Wednesday, December 30, 2015

20 best dishes of 2015

#AMBERxBENU bamboo shoot with black truffle bao
Greedy food folk like me are lucky to eat a lot of good things all the time*, and I'm so very grateful to everyone who makes good food available to us (me!). In no particular order, I'd just like to celebrate 20 very memorable dishes I had (something I started 4 years ago and was supposed to continue annually but didn't - here's 2011 and 2012).

Monday, December 21, 2015

Amber - Charming as always

Cèpes at Amber
I don't think Amber needs any introduction. It's just funny to think that once upon a time I had to convince my bosses that it was worthy of being included alongside the Robuchons and other, older, hotel fine diners.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Taiwanese Meat Sauce, with no meat

Vegetarian rou zao (肉燥), in danzai noodles
To call this a "recipe" is kind of crazy, because it's basically throwing a bunch to stuff in a pan, but I guess that just tells you how easy it is to cook something pretty crave-worthy in about 15 minutes.

I looked up how to make southern Taiwanese meat sauce*, rou zao (肉燥) when I was craving dan zai mian (擔仔麵), an old-school noodles classic usually with a prawny-porky broth, prawns, some egg and this meat sauce.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tong Chong Street Market

Tong Chong Street Market
So, I've started a new farmers' market in Hong Kong - actually it's been over a month now, but it just didn't occur to me to write about it. As you might remember, it's not the first time I've done something like this, although I'm happy to say that Tong Chong Street Market is a big improvement on my previous efforts, and much closer to my ideal - a food-focused farmers' market. We have a total of 40 stalls, 20 local farmers, 10 special stalls for food you can eat on the spot, and 10 stalls where you can buy pantry items, bread, wine and so on. But isn't she a writer, you ask, why bother setting up something like this? (Okay, no-one asked but I'm just going to tell you).

Friday, November 06, 2015

Burch & Purchese - My favourite cakes in Melbourne

Caramel, chocolate & hazelnut choux at Burch & Purchese
I've wanted to write about Burch & Purchese for ages - I came here about half a dozen times buying basically all the cakes we ever needed on the project I was working on (shooting this movie, and yeah we needed a lot of cake) because it was just so darned good. You can tell from the pics that I came around Chinese New Year 2015 - yes, it has taken me that long to blog it but anyone who reads this blog shouldn't be surprised by now :P

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Michelin Hong Kong is failing us

Michelin Hong Kong and Macau is letting our cities down
Yes, this is a rant. Consider yourself warned.

It's been 8 years of the Michelin Hong Kong and Macau, and every year, people who are truly interested in food are disappointed by the overall results. Sure, there are amazing restaurants listed in the Guide - the hard work of these restaurateurs must not be ignored - but systematically missing restaurants that everyone in HK's food scene appreciates? I don't get it.

Not that there can ever be any objectivity in restaurant reviewing, and especially in the case of guides and lists, but any guide or list will have a clear set of criteria and rationales for their various rankings and awards - but Michelin has strangely flouted all their own guidelines for HK, and that's my gripe.

I said there is no objectivity in restaurant reviewing, but there are some things you can actually verify as facts, and see with your own eyes - quality of ingredients, service staff training, atmosphere. For some strange reason, Michelin in HK seems blind to these. Example: Can anyone tell me why, aside from foul play, all of Peninsula Hong Kong's outlets are omitted, wholesale, from the starred lists, year after year? Surely even judging by things we can see, physically, the quality of Spring Moon can not be less than that of Lei Garden Kwun Tong.

The new street food category in the guide this year is a bit of a joke - why are there only a couple dozen street food eateries in the whole of HK that made the list? And where is the delineation between the street food list and Bib Gourmands, and hell, even one-starred restaurants? Why Tim Ho Wan is not under BG has baffled me since the beginning. Thing is, I get the distinct sense that it's all just ammunition for buzzy marketing. "Cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world!", "First ever street food list in a Michelin guide!" - great headlines and soundbites that will spread far and wide, don't you think?

Visitors who appreciate food will read these soundbites (unhelpfully regurgitated by lazy news outlets as headlines), try these lists, and then turn around and say, "Whatever, it wasn't that great". Expectations matter - expectations probably matter the most in experiences like eating. And when such a well-known brand like Michelin says something, people listen, and a lot of the time, if it doesn't deliver on the expectations that the Michelin has set, the bad feelings end up being directed at the restaurant, which is incredibly unfair, because most of the time, it's not the restaurant that went all out and shouted, "we're the best, like EVER!". And when the Michelin, often inexplicably, takes away a star, or removes it from the guide, it's the restaurant that suffers too.

When the guide was first introduced in HK, a lot of people in the industry were excited, because it kind of put us on the map - it felt like we were on the global foodie circuit now; the big leagues. But 8 years on, the gimmicks and the inexplicable ups and downs (where else has a restaurant gone jumped from 1* to 3* in a year?#) have made the Michelin here a joke more than anything, and its usefulness to international travellers in search of a good meal is in rapid decline.

As a business, Michelin Guides are not doing well, and haven't done so in a long time. It gives them every reason to make noise and create buzz, but after 8 years, I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's at the expense of our city's restaurateurs and our reputation as a whole.

One of the reasons I started writing about food in Hong Kong is because there used to be so much drivel out there - visiting friends would tell me they had read some list in a magazine that had been written by someone who had dropped in for a couple of days and knew very little about the context of the food. Fortunately, the scene has changed dramatically - voices of people who know their stuff have increasingly been heard, and research has become so much easier and faster, but these voices are forever living under this cloud that is Michelin HK. I'm incredibly proud of the food we have in Hong Kong, and I want people to go to the right places for the right reasons (armed with good information and well managed expectations) and have great meals here, and if you ask me, Michelin HK is not helping.

# Edit: Indeed, EMP in New York did too, and since the post went up, it's funny how many people have told me that these sentiments apply to the U.S. guides too. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tenmasa, Macau - Tempura All The Way

Sitting at the tempura counter at Tenmasa, Macau
This is why I shouldn't (and tend not to) take junkets* - this meal was from my Macau trip to which the City of Dreams very kindly invited me back in July May (that is how awful I am).

Tenmasa serves a range of Japanese cuisines but its main focus is tempura, and appropriately, we were seated at the tempura counter.

On Dining - Pigeon Perfection

Roasted pigeon, artichokes, baby spinach & lemon chutney at On Dining
On Dining* is the Upper Modern Bistro crew's second restaurant, a larger (2-storey) and slightly more upscale restaurant and bar in Central, in the same building as Arcane (which is also excellent).

I'd read a couple of times on my friend's blog Diary of Growing Boy about ON's pigeon, so that's basically why we were here. Oh, that, and we were celebrating a birthday.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Lûmé - Bright young things in South Melbourne

Lambs blood ganache rolled in maple oats, native apple jam and riberry pepper
On Lûmé's website, it says, "Some circumflexes appear for no known reason". Circumflexes are a bit of a leitmotif in the branding, so I take that as the founders keeping things fun and light hearted - pretty clever, as the food is unapologetically high-end.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Jade Dragon, Macau - Oh so fine

Jade Dragon signature fried rice with prawn, Sakura shrimp, conpoy and roasted goose
As part of my junket* in Macau, I got to visit Jade Dragon, City of Dreams Macau's signature Cantonese restaurant. I'd heard lots of great things about it - Tatler Top 20 and Best Dim Sum, Michelin-starred, etc. - so I was excited to try it out myself.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Scandinavia - Yes, Fäviken and Frantzén, but so much more

Around Lakselvbukt, near Tromsø, Northern Norway
We had known for a while that our honeymoon was going to feature the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), but when we got to planning the wedding, we knew we wouldn't be able to make it that year (we were married in late March) - whether we went to Alaska or Norway - so we did it almost a year later, over Chinese New Year of 2014.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Shinji by Kanesaka, Macau (and what it feels like to have an anti-foodist husband)

Sushi counter at Shinji by Kanesaka, Macau
I was invited on a junket* by City of Dreams Macau to try out some of their signature restaurants. I'll be writing about all of them in due course, but out of the list I was offered, I was most excited about Shinji by Kanesaka, a sushi restaurant with two Michelin stars at its original branch in Ginza**.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Clever Dripper Is Exactly That. Clever.

The Clever Dripper is an awesome way to make a consistent cup of coffee at home
A lot of people make coffee at home, and as much as I drink it, I have to admit I didn't start brewing at home until a few years ago. Back in Melbourne, it was a no-brainer - I could go out and get a good cup almost wherever. In Hong Kong, somehow I managed by trekking out to different places to find decent coffee. That all changed when "third wave" hit Hong Kong and it became much easier to buy relatively cheap equipment to brew at home, and have access to locally roasted beans, or beans flown in regularly. (Previously, if you wanted to make coffee at home, it was either you buy a home espresso machine (which generally suck unless, well, you spend so much you might as well get a commercial one) and buy stale beans from the supermarket, or get a pod machine, neither of which appealed to me. (Re: pods - reliance on a single brand and company is just too dodgy for my taste, not to mention the environmental impact* of pods...).

As usual, I have a written an intro that's way too long before saying what I really want to say - I think I have found my coffee-at-home utopia. It's the Clever Dripper.

At home, I just want a decent cup that won't be much trouble nor take much skill. Sure, I've learned to do pourovers, but I'll never be as skilled and as well-trained as the baristas who make 50 a day. But I like the clean, expressive flavours that pourovers provide (I like espressos (okay, espressi, whatever, I need a bloody style guide for myself) but I kind of see them as a different drink - I guess an analogy might be juice vs nectar or something).

While away from home this past winter, I brought the current "standard" travel coffee kit with me - Aeropress and Porlex grinder. They're easy to pack and numerous Instagram flatlays have made it look so sexy. I'm not a huge Aeropress fan because of the grit, but I can live with it. But then on the same trip, I moved around a bit and sometimes only packed an overnight bag that wouldn't fit my coffee gear. I arrived at my sister-in-law's house and found something that most households have - a French press. Now, I'd never used a French press before because it'd had such bad, er, press, but I needed coffee so I asked Google god, and it gave me this. (In short: coarse grind, longer brew time, agitation.)

It's an amazing method for the flavours etc. but still, there was the problem of grit. When I got home, I even thought about using a French press then pouring it through a V60 - then I thought - wait a minute, didn't someone invent that already? Yep. It's the Clever Dripper. You get all the cupping-like soaking of the "new" French press method to which I linked above, and none of the grit because it has a paper filter*, thanks to the simple valve at the bottom of the dripper. GENIUUUUUUS.

*Although what would be more genius is if someone could invent a filter as good as paper, but was reusable. I've tried all sorts of metal disks, the ABLE cone etc. but none are as good as paper grit-wise. I'm sorry, world. Please, science, invent something and save me from my daily sinning.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Wishing it was in my Neighborhood

Daily Meat - Roast Chicken at Neighborhood
Neighborhood is the newish restaurant helmed by chef David Lai of On Lot 10 fame. On Lot 10 closed a few months ago, and just before it did, Neighborhood opened.

As the name suggests, the format is that of a neighbourhood bistro, and is the kind of ideal bistro I wish I had within walking distance of my house. (I'll even excuse the American spelling). Neighborhood can be summed up thus: A menu that changes weekly, ingredients that are sourced thoughtfully, well priced, with small surprises here and there, but mostly it's about well-executed favourites.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Boundary Espresso, Melbourne - Up North

Turkish Breakfast at Boundary Espresso
As a member of a stereotypical Asian family in Australia, we never ventured far from our home in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Preston, where Boundary Espresso is, was to me just a name on the road sign on the way to the airport.

Working on a project in Melbourne for the past two months has allowed me to be reacquainted with my city, especially the northern suburbs, which my relatives would have told me was a "danger zone" (plus other marginally racist comments people say behind closed doors that I won't repeat here). In short, as a little girl in Melbourne, we basically never ventured north of Fitzroy.

Friday, January 30, 2015

National Geographic Instagram Takeover @natgeopeopleasia

Follow @natgeopeopleasia for my posts this week!
I first came across National Geographic's "Future of Food" campaign about a year or so ago, as I've become more interested in food issues. Sustainability, hunger, industrial and small-scale farming are huge issues and it does take a while to get your head around it all. It affects us all, rich or poor, wherever you are in the world and I'd encourage you all to learn more about it.

Various fun and helpful food shows are becoming available to Hong Kong and Asia Pacific on the NatGeo channel, and I'll be helping to spread the word mostly via their Instagram @natgeopeopleasia.

I'll be posting "food things" like I already do on my own Instagram account @e_ting, and as I'm currently travelling, you'll see (hopefully) yummy, fun and thought-provoking things from both Hong Kong and Australia.


Thursday, January 01, 2015

Moon Under Water - Best Meals of 2014

Moon Under Water, at Builders Arms Hotel
I get really excited every time I go back to Melbourne. Don't get me wrong, I love Hong Kong, but Melbourne is home too, and after all, it's where I learned to love food after a childhood/adolescence of indifference.

And pretty much as I was getting ready to leave Melbourne, the name Andrew McConnell started popping up everywhere, initially in relation to Cumulus Inc, which I didn't visit until I returned to the city on a work trip. I was blown away - to me, McConnell's restaurants - Cumulus Inc, Cumulus Up, Moon Under Water, in particular* - are the very definition of the hard-to-define (some say problematic) genre called Modern Australian.