Thursday, June 16, 2005

Tea Time

With Lou's new love of Dim Sum and a late start to our day, we decided to have brunch at Luk Yu Tea House. It's an old style tea house in Lan Kwai Fong, a district on Hong Kong Island. With Chinese green tea, we chose from pictures what turned out to be steamed BBQ pork buns, shrimp balls, and beef with Chinese broccoli. Thank god they had pictures because there was no English at this venue. Only large lists of Chinese characters with a pencil to scribe your choices and display them for the dim sum deliverer. After we received our beef with Chinese broccoli and started to shovel it in, I wondered why Chinese restaurants in San Francisco so often use conventional broccoli. The large crisp stalk of the Chinese variety is so much better and there is tons to be had in China town.
As we ate at our center stage table in the middle of this bustling restaurant, we noticed many of the diners around us were washing their utensils with tea. Bowls, tea cups, chopsticks, everything was dipped in a small bowl of tea and swirled around ensuring each bit of surface was cleansed. That's one I hadn't read about before. We suddenly felt uncultured and even unclean in this restaurant where they provide no napkins. When we sat down, we had wondered what the metal bowl was for on the side of our table. Now we knew. Oddly enough, we would never encounter this ritual again in Hong Kong or Shanghai.

After our Chinese tea with Dim Sum, we went to Kowloon and checked out the shopping areas and some of the parks of the peninsula while taking a walking tour out of our Lonely Planet guide. At the end of our walk, we had planned to end up at the Peninsula Hotel where we would enjoy the world famous high tea in the lobby of this glamorous land mark. Our second tea of the day would be an English one, served with milk and complete with crumpets and clotted cream. We had a three tiered tray of delicate treats, all of which were mouthwateringly delicious. It was so fun to sip tea and nibble away at the many flavors stacked before us, we didn't even think to take a picture until the top tier of sweets was all that was left. If you're ever in Hong Kong, do make a point of visiting the Peninsula Hotel for their high tea.

Tea at the Peninsula Hotel Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Hotel Breakfast

Lou and I usually make a point of not eating breakfast at our hotel when we travel. It's just one more meal with which we can experience how the locals eat. On our first morning in Hong Kong, we woke up hungry and grabbed the guidebook to get an idea of what part of town we'd want to go for a good breakfast. We read that very few restaurants are open in the morning and those that are sell soup noodles and congee, or rice porridge, for breakfast. Hotel breakfast buffet, here we come. Luckily, besides the western coices of freshly made omelettes and bacon, it included congee, or rice porridge, so we were able to give that a try. It was very bland and savory as opposed to our overly sweetened breakfast grains I'm accustomed to. It was not the taste I had expected. Also included in the buffet were some chinese dumplings. One was pork filled and the other was filled with minced shrimp. Both were excellent, and Lou found a new favorite. Chinese eat Dim Sum during the day for brunch, lunch, or an afternoon tea. They eat often, sometimes 5 times a day. We didn't fall into that habit, probably because it is so easy to over-order and then over-eat, but with Lou's new craving, we found ourselves eating dumplings with almost every meal.
I'll have to go to the Wok Shop in China town to buy some steamer baskets for making Dim Sum. Lou can't stop talking about these scrumptiously stuffed steamed pockets of dough.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Eating Chinese

Lou and I just got back from a two week trip to Hong Kong and Shanghai. We ate non-stop and already miss the food. I wanted to update the blog as I traveled, but I had issues accessing the site and well, who wants to spend their vacation publishing posts anyway? So, I took notes and I hope over the next few days I cover everything I wanted to tell you about eating Chinese...

We arrived late on our first night and were hungry to experience the food of Hong Kong. Instead of using our trusty guidebook, we decided to wander the streets around our hotel to find a late-night bite. We were staying in Wan Chai, a district centrally located on Hong Kong Island and a good bet for some traditional Cantonese, which is exactly what we found. We decided to go into the one restaurant with a sign that read in only Chinese symbols, no English. We looked at other tables to see what we might want in case we'd have to point to order, but they luckily had an English menu with pictures, something we'd use often in the following days. We steared clear of the duck innards on this first night and ordered some familiar dishes: vegetable potstickers, wonton soup, and fish in a clay pot. It was all so delicious-the potstickers were more doughy than we were used to, but the filling was so fresh and green tasting. The wontons were stuffed with three medium sized whole shrimp-they weren't ground up as they often are here in San Francisco. Cradled together into a ball inside the wonton wrapper, these shrimp were just-plucked-from-the-sea fresh and were cooked perfectly. Not the least bit tough or chewy. Definitely the best shrimp wontons I'd ever tasted. The only hurdle in the meal was the huge bones left in the fish. I was forced to pick them out with my fingers and then realized we had no napkins. The rich carmelized sauce stuck relentlessly to my fingers and I realized how dependent our western culture is on this simple piece of paper that accompanies us at every meal. I so wanted to just dab my mouth as I continued to devour our Cantonese feast napkinless.