eco Menu.

It was a super fun trip thanks to the hospitality of Novotel HK and my eating partner Minh from eatshowandtell who valiantly went along for each meal. For those of you who are traveling to Hong Kong, Novotel HK is also offering a special privilege for masak-masak's blog readers. Just quote "Novotel blgr" when you book directly with any of their hotels: Novotel Century, Novotel Citygate or Novotel Nathan Road to qualify for a free room upgrade. This offer is valid till August 2011.

For all the Hong Kong scenes and food, see my full collection that includes the previous trip's pictures.

Should you want an insight on Hong Kong's fab eats and more from an insider's view, check out these Hong Kong bloggers that I met at the event:

1. Life as a Bon Vivant - Jason also contributes to Time Out Hong Kong (he's on the panel of the dining awards) and even has his own Nokia Ovi food application (wow!)

2. You Got Me Blogging - written by Razlan, a Malaysian transplanted to Hong Kong who loves food, travel and even chick lit!

3. Food from Hong Kong & Macau - Kelvin recently came back to Hong Kong from Melbourne so he's slowly exploring Hong Kong & Macau, one place at a time.
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