Category Archives: Travel

Lazy, hazy summer days | Cheung Chau, Hong Kong

I had a low-key, but pleasant, Labour Day long weekend spent with my parents. This was the first Labour Day in a while that I hadn’t had a big moving experience, since I was living in the same place in Toronto as I had been for the last couple of months (and past year). This also made me realize that this is my second last first day of school… ever? As I see more friends entering the workforce, I am feeling a little old, which I know sounds silly, but that’s reality as well.

It was fruitful and rewarding summer. Hong Kong was just amazing. July and August flew by, probably because I working on job applications. Even though I am totally improving my time management skills, I still have one more big Hong Kong blog left to post: my trip to Cheung Chau!

On my last full day in Hong Kong, I went with a fellow student friend from work to one of the outlying islands, Cheung Chau, southwest of Hong Kong Island. I boarded the ferry late morning from Pier 5 where all the other ferry piers are located to go to the other islands such as Lamma and Lantau. We had the choice of either a fast ferry which was either a 35-40 minute trip or the ordinary ferry for 55-60 minutes. We chose the latter to enjoy the view.

Bikes by the pier.

What a beautiful, perfect day. It was a Tuesday so there were not as many people. What I didn’t realize, though, was that Cheung Chau had an established residential population. There were banks, grocery stores and restaurants/cafes oriented to locals. Cheung Chau is also the location of the Bun Festival, where people used to clammer up a tall vertical tower covered in buns to grab a bun for good luck. Some vendors sold little bun souvenirs, but I thought it would only be appropriate to buy them if I were actually there for the bun festival.

“City Centre,” and ongoing revitalization project

We didn’t plan on our trip very well, so by the time we got to Cheung Chau it was around noon. While it was sunny and gorgeous outside, it was also super hot. We attempted to avoid the sun by having lunch first. Somehow we got lost in this little town, and ended up at a local cafe. I had pork chop and salad. This was a Hong Kong style salad which meant some canned fruit and potato covered in Miracle Whip. This lunch was totally comforting, in a weird sorta way!

And so, we hit the beach. We settled down at Tung Wan Beach.

You can see the coal-fired power station on Lamma Island.

Looking back on Tung Wan Beach

We then walked towards Kwun Yam Beach just beside Tung Wan Beach where there were fewer people.

Hong Kong’s first Olympic gold medallist trained here for the windsurfing event.

We took a short hike along the “Mini Great Wall,” which is a path that goes around the coast, to look at the interesting rock formations.

“Vase rock.” This reminded me of the Hopewell (Flower Pot) Rocks in New Brunswick.

“Elephant Rock”

“Human Head Rock”

By this time the sun was beating down on us, so we decided to cut our hike short and go back to the beach. We unfortunately missed seeing the cave where a famous pirate supposedly hid his treasure, as well as the beach my dad went to when he was a child. Hope I can go again some time.

We had quite a few tasty treats on our day to Cheung Chau.

Curry fish balls. These were so large relative to a normal fish balls; they were at least larger than a golf ball! These were so tender and yet still had some bite and elasticity.

Some red bean cake: fresh and hot from Hometown Tea House. These were written about in Frommer’s travel guide, apparently.

I tried this crazy fried potato, which I later learned was called a tornado potato in North America and was quite popular at festivals in Toronto including the Night Market and Buskerfest. It was a bit thicker cut than a chip and deep fried. Yummy, but well, it was still just a potato.

Mango mochi. Mochi is a sticky rice flour paste cake. Traditional Cantonese mochi is filled with peanuts and sugar, but sometimes it is plain. This was my first mango mochi and I loved it. So squishy and soft, and very fresh.

My friend found out about Wan Shing Dessert Shop (允升甜品) in the town centre, near the ferry pier. What a refreshing end to a sweaty day. I had mango rice flour rolls (“cheong fun”), one sesame flavoured (the darker one) and the other plain. Cheong fun is usually a savoury dish. Usually shrimp or beef are rolled between thin sheets (noodles) made out of rice flour. This time it was mango wrapped in rice flour sheets, a dish I did not even know existed. It was served cool. The roll was “springy” when bitten and smooth. I had to slurp up the mango and roll in one go or else the mango would slide out!  This was fresh and utterly delightful, to say the least. It was also only HKD 20, less than CAD 3!

We were both so tired from a day out in the sun, but it was the best way to spend my last day in HK: out of the city, in nature and on a beach. If you have a day to spare when you’re visiting Hong Kong, I recommend going to Cheung Chau.

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Hong Kong Revisited: Breakfast Edition (Tsui Wah + Kam Fung)

Earlier this summer during the months of May and June, I was working and living in Hong Kong. I still have remaining a few entries I’d like to blog about, so please excuse the lateness!

I have been asked what people in Hong Kong eat for breakfast. I conducted some primary research by asking locals and seeing what restaurants offered. One breakfast that may be a bit different from a North American breakfast is soft pasta in chicken broth with ham. Don’t expect al dente in the slightest, and you may like it. My mom used to make it for me and my siblings when we were sick. Now I know where she got it from. Sometimes families will have dim sum for breakfast on the weekend. People also have noodles or congee. Eating more “lunch time” meals for breakfast is normal here. Others may just eat toast or cereal.

Here are a couple breakfasts I had dining in Hong Kong, which are more similar to North American breakfasts, but with a slight twist: porridge and  a baked good: bo lo bao (pineapple bun), to be exact.

First up, we have Tsui Wah. Tsui Wah is a ubiquitous line of restaurants that began as a humble cha chaan teng. It is now a well-known restaurant for typical Hong Kong fare for all meals of the day. Over the summer, they even went through an IPO. I’ve heard some negative comments about Tsui Wah, but, to me, they serve standard and consistent food in an efficient manner.

Tsui Wah offers savoury dishes including curry rice and noodles. For breakfast, they have the pasta dish as I mentioned earlier, as well as a crispy bun with condensed milk. However, my mom highly recommended their porridge, so I tried that even though I would not associate porridge/oatmeal with Hong Kong.

This porridge is also called “double milk” porridge because it is made with two kinds of milk: evaporated and condensed milk. It came a huge bowl — I actually took some home to enjoy later. Was this oatmeal ever creamy, thanks to the milk. The condensed milk added a hint of sweetness. They also gave a small “shot” of condensed milk to pour on top. I think I might have to put some condensed milk in my oatmeal here for a little indulgence now and then. If you are looking for something plainer, but still delicious, try the porridge at Tsui Wah.

Milk tea, my staple.

There are many Tsui Wah branches in Hong Kong. I went to the one  in Central, Wellington Shop, at G/F-2/F, 15-19 Wellington St., Central, Hong Kong.

Later on in my stay in Hong Kong, I went to Kam Fung Cafe  (金鳳茶餐廳) in Wanchai, because I heard that it had (one of) the best bo lo bao in Hong Kong. I was game.

I like the people waiting outside reading a newspaper.

Kam Fung is a cha chaan teng with modest decor, like many other cha chaan tengs. It was still quite charming. I called in the morning to make sure they were open since it was a holiday Monday. Well, when I got there, the place was packed full of families, so I should have known better!

I got a bo lo yau which is a pineapple bun with a slice of butter (“yau“) about an eighth of an inch thick. I was really looking forward to this, so unfortunately, my bun was cold and slightly damp on the bottom. That ruined the rest of the eating experience. I did enjoy the denseness of the bun. The sweet topping was interesting since it had a tighter grain. It was a bit out there to eat that slab of butter, but this was actually one of my favourite (and a little guilt-ridden) parts. It added some contrast to just eating bun, as much as I like eating bo lo bau on its own.  I wish I could have had a warm, fresh bun, but I suppose that’s timing. The chicken pies are also good here, apparently.

The milk tea got a solid grade: steeped long enough for a bold flavour.

Fresher buns?

Kam Fung is located at 41 Spring Garden Lane  Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

Wanchai in the morning.

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Hong Kong Revisited: Cambo Thai Restaurant

Earlier this summer during the months of May and June, I was working and living in Hong Kong. I still have remaining a few entries I’d like to blog about, so please excuse the lateness!

Some of the inspirations for the restaurants I visited and foods I ate in Hong Kong came from  CNNGo’s Top 40 list of foods we can’t live without in Hong Kong. Number 18 on this list was authentic Thai food in Kowloon City. Kowloon City has a cluster of restaurants and, as I read, a small Thai community.

Within the Kowloon City district is the historical Kowloon Walled City. Interestingly, when China leased additional parts of Hong Kong, including the New Territories, to Great Britain for 99 years, the agreement excluded the Walled City, which used to be a fort. Eventually due to lack of governance resulting in crime and poor sanitary conditions, the British government tore down the Walled City in the early ’90s. In its place is now the Kowloon Walled City Park.  I only learned more about the Walled City after I visited — a bit counterintuitive, I know — and since I went there at night I didn’t see the park.

I invited my local friend to  go to Kowloon City for company, and also because I didn’t know how to get there! Just kidding. Kowloon City is not accessible by subway so she found us a bus there. In fact, she told me she maybe had come here once or twice before, since she and her friends usually go to other places to eat. As such, it was a new food adventure for both of us.

We arrived and my friend checked OpenRice to see what was the top rated restaurant, which turned out to be Cambo Thai. When we arrived, the host told us that they were full, but then she said to go next door. Actually, there were a few Cambo restaurants all on the same street! That’s an interesting strategy of doing business.

We ordered green curry with beef as well as baked seafood in young coconut to share. Our order must have gotten mixed up, because we got green curry with chicken, but we didn’t bother switching. The green curry was flavourful and creamy from the coconut milk. To be honest, though, I was not too impressed with this dish. Although I am definitely not an expert in Thai cuisine, I thought the curry was too mild and should have been spicier.

The baked seafood rice in young coconut was creamy, delicious and fun to eat. The dish was a generous portion and came with a good ratio of seafood to rice. The rice was served in the coconut, which I had never tried before. It was similar to pineapple rice with the rice served in a pineapple. We were able to scrape up the young coconut flesh and eat it with the rice. This was my favourite part of the meal.

For dessert we shared black rice with mango and coconut milk. This was tasty and pleasant, but fairly standard.

On the whole, while I enjoyed the meal and chatting with my friend, I must admit I was a bit disappointed due to my high expectations from the CNNGo article and OpenRice. I thought the green curry was nothing to rave about. The coconut rice was a highlight, especially since young coconuts are rarer in Toronto. Well, at some point, I hope to try another Thai restaurant in Kowloon City and see the neighbourhood during the day.

On our walk around Kowloon City after dinner, I saw some cube and pyramid-shaped watermelon. This was neat to see in real life.

Cambo Thai is located at or around G/F, 15 Nga Tsin Long Road, Kowloon City, Hong Kong.

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On mange

Phew, yesterday I finished some job applications, and now I can enjoy the rest of summer before school starts up again. I started this blog right after my exams finished back in April, and I do hope to continue blogging in the school year. However, that might also depend on how interesting my life is, so let’s take advantage of summer while I can!

When I wasn’t chilling outside listening to music at Osheaga, I was pretty much eating. I guess that’s what a tourist/my family does. As I mentioned before, we started off the road trip with some snickerdoodles I baked. This was also my submission for Anna Olson’s Bake Off at Food Network Canada. You can see everyone’s submissions here. I love snickerdoodles because they require few ingredients and they get a quirky tang from the cream of tartar, which is used as the leavener instead of baking soda.

For the rest of the trip, we enjoyed a touristy, but delicious Montreal gastronomic experience.

On Saturday we went to La Banquise, a 24-hour restaurant that is famous for their poutine. This must be great food for post-late night revelry, but it is also fantastic for lunch. La Banquise offers other food as well, such as burgers and sandwiches, but of course we all ordered poutine. Poutine is a Quebecois dish of fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. La Banquise also offers non-traditional poutines which range from bacon and smoked meat on poutine to guacamole on poutine.

I’m a little embarrassed to post this photo, but this is what the four of us ordered: four “small” poutines to share. We did take some back to the hotel! But I must admit that we demolished a lot too. The poutine was amazing and well-deserving of its reputation. I am sure this is our poutine quota for the year.

La Classique (b-l): A traditional poutine with fries, cheese curds and gravy. This was the best way to test the quality of La Banquise’s poutine. The cheese curds were squeaky, and the gravy was not too salty and had a thinner consistency, so there was probably not too much flour or corn starch. This allowed the potatoes shine through: slender-cut, slightly sweet and still crispy.

La Petite Vie (t-l): ground beef, corn, and onions. Lovely home-y flavours, which reminded me of shepherd’s pie.

La Rachel (t-r): green peppers, mushrooms, and onions. We had to get our veggies in somehow!

La Taquise (b-r): guacamole, tomatoes and sour cream. This was my favourite of the non-traditional poutines. It was very fresh from the guac and the tomatoes. The guacamole + gravy was actually a good combination. Pure bliss.

Since the gravy was subtly flavoured, all these combinations were delicious.

I had my next dining experience the following morning when we had brunch at Le Cartet in Old Montreal. There was a line, but the time passed relatively quickly because I browsed the chocolate they sold just outside the dining area.

Le Cartet serves different brunch sets as well as some individual dishes. I ordered le brunch sucré which came with French toast with apple butter, nuts and blueberries, crepe with fruit coulis and candied orange peel, and cashew ginger granola with blueberries on natural yogurt, as well as fresh fruit. Whew! The meal also came with coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice. What a delightful brunch. The apple butter was sublime and not too sweet, which was perfect with the French toast. The candied orange peel was a good contrast with the fruit coulis on the crepe, but a bit overpowering for me. I was hoping more of the ginger would come through in the granola. Otherwise, highly recommended.

Finally, on Sunday night, after a rainy and muddy day at the music festival, I met back up with my parents and sister for dessert at Juliette et Chocolat. As the name suggests, the restaurant specializes in desserts mostly with chocolate and drinking chocolate. They also serve savoury foods. However, tonight we just went for the chocolate ;).

I was very curious about the drinking chocolate. The menu described each drinking chocolate much like wine descriptions. I chose the Sao Tome 70%, a dark drinking chocolate, with “hints of fruits and vanilla, bitter cocoa taste.” It came in a brandy glass, perhaps to better smell the aroma.

It was served warm. As you might imagine, it was very rich. There were little flecks of chocolate in the drink. I did taste the bitterness, but to be honest, without the description I would not have picked up on the “hint of fruits and vanilla,” particularly without having tried another drinking chocolate before to compare. Still, it was an interesting experience.

My family also ordered a couple of desserts to try:

Crêpe with three kinds of chocolate (dark, milk and white)

 Chocolate fondue and fruit.

Monday morning before we departed the city, we finished our Montreal experience with Montreal bagels from Fairmount. We bought four dozen! They were for us and for friends though, ha. Montreal bagels are slightly sweeter. According to Wikipedia, they are boiled in honey-sweetened water before being baked in a wood-fired oven.

 A little nibble of a still warm sesame bagel in the car.

Over the last couple weeks I have been eating my quota of bagels, and I must say these are the best whole wheat bagels I ever had. Still soft and slightly sweet.

Our Montreal trip resulted in this lunch for work: whole grain bagel with Montreal smoked meat from Schwartz’s that my parents and sister bought on their own exploration on Montreal.

You can’t get more touristy than this! However, it was an absolutely perfect lunch.

After this weekend of food, I think we were all prepared to have a lighter week. My family discussed how poutine is sometimes referred to lumberjack food. That might not be the origin of the dish, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone, such as a lumberjack who exerted a lot of energy, would eat poutine for sustenance. It’s similar to how traditional foods during Chinese New Year are often deep-fried or fried in a lot of oil, fatty, or very sweet. Historically, people ate such rich foods once a year. Now, modern lifestyle has changed. While we can still enjoy this food, we probably should only eat these foods in moderation.

La Banquise is located at 994, rue Rachel Est, Montreal, Quebec.

Le Cartet is located at 106, Rue McGill, Montreal.

Juliette et Chocolat has several locations. We went to the one on 1615, rue St-Denis, Montreal.

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Montréal: La Musique

Over the long weekend my family and I took a roadtrip to Montreal. My sister and I went mainly for the Osheaga, a music festival, but we still got in some good family time (and my parents enjoyed exploring Montreal on their own too). It was both a food- and music-filled experience.

I will have to write about the food in a separate post, but here’s a snap of a homemade snickerdoodle for the ride.


This was my first outdoor musical festival and I loved it. Seeing so many awesome bands in such a short time period was fantastic. There were so many people everywhere: watching the bands, lining up for food, taking the Metro back and even just going from the different stages. Apparently there were 120,000 of us over three days.

Day 1: Of Monsters and Men, Dum Dum Girls, Atlas Sound, Florence and the Machine, Sigur Ros and the end of MGMT.

There was a massive crowd for Of Monsters and Men. I didn’t know them well before, but this was one of my favourite shows and a perfect way to start the weekend. I am definitely going to listen to more of them.


Atlas Sound is an interesting man.

 

A very zoomed in Florence – unfortunately we were stuck in the middle, but Florence put on a lovely show and got the whole crowd involved. She also leapt around the perimeter at one point!

Day 2: Young Galaxy, Arkells, Garbage, Feist and The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Young Galaxy was dreamy.

 

The recent Arkells album grew on me this past year. Unfortunately I misread the stage for them and I missed the first fifteen minutes. They were so energetic that it didn’t seem to matter as much, luckily.

 

I never thought I’d see Garbage live. She had tons of attitude.

Feist is a cool woman.

Somebody passed up a palm tree “offering” through the audience.

The legends, The Jesus and Mary Chain, still rocked it. I feel the need to go through their discography now.

Day 3: Zeus, Dan Mangan, Aloe Blacc, Passion Pit, Austra, James Vincent McMorrow, The Shins, Bloc Party

It was a very rainy day so I didn’t take many pictures. I was definitely looking forward to see Dan Mangan. It was pouring during his show, but I don’t think the crowd minded.

 

The rain cleared up later on and it was actually very hot when we watched Austra. We were in the first row!

 

The Shins were one of my favourite parts of Osheaga. To be honest, I don’t know many of their songs, but the ones I do know are so comforting.

 

As much fun as I had, unless there is a can’t-be-missed lineup, I probably don’t need to go to Osheaga for a while. It was quite exhausting and kinda messy!

That trash isn’t ours either — one of the disappointing parts of Osheaga was how willing people were to litter. The ground at the end of each night was a sea of plastic cups.

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Hong Kong Eats: Chautari

It’s been pretty hot in Toronto over the last week. Luckily the humidity broke a couple days. I love the heat though — I much prefer hot weather over the cold. Have you noticed that cultures in hot climates tend to have spicier food?  That’s why I hope it’s appropriate I am now writing about Chautari, an Indian restaurant in Hong Kong.

While of course I was loving the Chinese food in Hong Kong, I wanted to taste something different. After reading about Chautari in a HK food blog (The Dim Sum Diaries) my Canadian friend from undergrad and I tried it out.

I got us lost walking there even though it should not have been hard to find (I think we just took a wrong turn), but finally we arrived at the restaurant in a cooked food centre. There were many other restaurants all along the perimeter. All the tables and chairs were in the middle, but it seemed that each restaurant had their designated tables.

Even though they looked like stalls, the prices were more in line with a sit down restaurant. We each got a set dinner for HK $115 (~ CAD $15) which came with a fair share of food. I couldn’t finish everything and I hate wasting food!

The meal included a drink so I got a mango lassi. It was slightly tangy — I think it was green mango — and refreshing. I tried my best to conserve it so I could drink it along with the spicy meal. It was so good that I struggled not to drink it quickly, but I was mostly successful!

Papadum with a minty sauce to start us off.

These vegetable samosas were a highlight of the meal. They were hot and crispy. Within were tender potatoes and vegetables.

The chicken tikka was perfect. It came fresh on a grill. The chicken was still moist inside. It was slightly smoky and spicy. It reminded me of tandoori chicken. The chicken was served with some cabbage.

With my set meal, I got the vegetable curry. This was tasty, although pretty standard. It still came with a lot of veggies.

The set came with naan but I asked the waiter if I could try the chennai roti instead. He agreed! It was slightly greasy but tasted great. I loved ripping strips of it and dipping it into the curry.

My friend got lamb curry which was rich. Fresh and fluffy naan on the side.

Chatauri is located at Shop CF6, Queen Street Food Market, 1 Queen Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. Note that this is one of the cases where Google Maps is somewhat misleading. The market is located on Queen Street, but it’s closer to the junction of Ko Shing Street, Queen Street and Des Voeux Road West.

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Wonton v Wonton

My first week of work was a deluge of new information, but I feel that I am absorbing a lot. One thing I am amazed with Markham, which is a suburb north of Toronto, is how delicious the Chinese food is here. This fact is practically a given, but whenever my family goes to Markham we go to the same places so I don’t have much of a chance to experience other Chinese restaurants.

On my first day, one of my supervisors at the firm took me and the other summer student for Hong Kong-style Chinese food for lunch. I didn’t expect to have milk tea so soon after my trip. It was like being back in HK: the milk tea was creamy and strong. My Portuguese chicken rice was tasty too. Yesterday one of my coworkers picked up bubble tea for some other co-workers and I tried red bean bubble tea. It had real red bean in it! It is true that some of the best “ethnic” foods are found in the suburbs.

This blog continues my series of posts about Hong Kong from Toronto.

Like many food-inclined tourists before me, I conducted a brief comparison of two wonton mein (noodle) places in Hong Kong. One of my best personal “discoveries” in Hong Kong was wonton noodles. Before, I never really understood the appeal of wonton noodles. I thought the noodles were bland and I couldn’t get a hold of all the different “dumplings” in Cantonese or Chinese cuisine. Now I find myself craving them for their simplicity.

First, we have Mak’s Noodles. The main restaurant is located in Central but I went to their branch in Jordan, Kowloon. Anthony Bourdain went to this place to get wonton mein in Hong Kong.

These came in a relatively small bowl compared to other HK eateries. It is a good portion though if we are talking about serving size. The broth was hearty, although on the salty side for me. The highlight was the noodles which were springy and practically al dente. The wontons were also small with only a few shrimp, but they were juicy and burst with flavour. For $30 and the size, Mak’s is not the best deal you can get in HK, even though it’s still a fine price in Canadian dollars.

And the competitor is Tsim Chai Kee another famous place to order wonton mein. Interestingly, this is located directly across the street from Mak’s Central location.

I was given a big bowl of noodles and shrimp wontons which were large and juicy. The large wontons were comforting. The broth was flavourful, but also on the salty side. There was a relaxed atmosphere. This was a deal at HK $20.  They were always very busy at lunch time so I went around 7 pm. I still had to wait a bit, but it was worth it.

I honestly couldn’t choose between the two, which I know is a cop-out. It’s completely preference. For something lighter, Mak’s is a good choice. For something homier, I’d go to Tsim Chai Kee.

Mak’s Noodles is located at G/F, 77 Wellington St, Central, Hong Kong and G/F, 51 Parkes Street, Jordan, Kowloon.

Tsim Chai Kee is located at 98 Wellington St, Central, Hong Kong.

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