Hong Kong Highlights

January 28, 2011 § 4 Comments

A had to travel to Hong Kong last week and there was no way I was going to miss out on a travel opportunity. We ended up making it a four day trip. It was a fun-filled weekend with good food and good weather. I did the usual touristy things. My favourites were:

1. Kowloon Park

Firstly, I was fascinated by it’s location. It is smack-bang in the middle of Tsim Sha Tsui which means that the beautifully tranquil park is surrounded by skyscrapers. It is positioned along the main thoroughfare of Hong Kong, Nathan Road.  Because Kowloon Park was the first place I visited, I didn’t manage to go walk through it in its entirety, because I was antsy to see the rest of Tsim Sha Tsui. The park hosts an abundance of exotic plants and birds. It’s the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the madness that is Hong Kong, both because of its location and atmosphere.

Notice the skyscrapers in the background:

2. Hong Kong Museum of History
This museum is also very conveniently located just a few metres off Nathan Road. I didn’t expect too much walking in. I think I may be somewhat biased towards museums in Asia. It beat my expectations on all counts. It is big, covers an extensive range of topics and is very interactive – just the way I like them. It’s no wonder, considering that it cost the government of Hong Kong HK$390million to put up. It covers the geographical, ecological, political, social and economical history of Hong Kong. It is both entertaining and educational and the whole experience is enhanced by the special light and sounds effects. I was more than impressed. I think that even little children will not get bored at this museum.

 

3. Victoria Peak

The mountain that Victoria Peak is located on is on Hong Kong Island, where we spent very little of our time. It is the highest mountain on the island. We took the “peak tram” up the very steep mountain. Even though there was a lot of haze in the sky on that particular morning, the view was breathtaking. A was quite amused at the mall set up at the peak of the mountain. He said “only in Asia will they build a mall at the tip of a mountain”.

4. Jackie Chan’s boat

During our tour on Sunday, as we were approaching the Aberdeen fishing village, our tour guide pointed out that the black yacht was infact that of Jackie Chan’s. I could just picture him doing some funny action movie things on the deck of the boat 🙂

5. Ladies’ Market

I was not particularly interested in doing much shopping in Hong Kong. My friend actually said to me, “only you would visit a museum in Hong Kong”. I know, I know! I just don’t fancy shopping as a hobby. When I need particular items of clothing, I am more than open to the idea, but I rarely just shop for fun. Sure, I do get those shopping highs occasionally, but that hasn’t happened in a while. I also have a moral issue with buying “fake” products. So I didn’t plan to buy anything at the Ladies’ Market. I just wanted to see what it was all about. It was so much of fun to observe European tourists bargaining, and to see all of the same products that are sold at much higher rates in branded stores at fractions of the price at the market. I did buy a really cool leather covered notebook. I have serious weakness for stationary shopping, I must admit. I also bought a bright green non-branded handbag and a fridge magnet, because I collect magnets.

I did plan to buy gym pants in Hong Kong. Both the Ladies’ Market and the errrmmm exercise clothes road (Fa Yuen Road) are perpendicular to Argyle Road, so I thought I’d kill both birds with one stone. The exercise clothes road was a big disappointment, mainly because only 1 store on the entire road has a fitting room. I will never buy gym pants without fitting them on. There are few things in life more annoying than uncomfortable exercise wear. I ended up going to a traditional sports store at a shopping centre to get the pants.

Hong Kong was lots of fun overall, but somewhat too busy for my liking. I live in Taipei now, so that alone says a lot. I’d like to go back for another weekend in the future just to visit Disneyland Hong Kong and Ocean Park.  I must mention that there are so many dodgey characters standing around on the pavements trying to woo you into their stores in dingey alleys where they sell fakes. They can be so annoying. A swears that the trick is to give them no eye-contact. No prize for guessing where they’re from- hint: the same place as that of my ancestors 😉

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Permanent Revolution of Tea

January 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

On Saturday night, after the hustle and bustle of the Shida Night Market, we went to a tea shop close to the Zhongxiao-Dunhua MRT station. I was taken aback by the very modern, funky decor. I don’t know why I expected a more traditional place. It’s not called the Permanent Revolution of Tea for nothing.

Our group had the enclosed lounge area to ourselves.

As soon as we sat down, the waiter brought over three little cups of dried tea leaves and asked us to choose one which he would then place in the burner. We chose the Oolong tea, because he said it the aroma is very calming, and it was close to our bedtime.

The menu was in Chinese. Now that I think back, we didn’t request English menus, so they might actually have some.

Again, we told the group to order what they thought was fitting for us, so they ordered a variation of Green Tea for me and a pot of Taiwanese Oolong for A.

We were both very pleased with our teas. They were smooth and rich in flavour. They were also very cleansing and fresh.

We also had a plate of sweet treats to share with our teas.

I ate most of the Sesame sweets 🙂 I love sesame seeds. I have even been adding black sesame seeds to my cereal in the mornings recently.

I strongly recommend anyone in Taipei City to visit this tea shop and experience a modern twist on a Taiwanese tradition. Visit the website at  http://www.wretch.cc/blog/prottea if you can read Chinese 🙂

Shida Night Market

January 9, 2011 § 5 Comments

Yesterday saw a night out on the town with A’s colleagues. I decided before we stepped out that I would experiment with Taiwanese speciality foods, because it’s not everyday that we have a group of Taiwanese friends guiding us through the market and explaining to stall owners that we do not consume certain animal products.

The Shida Night Market is positioned close to my Chinese school, yet we had not been there previously. Taipei has many night markets, which often stay open until the early hours of the morning. As soon as we walked out of the MRT station, we were in the midst of crowds of youth, many of whom probably attend the National Taiwan Normal (don’t ask) University close by. Our group of 7 managed to keep together through this:

The market hosts a range of stalls and stores. There are many xiaochi (small eat) stalls, jewellery stores, fresh fruit and fruit juice stalls, clothing stores and even a stationery store. Our first stop was a famous Crepe stall. This was not the conventional type of French crêpe that I am more familiar with, but a more firm “crêpe” which is rolled into a cone and stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings of your choice.  The menu was in Chinese, so we asked his colleagues to order what they felt was fitting for first-timers. We were presented with this a few minutes later:

It was HUGE! This picture does not to justice to the size of this monstrosity. The fruits inside were really fresh and juicy. The ice-cream was so-so and the crêpe was not very crêpe like, but is tasted pleasant nonetheless. The fresh cream was slightly sweetened and it went very well with the crêpe and fruits. I was happy we got to sample this baby.

I was not as happy to sample one of these poor excuses for food:

I mentioned to one fo the girls that I had not tasted Stinky Tofu as yet. She immediately rounded up the troops and directed us into a little alley leading to a busy restaurant. My suspicion that the horrid smell on the road of our hotel a few weeks back was in fact the Stinky Tofu, was confirmed. Once the fried tofu arrived, the girls casually picked up their chopsticks and began to dig in, one by one. I followed suit soon afterwards. If they swallowed one after the other with such ease, it couldn’t be so bad, right? WRONG! I broke my block in half and bit into it. The texture was similar to halloumi – not bad at all. It was also crunchy on the outside because it was deep-fried. It was fine, until I started to taste the smell (if that makes any sense). It’s almost as though the stinkyness of the Tofu comes into the taste at some stage while you’re chewing it – hard to explain. A managed to snap a picture of my expression while I was biting on it. I did not know that my face could look that ugly. No, I will not share. At least I didn’t almost throw up, like he did. Luckily his colleagues mistook his almost throwing up for almost crying. I don’t know which is worse.

We ventured back into the market after the tofu experience. I bought some hand cream which costed much less than it would in a regular chain store. The girls mentioned that if you buy products in a store (no matter the size), they are generally originals, but we should be wary of what the street vendors sell.

Once our stomachs had settled from the half-a-tofu we each consumed, we braved ourselves through the doors of another little restaurant. This time, we sampled a stew of mixed vegetables, which is supposed to be similar to Hot Pot (another Chinese speciality). I think A‘s colleagues were set out to feed us something more appetising than the ‘Tofu. This dish did not disappoint.

It is pretty much made up of a hot water with spices and herbs, into which fresh vegetables are dipped. Very simple, yet very delicious. The vegetables were mostly local favourites, such as a variety of mushrooms and baicai (Chinese cabbage). Even though it was hen la (very spicy), I probably ate more than anyone else on our table. The restaurant did not serve any cold drinks, so we went to the 7/11 down the block and got some drinks to sooth our taste buds. I had a papaya milk drink . It was perfect.

 

 After much deliberation about where to visit next, we settled to go to a tea emporium close to our home. I will write about that in my next post.

How to get to Shida Night Market: Take the MRT to the Taipower Station stop and then just follow the crowd. You will find it 🙂 If you’re still battling, walk down Luosifu Road in the direction of Guting MRT station and turn left onto Shida Road.

Savoury Rice

January 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

A cooked chicken curry last weekend and (as always), there was cooked white rice left over. I refuse to throw perfectly good food away. I usually freeze the rice until the next time we have a rice dish, but my freezer in the new apartment is tiny. So this is what I came up with:

Lilla Snigel’s Leftover Savoury Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1 tspn of chopped garlic
  • 1/2 a white onion
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1/2 tspn white pepper
  • sprinkle of any herbs you have
  • 2 tspns lemon juice
  • 1 chopped up green pepper
  • 1/2 chopped tomato
  • About 2 cups of leftover rice (I had basmati)
  • A dollop of tomato sauce
  • A dollop of Nandos sauce (Yes, I brought some in my bag from Sweden)
  • Some chopped up fresh coriander

Method

  • Braise the garlic and onion in a frying pan – wait for the onion to soften
  • Add the tomato, green pepper, spices and lemon juice – allow the green pepper to soften
  • Add the rice, sauces and coriander
  • Mix well

It was haochi (delicious in Chinese). You could probably serve it as a side dish with some meat/chicken/fish.

Sweet Lemon Juice

January 2, 2011 § 3 Comments

My lovely neighbour brought over a plastic bag full of citrus limetta (sweet lemons) earlier in the week. At the time I thought they were lemons because they were yellowish-green in colour. I was wondering what I would do with them because I already had a full bottle of lemon juice in fridge. When I was cooking on Friday, I decided to use some fresh lemon in my marinade and sampled some juice before I added it in – luckily so, as it turned out to be very sweet. I should have noticed because the fruits were now a darker shade of yellow, almost leaning towards orange. My friend just clarified that these are actually sweet lemons (and not oranges as I had thought). They typically grow in South East Asia and the Meditteranean regions. I don’t think we get any in South Africa.

I have no electric or manual juicer because our container hasn’t arrived from Sweden yet. I was really craving fresh juice and I didn’t want to waste the fruits, so I squeezed them by hand. That was some serious commitment to vitamin C. My hands were so sore afterwards, but it was well worth it. The juice was so incredibly sweet and delicious that if I bought it, I would have thought it was sweetened.

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