Thursday, December 31, 2009

Have a SH!OK (WOW, YUMMY, & AAHH) New Year!

Picture of HK's Times Square getting ready for the New Year's Countdown

    Happy New Year from Hong Kong! May you have a delicious year ahead! Let us celebrate this occasion with the extremely delicious and authentic Singaporean meal my sister decided to have as her last meal in Hong Kong before she left for the U.S..

    Behold! SH!OK located on the most slanted road in Central. We literally almost rolled down the street trying to get in and out of the restaurant. Pronounced "SHEE-oke" like their menu says, is a Singlish (Singaporean & English) combination of wow, yummy, and Aahh... all rolled into one! And boy was this place yummy. It was definitely the way my sister wanted to be sent off with her home Singaporean food. 

    You could tell this place was legit just by walking through the door. Everyone had awesome Singaporean accents. If you don't know how that sounds like you are definitely missing out... just add LA to the end of every word you say. It's quite awesome. First up was their Black Chai Tow Kway, which is carrot/radish cake with sweet soy sauce (Box 1). You can choose between white or black. Black is way better! Second was Otak Otak, which is spicy fish paste wrapped in a coconut leaf and grilled (Box 2). Next was our order of Chili Shrimp Paste Fried Rice (Box 3) and our Deep Fried Pork Chop (Box 4). 

    The Singaporean drinks we decided to go with were Singaporean coffee (Box 1), Fresh Hot Longan juice, and Hot Barley Water (Box 2). FYI-Barley Water is supposed to do wonders for you beauty wise! 

    This is a very popular dish pronounced "Ba good dei". It's basically spare rib soup with herbs. You are supposed to eat it with you tiao or yau ja gwai. You can see a piece in my bowl (Box 2). 

    Yau ja gwai (油炸鬼) is usually used to dip with soy milk for breakfast or with Chinese porridge (Box 1). It's basically a Chinese donut literally meaning "oil-fried devil." According to legend, its name came from a high ranking official who tried to give away Chinese land to the Barbarians. The villagers used a rope to bind the official and his wife together just like how the donut is made as two foot-long rolls of dough joined along the middle, with one roll representing the husband and the other the wife. The youtiao is deep fried and eaten as if done to the traitorous couple. Box 2 is a picture of pineapple bread which is also sold at the same places you tiao is sold. It doesn't taste like pineapple, rather sugary coat of goodness at the top looks like that of a pineapple. 

    Next 2 dishes were Singaporean style Wonton Noodles (Box 1) and Stew Assorted Vegetables (Box 2) for Grandma who doesn't eat spicy food. Box 3 is my favorite Stingray dish, which was pretty good. FYI, the best stingray I've had was actually on the side of the street in Malaysia. And just as we were ready for our check, the owner decided to have a chat with us. He was super nice and was so happy that we enjoyed every single dish. Apparently we also became new BFFs since the owner decided to throw in a free order of Seri Kaya for us (Box 4). According to him, Seri Kaya was once very popular among prominent Singaporean families in the 1950's but has since disappeared because of how much work it takes to make it. It takes 2 hours of constant stirring to make! Unlike the normal Kaya texture, this kind was like a custard. It was so delicious that my sister had to buy some with toast to go for her flight! 

Happy Eatings and Have a SH!OK 2010! We will definitely be back to this place in the coming year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

So Good It's Worth Pawning Your Belongings For!

    This is an old school pawn shop in Hong Kong-somewhere you hopefully do not have to go to hopefully in order to afford the next two amazingly yummy places of mine. Both of the following places are my favorite must goes of HK each time I'm here. But if it comes down to pawing things, then the following 2 places are definitely worth pawning your life savings for!

    Jasmine (八月花) in Kowloon Tong serves the best crispy baby suckling piglet ever! I'll explain more on that in a little bit. Their dim sum is also unique & to die for and their drink selection is delicious. They have many types of juices and teas to choose from. Their ambiance is lovely as well not to mention their menus are really pretty. Get there at 2:30 and you can even enjoy their 15% off afternoon tea special. It's also located in a huge shopping mall so you can shop and walk around while waiting for a table. Big plus!

    First out came our drinks. Mom & I shared some white tea (Box 1), which came out in it's own tea pot and was kept warm throughout our meal by the little candle lit underneath it. The white tea was also a type of flowering tea, which I mentioned in my previous dim sum post here. It opened up and bloomed in front of our eyes. My sister opted for Jasmine's Grapefruit Soda (Box 2), which was yummy but not the best choice for the huge meal that was to come. It made her feel so full that she could barely walk after. 

    Fist of our dishes to come out was my me & my sister's favorite baked barbeque pork pastry aka cha siu buns (Box 1). What's special about the baked buns is that their crust literally falls and melts into your mouth. It's a texture that is way better than the typical cha siu buns at dim sum. So Good! My favorite dish of all time at Jasmine has got to be their eggplant in sesame sauce (Box 2). It's basically Japanese sesame dressing but for some reason it tastes way better than the Japanese sesame dressing I've had elsewhere. I think the chefs must put some special ingredient in their sauce or something. I've ordered 2 plates of eggplant for myself before. I'm usually pretty reluctant to share because it's THAT good. Box 3 was also very delicious. It was our crispy fried tofu with salt and pepper. The seasoning is basically made up of a lot of fried garlic. It's not great for your breath but tastes so good. We actually got super thirsty from eating all of the seasoning. 

    Then came our lovely beef diced with crispy garlic (Box 1), persevered vegetable and sticky rice in bamboo steamer (Box 2), and Jasmine's famous crispy baby piglet (Box 3).  Did I just say piglet? Why, yes I did. Piglets are better tasting because their bones are still soft so that you can eat them with the whole piece of meat. There's sweet sauce that is spread on the bottom of each piece. You can choose to order a full piglet or half. This is the half order, which contained only 4 pieces. Sure, it may be cruel but if you think of Piglet in Winnie The Pooh and how annoying he was then I'm sure you wouldn't feel so bad! The skin is crispy and it's soo soo good! You've never had good pork until you've had baby piglet and this is definitely the place to go for it! Jasmine isn't too expensive-definitely not a place you should need to pawn your belongs for! 

    This is Hana Sakazuki, a Japanese restaurant that specializes in teppanyaki, a type of Japanese cuisine that uses an iron griddle to cook stuff. You can have your own personal chef cook in front of you and your guests while doing some fancy tricks. It's the equivalent of Benihanna's in the U.S. which by the way is a total rip off and has crappy food. They have set teppanyaki meals with such as delicacies such as wagyu beef, crab, abalone, etc. and their sorbet and meats are flown in fresh from Japan daily. Hanna Sakazuki is also one of my biggest regrets. If you recall in my first post, I told you that my Mac Book died and deleted all my pictures. My best pictures were of the teppanyaki at this place. I had pictures of the lobster still moving as it was being cooked and an awesome chef making a snowman out of fried rice that was delicious. Unfortunately, I did not order the teppanyaki this time around since my mom and sis were not hungry enough for that. We ordered their bento box lunch specials instead, which means I will have to come back soon to retake their teppanyaki pictures in the future... not that I mind.

    For the quality of stuff, this place gives you their lunch specials are a pretty good deal. We each were started off with some green tea, and 2 salad appetizers. 

    My sister who is deathly afraid of raw fish was about to order a boring beef teriyaki bento box. I eat Japanese food a few times a week and love raw stuff. The more alive-the better, unlike my sister.  Luckily though, I was able to convince her to try the Grilled Tuna over Rice instead! It was delicious and she was glad she did (Box 1). My mom ordered a 10 piece sushi lunch set (Box 2) and I ordered my favorite Raw Fatty Tuna Over Rice (Box 3). I dumped my wasabi inside and mixed it with soy sauce-finishing my entire bowl! All our lunches included the 2 appetizers shown above as well as an order of udon and steamed egg. Just when we thought we couldn't eat anymore, they brought us the dessert of the day, which was also included in our lunch special.

    Japanese Cheesecake with Chocolate Sauce over it! Delicious! My sister couldn't eat anymore so I got to eat 2! At this point, the waitress asked us if we wanted coffee or tea, which was also included in our lunch special. I don't know the prices of my mom's or sister's meal but my meal was $160 HK, which is about $20 U.S. Such a good deal! We got 2 appetizers, our bento box, udon, steamed egg, dessert, and coffee or tea! My mom wasn't too pleased with the price. She said it was the most expensive lunch we've had since we've been in HK, which is true but it was soooo worth it. 
Would you pawn your life savings for these two meals?
Happy Pawning Eatings!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

There's Fast Food And Then There's SUPER Fast Food

    Everything in Hong Kong is fast. Salespeople apologize if you have to wait more than a minute for something while shopping. Even the elderly in Hong Kong walk faster than anywhere else in the world. They sprint with their canes to catch subways and buses and push people like us over if we are blocking their way-all while hurling insults at us for being in their way and wasting their time. HK people are just plain hardcore. Time is definitely money in HK. So it's to no surprise that fast food in Hong Kong has to be SUPER fast to go along with their SUPER fast lifestyle. They got places to go, people to see, deals to make. 

    You can make like this this random man I took a picture of for example and opt for the more western kind of fast food with a Hong Kong flair to it. He seems to be throughly enjoying his KFC meal. KFC, McDonalds, Fat Burger, Burger King-you name it, Hong Kong has it. Fast food places here actually look pretty high class. They also have special dishes not avaiable elsewhere. For example the KFC here serves Portuguese Egg Tarts and the McDonald's here has special taro & chocolate pies, and double pork burgers as well as the usual stuff. 

    If you opt for Chinese fast food, then Tai Hing (太興) is your best choice. They open early in the morning and stay open late. Typical Chinese breakfast fast food includes toast and macaroni soup, which is what Tai Hing serves until it hit 11AM... when their barbeque meats are ready. That's when the good stuff comes out! Once the clock strikes 11, you have freshly BBQed cha siu, chicken, duck, goose, squid, pork, etc. They have cheap set meals where you can choose the types of meat you want either on rice or with noodles. They also have many types of noodles to choose from. After you have chosen whether you want rice or noodles, you can then choose what drink you would like. You can also opt to replace your drink with some soup instead. The set cost you the same as about a McDonald's meal but is much more fulfilling and healthy. If you want to be even cheaper cheapskate, wait until 2:30 when their afternoon tea special starts. You can save about $5 off the regular lunch set price. My personal fav is their rice or their "lai fen", which is the white noodle (Box 1,3). It's slippery so it might jump out of your bowl when you're eating it. L.A. does not carry lai fen so I have to take advantage of it each time I see it. Also super delicious is their rice. Be sure to ask for extra Cha Siu sauce to pour over your heavenly rice (Box 2)! 

    Tai Hing's speciality is their milk tea, which recently won a contest as HK's #2 best milk tea. I also love that if you order their milk tea cold, they don't put the ice inside so that it gets all diluted and nasty but they ice the bowl around it instead. Genius! 
    Tai Hing is always crowded. Lines go out the door especially when it's afternoon tea time, which is why many times when you are eating you'll be forced to share a table with random people you don't know. Sure, it might be weird that you can hear someone else's conversation or that you are getting close and cozy with random people you've never met before... but it's all for the food. It's definitely not a place to sit and have a conversation. You get in and get out! To the point fo sho! You have a better than home cooked meal for a McDonald's price in less than 10 minutes.

    If you're not feeling BBQ meats, then head over to Chee Gay (池記). This place is super small, which is why you for sure will be getting cozy and sitting next to people you don't know. The plus side is that you can check out, stare, and smell whatever dishes the other people are eating. Heck... maybe if you are nice, they might even let you take a bite. This place is loud and crowded, but their food is delicious. Their shrimp wontons are super good. My favorite dish though, is their crab porridge (Box 1). The porridge is so orange in color because of the crab roe. The more crab roe-the more orangey your porridge will be. And the roe is the best part (Box 2). We also tried their steamed fish balls, which were also good. This place always has lines out the door. They've been listed in multiple tourist guide books so everyone likes to come here. You can frequently see tourists carrying around their huge suitcases and standing in line at this place. But definitely get in & get out. Order, finish, & pay for your meal in less than 10 mins. It can actually be done in less than 5 if you try hard enough. 

    But when fast is just not fast enough... you can go to the Australian Dairy Company in Jordan. They boast the best scrambled eggs in all of Hong Kong. This place means business. Customer service and customer's opinion is both overrated and means nothing to these people. They know their food is awesome so they couldn't give a rat's ass about if you enjoyed your experience or not. But what an experience it is!

    Here is their famous toast & scrambled eggs and their hot steamed milk dessert. We were rushed to order upon being seated after our waiter kicked out the two people sitting who had just barely finished their last bite right before us. Awesome. The eggs came out within 1 minute and the dessert came out within 2. We were done and promptly kicked out as soon as we finished. Definitely not a place for conversation to happen! The eggs weren't bad. I don't know about being called HK's best scramble eggs though. The toast was delicious though as was the milk dessert. My sister loved the "order & get the hell out of here" attitude & atmosphere. As for me, I think I like watching other people get kicked out but when it's you that's a different story.
You've never had fast food until you've been to these places! So next time instead of going to the drive thru... get in and get out at one of these places!
Happy & Fast Eatings!

Monday, December 28, 2009

To Eat In Or Out?

    Here is an example of a typical Chinese home cooked meal. As you can tell, there is an appropriately and strategically planned lucky even number of dishes along with a soup. You can also see that there's the typical fish, Chinese vegetable, and chicken. Though this may seem very delicious right now, try having this same combination every single day. It gets old and bland... REAL fast.

    As you can see, we tried to spice up the typical dishes with some not so traditional additions such as Vietnamese Nam brought all the way from the U.S. (Box 1), Vietnamese caramelized pork (Box 2), and dumplings bought from the market (Box 3). Why do we bring Vietnamese all the way from the U.S. you ask? Simple... because Vietnamese food in Hong Kong sucks. If you see a Vietnamese place in Hong Kong-Run and don't look back. No exaggeration. HK people do not know how to eat or make Vietnamese food. So, with the food we eat at home being such a bore, it's no wonder why we love going out and eat. Let us do some compare and contrast with home dinner food and dining out dinner food.

    For big dinners out, there are usually set dinners you can choose from where the dishes are already preset and ready for you like so... This was our set that we had at Dynasty for our Winter Solstice family dinner. 

    Yummy eating restaurant one: Dynasty in the New World Hotel. Picture above is of shark's fin soup(魚翅)- a Chinese delicacy that goes way back. And the 2nd box is a close up of the sharks fin. As you can tell this was some expensive shark's fin. The cheaper the shark's fin, the less noodle-like substance you can find. In the really cheap soups, you have to almost fish to see if you can find a strand of questionable fin. But kabam! One scoop and you an see it all!

Other dishes that were paraded out of their lovely kitchen included: Abalone (Box 1), Black pepper fish (Box 2), fish with scallions (Box 3), and delicious goose (Box 4). I don't know what Dynasty feeds their geese, but they are delicious!

Next, we had some yummylicious quails. Absolutely delicious.

Just as we were about to explode, our last dish showed up along with our desserts. Sticky Rice (Box 1), Mango Pudding (Box 2), and Red Bean Soup (Box 3). The end result is that we enjoyed a fantabulous dinner out with the family with a nice view looking over Hong Kong. Also good news is that we did not have to pay. I don't think we could have afforded that bill and it is clear they this restaurant does not need any more dishwashers in the back. It is also worth noting that upon entering, the staff already knew my family's name and shouted in walkie talkies to coworkers 2 feet away from them to usher us in within seconds. If the Secret Service had to manage a restaurant- this would be it.

Yummy eating out restaurant 2 is Farm House, which I previously mentioned in my dim sum post. We were started off with a type of 老火湯 (soup that has been brewed for many hours/days) made of the insides of pork (Box1.) Box 2 is of Farm House's famous pear juice with red dates, also freshly brewed.

Box 1 is some yummylicious shrimp, Box 2 Ginger short ribs, Box 3 Vegetarian Buddha's feast, Box 4 Ground pork with steamed water chest nut.

Next to come out of the kitchen was a vege dish with tomatoes and tofu (Box 1), an expensive steamed fish (Box 2), Crispy skinned chicken with yummy fried shrimp chips (Box 3) and some chow mien (Box 4). Side note: Chinese always have noodles during birthday dinners because it signifies longevity! 

    And lastly, our desserts came. They  brought us an assortment of fruits and "dan shan" fried sweet wontons skills with honey (Box 1) and 壽包 aka birthday buns, which are for longevity as well.

Dining out location 3 is The Jockey Club in Wan Chai. People definitely do not go here for the food. It's more so about watching old men and slutty young chinese women getting their groove on in the salsa and latin dances or in ballroom dancing to the sound of live music. In the mix of dancers, there are also professionals that use the dinner as a time to show off their students. Also in the mix is an awesome Filipino Elvis who rocked the house by touching himself and doing hip thrusts as he sang some old school songs and my Aunt's sexy Russian instructor that has mastered the Latin dances as well as touching himself while dancing and licking his lips at the same time. Hawt! You can spend your night laughing at ladies wearing hideous outfits or watching the 5 good people in the room dance. Your choice. The food wasn't amazing or horrible. Pictured: Ham salad, shark's fin soup, abalone & sea cucumber (an expensive and slimy Chinese delicacy), and fish. 

They were followed by chicken in soy sauce, Chiu Chow Yi Mian (where the top part of the noodles are fried and vinegar and sugar is added), and as well as some yummu fried rice. The Yi Mian was pretty good. I never thought I would add sugar to something salty, but it actually tasted good. 

For dessert, we had an assortment of fruits and 2 different cakes. The left chocolate cake was from Island Shangri-la Hotel. It had a layer of hazelnut crust that was so delicious I had 3 slices myself within the night. The second is a Chestnut cake from Cova. Personally, I feel like anything from Cova is overrated. People go to this place for the name cause their food and cakes seriously suck. But the Shangri-la cake was soooo good. It definitely would have warranted a 5 for yummyness on my previous awesome bakery post here
In sum, we've learned that whether dining in or out, Chinese meals are sure to include a lucky number of dishes as well as a soup and that abalone, shark's fin, and sea cucumber are expensive delicacies. Numbers that Chinese especially like include: 3,8,9, and variations of them. Noodles and special birthday buns are a must during big celebrations-especially on birthdays and fish and chicken are important parts of a proper dinner. Also, eating out is way more tasty than eating in so when given the choice-GO OUT!
Happy Eating Out!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Toast Box Goodness

    This is the Malaysian/Singaporean food genius that is known as Toast Box located in Times Squares. It's actually part of a chain store in Malaysia and it's damn good. At first glance, this place does not seem to be the standout amazingness that it truly is. Their appearance doesn't do the food justice. But if you take a little peek inside as you can see from my pictures, there are subtle hints of the awesomeness that is in this place. In Box 1, you can see the hanging fatty wide toast above as well as the huge mountain full of butter under it. Yum! Any place that uses that much butter is my best friend. Box 2 & 3 shows coffee making at its best. I was sad that a Hong Kong guy was making it. It's always much more fun to see a Malaysian man making bread and coffee. They put on quite the show! This guy was boring, but got the job done so I shouldn't complain.

    After ordering, we were promptly given a number to take to our table in a Carl's Jr-esque way. Their paper placemat menu in Box 1 shows  a picture of their famous  Floss Thick Toast as well as a 'How To' guide on how to ear your soft boiled eggs in your Singaporean Laksa. Box 2 is a picture of their Milo Chocolate Drink speciality. Think Ovaltine but iced. Yum! Mom opted for Barley water and Sister got iced tea since their tea is brewed fresh daily. Both were extremely pleased with their orders!

    And then our food came!!! Amazing! Chicken Curry with fatty toast (Front ), Mee Siam/Shrimp noodles in gravy (Back Left), and Laksa (Back right.) Very authentic! It even got the stamp of approval from my Singaporean Sister so you know this stuff was legit.

    And just when we thought we could not be more won over by Toast Box... we discovered their Pandan bread. $8 HK, which is about $1 US, you can get this lovely green colored snack to go. The green color is actually natural. Pandan is a type of tree that grows in Asia. Its leaves have a sweet flavor that is commonly used in Southeast Asian cooking. All in all this place was pretty good. Although I have to say it can't beat actually being in Malaysia or in Singapore, for being in HK- I was impressed.  If you're in HK, make sure to check this place out and give it a try!

Happy Eatings!
More food posts to come

Friday, December 25, 2009

Touch the Heart!

(Picture of a cute robot USB card my sister bought in HK)
    Merry X'mas from Hong Kong and I hope you received something as cute as my sister's robot USB card pictured above. Let us celebrate with a post on dim sum and proper dim sum etiquette. Dim sum (literally meaning "touch the heart"), which is also known as Yum cha (literally "to drink tea") is a Cantonese dining experience where a wide range of dishes are put on a cart and pushed to your table for ordering. It's only served from the morning until afternoon time... so you must be an early bird to enjoy this speciality. For many Cantonese, dim sum is a weekly family day where the entire family spends some quality bonding time together. The typical image of dim sum includes 1) an old man dining with his bird cage after doing Tai Chi at the butt crack of dawn and 2) the hustle and bustle with loud chinese women shouting the dishes they have in their cart and pushing them to your table.
    The loud Chinese women pushing carts image, however has slowly been changing in both the U.S. and in Hong Kong. Many new dim sum restaurants are trying to attract customers by taking a more upscale approach to yum cha[ing]. Restaurants are now getting rid of the carts and letting customers order on a menu and check off all the dim sum they want copying the Jack in the Box logo of "we don't make it til you order it." The dim sum is made fresh after the order, making it more fresh because it hasn't been sitting in some Chinese lady's cart for the past hour and also making it more hygienic since random Chinese people don't go poking and touching the food while trying to flag down these dim sum cart ladies. Chinese people really like to poke and touch food to see if it's fresh. It's bizarre and super weird so I'm kind of glad this new system is now in place. These new style dim sum places are a tad more expensive, but at the same time you know where you can still go to find cheap, loud Chinese ladies & people that like to poke and fight over dim sum.

    Place one is Farm House Restaurant in Causeway Bay. What's great about this place is their their side dishes they give you before your dim sum comes is super delicious as pictured in Top box 1 and 2. It's just like Korean banchan- free refills til you fall over. Though they have the typical dim sum, we chose to order the more unique dishes. Box 3 is a tofu dim sum roll. Box 4 is a sausage dim sum. Bottom box 1 is a steamed turnip cake, which is an alternative to the typical fried turnip cake always found in dim sum places. Box 2 is Farm House's famous xiao long bao. Box 3 is chocolate sponge cake. This place is scrumptious!

    Place two is Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tidbits. I had to admit that I was extremely hesitant going to this place my Aunt recommended in Happy Valley (跑馬地) just because I noticed a huge amount of non-Chinese in the table in front of us and to the side of us once we were seated, which you can see in the above 2 pictures. Usually the rule of thumb is to run if you see any non-Chinese in supposedly Chinese restaurants. Were we about to eat fried wontons and Panda Express? I was very worried and scared. The decor of this place was super cute and very Hong Kong. Picture on the left is their old school kitchen and picture on the right is their walls, which are filled with old school Hong Kong advertisements. Very cool... but how's the food? 

    Here we have the typical Ha gow/Shrimp dumpling (Box 1), xiao long bao (Box 2), lotus leaf rice (Box 3), and abalone and chicken in a puffed pastry shell (Box 4). And... to my surprise... it was delicious. The Lotus Leaf rice and the abalone chicken pastry were the standout dishes. 

    The next batch of dim sum included Gai lan/Chinese Broccoli (芥蘭) wrapped in ham (Box 1), Siu Mai (pork dumplings) & a pork dish (Box 2), Fried milk (Box 3), and a hot fungus with red dates dessert (Box 4). All in all- pretty delicious, plus it's hard to make fried milk dishes good so bonus points for that. 

Some Dim Sum Tips & Etiquette
    Tea drinking is also very important in dim sum[ing]. It is also customary to pour tea for others during dim sum before refilling one's cup. Cantonese people usually thank others for pouring tea for them by tapping their index and middle finger, which symbolizes "bowing" to them because it is similar to bowing to someone in appreciation. Legend says that this practice started when an Chinese Emperor went to dim sum with his friend outside the confines of the palace trying to blend in as normal folk in disguise. During their dim sum meal, the Emperor refilled his friend's cup with tea and the friend was overcome by the Emperor's action and quickly got up to bow, however not wanting to reveal their disguise, he tapped his fingers on the table instead. 
    Another tip is as soon as the tea arrives, to fill one tea cup and use the boiling hot tea to sanitize your utensils. Also make sure that if there are people at your table who will not be drinking tea, let the servers know because many places charge you a price for tea per person. Also, a quick, fast, and in a hurry way to get your tea pot refilled is to lift the lid partially open. This is an automatic sign that your tea needs refilling. There's a legend of why they do this as well... but I can't exactly remember it in full right now. Something about a bird and its feathers falling... Anyways...
    Also worth nothing is that there are typically at least 5 different types of tea to choose from when dim sum[ing.] If you had too much fried foods, the best tea to choose would be Chrysanthemum to relieve the effects of those foods. And since we are on the subject of tea, if you ever get a chance, go try some 开花茶 which is flowering tea, my favorite! It's a small bundle of dried tea leaves and flowers that are bound together with a thread into a ball so that when it's soaked in hot water it expands and unravels in a process that looks like a blooming flower. Picture above. 
Happy Yum Cha-ing!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Stressed Spelled Backwards is Dessert!

    Despite what your high school science teacher taught you, I we humans, like cows, have two stomachs. One for regular normal food, and one just for desserts. When you tell someone you are extremely full, that does not mean that you could not devour a whole plate of sweets after since that food is obviously allocated to your other stomach. In lieu of my grandfather's birthday, I decided to make this post about cakes. I pride myself on my knowledge of where to buy the best pastries and desserts. Traditional Chinese people, (as well as people who have manners), will never go over to someone's house empty handed. One's house should also never be void of food to share with guests in case you have some unexpected visitors. It's part of the Chinese tradition of proper gift giving. So in short, because we always have to show up to our friends' houses with something, we usually show up with pastries or cakes. 
Side note: It's also considered taboo to very traditional Chinese people to open presents in front of the person that gave them to you. So if you are planning giving your Grandfather a birthday present like us tonight, let him open it in the privacy of his own room because it's deemed rude to jump up in joy and show how much you like or hate your present in front of the giver. 

    This was the birthday cake my sister & I bought our grandpa. It's a chocolate banana cake from a store appropriately titled Awfully Chocolate located in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. The store is open until 10 PM which makes it super convenient to pick up cakes from. This small shack of a store only has a handful of items-3 flavors of cakes- all with chocolate and Awfully Chocolate ice cream.  The best item there is their Awfully Chocolate Banana Cake (pictured above.) 5 stars Kristie yummy stars!
    Since most of you guys are not in HK right now and since we're on the subject of cakes below I will recommend a handful of places with awesome cakes or pastries. And lucky for you guys they are all located in LA. And let's keep it real... Asian bakeries are the best. I don't know how people put up with those crappy Ralph's or Ice Cream Cakes when they could have way better cakes like these...

    Les Versailles Boulange hands down is one of the best bakeries ever. Located in Westminster on Edinger Ave, this Vietnamese owned and operated bakery has no competition. Their cakes are to die for! Their bread is melt in your mouth good and I love love love their chocolate and coffee flavored eclairs!!! Let's not forget their cade sua da (iced coffee) is top of the line. They used to have a shop also in Alhambra but it closed down so Westminster is your only choice. Honestly anything that comes out of here is amazing. Only bad part is that my mom and I spent $40-50 last time we went here.  5 stars on the Kristie yummy scale though!

    Ta Da! 85 Degree Celsius Bakery located in Irvine, CA.  This is a Taiwanese bakery whose main bakery is in Taipei, Taiwan. Their comes from their famous sea salt coffee because the perfect coffee should be at exactly 85 degrees celsius! The line for this place does not stop. People are always lining into the street no matter what time it is. Aside from having delicious pastries and cakes, another explanation is the poor way they designated their line situation. If they really wanted maximize efficiency there are many ways they could redo it so that lines would never be more than 5 minutes. However, my sister has a theory that they structured their lines so that they place would always seem busy, therefore attracting more curious customers wanting to get in on the action. If she is right... maybe we're the dumb ones instead... Sneaky....

    Getting in and out of this place is literally like going to war. Be prepared to trample and be trampled on by tons of hungry Taiwanese, Chinese, Vietnamese ladies, and UC Irvine students (none of which you want to mess with!) 85C's bread is also very delicious. Honorable mentions include their garlic bread that is completely black colored and their huge pineapple bread cake-like thingy. Yes, those are my official names I call them by. Pictured above is their oreo crust chocolate cake. 5 Kristie yummy stars!

    Vanille de Patisserie in San Marino is a french inspired Asian Bakery. They're cakes are pretty pricey and in my opinion, not worth it. The place is good-don't get me wrong but just not worth the hefty price tag. Do give this place a try though. Good thing about this place is that they have tea time cake buffets that you can purchase where you get a cup of tea and are allowed to eat as many pieces of cakes as you wish. But for $5-6 per each slice of cake and $50 or over for a full size cake, this would not be my top choice. Their tiramisu cake is worth $5 per slice though-so give it a try and run away from anything else. FYI they just opened a shop in Santa Monica. Personally I wouldn't try it though cause even their San Marino shop has declined in quality over the years. They used to have tons of fresh bread every morning and now even when you go in the morning they claim that they are sold out. Total lie. They should just admit they stopped selling it. Vanille de Patisserie is also one of those Asian bakeries and does those awesomely outrageous cakes in the shapes of LV/Gucci purses, bra and underwear, etc. So if you have the money and want a good laugh definitely special order those funny cakes. Overall though...3.5 Stars in yumminess but 4.5 stars just for their tiramisu. 

    The 2 cakes above are from JJ's Bakery, a Taiwanese bakery in Arcadia, CA. The left is a mango angel cake and the right is a blueberry chocolate cake. Not only was the blueberry cake really good, but the blueberry filling was also very well balanced inside because it was carefully layered. Their Sahara cake is also very good. Every time I go to JJ's, I tell them it's my birthday because I like to come out with free candles & little birthday signs. Hoarding crap runs in my family! I go here maybe once every 3 weeks because it's quite a drive from my house, which is why I buy 2 cakes for myself each time I go. It's finished within 2/3 days. Their Chinese bread and cookies are also very good. Side note: They also have very clean bathrooms. Do what you will with that information. 5 Kristie stars for the cakes and the toilet!
    Domie's Bakery is a Chinese bakery located in Rosemead. They just recently opened one up in San Gabriel too. Their black forest cake is their speciality. I tried their tiramisu and wasn't impressed. It tasted like a cheap Chinese cake... which I guess is what it was. Their cakes are relatively cheaper than all the bakeries I've mentioned above but are still way better than crappy bakeries like Diamond and Kee Wah. According to my mom's friend that owns a restaurant in the (626) area, all the pineapple bread used at Chinese restaurants for afternoon tea in the San Gabriel Valley at restaurants are now bought from Domie's. What a conglomerate in the making! 3.5 stars. Just case it's the most bang for your buck.
    Cathy's bakery in San Gabriel on Las Tunas is also pretty good. They have a seasonaly Osaka Chocolate cake, which I think is their standout cake. They also make really good sponge cakes. 4 Kristie Stars!
    Taipan Bakery in Arcadia is another decent bakery. 3.5 Stars. But honestly if you're in Arcadia... just go to JJ's.
    Momo's Bakery in San Gabriel is also pretty good. It used to be known as Kiki's until they were bought out. Their pastry chefs stayed though so it's all good. Their pandang sponge cake is super good. 4 Stars.
    King's Hawaiian Bakery in Torrance has really good Guava sponge cake. You can't taste the guava but you can taste a super good pink colored sponge cake. 5 Kristie Stars!

    And last but not least, honorable mention for Susie's Cakes in Calabasas. My mom and sister got my 21st birthday cake from here cause they were too lazy to drive out to the San Gabriel Valley. They ended up paying almost $50 for this cake. It was good but way too chocolately. 

That should be enough to keep you drooling. Happy Eatings and remember that stressed spelled backwards is desserts. So just eat away!