dishesandplaces

Archive for December, 2013|Monthly archive page

ho hung kee (not to be mistaken for hunky ho)

In Uncategorized on December 31, 2013 at 10:20 am

still on the cheap michelin star thing, we also made it a point to dine at ho hung kee – famous for their wonton noodles and congee. founded in 1946, ho hung kee started as a small noodle stall and just recently moved into the upscale hysan place. we saw the size of the congee serving and decided we couldn’t manage, but we did make sure to have the wonton noodle soup

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what makes a superior noodle soup? our technique-and-not-just-flavor theory seems to hold here as well. the actual noodles had the perfect texture: they were firm and springy, you could feel each individual strand. the wonton wrap, very light, amazingly held form throughout. the taste was of course good, but not mind blowing. so we’re sticking to our belief that what makes this a cut above is technique. and this was supported later on when we had some random noodle soup a couple of days later – the wrap was thick and clunky and the noodles a little clumpy, although the broth and actual wontons weren’t far apart in flavor.

we also ordered another house specialty, the rice roll

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we got the sampler plate – and unfortunately i forgot what they were filled with. i’m sure there was shrimp in one but the others are lost to me (forgot to take notes). this dish also very satisfactory, we’re praising again the texture of the rice wrap. however, i realized that this form is not my favorite because of the wrap to filling ratio – a little too much wrap. and this was also true for what we had in tim ho wan so i understand it’s the way it should be. but i personally wouldn’t mind a little more filling.

still on the wrapped stuff dishes, next was deep fried dumpling, aka pinsec frito

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loved this. light and crispy. but you know, we had something very close to it in a shabu shabu place in manila (lau chan along mabini – we’ll write about that soon) so while this was a little lighter, the one in lau chan is also very good.

the last dish was the one that gave our palates quite an adventure: fishballs with a fermented clam dip

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that dip was unlike anything we’ve had. in theory, it could have resembled bagoong isda, but it didn’t. its flavor was far more funky – more fermented (?) much closer to the whoops-stored-that-a-bit-too-long end of the spectrum. we ate the whole dish, it was good. but yeah – considering we’re filipino and fairly adept at fermented condiments, this one was really trippy.

i’m afraid i didn’t note prices either. but the whole meal cost us something like HK$200 (P1200) so it wasn’t crazy expensive. the noodle soup i remember was HK$35.

so yeah, ho hung kee is something we’d like to come back to because we missed the congee and it did look spectacular.

that and the fact that there is a major major apple store in the building.

getting down to it as soon as you arrive in HK: tim ho wan

In places on December 28, 2013 at 7:10 pm

much ado has been made about tim ho wan – cheapest michelin star restaurant – and we will ado with everybody else because hey, we’ve never had michelin star food before. we went to the branch at the IFC mall because that was the easiest to get to. as soon as we got off the airport express at the hong kong station, we took the lift one level up and looked for the crowd. so there we were with our backpacks milling about like everybody else.

because this was our very first time, we ordered what a lot of people had already recommended, starting with the roasted pork bun (HKD 19, P105 for 3 pieces)

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the short of it is this is toasted siopao. but of course it is a little more complex than that. the bun is very light with a thin layer of crispness on the outside. it is also slightly sweet. then the filling is thick and sweet and salty. yes, rather delicious. but cloying, the sweetness becomes overwhelming and a tad one-dimensional. we could only eat one apiece. making us the only people we’ve read about who aren’t willing to gobble these down by the dozen.

another house specialty is the steamed egg cake (HK$14, P75)

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aka, puto binan. very good, but unremarkable.

now the next dish is what bowled us over. a favorite of ours – radish cake (HK$14 P75)

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this we found most delicious. delicate, subtle. adjectives you wouldn’t normally use when describing radish cake. but there you go. so good it puts us at a loss how we can ever eat radish cake anywhere else.

on another visit (we ate there twice in 2 days in HK – would’ve done a 3rd but our flight left before they opened in the morning), we had chicken feet (HK$26, P145) and beef ball wrapped in bean curd skin (HK$15, P75)

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very tasty. the chicken feet were exceptionally plump – and we honestly don’t want to think about that too much. this beef ball is also rather delicate and fragrant – full of flavor, but not in any way that dulls the flavor of other dishes. something to order again.

we also had har gaw (HK$25, P130) and kutchai dumplings (HK$25, P130) which had exceptional texture and great freshness.

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we realized that one big differentiator was the wrap. the dumpling wrap at tim ho wan is at once light and thin and sturdy. not at all like the clumsier thick wraps of a lot of chain places and even some of the more specialized restaurants. we also had the rice roll stuffed with pig’s liver (HK$20, P110) which also demonstrated this balance.

and then dessert. tonic medlar and petal cake (HK$ 12, P70)

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everybody at the restaurant would order this and with good reason. it’s so good. very cool, refreshing. floral, yes a little. actually the perfect end to a tim ho wan meal. don’t skip this.

in the end, we mused about the whole michelin star thing and realized that a lot of what separates cooks (even good cooks) from great cooks and professionals is technique. it’s not just the flavor, but – for example – the making of a dumpling wrap that is so light it doesn’t interfere with what’s inside. or getting that bun the right crisp.

so does tim ho wan deserve a michelin star? well, we don’t have the creds to answer that. but we have eaten enough to know that what they do is certainly exceptional and you must try it.

and just a couple of days ago we got news that they are opening in megamall. how about that.

shock your stomach into wakefulness with an indian breakfast

In Uncategorized on December 25, 2013 at 5:28 pm

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in little india in penang, there are spice shops where you can buy almost any spice you want on a per gram basis. the colors and smells are so bold, extravagant. and we remember why white guys from europe sailed to asia and waged wars – the spices, the spices are that sensational.

after buying our spices and dates – the dates were crazy inexpensive (at least by our standards). something like less than P150 for a kilo – we decided to have brunch at an indian restaurant called woodlands. because we were limited to their breakfast menu, we had idli

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this is essentially, a rice cake. puto. but with lentil flour mixed into the rice flour. dip into the gravy and munch happily. the other dish we had was an onion pancake (afraid i forgot the name). the idli was something like 2 RM (P30) and the pancake around 4 RM (P60).

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so yeah, these guys don’t hold back on the spice no matter what conditioning your stomach is in. none of this breaking in with milder food. first thing in the morning and everything is already bold and brazen. and understandably so. the cuisine hails from the subcontinent that possessed the coveted spices. they made superb use of this prize.

asam laksa. the rightful culinary ruler of penang

In Uncategorized on December 23, 2013 at 2:24 pm

people say the one dish to eat in penang is asam laksa. people were right.

the dish is so important, there are many competing opinions where to eat it. we had ours at a food stall at a corner along jalan penang, at the joo hooi cafe. a regular bowl for one cost around 4.5RM (P65) – it’s probably the best P65 we ever spent.Image 

the base of asam laksa is fish and tamarind, but is heavy on herbs and spices like galangal and lemongrass. so in taste it’s kind of like a cross between tom yum and sinigang. and it packs a huge wallop. in our lives we’ve had a decent sampling of tom yums and other sour and spicy soups, but this one is tops right now on the boldness scale. halfway through i needed to tissue to wipe my sweat. but it’s not just the heat – it’s the intensity of all the flavors in delicate balance. the main difference between this and the laksas many of us are more familiar with is that this one does not have coconut milk. which, i guess, makes it edgier. 

this is something we would love to replicate – once i feel i have enough audacity to try. because this is truly a most audacious dish.

our first encounter with kway chap

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2013 at 2:54 pm

this post has been a long, long time coming. 

it’s the first of a couple of entries about penang. now penang has got to be one of the food capitals of the world. a whole bunch of what we know about malaysian (and singaporean) cuisine hails from this part of the country. 

the first dish in this series is something we stumbled upon quite by accident. i was looking at a food map and trying to get to this popular char kway teow stall around lebuh kimberly. but we were so hungry and the stall appeared to be located at the end of the street so we were getting rather grumpy, and then we saw this

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and we had no idea what it was, but it looked sensational. then we saw a whole bunch of people come up carrying plastic containers taking out the food. so naturally we had to order some. once assembled, the dish looked like this

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and we dug in and it was delicious. the broth was thick and savory and hot! it was filled with flat noodles, duck, pig innards, and an egg. each morsel was tasty on its own. the whole dish was beautiful! it was actually the most expensive dish we had in penang at 7 rm or around P100 (yes, one hundred), but it was a massive serving. we could have easily split one bowl.

full and sweaty and immensely satisfied, it was only then we thought to ask what the dish was called. after many whats from me (poor hearing) i finally understood: kway chap.

apparently a fairly common dish, this is something that we would like to try again somehow. but part of me thinks it may never be as good as the one we accidentally stumbled upon at a corner of lebuh kimberly.

(for those who might find themselves in penang and would like to try this, the stall is along lebuh kimberly, but is at a corner. near the sin guat keong coffee shop)