Monthly Archives: March 2013

Dining out in the Mighty Kong: Part One

Boy Mestizo’s food adventures in Hong Kong



It’s been some two years since I was last in Hong Kong, and an even longer time since I’ve been to Hong Kong as a destination in its own right – not a stepping stone to the Philippines, as it has been the last few times.

The interesting thing is that for some time, I felt like Hong Kong was becoming less and less familiar to me; each time I went back, I felt it was a little less like home. More Mainland Chinese and less English; new reclamation projects and buildings; more polluted; old haunts shut down and/or replaced; family and school friends leaving or passing away; losing my permanent residence and thus gaining the ability to be deported. Somewhere I used to live, not that I still could call home. So I wasn’t too fussed about just passing through.

But this time, I was making Hong Kong the be all and end all of my trip (it was my friend’s birthday weekend, after all). And by God, that was a good decision.

Maybe because things have not been that great recently, I’ve been craving for something to really spark things up. Something so different from my current situation and yet still familiar; something that would just sweep me up things and allow me to lose myself in.

And so this trip was absolutely invigorating, and has rekindled my love for Hong Kong. It is truly a 24-hour city, filled with so many dynamic people and with so much going on. And a lot of my friends are moving back to work there! Which leads to the inevitable question: “So Mark, when are you going to start working back here again?”

Well, with food like they have in Hong Kong, I’d be crazy not to want to move back there, right? I mean, the last time I had a Chinese feast was in Lotus Lounge in Poole – where chopsticks do not come as standard – and the last time I had dim sum was at Ping Pong, where a French waiter once had the temerity to assume that since me and my two Asian friends had never eaten at Ping Pong before, we needed it to be explained to us that dim sum is “like, euh, Chinese tapas, you know, euh, small plates to share, like how ze Spanish do” *shudder*.

If I was ever offered a last meal before I died, I would probably request a weekend in Hong Kong. And even then, I would leave this earth unsatisfied.

But now, to the food:

Chuk Yuen Seafood Restaurant

28 Hankow Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, +852 2722 0633

A chain that’s renowned for its lobster, especially the cheese and butter lobster. Wait, did I say both cheese AND butter? Yes I did.

This is what happens when lobsters adapt to swimming in cheese and butter

This is what happens when lobsters adapt to swimming in cheese and lobster

We partnered this bad boy with Sichuan-style string beans with chilli and crispy garlic (the mix of sweetness and heat was delightful) as well as that Hong Kong staple, beef ho fun (of which this was a pretty fine example).

Let's take a moment to congratulate the main man behind this dish - the garlic dicer

Let’s take a moment to congratulate the main man behind this dish – the garlic dicer

Having fun with ho fun

Having fun with ho fun

By the end, I was mixing all the crispy garlic into the cheese sauce and spooning it over my ho fun. It may have been sacrilegious and rather disgusting to look at, but dangnammit it was taassty.

Tim Ho Wan

Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station, Central, +852 2332 3078

Those of you in the know will recognise Tim Ho Wan as being one of, if not the most, cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. Springing forth from its original hole-in-the-wall in Mong Kong, Tim Ho Wan has now opened branches elsewhere, and although some purists say that the quality has not been maintained at these new branches, the queues suggest that it is still pretty popular.

Crisp yet soft and fluffy buns of glory

Crisp yet soft and fluffy buns of glory

We had their signature baked barbecue pork buns (soft, chewy, fluffy dough encased in a thin and crisp sugared layer, filled with some pretty good char siu) which were unlike any other char siu bao I’ve ever had. We accompanied it with, if memory serves correctly:

turnip cake (crispy-fried and still chewy and a bit gooey… lovely)

siu mai (good enough, and a massive improvement on the last ones I had at Ping Pong)

har gau (much-prized amongst Filipinos, and hence a real treat for my friends… this was a particularly fine example)

– chicken’s feet with black bean sauce (never a favourite of mine, to be honest)

cheung fun (very slippery, and actually not that filled)

– glutinous rice dumpling (sticky and meaty)

–  steamed beef ball with beancurd skin (a new one for me; tasty, springy beef with a chewy skin that some may find disconcerting)

Stack 'em up high

Stack ’em up high

And this was all finished off with tonic medlar and petal cake, which I can only describe as a floral after-dinner jelly filled with strange crunchy bits. Refreshing and pleasant-tasting, but not quite for me.

Floral jelliness

Floral jelliness

This is what dim sum is meant to be like! Well-made and not wallet-busting!

Yung Kee

32-40 Wellington Street, Central, +852 2522 1624, http://www.yungkee.com.hk/

These guys are the Roast Goose specialists, and our meal here was to be the showpiece meal for my friend, who adores her fatty birds (because she wants to hug them and eat them at the same time, much like this person is doing here, without the eating).

We ate this just a few hours after finishing up at Tim Ho Wan, but it did not stop us from going full Chinese banquet for this dinner.

Feasting like a boss

Feasting like a boss

The goose had such lovely crispy skin, such juicy and tender meat and such melt-in-the-mouth fat, it was an ultimate symbol of food decadence. But a roast goose is a fairly hefty dish in itself, and we were unable to completely clean up the plate. It was with great sadness that we saw it whisked away into the kitchen, never to grace our tastebuds again. Someone later asked why we didn’t get it in a doggy bag. That would have been the smart thing to do.

This goose died for our pleasure

This goose died for our pleasure

There were also seafood crispy noodles, steamed mushrooms with pak choi, choi sum stir-fried with garlic, steamed scallops (big, fat, juicy ones that were firm yet tender, like a gentle lover *say what*), jellyfish (another thing I’m not a fan of), Fujian fried rice (a wetter, saucier fried rice with more seafood than the standard Yeung Chow-style), and last but not least, century eggs.

Surprisingly creamy and rich

Surprisingly creamy and rich

Most people recoil at the sight of century eggs because, well, eggs are not meant to be that colour, right? I was therefore never really interested in them when I was younger, which consequently meant that this was my first time ever eating them – and I must say, they did not taste as I expected them to. There was no pungency from the alkaline treatment; in truth, to me it tasted creamier and a bit smoother, with a hint of truffle to it that gave it a bit of a richer flavour than your standard egg. Paired with pickled ginger, it was a most pleasing treat.


Bear in mind that all of this was eaten during my first two days back in Hong Kong – who says that gluttony is dead? More to come later!


Currently listening to: Alestorm – Captain Morgan’s Revenge

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Parklife, Bermondsey-style: Caphe House

Copyright of Caphe House. Sourced from Caphe House website

Copyright of Caphe House. Sourced from Caphe House website

Cuisine: Vietnamese

Address: 114 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3TX

Area: Bermondsey Street

Nearest Station: London Bridge

Tel. No.: 020 7403 3574

Website: http://www.caphehouse.com/

Pricing: Cheap

Good For: Lunchtime fix, Cheap and cheerful, Perfect for a summer’s days, Casual dining, Friendly conversation, Takeaway

I love to fill my lunch hour with exploratory walks, which is one of the perks of working in such a diverse city such as London. Whilst working at City Hall, on a whim, I decided to stroll down Bermondsey Street, completely unaware of what I would find down there. It was a warm summer’s day, and I desired to go sit in the park some way down the street. But what to do whilst there? Oh, what’s this? A Vietnamese café conveniently situated right across the road from it?? Happy days!

It’d been some time since I’d had Vietnamese, so I hastily barged my way in and scanned the menu hungrily: banh mi!

By now, I’m sure you must be very aware that banh mi are one of the supposed ‘trend’ foods of recent years (I say this because of the number of new places that have opened up, and the fact that I saw EAT, EAT of all places, selling their own version of banh mi…). But for the uninitiated, banh mi are essentially Vietnamese-style baguette sandwiches, a wonderful culinary marriage of French baguette and Vietnamese ingredients that originated from France’s colonial rule in Indochina.

I dare not offer myself as an expert on banh mi, but I would say that Caphe House has given me some of the best banh mi that I have had in London: excellent portions of crusty bread filled with generous amounts of fillings, with a pork pâté that is a bit stronger than the other banh mi establishments, which adds to the pleasing complexity of the sandwich. I may perhaps be romanticising them and tingeing them with the fond nostalgia that surrounds my City Hall days (and perhaps linking my memories with the rather cute girl who worked there…), but hey that’s still a valid part of the dining experience, isn’t it?

I’ve also had their rice dishes, on those days when I’ve been feeling rather peckish. These are assembled from a whopping great big rice cooker and a salad bar. You do wonder about the freshness of the salad ingredients that top the rice, but when the grilled pork is as wonderfully smokey as Caphe House’s, you don’t complain! I would say that for a lunchtime offering, the rice dishes are a bit overwhelming in terms of size, but at the same time you are probably getting good value for money.

But one should not worry about the risk of a food coma session wrecking an afternoon of work! I always finished my lunches off with a cup of strong Viet caphe. Coming as it does in a sizeable cup, you are certain that you are getting a full wallop of caffeine. And just imagine all that condensed milk lurking in there as well – enough to give anyone diabetes, no doubt.

It’s been some time since I’ve been there for lunch; many other Viet banh mi places have courted my favour, and many of them I would highly recommend too – but for some reason, I am always drawn back by my memories to Caphe House…

VERDICT – Highly recommended. A firm favourite of mine on Bermondsey Street, I got to know them and they got to know me. I still maintain that it dishes up some of the best banh mi I’ve had so far in London. I only wish that I still worked in the area… I hope that they don’t miss me too much.

Currently listening to: Axewound – Cold

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The Kamayan Supper Club: A big “Maraming salamat!” to all those who came to London’s first Filipino home-dining experience

Whew! It’s been just over a week since the inaugural first run of the Kamayan Supper Club finished, but to be honest I am just a bit sad that it’s done.

All the washing up has long been done, the leftovers mostly disposed of (some even made the long trip down to Poole to feed a select and lucky bunch of my colleagues), fond farewells said, but the good memories still remain.

And why wouldn’t the memories be good? Mae and I met a great bunch of people, we saw a lot of diners enjoy themselves and quite importantly Mae’s cooking went down quite the storm! It was very humbling to see how many people responded positively to our invitation to try some home-cooked Filipino food and be introduced to a great cuisine, especially considering we are still new to the whole supper club scene.

But why let me ramble on a lot about what a fun time Mae and I had in hosting our first ever supper club, when a picture can tell the same story in a thousand vivid, if less flowery, words? Hopefully they will give a taster of what great fun everyone had (well, I’m pretty sure they had fun…)

Getting the table ready for our very first diners

Getting the table ready for our very first diners

Ale-battered, deep-fried fish balls for all!

Ale-battered, deep-fried fish balls for all!

A cheeky rum and coke, made with the finest Tanduay dark rhum and finished off with a twist of kalamansi

A cheeky ‘Mabuhay’ rum and coke, made with the finest Tanduay dark rhum and finished off with a twist of kalamansi (Filipino lime)

Kwek-kwek: battered quail's eggs, served with a cucumber and tomato atsara (Filipino pickle)

Kwek-kwek: battered quail’s eggs, served with a cucumber and tomato atsara (Filipino pickle)

Do these pictures make you feel jealous and a bit like you missed out on something awesome?

Well, fear not! Mae and I intend to return in due course with another run of the Kamayan Supper Club: new dates, a new menu and hopefully another great set of diners keeping us company. After all, our mission to introduce great Filipino food to as many people and make as many new friends as possible is still in its early days.

So please do keep an eye on what Mae and I get up to in the future – and please, please, PLEASE check out Mae’s website (www.pepes-kitchen.co.uk) to see in what other ways you can experience Filipino food and culture in the meantime.

In the true spirit of the Kamayan Supper Club – eating great food and socialising at the same time – Mae and I would like to say, magkita ulit tayo! Until we meet (and eat) again!

Categories: Filipino, Supper Club | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment