Hong Kong Foodie Sham Shui Po tour

Back in September, I bought Tom a Hong Kong foodie tour ticket for his birthday (as I mentioned here). Of course, I bought myself a ticket too! Tom had to choose between the Central tour and the Sham Shui Po tour, and he picked the Sham Shui Po (SSP) tour as this is an area of Hong Kong that we don’t know very well. We went on the tour in October (while our parents were around to babysit!) and it was such good fun!

First of all, I have to mention that the tour isn’t cheap (you can go to the website to look at prices) but it’s a lovely thing to do for a treat, a special occasion or if you want something a bit different to do while you’re visiting Hong Kong. We were the only people living in Hong Kong on the tour, all the other people were tourists. Also, if you’re having trouble picking between the two tours, I think the main difference is that on the Central one you are introduced to more of the standard Hong Kong dishes, whereas on the SSP you have more of the unusual ones (but nothing too weird!). If you’re visiting Hong Kong for the first time you might like to try the Central one, but if you’ve already tried a fair amount of Hong Kong cuisine or you want to see a really ‘local’ area of Hong Kong then the SSP one would be great. We were particularly pleased to go on the SSP one because there’s not a lot of English spoken there, and not many restaurants have English menus, so it’s probably not somewhere we’d be able to try to go for food on our own!

What was really great about the tour actually was that it wasn’t just about the food. The tour is 4 hours long so I think 4 hours of eating would just be too much anyway! It included a walking tour around parts of SSP and an insight into the area, the way people live and some traditional aspects of the culture. I’d not really noticed before, but there’s very little in the way of high rise in the area. Most of the buildings are less than 10 stories, and there are very few new buildings. It’s actually an area of Hong Kong that’s changed very little in the last few decades. It was great to see some old businesses in the market area that have been doing the same thing for decades, such as a noodle shop that makes noodles by hand on site – a rare thing these days.

Of course, I can’t go without mentioning the food! We stopped off at 6 restaurants (well, 5 and one bakery) and had a small dish in each. Despite having tried a fairly wide range of cuisine since moving to Hong Kong, neither Tom nor I had had any of them before, apart from the pineapple bun – and this one was by far the best we’d had – so warm and soft! I think my favourite were the rice rolls though. We’ve had rice rolls with meat in before (usually as part of dim sum) but these were just thick rolls of the rice itself – it’s a bit like pasta but made from rice, if that makes any sense! So tasty!

Anyway, here are a few highlights:

Hot, fresh pineapple buns! (which don’t have pineapple in, the sugary crust on top is supposed to resemble a pineapple)

Pineapple buns at the Kowloon Restaurant

Yummy rice rolls :)

Yummy rice rolls

Fiona, our guide, showing us how best to prepare our rice rolls (I think this involved a mixture of vinegar and sesame oil?)

Sham Shui Po Hong Kong Foodie Tour - how to prepare rice rolls

Traditional noodle shop, all different types of noodles!

Noodles galore

We could also see the man making the noodles in the back of the shop

Making noodles the old style - Sham Shui Po

Dried seafood shop, so smelly!

Dried seafood

Tom enjoying(?) some tofu pudding! We were shown the way that this little business makes tofu pudding and soybean milk. Both are very labour intensive for such a cheap, small dish!

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A former pawn brokers shop in SSP. There used to be loads here, and there are still quite a few but unfortunately mainly patronised by domestic helpers these days.

Former pawn brokers in Sham Shui Po

And finally, one of our more random stops – a knife shop! The owner of this shop went to Sheffield to learn his trade and came back to Hong Kong afterwards and has been making knives ever since! (I love the name!)

Leung Tim Choppers Factory

So those were some of the sights of our trip. It really is a great way to spend a morning, I’d recommend if if you want something a bit different to do in Hong Kong!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

A weekend in Kuala Lumpur

We recently spent a lovely weekend in Kuala Lumpur. We’ve been before but that was before we had the twins. I have to admit that our desire to travel has been quite curtailed by having the twins, especially after visiting the UK earlier this year! However, one of Tom’s friends invited us to their wedding in Kuala Lumpur, so of course we couldn’t miss it.

I think the flights were what we were most apprehensive about. While they were nowhere near as long as if we were going to the UK, they were still about 4 hours each, and we knew that our plane would be smaller and wouldn’t have bassinets this time. In an attempt to create a little bit of room for the twins to roam around we booked seats on the front row, but when we got to the airport we were told that we couldn’t sit on the same row because there weren’t enough oxygen masks per row for the babies, so one of us would have to sit on the row behind. We were pretty dismayed by this, but then they said that they would block out a seat next to each of us. I wasn’t sure if this would actually help, but it was great. I sat on the second row with Isobel and she had a whole seat to herself to sit and play with toys on. I put the table down and she seemed in no risk of falling out the chair. It also helped that the lady sat next to us loved her and had 2 beautiful girls sat nearby who also enjoyed playing with her! I think Tom had a similar experience with Jack. Neither of the babies slept much on the flights but we were expecting that.

On the way back, they didn’t book extra seats for us but there were loads of spare seats around us so we had plenty of room to let the twins roam :)

We had booked rooms in the hotel that the wedding was being held in, the Renaissance Hotel. It’s a pretty nice hotel! (although, between you and me, I think the Traders is a little bit better!) We booked two adjoining rooms so that the twins could sleep in one room in the dark and we could have the other one. I don’t know how you’d cope if you were all in the one room. You’d have to sit quietly in the dark every evening! I guess some people take their babies out in the evening and the babies sleep in the stroller, but ours wouldn’t sleep so I don’t think that would work for us. As it was, we ended up having a lot of room service as we couldn’t go out for dinner once the babies were asleep. The hotel offered a babysitting service, so we thought we might go to one of the hotel restaurants one evening, but when we called up they were fully booked :(

Anyway, there were two things I particularly liked about this hotel: (1) the lovely landscaped outdoor pool (we went twice and the babies loved it!), and (2) the amazing buffet breakfast – yum. I do love hotel breakfasts! It was also a great opportunity to try new breakfast things for the babies – they enjoyed eating omelette and trying a few new fruits!

Here are the babies all ready to go to the pool…

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Because we had been to KL before, we didn’t feel the need to go out too much. I think this made the holiday quite laid back because we could easily work round the babies’ naps and just go out when it suited us. We visited the Petronus Towers and the KLCC park (which was very close to the hotel), Chinatown and Central Market.

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One highlight (other than the wedding itself, which was lovely and included a 9 course Chinese banquet) was the lunch we had in Hutong food court in Lot 10 shopping centre next to the Bukit Bintang monorail station. It’s really stylishly decorated and has great food vendors. We went with a large group and just got loads of yummy food to share! Tom bought the biggest BBQ pork bun I’ve ever seen!

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So all in all, it was a great weekend. I think the babies enjoyed themselves too! As I said last time, KL is a fun place to visit but you don’t need to spend too long there to see the highlights.

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

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Places to visit – Kuala Lumpur

We spent two days/three nights over a weekend in Kuala Lumpur (KL) at the start of a two-week Malaysian holiday in January, in which we travelled up the western side of Malaysia. During that time we also visited the Cameron Highlands, Penang and Langkawi.

We enjoyed our stay in KL but having visited several big Asian cities and living in a big Asian city meant we weren’t overly excited by it. I think we were really keen to get out of the city and see another side of Malaysia! But it was still a great place to visit and I’d recommend it as part of a Malaysian holiday (although maybe not as a destination in itself).

Malaysia is a very multi-ethnic country, and this is particularly apparent in KL. The mix includes ethnic Malaysians, who are mostly Muslim, plus a large number of Chinese and Indians. One thing that I noticed particularly in KL was how I seemed to stand out as I was not covered up like the local women (this despite the fact that I saw some Chinese women wearing very skimpy outfits!). Therefore, whilst it isn’t obligatory, if you are sensitive about such things you might want to wear modest clothing (covering arms and legs) whilst walking around KL.

These are some of the things we saw in Kuala Lumpur:

Chinatown

We were staying near Chinatown (our hotel was very near to Masjid Jamek station) so this was one of the first areas we visited in KL. It’s a bustling, colourful area and definitely worth a visit (especially if you don’t live in a Chinese city!). There is a large market on Jalan Petaling but we were a little disappointed with this as it is full of fake designer goods and not much else. Not our idea of a good market but if that is what you’re looking for, it’s the place to go! However, there are lots of Chinese eateries in the area. We had lunch in the Tang City Food Court on Jalan Hang Lekir which had a range of Chinese and Indian options and was very good value for money.

Away from the market, we enjoyed walking the streets of Chinatown, with its old Chinese style buildings and a mix of small shops.

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There are a few temples in Chinatown. The most interesting was Chan See Shu Yuen Temple, at the end of Jalan Petaling. It was very intricate!

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We also walked past, but didn’t go into, Kuan Ti Temple…

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…and Sri Maha Mariamman Temple

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(we’ve been to quite a few temples and to be honest are a bit templed-out these days!)

On the Sunday evening we ate at Old China Café on Jalan Balai Polis at the southern end of Chinatown, which was not as cheap as you can find elsewhere in KL but the food was excellent and it had a lovely atmosphere. I’d really recommend it for a nice meal out.

Merdeka Square

This open space is a very historical part of KL as it is where Malaysia’s independence was declared in 1957. There are some nice colonial buildings around there, including some that were built by westerners in a Moorish style so they don’t look very western, such as the Sultan Abdul Samad Building:

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There is a large mosque nearby as well, called Masjid Jamek (or Jamek Mosque) which is very intricate but we didn’t go in (although you can).

South of Masjid Jamek (on Jalan Hang Kasturi, before you reach Chinatown) is Central Market. This is a large art deco building filled with small arts and crafts shops. Some are of better quality than others, but it was the best place in KL that we found for buying gifts and we found a few really nice items in here! I’d recommend a visit.

Little India

Little India is centred around the market along Lorong Tuanku Abdul Rahman, which extends most of the way up this street. It is a colourful area and we enjoyed walking around, although we didn’t buy anything. There are lots of snacks available from vendors here so it might be a good place to visit for lunch or mid-afternoon!

We stopped off for a refreshing drink in the Coliseum Café, which is about halfway up Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. It’s very retro – it looks like it hasn’t been redecorated for the best part of a century! It’s not exactly glamorous, but a nice step back in time so I’d recommend a visit.

Petronas Towers

Formerly the tallest buildings in the world, the two Petronas Towers certainly stand out. They’re very shiny! We wanted to go up the towers, and turned up fairly early in the day on a Sunday (sometime around 10am) but the earliest tickets they had available were for late afternoon so we bought those tickets and came back later on.

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For this tour you get assigned to a group and get given a coloured badge to wear. This means that your group gets a certain amount of time in each area and it’s strictly controlled. This is a bit of a shame for those who like to be a bit more independent but we found that the amount of time you were given was adequate.

The two areas with views are the skybridge and the roof. The views from both were pretty impressive. Here is what you could see from the skybridge:

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And here are some views from the roof:

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The Petronas Towers are part of a development with a large shopping mall underneath and a landscaped park behind with various buildings forming the park boundary including an aquarium and the Traders Hotel. The park itself is quite nice to sit in, and certainly a great place to get a few photos of the towers. It also has a fairly impressive fountain display.

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We went in the aquarium and were happy enough with it, although Tom has been in a lot of aquaria in his time and thought that he had seen better!

Side note: on our last night in Malaysia (en route back to Hong Kong) we stayed in the Traders Hotel for a bit of luxury. We had booked the cheapest room they had which cost about £80 and didn’t include breakfast. However when we arrived we were offered breakfast at about £14 per person (pretty expensive!) or a special offer which included an upgrade to a suite, free breakfast, afternoon tea and cocktails for £34 for both of us! So of course we took it :) The suite was amazing (bigger than our HK flat!) and so was all the free food and drink. They also had a lovely swimming pool on the top floor. So we really liked the Traders!

Bird Park

To kill time between buying our tickets for the Petronas Towers and when we were allowed to go up, we headed for the Lake Gardens which are to the west of the area we were staying in. We walked through the gardens a bit but spent most of our time in the bird park there. The bird park was good fun and also a good size and we spent quite a long time there. Many of the birds are free to roam around and don’t seem to take much notice of all the humans at all! If you want something a little less city-like during your time in KL I’d really recommend the bird park.

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Bukit Bintang

This area is a great place to head for some lively nightlife and a wide range of eating options. We took the monorail to Bukit Bintang station and headed for Jalan Alor, which is a road of Chinese restaurants with loads of tables out on the street. We went on a Saturday night and it was busy (possibly mostly with Chinese tourists) but most of the restaurants had a few tables free so we picked one we liked the look of and had a great range of Chinese food there for a pretty reasonable price.

After dinner we also had a wander up Changkat Bukit Bintang which is the road across the end of Jalan Alor. This road is lined with bars, most of which had outdoor seating too. We didn’t stop for a drink but there was certainly a lot of choice!

As you can see, we managed to fit quite a lot into one weekend in KL! I think you could maybe spend one or two more days there at most and have exhausted everything there was to see, but it was a really interesting city.

Check back next week for the next stage of our Malaysian holiday – the Cameron Highlands!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Dim sum – classic Hong Kong cuisine

Dim sum is classic Cantonese cuisine at its best, and it’s a bit of an institution here. Traditionally, it’s eaten at lunchtimes but I think a lot of dim sum restaurants will offer it all day now, so you can indulge any time you like! My husband is a particular fan, and if for whatever reason he’s feeling a bit down, going for dim sum usually perks him up again :)

And did I mention that it’s really cheap too?!

For those who are as clueless about dim sum as I was before we moved to Hong Kong, it’s basically a meal made up of small pieces of food. If you’ve ever had tapas then it’s the same concept but with Chinese food! So when you go into a dim sum restaurant, you order a range of plates of food and each will have usually 2-4 identical items on for you to share.

Traditionally, dim sum restaurants used to have ladies with a trolley each who would walk around the restaurant. Each trolley has a few different dishes on, and when you see one coming that has something on that you want, you call the lady over and she will give you some food! There aren’t many restaurants which are like this now, but Maxim’s Palace in City Hall does (address: 3/F, City Hall, 5-7 Edinburgh Place, Central/中環愛丁堡廣場5-7號大會堂低座3樓). This where we usually take visitors to Hong Kong as it’s such a fun experience, set in a large ballroom. It gets pretty busy so be prepared to wait up to an hour for a table.

Alternatively, for a normal restaurant experience but better, cheaper food I’d recommend Tim Ho Wan. I think the Mongkok branch of this restaurant has a Michelin star! We usually go to the North Point branch (address: Shop B, C, & D, G/F, 2-8 Wharf Road, Seaview Building, North Point/北角和富道2-8號嘉洋大廈地下B,C及D鋪) instead as it’s much less busy and both times we’ve been we haven’t had to queue at all.

Anyway, onto the good stuff now – what to order when you get there! Here are some of our favourites:

Dumplings

There are several types of dumplings on most dim sum menus. Hargow (or ha-gaau) have prawns (shrimp) inside:

ha-gaau

Siu-mai (which I don’t have a picture of) usually have pork inside with a crown of shrimp on top, I also like these :) Some dim sum restaurants will also offer xiao long bao, which have pork and soup in (as I mentioned here), although these are Shanghainese and not traditionally part of dim sum.

xiao long bao

BBQ pork buns

These are known locally as char siu bao and comprise a fluffy white sweet bun with Hong Kong style BBQ pork in (very different from BBQ sauce!). Very yummy :)

BBQ pork buns

Glutinous rice dumplings

These are essentially a large ball of sticky rice with other things mixed in such as chicken, prawns, egg and mushrooms. This will be delivered to your table wrapped in a banana leaf, which is what they steam the whole thing in. It tastes much better than it looks here, honest!

glutinous rice dumpling

Stuffed peppers

These are usually halves of long thin non-spicy peppers (although I have had a spicy one once!) which have been filled with pork. I guess they are then grilled or fried before serving. These ones are upside down so you can’t see the pork which is underneath!

stuffed peppers

Rice rolls

These are long rolls containing meat or seafood wrapped in an outer layer made from rice. The outer layer is a bit like a pasta sheet but has a slightly different taste and texture. Our favourite type is BBQ pork rice rolls.

BBQ pork rice roll

Egg tarts

Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of this but egg tarts make a great end to a dim sum feast. They actually originate from Macau but you can find them all over Hong Kong. They look like jam tarts but with egg instead of jam! They also have a caramelised topping which makes the egg sweet.

Egg cake

This is another sweet dish, and is actually just a large cube of sponge cake (I think it’s called egg cake as a literal translation of the Cantonese for cake – daan-gaau). It’s usually pretty moist and fluffy.

So, if you come to Hong Kong you must try some dim sum! Let me know if you have any favourites that I have missed. I have to admit that I have excluded some of the local favourites, such as chicken feet and turnip cake as we’ve tried them and didn’t really like them, so this is very much a Westerner’s opinion on dim sum!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

My favourite Hong Kong restaurants

Tom and I haven’t exactly eaten extensively in the restaurants of Hong Kong (much to Tom’s disappointment) but we’ve tried quite a few and found some really nice places. Here are some of our favourites, vaguely in order of ascending price (i.e. cheapest first):

Tim Ho Wan

Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station (Podium Level 1, IFC Mall), Central/Shop B, C, & D, G/F, 2-8 Wharf Road, Seaview Building, North Point

This dim sum restaurant was recommended to us by a couple of people and one of the restaurants in this chain has a Michelin star! We had to check it out, and it was as good as we were told! The dim sum is great, and we can eat our fill (and then some) for around HK$120 (approx. £10) between the two of us. Tom in particular is a fan of the enormous glutinous rice dumplings but we also like their take on BBQ pork buns (crisper and sweeter than normal) and BBQ pork rice rolls, amongst others.

The two addresses above are the branches that we’ve been to, but Open Rice suggests there are 5 in total. The IFC branch is usually pretty busy. The first time we went we waited for about an hour to be seated. They do takeaway though so you can get your food and go onto the roof of IFC Mall and eat it there! The North Point restaurant seems to be less busy – we went on a Sunday lunchtime and were seated straight away.

N.B. When we have guests visiting, we usually take them to Maxim’s Palace in City Hall instead of Tim Ho Wan for dim sum. Despite the fact that you also have to wait a long time to be seated, and it is more expensive (and the food isn’t quite as good in my opinion), it has a great atmosphere as it is set in a large ballroom with ladies bringing trolleys around from which you can select the dishes you want. Definitely an experience I’d recommend if you’re visiting Hong Kong!

Crystal Jade

Shop 301, Tai Yau Plaza, 181 Johnston Road, Wan Chai

This place does great xiaolongbao (which I talked about in this post), along with a range of Chinese staples and Shanghainese specialities. I don’t think we’ve ever had anything off the menu that has not been good. The restaurants are nicely decorated and the service has always been excellent. It’s pretty reasonably priced too, most dishes are HK$60 to HK$80 (£5-£7). Again, this is a chain so they are dotted all over Hong Kong but we’ve been most often to the one in Wan Chai.

Sabah

G/F., Shop 4-5., 98-102 Jaffe Road, Wan Chai/Shop D, G/F, 142-146 Queen’s Road Central, Central

This restaurant serves a great selection of Malaysian cuisine. We’ve had great food and good service in both branches. You must try the roti! This is a type of flatbread and it is absolutely delicious, especially when dipped in a curry sauce. The beef rendang is also definitely worth trying. We also like the laksa and satays.

Thai Simple Kitchen

517 Jaffe Road, President Cinema Roof Floor, Causeway Bay

This was another restaurant found on the recommendation of friends and it didn’t disappoint. The setting is lovely, with a large outdoor terrace and the food was great too. I can’t remember what we had but it was all pretty standard Thai food and it was all really nice! The entrance is a little hard to find though, it’s a small doorway on Cannon Street. If you want a nice meal out and you love Thai food, I think this place would be a great bet.

The Chapel Bar

G/F, 27 Yik Yam Street, Happy Valley

Being British, we do love a good Indian curry but we’ve not had much luck finding a great one here in Hong Kong. I know that Chungking Mansions is touted as the place to go, although it’s a bit of a maze (and quite an experience!) and the one restaurant we’ve been to in there was ok but not amazing. But this British bar with an Indian chef seems to do the job just as well, and in a nicer setting. The curries are pretty reliable and we’ve been several times now. It’s not the cheapest, at about HK$100-120 (£8-10) for a curry and rice, but we like it. It’s also a really nice place for a drink and has very friendly staff.

Indonesia Restaurant

1/F-2/F, 66 Granville Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

Tom and I were converted to Indonesian food on our honeymoon in Bali, and so we were keen to try this place and it didn’t disappoint. The menu has a range of standard Indonesian dishes, along with some that we hadn’t heard of. Some of the standard dishes include Nasi Goreng, which is Indonesian-style mixed fried rice, Mie Goreng, which is fried noodles, and Tom’s favourite, Nasi Campur, which comprises rice and a selection of meats. Having said that, both times I’ve been to Indonesia Restaurant, I’ve had the mixed set lunch, which is a selection of 3 smallish dishes and a drink and cost about HK$60 (£5). I didn’t know what all the dishes were but I enjoyed them all! The service is also great here.

La Maison

Shop B, 1/F, Mountain View Mansion, 2 Swatow Street, Wan Chai

We visited this small restaurant for a celebration, and as such it was a treat for us. It cost a bit more than we’d normally spend on dinner (I think the bill came to about HK$1000 (£80) between us), but it was totally worth it! The restaurant is classified as a private kitchen, which means it cannot serve alcohol but they do not charge corkage if you bring your own. It’s situated just off Queens Road East and when you get inside you realise it’s in a residential block! However, the decor is nice, the service was friendly and the food… well, the food… Tom and I are already fans of French food and this restaurant served a very good example of it! The bread was beautiful, we shared a starter platter of meats and pate which were nice, and the mains were also excellent. I’ve forgotten what I had(!) but Tom had the confit de carnard and said it was great. We had a pudding each to finish: Tom’s apple crumble was nice, but my chocolate fondant was gorgeous! A lovely place to come on a date or a special occasion.

And finally…

Aqua Spirit

30/F, One Peking, 1 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

…this one is not a restaurant but a bar, and one that I’d recommend to all visitors to Hong Kong. It’s situated fairly high up in a tower overlooking the harbour with a fantastic view of the skyline on Hong Kong island. It’s a really nice bar (significantly nicer, in my opinion than the one at the top of ICC) but it has a dress code – no singlets, shorts or flip flops! Drinks there are about HK$100+ (£8+) for a beer and HK$120+ (£10+) for a yummy cocktail. Go there for one drink at least. You won’t be disappointed. The view really is that good.

So what do you think? Do you disagree with any of my recommendations? Or do you have some favourites of your own to recommend? I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Chinese food you may not have heard of

In the UK (and, I’m sure, around the world) there are many Chinese takeaways serving dishes that we’ve become familiar with, such as chow mein and sweet and sour pork. Most of these dishes are actually Cantonese (i.e. Southern Chinese) and don’t represent much of what is eaten around China. However, even the Cantonese cuisine in Hong Kong can be very different from the “Chinese” food that we’re used to. I thought I’d identify a few favourites that you may not be aware of!

Noodle soup

Noodle soup is a staple here, and very cheap. A large bowl can be purchased for HK$20-30 (£1.60-2.50). It basically comprises a large amount of thin noodles in a clear thin soup, sort of like a weak chicken stock. Usually you have something else in your noodles – such as shrimp wontons, which are like dumplings (see below). The picture below shows noodle soup with beef balls, which are basically processed beef in a ball shape! I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of noodle soup, as it’s quite bland. But it does fill you up if you want something cheap for lunch!

Noodle soup with beef balls

I read somewhere that Japanese ramen is becoming increasingly popular in the UK. This is a good thing! I’ve only come across it here, but it’s similar to noodle soup only with a lot more flavour and more interesting things in with the noodles. Also, I prefer to have udon noodles instead of ramen, which are thicker.

Dumplings

Chinese dumplings are very different to British dumplings! The Chinese variety comprises minced meat, shrimp and/or vegetables wrapped in a soft thin pasta-like package. They may be steamed, fried or boiled. There are loads of different types, from all over China. One of our favourites are xiaolongbao (pictured below) from Shanghai, which have a little soup inside as well as the meat. This makes them very difficult to eat without dropping the soup everywhere!

Chinese dumplings

Pork chop curry

I don’t believe that this originates in China but you can get it in many of the little cafés here. It is one of Tom’s favourites! It comprises a breaded pork chop cutlet in a thick spicy curry sauce, and is often served with potatoes and rice. Definitely not what I expected local Chinese food to be!

Curry pork chop

Sichuan hotpot

A hotpot is a bit like an oil fondue, where you dip your food into the bowl to cook it. However, in the bowl is a spicy broth with lots of chillis, Sichuan peppercorns and black beans along with a whole host of other things to add to the flavour. When we have this in a restaurant we have to ask them to make it a little less spicy otherwise it’s too hot to eat! There are loads of things that are great to cook in your hotpot. In the picture below you can see corn on the cob and dumplings. We also like to have beef, beef balls, broccoli, cauliflower, noodles, mushrooms and Chinese cabbage in ours, but the list is pretty endless!

Sichuan hotpot

Sichuan cuisine comes from the Sichuan province in south-west China, and is legendarily spicy. Tom loves it but I can only tolerate it in small doses! In fact, most Cantonese people struggle with how spicy it is as Cantonese food is generally not at all spicy.

There is one Sichuan dish that has made it to UK takeaways – Kung Po chicken – but it is nothing like the original! The UK version comprises chicken and vegetables in a slightly sweet thick pink sauce. When you order it here, you are given a plate of diced chicken, chillis and peanuts (and maybe some other veg) with a very small amount of brown sauce. It’s really nice, but very spicy!

Dim sum

I couldn’t leave without mentioning dim sum, perhaps our favourite Cantonese cuisine. I know you can get it in the UK, but I hadn’t had it very often until we came here. Dim sum is essentially a meal of small dishes which you select from a large menu. Some of our favourite dim sum dishes include BBQ pork buns (pork cooked in a sweet sauce inside a sweet breaded white bun), dumplings of many different varieties, stuffed peppers (the stuffing is often minced pork) and glutinous rice dumplings (a large ball of sticky rice with other ingredients mixed in, such as chicken, prawns, egg and mushrooms). Depending on where you go, dim sum can be pretty cheap too, and we’ve had meals where we’ve left completely stuffed and the bill has come to HK$120 (£10) for the two of us.

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Our Hong Kong-style Christmas

Several people from back home have asked me what Christmas was going to be like for us this year. So this is what we got up to…

We knew that Christmas would be very different to normal, since we usually spend it at either my parents’ or Tom’s parents’ house with family, lots of food (usually including the roast turkey dinner with all the trimmings) and lots of laughter. This year there would only be the two of us, and as we lack an oven (as most HK flats do) the roast turkey would be a bit difficult to achieve! (the laughter may or may not have happened, depending on how good Tom’s jokes were on the day)

So we decided to go out and treat ourselves to a slap-up western-style dinner. After looking around a bit, we chose the ‘brunch’ at the Parlour at Hullett House in Tsim Sha Tsui. (I say ‘brunch’ because it was really more like lunch as it was at 12pm)

Hullett House is a boutique hotel in a colonial building converted from the Marine Police Headquarters. The building itself is beautiful:

Hullett House, Hong Kong

However, the decorations in the shopping area directly outside were a little less tasteful…

Heritage 1881 Christmas decorations

Hullett House certainly put on a good spread. There was an enormous buffet selection of seafood, breads, cheeses, cold meats, soups etc for the starter (I didn’t take a photo of this – just too embarrassing!). We had a couple of smallish plates of food each, but decided not to go too far to leave room for the main course. We had a number of delicious-sounding options to choose from for our mains but we both went with the venison. When it came, it was beautifully cooked, but perhaps a little smaller than Tom was hoping for.

Main course at Hullett House

However, it wasn’t a total disaster as there was another buffet for dessert with a large range of small puddings to choose from. We both made good use of this :)

Dessert at Hullett House

So all in all, whilst it was quite pricey, I would definitely recommend the brunch at Hullett House – the service was excellent, the food was beautifully cooked and presented and the setting was lovely too. Oh, I may have forgotten to mention the free-flowing champagne too (our glasses were constantly topped up!)

After our lunch we were feeling pretty full so we had a nice walk along The Avenue of the Stars, which makes up the seafront on Tsim Sha Tsui. I really love this view of Hong Kong, it always reminds me what an awesome place this is.

View from The Avenue of the Stars, Tsim Sha Tsui

We walked along the length of the waterfront to Hung Hom and got a bus home. We spent the rest of the day opening presents and Skyping our families back home. We treated ourselves to bacon sandwiches for tea – the first time we’ve had bacon since we moved here, it’s just so expensive here!

It was a very different Christmas to usual, but good fun nonetheless. I hope you all had lovely Christmases too! Merry Christmas!

Christmas greetings from Hong Kong

Thanks for reading!

Rachel