February 19, 2013

Sheung Wan, Hong Kong

I walked around a bit today during my lunch hour in Sheung Wan. It's an old neighborhood on Hong Kong island with a lot of character.

Grand Millenium Plaza

I passed a lion dance troupe on the way to work. They're practicing for a performance. Today (February 19) is the 10th day of the new year. There are 12 animals in the Chinese  zodiac, which are paired with one of five classical Chinese/Buddhist elements (wood, fire, earth, metal and water). 2013 is the year of the water snake. 

Lion dance troup at Grand Millenium Plaza

At lunch, I walked to Shun Tak Centre on the harbourfront. From Shun Tak Centre, you can take high-speed ferries (or helicopter!) to Macau and other cities in the Pearl River Delta. This is the view of West Kowloon district across the harbour, taken from the footbridge by Shun Tak Centre.

Hong Kong Harbour

February 14, 2013

Chinese New Year

This year, Chinese New Year fell on February 10. We had a family lunch at 東方小祇園齋菜 (Tung Fong Siu Kee Yuen) in Wanchai, a well-known old vegetarian restaurant that's been around since 1905. "China was still in the Qing Dynasty when this restaurant started", my dad mentioned as we sat down to our first meal of the new year. This restaurant has seem the fall of Chinese emperors, the rise of Communism, the Japanese WWII occupation, the Tiananmen 6/4 protests, the retreat of the British empire, and the rise of the Chinese 21st century. Through it all, I'd wager that the food at Siu Kee Yuen hasn't changed very much at all.  Food for thought...

A Hong Kong institution since 1905

Veggie feast

As it was new year's, there were no a la carte dishes available; only various set menus on offer. The food was pretty good, if slightly heavy with corn-starch-thickened sauce. Highlights included peppery stir-fried rice noodles, mushroom braised soy e-fu noodles, fried taro puffs and fried honeydew melon fritters, mock duck (tofu skin), wheat gluten mix, etc. Chinese Buddhist vegetarian can be heavy on the fried foods and gloopy sauces, so I normally avoid it. I prefer the Shanghainese vegetarian cuisine which tend to include more steamed and fresh vegetables, rather than tofu/gluten dressed up as mock "meat". 

After the meal, Jon and I decided to walk off the feast. We ended up walking from Wanchai to North Point! In actual terms, it's only about two miles or three km, but it seems much further due to the incredible urban density of Hong Kong island. Wanchai District houses more than 150,000 people in less than four square miles, while Eastern District (which includes North Point) squeezes around 600,000 people in 7.3 square miles. I've always thought that there's as much life in one Hong Kong block as there is in three New York blocks. 

We ended up at North Point, where there is an outdoor market every day, and an informal flea market every Sunday that caters both to the local ethnic Chinese, but also to the larger Southeast Asian and South Asian diaspora. This is the place to go if you're a bargain hunter who loves to unearth hidden treasures...or just like digging through random crap. 

Oranges and other citrus are commonly gifted during their new year, as their round shape and golden color signify wealth and prosperity in the year ahead. 

Jon found a Sega Megadrive (16-bit), mint in the box! 

I found a box of tools (note the French packaging).

Here's the Doctor Who Dalek toy that I picked up for US$2 at the same market during the Chinese New Year holiday in 2010. (Cat not included.)

February 11, 2013

Dark craft beer chocolate cupcakes with stout

Dark chocolate cupcakes with stout

Aren't these cute? 

I made these mini cupcakes using exactly half the ingredients of the recipe for dark chocolate birthday cake with stout. The instructions are the same, and you should end up with 36 mini cupcakes. (I used three pans similar to the Wilton 12-cup mini muffin pan.) It should also be enough to make 18 normal-sized cupcakes (three 6-muffin pans).

The dark chocolate ganache was quite rich, so I might try using cream cheese frosting next time.

In other news, I will be at the Island East farmers/craft market on March 3, selling all sorts of craft beer from Hop Leaf. I am planning to test-drive some of my baked goods there, too (this means free samples of food!). If you're in Hong Kong, please come and say hi. :)

February 5, 2013

Barm bread (sourdough)

Poppy seed barm bread during the second rise

I've been busy baking and using my homemade sourdough starter recently. After trying the popular Taiwanese 65C tangzhong/water roux method, I came across a traditional British baking method called "barm" that is very similar, except you use ale instead of water to make the roux. Barm bread usually has a more flavor due to the use of beer, and has a lighter, fluffier crumb (texture) due to the gelatinous roux which allows the gluten in the flour absorb more moisture. The secret to making great bread is to have the dough as wet as possible. 

Making barm bread is a process that can be separated into two distinct parts: first you need to make the barm, then you use the barm to make the bread. 

  • 250ml (8.5 oz) ale -- while any bottle-conditioned beer works, I used Baird Brewing's Single-Take Session ale as I thought it would give a light, rustic flavor. A stout or porter will give you a darker, maltier barm.
  • 50g (1/2 cup) bread flour (sifted)
  • 4 tsp white leaven/sourdough starter, or 1 tsp active dry yeast

Baird beer from Numazu, Japan
  1. Heat the ale in a saucepan on medium heat until 65C (if you don't have a thermometer, don't worry, you can eyeball it. Wait until you see some bubbles form but don't let the ale boil over!)
  2. Remove from heat and whisk in the flour, stirring rapidly to avoid lumps forming. Don't worry if you get lumps, if needed you can strain them out with a sieve later after cooling. It should have a slightly translucent brown (exact darkness will depend on the type of beer you used) and have the consistency of hair gel/pomade.
  3. Put the ale-flour mixture into a small bowl and let cool to 20C (room temperature), then stir in the leaven or active dry yeast.
  4.  Cover with plastic wrap or a clean cloth, and let the barm sit overnight for up to 48 hours until nice and bubbly.  If it doesn't bubble, your yeast/starter is dead and you'll have to start again.
  5. The barm is now ready to use in making bread! It can replace your sourdough starter in most bread recipes.

Sourdough barm bread with poppy seeds:

  • 150g barm, from above (I used all of the barm made from the above recipe without measuring it, which turned out fine)
  • 250ml (8.5 oz) water
  • 500g bread (high-gluten) flour; or 400g bread flour and 100 g wholemeal/rye flour
  • 10g (2 tsp) salt
  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds (optional)

  1. Mix the barm and water together until the barm is completely dissolved. 
  2. Add the flour and salt, then mix until you get a wet, shaggy dough. It will be a sticky mess!
  3. Put in a bowl, cover and leave at room temperature for 12-18 hours. 
    • If your room is warmer than 20C, you might want to put the covered bowl in the fridge to keep the dough temperature down and allow time for the flavors to develop during the long fermentation. 
    • You can also split the rise time over two days: I made the dough after dinner one night, then put it in the fridge overnight. I took it out the next morning and left it on the countertop all day. When I came home from work 12 hours later, the dough had finished the first rise. 
  4. After the first rise has been completed (dough will be double in size), punch down the dough and scrape it out onto a floured surface.
  5. Shape the dough into whatever form you like. I made four oval rolls.
  6. If using poppy seeds, sprinkly on top now. 
  7. Place the shaped dough onto your baking sheet (I use Silpat to avoid the bread sticking to the metal pan, or you can use baking paper), and let rise in a quiet, dry area until doubled (1-2 hours).
  8. Bake in a preheated 220C/425F oven for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. As with all bread, resist the temptation to eat or slice the bread as soon as you take it out of the oven! Let cool to room temperature before serving.

Golden-brown poppyseed barm rolls 

February 1, 2013

Joy Hing Roasted Meat 再興燒臘飯店

Jon and I went to a famous Chinese BBQ place last night called Joy Hing, which came strongly recommended by Chowhound and Anthony Bourdain, among others. It was OK. Jon had the charsiu rice, which was good. I ordered the roast duck and roast pork on rice. The duck did not have much meat while the roast pork was too salty (the meat was juicy and the skin was crispy though, which was good). There is a jug of sauce (soy sauce and roasted meat juices) at each table and you can season the rice to your liking.

I got the feeling that the restaurant is coasting on its reputation a bit. There's also much better roasted meat across the harbor and in less tourist-friendly neighborhoods, but I suppose most HK Islanders are hesitant to cross the harbour to "the dark side" (i.e. Kowloon).

新強記 on Shanghai Street in Jordan will always be one of my favorites as we bought takeout charsiu there when I was young.

Anyway, it's an excuse for some food porn (ahem):