If you’re reading this- thank you and Happy Chinese New Year/ Happy New Year generally/ Happy Valentine’s Day! Either a) you are on a coffee break and were trawling through IG and happened upon this post b) I told you I posted something or c) you’ve been following me for a while, wondered what happened to my blog and then suddenly, ta-da, I’m back! But, whatever brought you here, thank you. I have been away for a while and honestly, there’s been no particular reason other than work a.k.a “adulting” and also Instagram more or less took over.
However, as this IS a new year, which always heralds fresh starts, I am hoping to get back into blogging whenever time allows, but you may find that rather than me writing about what I’m currently eating in HK, (you can find that on my IG account quite easily here), I will likely be telling you what’s great to eat in other countries, as I found myself travelling quite a fair bit in the past year or so, especially back to Blighty (UK for those unfamiliar with that term!), or just babbling on about something vaguely food related, so watch this space!
As ever, thank you for following/ reading/ looking at my food photos and for your support over the years, I’m most grateful. I hope to inspire some wanderlust or rice cooker baking adventures in you soon! (I got a new rice cooker- a Xiaomi one, and I have no idea how great it will be with cakes…fingers crossed).
In the meantime, below is a picture of my three favourite biscuits from Fortnum & Mason, wonderful gifts bestowed upon my household by lovely friends. If you only do one thing in London, get your mitts on these babies. The tins are beautiful too- reuse as tea bag containers!
Hong Kong has many merits, but one thing it lacks is space. And that lack of space extends to one’s home and specifically, the kitchen. My kitchen is functional but small, very small and so rammed with equipment it’s a wonder I can actually cook. But the one thing I am missing, and I think I might have mentioned this before, is an oven. I admit, I probably wouldn’t use it enough to justify having one in the first place, but the absence of one makes me want one more. Sighhhh. So what are you supposed to do if you suddenly want to bake a cake, but have no oven? You turn to your rice-cooker, assuming you have one.
Peanut butter cake with Häagen-Dazs caramel biscuit ice-cream
Bake a cake in a RICE COOKER?What is this madness, I hear you cry! Stay with me guys, it’s the next best thing since sliced bread. (There’s a pun in there somewhere). I didn’t quite realise how useful the rice cooker (RC) could be until I began some research into using one for baking cakes. Several Buzzfeed articles and tonnes of links extolling the virtues of this humble appliance later, I decided ovens were annoying and my RC was the coolest thing on Earth. Experiments began in earnest- I even managed to roast a tiny chicken in my RC once(!). But cakes, ahhhh the sweet, sweet smell of cakes, that was my real triumph and it’s honestly very straightforward to do in the RC. But how do you know when the cake is ready- there’s no timer! This, my friend, is down to pure experimentation, taking slight liberties with timings that recipes recommend and popping the lid of the RC every now and then to work out if the sponge is cooked through. If you have baked using an oven before, your baking know-how/ baking sixth sense will help you approximate how much time each particular cake needs- it all depends on the ratio of wet to dry ingredients.
The cakes produced using the RC are a combination of steamed and baked. The cake develops a lovely sort of baked exterior, whilst the inside is moist, light and fluffy. Ginger cake and Peanut Butter cake have become the firm favourites in the RC cake repertoire, but I’ve also quite liked a milo and peanut butter variation and a traditional banana cake. Will be trying a lemon cake soon, so watch this space! Recently I posted on Instagram a new cake I baked- coconut, Malteser spread and peanut butter, (yes, PB is a recurring theme, but it tastes so good in cakes). A few of you were asking for a recipe so I will post it below, together with my Ginger cake recipe, as that’s a real winner!
Some of you will wonder if I have a fancy rice cooker. I do not. It’s old now and I only know how to press ON/ KEEP WARM/ OFF. Lol. One press of the ON button is equal to approximately 20 minutes of cooking time. My cakes usually need 3- 4 cycles (around 60- 80 minutes) of cooking time, but you should use your judgement, sneak a peak and use a toothpick to test whether it’s done.
My humble Rice Cooker (excuse the terrible photo and lighting)
100g muscovado sugar
100g golden syrup
1 large egg
150g plain flour
3tsp ground ginger
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
1-2 tsp of grated fresh ginger (or however gingery you want it!)
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon
1) Melt butter, sugar and syrup in a pan over a gentle heat. Remove from the stove and cool mixture for 5- 10 minutes.
2) Stir egg and milk into the cooled mixture and sift in all the dry ingredients- flour, bicarb of soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ground and fresh ginger.
3) Mix thoroughly, ensuring there’s no lumps of flour floating around! The mixture will be quite runny.
4) Grease the rice cooker and then pour the mixture in.
This cake needs 60-80 mins in the RC- depends on how moist you want your cake!
Ginger cake with icing- this was a very slapdash icing!
Coconut, Malteser spread and Peanut Butter Cake
60g salted butter
1 large egg (beaten)
1 small can of coconut milk (160ml)
125g plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp Malteser spread (or equivalent chocolate spread- you can use Nutella!)
2 tbsp peanut butter
1) Melt all the wet ingredients together in a pan (same as for the Ginger cake).
2) Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.
3) Add the beaten egg and slowly sift the dry ingredients into the wet mixture.
4) Mix thoroughly and then pour into your greased rice cooker.
This cake needs 60 min, so approx 3 presses of the RC.
I admit, I was a little confused at first. Why was Mercedes, the luxury car brand, suddenly serving food? Was this a new tactic? Ply customers with copious quantities of food and drink and before you know it, hey presto you’ve accidentally bought a Merc, (it could happen). Regretably, none of my friends have unexpectedly left Mercedes Me with a car, (my dreams of getting a free ride have been scuppered), but most of them have reported delicious things happening within the store. Thankfully, you don’t have to be a car lover to appreciate the high quality food that’s on offer and if dishes influenced by Peruvian, Japanese and Spanish cuisines sound like your kind of thing, then you won’t be disappointed.
Boozy Sunday brunch is somewhat of a rarity these days for my friends and I, and the Sunday I visited Mercedes Me for the first time (by kind invitation), was no exception, with me balking at the thought of more alcohol following a Saturday night of a delightful combination of whisky, G&Ts and beers that tasted as awful as its name (The Brown Note). However, gluttony was the order of the day, and what a feast we had in store for us: you can choose from their buffet stations of salad/ bakery/ cold selections, interactive stations of cheese/ eggs/ fish, before choosing a main and dessert which are served in a sharing style for the table. If you want the booze, there’s free flow Champagne Perrier-Jouet, Red and White wine, Bloody Mary and Beer that will get you rapidly merry on a Sunday afternoon.
I opted for the mocktail version of the Bloody Mary which was lovely- nicely balanced, not too fiery nor too tart and was enough to rev my appetite. Greed got to me as I piled my plate high with a wonderful selection of cold meats, salad and tasty morsels such as miso eggplant and fried artichoke hearts, and our table enjoyed the extensive cheese offerings and the gorgeous pain au chocolat and bread. I liked the “interactive stations” where you can ask for sous-vide egg with a variety of toppings and sauces- I asked for a sous-vide egg with salmon – and the fish station which was essentially sashimi and dressing of your choice.
For mains we noshed on Sobrassada Slow Cooked Chicken Thighs with sweetcorn stew and red wine jus that was tender and rich. I am a big sweetcorn fan, and loved the creamy texture of the stew. The Sobrassada and Mozzarella Bikini were tasty cheesy bites but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the Broccolini fried with chilli, garlic and sesame, which were especially moreish and flavourful.
If you don’t wear stretchy pants, you might find tucking into their desserts difficult. Their serving of Catalan Cream Foam is generous, and it was creamy yet light. The Dulce de Leche with Coffee Sponge and Whisky Curd is decadent but if you’re a a Ferrero Rocher obsessive then their Chocolate and Hazelnut Delice will be right up your street.
At midday the Mercedes Me store was very quiet but by 1pm, it was buzzing and completely transformed the atmosphere, so if you want to attack the buffet selection without fighting others, the earlier your reservation the better! Service was good, with very attentive staff. Price-wise $490 for the food is really quite reasonable, but the additional $280 for the free flow may not seem so appealing to some. However, given the location, the quality of the dishes, the guaranteed food coma, plus the chance to ogle some flashy cars, I’d say it’s definitely a lovely alternative to the hotel Sunday brunches that are on offer.
Chopstixfix rating: 4/5
Mercedes Me, Shop C-D, G/F, Entertainment Building, 30 Queen’s Road Central, Central, Central, Hong Kong/ Tel: +852 28957398 / https://www.mercedes-benz.com/hk/mercedes-me/st
Say piri-piri or peri-peri, and most brains would instantly go NANDO’S! If you’re Brit, the love for Nando’s chicken, ‘slaw, spicy rice and chips is intense and not to be underestimated. Let’s not forget the phrase “Cheeky Nando’s” which caused confusion of epic proportions for Americans and snowballed into many of us having to painfully explain the meaning/ talk extensively about our Nando’s obsession.
But why Hong Kong, why no Nando’s?! My friends’ and my cries have not been heard- how rude, but before you hop onto a plane to Singapore or Malaysia for your piri-piri fix, thankfully there is somewhere in HK that serves that most delicious spicy- sweet marinated chicken. Flaming Frango on Staunton Street, Soho, is probably the closest thing to Nando’s we’re going to get and aside from their classic piri-piri chicken and sides, they have now expanded their menu to include new appetisers, burgers and wraps.
Flaming Frango is fairly compact inside, and the walls are a flaming red to match the name. There is an upstairs seating area, so don’t be alarmed if you walk in and wonder about space. Once settled, you can start with one of their cocktails like their refreshing Lychee and Lemongrass Colada, or you can get stuck right into the food. Their ‘Frango’ – ‘chicken’ in Portuguese, is marinated in their house-made piri-piri sauce for 24 hours and is obviously the main ingredient in most of their dishes.
I’d personally go straight for their house specials which involves their piri-piri chicken in various portion sizes, with a selection of sides you can add on. For 1/4 chicken with two sides it is $138, 1/2 chicken plus two sides is $198 and whole chicken with four sides is $360. They also have three home-made sauces- mint and coriander (really like this one), spicy and very hot. Whatever floats your boat! It would be perfect if they had a garlic sauce much like the one Nando’s serves.
For small bites, we tried the chicken and mushroom croquettes, which were little morsels of minced chicken and mushrooms served with pirioli, Portobello mushroom strips, piri-piri prawns and Halloumi cheese sticks. Of the four, the Portobello mushroom strips were the favourite- addictive, crisp mushroom slices which tasted even better in their pirioli sauce. The grilled prawns were juicy and cooked well but lacked in presentation, looking like two lonely, lost crustaceans on the plate. However, the real surprise was the Halloumi cheese stick…and not in the best way. They were alarmingly tiny; with each pan-grilled thumb-sized rectangle of halloumi topped with half a cherry tomato, my friend and I hardly thought the dish was worth a whopping $78!
Piri Piri Prawns
Halloumi cheese sticks
Portobello Mushroom Strips
Moving onto mains, we tried their new Sweet and Spicy chicken burger ($158) topped with pineapple and cheese and served with fries and coleslaw. I’m not a fan of non-classic burgers to be honest, and I found the chicken, whilst succulent, didn’t really do it for me in a burger form, especially with a pineapple slice inside. My friend however, rather enjoyed it (according to him pineapple slices in burgers are the best- sorry, I have to disagree), so I suppose one man’s pineapple, is another man’s poison. The fries were fantastic; those I demolished fairly swiftly and would happily have eaten another plate.
Sweet and Spicy Chicken
To end, we were served their house special of half a piri-piri chicken with their sauce selection and this was on point- meaty, succulent and tender meat.
Piri Piri Chicken
Flaming Frango does well with their piri-piri chicken, and it definitely helps to fill the void left by Nando’s. Price-wise, I’d say their house specials are worth it, but I do question the price of some of the other dishes. Service is haphazard and the air-con or lack thereof the night we went, made it difficult to fully enjoy our dinner, especially in the heat we’ve been experiencing lately. Work those kinks out, and I think Flaming Frango is a good place for a cheeky Nando’s substitute.
When I was fighting off other tourists and rushing to snag a sun lounger to gaze at palm trees and a beautiful beach at Potato Head Bali last year, I didn’t think that a city version of the very same place would appear in Hong Kong soon after. Potato Head, a name which amused me immensely when it was brought up continuously prior to my holiday, (because I have a friend nicknamed Potato- I’m sorry mate), came highly recommended and seemed to be the place to go and sip cocktails in a sophisticated manner. But, what’s this about a city setting? No palm trees, and definitely no sand to be seen, however, the sprawling 8,000 sq ft establishment has definitely made its mark in Sai Yin Pun.
Potato Head HK
Located next to David Lai’s Fish School on one of SYP’s many charming, steep roads (a nice workout for the calf muscles if you’re in high-heels), Potato Head stretches unassumingly down the slope, but once inside, it’s a different matter.
Increasingly, restaurants are ensuring their interiors have the wow-factor and Potato Head has gone all out with their design. Award-winning Tokyo-based architect Sou Fujimoto has created an eclectic mix of traditional Indonesian features, hard modern metallic structures and hanging fronds in the bar area, which may or may not help to recreate some of the vibes you’d get if you were by the beach. It’s certainly a lovely space and the site is expansive, with three areas: Kaum- the dining concept, the Music Room- a listening space and the All-day café and bar.
In its opening weeks, my friends and I were given a wonderful talk by Indonesian gastronomy activist Ms Lisa Virgiano, who walked us through the rich food history of West Sumatra with special focus on the famous Rendang, which is central to the Padang eateries throughout Indonesia. Key learning points included finding out that rendang is in fact a process of cooking rather than a food category, the cultural significance of this dish to its people, and how it can take up to nine hours, with three key stages to create the perfect rendang. As a Malaysian-Chinese, and cross-overs seen in our cuisine (think rendang as well as satay, sambal, gulai), I was of course, quite excited to see what traditional Indonesian cuisine the spectacular kitchen would whip up.
If you’re a fan of spice, the sambals are a must try and my favourites were the Sambal Ikan Asin Bakar: Salted fish & red chili relish and the Sambal Kluwek: roasted black nut chili relish. The Sambal Ikan is a lovely combination of spicy and salty with the chewiness of the salted fish and is a great accompaniment to any rice dish. The Sambal Kluwek has a more pungent, saltier flavour profile with a hint of sweetness, which also goes well with most dishes.
Spices regularly used in Indonesian cuisine
After several visits to Potato Head, there were a few standout and regularly re-ordered dishes. The Rendang Daging Sapi, their signature dish of braised beef with red beans in mixed Sumatran rendang spices & coconut milk sauce served with sweet potato crisps, is rich in flavour, the meat beautifully tender after hours of cooking.
Rendang Daging Sapi
I’m a huge noodle fan and the Mie Gomak, wok-fried noodles with shredded chicken, Andaliman spices, curry leaves & coconut milk, has a complex combination of spices and a wonderful, slightly sour chilli kick, reminiscent of Assam Laksa. I particularly enjoyed the pretty Burung Dara Goreng Rica Rica: Slow cooked & fried pigeon tossed in a northern Sulawesi sambal of red chili, herbs, spring onions & fresh lime juice, which was deliciously piquant.
Burung Dara Goreng Rica Ric
I loved the spicy turmeric sauce that’s served with the Sate Lidah Sapi Padang- charcoal-grilled braised ox tongue and if you’re a huge fan of Babi Guling aka roasted baby pig, be sure to savour the gorgeous crispy skin.
Dessert-wise, I’m less enthusiastic. The Burbur Kampiun- sweet potato dumpling with mung beans, coconut custard, coconut milk, sago is probably the one I enjoyed the most with its similarity to the Malaysian Bubur cha-cha. But, on another occasion we ordered Bubur Sumsum Pandan – a medley of pandan rice custard, coconut milk and palm sugar, which none of our party enjoyed. I wasn’t sure if the brownie-type chunks on top were palm sugar chunks, but it was far too sweet against a rather sour rice custard (I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be like that), which served only to confuse our taste-buds.
The main dining area of Kaum, with the wooden panels poor at absorbing sound, might be a tad too noisy for some, and my friends and I did find it quite difficult to hear each other. However, one can proceed to their music room for some laid back drinks and music.
Potato Head HK has done very well in styling itself as the hip place to hang out in Sai Yin Pun’s. With an all-day cafe, music room, bar, retail corner and restaurant, pretty much every need is catered for. The noise levels may put a few off, or maybe my friends and I are just getting old; however, it is an impressive space and Kaum’s efforts to bring traditional Indonesian to our attention are definitely to be applauded. The dishes for the most part are well executed, the bill averages around $400- 600 per person depending on greed and drinks, and while the service can be a bit haphazard, I don’t see this being a detriment at all to Potato Head’s longevity in Hong Kong.
Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5
Kaum by Potato Head, G/F, 100 Third Street, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong / Tel: +852 2858 3036 / Opening times 10:00- 00:00 / http://www.ptthead.com/
When Elephant Grounds popped onto the scene on Gough Street in Central at the Woaw Store, the name was synonymous with one thing only- ice-cream sandwiches. Forget the coffee that they were brewing, no no, people of Hong Kong were solely interested in this seemingly holy grail of desserts, the iPhone equivalent of ice-cream. A new flavour every weekend and a limited supply; their Instagram announcement of the fresh creation generating a wave of palpable excitement, such that friends were clamouring to get there early enough to get their hands on one. It took a while for this feverishness to die down and when it finally seemed a bit calmer, I casually swanned in one Sunday afternoon when in the area and got their Forbidden Crumble ice-cream sandwich which was a) beautiful to look at b) exciting, as apple crumble is one of my favourite desserts so I was already loving it without even tasting it c) bloody difficult to eat gracefully. Call it a sugar high, but I suddenly understood the craze. Cinnamon ice cream with green apple and a crumble cookie finished with caramelized apples and almonds tasted as delicious as it sounds and as I stood in the street between cars, gingerly biting into it, apple bits and almonds perilously sliding off rapidly melting ice-cream, I remember thinking it’d be grand to have another branch a little closer towards North Point. There is zero room inside the Woaw Store for a coffee and a natter and their other branch at Wong Chuk Hang is too out of the way.
And then, LO AND BEHOLD, the coffee gods heard our cries and Elephant Grounds materialised at Fashion Walk in Causeway Bay. (The other day I noticed that my beloved Xi Yan Sweets on Star Street has closed and has been taken over by another Elephant Grounds branch…WHAT ON EARTH?! Am not sure how I feel about this. Whilst I applaud EG’s ability to suddenly sprout another branch, I admit I am rather gutted by the disappearance of XYS to be honest, but luckily there’s still a branch in Tai Koo Shing.)
Elephant Grounds, Fashion Walk, Causeway Bay (image courtesy of Fashionwalk.com.hk)
But, back to EG and the branch in Causeway Bay is quite lovely and is the older, mature, more sophisticated and obviously much larger version of the Gough Street counterpart, with its minimalistic wooden tables and chairs and a cool counter top to perch at. The menu is more than just ice-cream sandwiches and coffee too. There’s a rather tasty selection of dishes including hamburger, salmon donburi, ramen and kale quinoa salad.
I’d already frequented this branch for the odd coffee or two with friends and love sitting outside watching the world go by. I hadn’t really paid attention to their coffee philosophy of, “The finest beans. Appropriate roast. Correct brewing method. Great presentation”, but suffice it to say I have no complaints about their coffee, aside from the price, which is tad steep at $45, once you compare it to the cost of some of their dishes, but nonetheless their French Vanilla coffee is done nicely and you can’t go wrong with their latte.
French Vanilla Latte
On yet another horrendously rainy day, I was kindly invited to try out a couple of dishes from their brunch menu and sampled the Torched Salmon Donburi ($88) with an onsen egg, pickled cucumbers, mixed greens, roasted corn and sesame dressing and their EG burger ($106) which is 8oz of USDA prime beef patty wedged within a brioche bun served with a fried egg, cheddar cheese and fries.
The salmon donburi is a hearty size and prettily presented. I enjoyed the variety of ingredients going on in my bowl and of course, an onsen egg on top of anything will always make things that little bit tastier. The burger is also quite substantial- the beef patty meaty and juicy and topped with a good amount of melty cheese and another egg. Protein overload! The fries were good and I ended up munching on more than I intended despite needing to leave room for ice-cream!
Torched Salmon Donburi
EG Burger (this was bloody awkward to photograph!)
Ah yes, the ice-cream. Japanese Taro ice-cream, one of my favourite flavours. There’s a fairly extensive list of atypical flavours such as Thai iced tea and Rose water rhubarb, but the minute I heard Taro, I needed to try it. This was definitely the best part of the meal, and I love how the ice-cream includes candied taro chunks which really livens up the ice-cream to give it that extra texture. Absolutely delicious!
Japanese Taro Ice-cream with a Taro chip
Now that Fashion Walk has undergone yet another face-lift with EG and Burger Room amongst others moving in, the ‘hood is looking quite a lot more interesting. Although EG is meant to be all about the coffee, somehow the ice-cream became the headliner, whether deliberately or not, I don’t know. In any case, I admire how they are striving to expand their repertoire, so let’s see if the coffee and the food become as memorable as their sweet offerings.
Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5
Shop C, G/F, 42-28 Paterson Street Fashion Walk, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong / Mon – Fri: 11:00 am – Late/ Sat – Sun: 10:00 am – Late/ 852 2562 8688/ http://elephantgrounds.com/
This meal was by invitation- many thanks to the EG team for the kind hospitality.
So, first of all, happy new year! Ok, I’m a bit late…but it’s still the first quarter of the 2016 so I think I can just about get away with it! Secondly, whilst the blog has been a little quiet, alright, yes yes, very quiet, I’d like to let you know that I have definitely been taking one for the team and leaving several lifetimes on the hips for you all. I have definitely overdone it with the eating since Christmas. I love you HK, but you really need to slow down with the constant restaurant openings, so much to try, so little time, only one digestive tract!
There seems to be no end to the growing number of Japanese restaurants popping up. One of the latest is KOKO, a contemporary izakaya which is the result of a partnership between KEE club and the Hidetoshi Nakata, world-renowned footballer and fashion icon turned sake ambassador. I confess, he was perhaps the only other reason, (aside from Beckham) for my being vaguely interested enough to watch the World Cup back in the day. So I was quite surprised to learn that Nakata has his own sake company- Japan Craft Sake Company. In efforts to promote sake internationally, this collaboration sees KOKO’s sake list showcase a variety of rare and vintage sakes shipped directly from Japan, most of which you’d be hard pressed to find in HK.
The CrazyHashtagfoodies crew and I were invited to try out KOKO early last month and as I stumbled into the restaurant flustered from what was frankly, a completely horrendous day compounded by the downpour, I was greeted by the rest of the gang all nestled on cool patio sofas on the spacious terrace surrounded by palm tree fronds.
We started off with some truly excellent appetisers, (we were all impressed by the starters and I would have been quite happy to nosh on several refills for the rest of the evening), and my favourite by far was the Tuna Tartare ($88)- a gorgeous little heap of tuna topped with half a quail’s egg and its quivering runny yolk on top of some sort of delightful crunchy wonton? skin. Another treat was the Chicken tsukune with soft egg and nori ($98). I’ve no idea what else was in that dipping sauce but something made it especially addictive and hit my umami hot-spot.
Red Mullet Escabeche
We relocated inside and found ourselves ensconced in a comfy corner of KOKO. The next round of food included Rock Shrimp tempura ($128) which I could easily munch on like popcorn, Hokkaido scallops ($168) which were expertly sliced into thin slivers and Clams steamed in sake ($168) which the crew enjoyed immensely. I personally enjoyed the Spicy Seafood Soup ($128) which contained generous chunks of seafood and had a good kick of spice. This and the following two rounds of dishes were washed down with three different sakes. I’m no sake expert so I won’t even attempt to comment except to say that out of the three sampled, I liked the Azuma Ichi the best but the rest of the group had their own preferences so there is something on the list for everyone!
Clams in Sake
Spicy Seafood soup
Other highlights were the Baby Back Pork Ribs ($188), a must for meat-lovers, (other meat dishes include the Australian Black Angus beef ($230) and Lamb chops ($228)) and the beautiful King Crab and Uni Hot Pot ($268) which generated a fair number of oohhs and “yummy” comments.
Baby back pork ribs
King Crab and Uni Hot Pot
For the sweet-toothed amongst you, I attacked the Almond and Yogurt Cake ($88) with much gusto, which had some pretty interesting flavours going on and is a good, light finish for the meal. I also quite enjoyed the Green Tea and Banana baked cream ($78) which sounds like an odd combination and looks like a piece of cotton wool has a green rash (my attempts to photograph it in a flattering light failed sadly), but was fluffy and quite scrumptious. Chocolate affectionados will find comfort in the Dark Chocolate Green Tea fondant ($98) and vanilla ice-cream.
Almond and Yogurt Cake
Dark Chocolate Green Tea fondant
We had a cracking time at KOKO, and I must say that there is quite a lot going for it- good location, an awesome selection of dishes, a variety of interesting sakes for those interested and palm trees on the terrace (I jest, but actually it’s nice to see a plant in this concrete jungle). Am already planning my next visit.
Chopstixfix rating: 4/5
KOKO, 5/F, 77 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2109 1777, www.kokohk.com, open Mondays to Saturdays from 5pm till late, closed Sundays
One of my first memories of a stonking good crêpe was back in uni days sinking my teeth into a glorious example of one from La Crêperie de Hampstead, which is London’s most typical Parisian Street Crêperie and rather legendary amongst North Londoners. Fast forward an X number of years (I cringe at the actual number) and a different part of the world, and I’m sitting down in La Crêperie in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. This Brittany restaurant chain is going from strength to strength, with branches in Sheung Wan and Wan Chai, as well as in Shanghai, Vietnam, Taipei and Phnom Penh. Their latest location in L Square in Lockhart Road is more spacious than the others but somehow still feels cosy, with little details that reflect the maritime culture of Brittany.
By kind invitation to their new Causeway Bay restaurant, I was able to take my temporary guy-tai friend along with me to nosh on some savoury and sweet pancakes. I was honestly rather excited, as for reasons that escape me, whenever I have tried to go to their Wan Chai branch randomly over the years, it’s always been shut! Though that is probably more my fault than theirs as I recall being struck by a hankering for pancakes at bizarre hours. Anyway, moving on….
So, they did try to tempt me with their Brittany cider (which I later had when I finally went to the Wan Chai branch for dinner with friends a fortnight later, which was delicious – tart with a sweet edge and very refreshing), but as it was a working day, we felt it safe to stick to their apple juice. Whilst this information is not of any import, what I’m trying to express is how much I loved their dinky little bowls that the cider and apple juice were served in. Très mignon! It reminded me of the bowls of hot chocolate my French exchange’s mum used to serve me for breakfast (the only highlight of that hideous exchange programme).
La Crêperie’s menu is quite extensive, with most of the ingredients imported from France. The main feature of the menu is of course the famous dish for which Brittany is known for- the galette. Most people are familiar with the normal dessert pancakes, but galettes are the savoury counterparts made with buckwheat and loaded with a variety of tasty fillings.
To accompany the launch of the new branch, there are naturally, new dishes on the menu. Nothing quite whets the appetite, especially when in a ravenous state, than the tempting wafts of black truffle. The black truffle made an appearance on our first dish- two mini galettes ($98). These were cooked (a little on the crispy side) with a quail egg bouncing seductively in the middle, emmental cheese and slices of French cooked ham draped around the egg yolk, before being finished off with aromatic blobs of black truffle paste. These were actually delightful little bites and although the galettes were a tiny bit overcooked on the bottom, they definitely left guy-tai K and I in eager anticipation of the full-scale versions.
Our next starter was the pan-fried foie gras with caramelised apples, apple cider and salted butter caramel sauce. This particular dish was no different to many of the standard foie-gras dishes peppered about HK restaurants, but I was happy to see a generously sized piece and the foie-gras had a gorgeous, crispy, sweet glaze and I did enjoy the accompanying apples which gave the dish a bit of a lift.
For mains, we shared the new galette on the block- La Capitaine ($128). This seafood creation boasted pan-fried scallops (on point) nestled on a fondue of leek, bacon, cream and flamed with Jameson Irish Whisky. The flavours came together excellently and we wolfed the entire galette down in silence- such was our enjoyment. I love how simply the dish was presented, but don’t be fooled as it is quite filling.
To end, we had the “Sexy Suzette”, which is a celebration of the famous “Crêpe Suzette” and in this version, is served with Mövenpick passion fruit and mango sorbet, lime juice, grilled almonds and flamed with Cointreau (HK$88). The Crêpe was lovely, the sorbet delish (it’s Mövenpick, what’s not to love?), but the Cointreau was just a tad too strong for my taste, though it did jolt me awake just as I was skimming the surface of a food coma.
K and I had a great meal at La Crêperie, and in fact, I returned, this time to their Wan Chai branch, a mere two weeks later (you don’t go in 4 years and then you go twice in a fortnight!). This time I had a more cheesy galette- Les Poulains, which had French raclette cheese, ham, smoked ham, potatoes and pickles lovingly wrapped in a crêpe. Omnomnomnom. Highly recommend this one if you like raclette, and what could be better than raclette in a galette?! And because I was extremely hungry, I followed that up with a sweet pancake. Le Sextant is a deliciously sexy concoction of Vanilla ice cream, caramelized apples and the all popular salted butter caramel. Pancake heaven. Unfortunately my friends, no photos of that particular outing as we were all too busy eating, or perhaps I should just blame it on poor lighting. In any case, if you are craving a serious crêpe escape, look no further than La Crêperie, which is probably coming to a neighbourhood near you, if their popularity is anything to go by!
Chopstixfix rating: 4/5
La Crêperie Causeway Bay, 8/F, The L Square, 459-461 Lockhart Rd. Tel: +852 2898 7123 / La Crêperie WanChai, 1/F, 100 Queen’s Road East. Tel: +852 25299280 / La Crêperie Sheung Wan,G/F, 69 Jervois Street. Tel: +852 26794666
Meal at Causeway Bay was by invitation- many thanks to the kind hospitality at La Crêperie and Jin Communications.
Tea. Boy, do I love tea….and scones. And what better time is there than to have it on a random day when I don’t have to shove people out of the way in a queue and fight for a table on a Sunday? Sometimes a girl just wants to have Afternoon Tea in the middle of the week and pretend to be a tai-tai. Even better yet, is being able to drag a part-time tai-tai and guy-tai (using the term tai-tai very loosely indeed) with me for a spot of gastronomic indulgence and a good chin-wag. The perks of having a flexible work schedule!
As an expat-Brit, I can say without a doubt, that a good Afternoon Tea is something that most of my friends and I are constantly on the look-out for in Hong Kong. Not that there is a lack of choices in our home away from home, but the hunt is always on, plus, I like admiring the tea sets (God, I’m turning into a granny..not to insult grannies, but you catch my drift). I realised quite recently that a friend of mine (also Brit) and I spend about 50% of our time together a) talking about b) making, and c) drinking tea. So you can imagine my delight when The Continental, a beautifully elegant, art-deco styled restaurant above Pacific Place, rolled out an Afternoon Tea set at a very reasonably priced $365 for two. Cheers to Rach of Through The Looking Glass who can always be relied on to scout for good teas!
The Continental, as the name suggests, is a little homage to European grand cafes with a menu that they say is, “Anglo French with a British sensibility”. The restaurant itself is gorgeous with a cavernous interior and classic bankers-lamp green leather booths that look good for a nap, and bronze orbed lights which always induce murmurs of, “Oooohh, so pretty!”. I dragged my friends to tea mid-week on two occasions, one including a baby in tow, and I was very impressed by how child-friendly this establishment is and how accommodating the staff are, especially with infant grabby hands and a penchant to crumble pastries and cake all over the table.
Tea was presented very prettily on a three-tiered cake stand with an array of savouries and sweets to tempt all palates. The Coronation Chicken and egg mayonnaise sandwiches were a hit and the most favoured sweets both times were the salted caramel chocolate bites, the crème fraiche mousse on shortbread and the green apple panna cotta. Part-time tai-tai friend made the rookie mistake of having a rather large lunch a mere 1.5 hours before tea, leaving me and guy-tai (also with absurdly small appetite), to clean up. I must say that although the tea is meant for two, it does feed three quite well! Best of all were the scones which were lovely and warm, a good size and not as heavy as some of its counterparts in other establishments. Baby E, on the second tea outing, seemed to enjoy the scones immensely, much to the exasperation of her dad who was trying to distract her with blander baby food. The only downside was the mini pot of frozen-solid clotted cream which was impossible to spread on the scones- this needs to be addressed toute suite, or else I’ll smuggle in my own cream.
Bellies and friends were happy and we all agreed that the atmosphere coupled with solid service and what is a frankly, decently priced afternoon tea for Hong Kong, makes The Continental a go-to restaurant for enjoying my Earl Grey and scones in style.
Chopstixfix rating: 3.5/5 (because of that solid clotted cream)
The Continental, Shop 406, 4/F Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong, +852 2704 5211 www.thecontinentalhongkong.com [Afternoon tea is served 3-5pm]
When I was young, one of my favourite TV programmes was MasterChef. This programme utterly fascinated me and was a source of great entertainment for my parents and I- a sort of guilty pleasure every Sunday afternoon. Loyd Grossman, the American-British host of the show amused me aplenty with his famous catchphrase, “We’ve deliberated, cogitated and digested” before he and his fellow judges would approach the three contestants and their masterpieces.
Fast forward twenty years, and the original MasterChef has since been revived and now there are the spin-offs Junior MasterChef and Celebrity MasterChef. I have to say I haven’t really kept track with the latest versions, but I’ll always hold fond memories of the original.
One day late last year, I found out with great surprise and pleasure that a MasterChef set-up exists in Hong Kong. Not in the form of a TVB programme or anything of that ilk, but at an international school called South Island School. SIS MasterChef is an Inter-House cooking competition that was launched in 2012 and much like TV’s Junior MasterChef whereby students between the ages of 11 through to 17 are put through different cooking challenges in a bid to claim the title of SIS MasterChef. There are two sections to the competition- the Junior section, aged 11-13 whereby they compete in teams of two, and the Senior section, aged 14-17 who compete individually.
The Judging Room
The overall competition is broken up into four events; Entry, Quarter Finals, Semi-Finals and Finals. The Competition starts off with an unlimited number of applicants for the first challenge. The quarter finals has 22 contestants in each house that compete. In the semi-finals there are four students from each house. In the finals there is only one member from the senior section and one team from the juniors in each house. The school houses are Bahay, Casa, Shtepi, Kuca, Maison and Namas. The winner of the event will be awarded points for the house, which is to see which house performs the best in events throughout the year.
What is so fantastic about this event is how it not only encourages students to participate in a fun, competitive atmosphere, but it enables budding young chefs to display their talent and passion for cooking and gain a valuable learning experience at the same time. I was thoroughly impressed that the organisers were sixth-formers who oversaw every step of the competition. The two Heads of Events, Dominic Clark and Alex Llewellyn are both passionate about food and participated in previous MasterChef competitions. They also both have a GCSE in Catering and are keen to carve out careers in International Hospitality and Event Management; areas in which I’m sure they’ll be very successful in, given the smooth running of this competition.
But what does this have to do with me? I was one of a great crew of fellow bloggers and F&B influencers, including Lindsay Jang of Yardbird and Ronin, Gregoire Michaud and That Food Cray founders, Nicola Fung and Eugene Kan to be judges for the quarter-finals in February which I was more than delighted to accept! The QFs were spread over a few days, so on the 2nd day it was Stephanie Ko of Stephs852Diary and myself judging Houses Shtepi and Kuca.
Yours truly on the judging panel
The food technology rooms were huge and the first thing that struck me was how professional and serious all the participants were. The children were completely focused, answered our questions politely and explained what they were doing in a very clear manner. The QF challenge this year was Pastry and they had 90 minutes in which to prepare and present their dishes to us. Judging with us were the two Heads of Houses, who were visibly proud and equally impressed with their students’ efforts.
Food technology rooms
We couldn’t believe the creations the students were whipping up, some of which, as you will see in the pictures, are professional enough to rival those we see in restaurants and bakeries across HK.
Seeing the students’ impressive repertoire of cooking skills and how passionate the sixth-formers were about the event and how they helped the younger years, got me in the mood to be more experimental in my own kitchen as well as inspiring me to approach my own lessons (in my day job as a tutor, not food blogger!), with a different perspective. Teachers are always looking at news ways of teaching, making lessons interesting and interactive as well as inspiring our students. And as I watched one student diligently watch his pastry rise in the oven, it dawned on me how cooking is such a wonderful way of teaching younger students a broad range of subjects: history (the origins of dishes, how our ancestors prepared food), language and culture (food from different countries, how to pronounce the various ingredients), science and maths (methods in cooking that doesn’t involve blowing things up (!), the food groups, where does our food come from, weighing and measuring ingredients).
Given how food-orientated Hong Kong is, I think South Island School has done a wonderful thing setting up this competition, and I hope that it continues to gain more coverage and motivates children to want to learn and enjoy cooking. Walking around the SIS kitchens and chatting to most of the students as they cooked really brought a smile to our faces. The dishes were judged according to 5 criteria- taste, texture, appearance, overall impression and food wastage (as the SIS team have partnered with Feeding Hong Kong) but when it came to making the final decisions, to me, all of them were winners, even those whose creations didn’t quite come out as planned. What counted were their efforts, tenacity and fantastic attitude to honing their skills. Enjoy the photos, (you’ll see which one we thought was the best all round), and maybe this weekend, you and yours can whip up a storm in the kitchen rather than eat out.
This was voted best for overall taste, texture and appearance- it was an almost perfect fruit tart, hard to fault!
A deconstructed Thai Green Curry Shepherd’s Pie by a Senior Shtepi student
Well done again to the students of Shtepi and Kuca! I look forward to seeing the results of the final 🙂
South Island School MasterChef http://sismasterchef.weebly.com/
Many thanks again to the SIS team for the kind invite!