Friday, December 28, 2012

Outback Wanchai – Aussie Set Lunch

Outback Steak House - Aussie Set Lunch

At the red light district in Wanchai, there are lots of pubs and bars.  Although these shops are situated among normal residents’ homes, I have never heard of any conflicts.  In fact I live in this area. These pubs and bars provide quality set lunch at very reasonable prices.  Outback is one of the restaurants that I like most in this area.   

I wanted to go to Australia this Christmas however without success.  I have therefore decided to go for an Aussie meal.  Set lunch is far more economic than a la carte, however food is as equally good as dinner.  I haven’t come here for long after my changing of eating habit (eat dinner only).  Today I have a half day off, so I decided to do something different – eat lunch instead.  Here’s a summary.
Aussie Set Lunch
All set lunches at Outback Wanchai are served with bread, soup, salad and a glass of soft drink.  There are 9 set lunch options from $68 to $98, depending on the main course. 

Well, this black color wheat bun is their signature dish. Hot, soft and aroma together with house cream, I’m sure it won’t let anyone down. Salad is quite average but the veggies are fresh and it offers a good balance of diet. 

The porcini soup tastes very well, however extremely thick.I’m not if Aussies really love heavy consistency.

I used to come here for their hamburger which is really big and super delicious.  But today I have grilled fish of the day, served with risotto and vegetables.  The salmon is very crispy outside and juicy inside.  Unfortunately the skin is a bit over done.  For health reason, I’ve decided to omit the black skin.

After all the big meal made me completely full and satisfy.  I must say it is a very good value of money.  Western foods in Hong Kong are very often being cooked to compromise local taste.  I’m not sure if Outback is 100% authentic Aussie,  but I’m happy with them.

There is a bar area at the centre of the restaurant

You can find signs of Australia everywhere in the restaurant.
Grill Fish Set Lunch
HK$98 (US$12.6) + 10% service charge
1/F, De Fenwick, 8-12 Fenwick Street, Wanchai, Hong Kong.
Tel: 3101-0418
Outback has 8 restaurants in Hong Kong

Neighborhood bars and pubs serve set lunches from HK$58 to HK$98, plus 10% service charge.  Most of them display their menus at the entrance.  Feel free to walk around and pick your favourite foods.
Hong Kong Food Blog - Aussie Set Lunch 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Wedding Banquet 2012

I went to a wedding banquet last Thursday.  I liked the food, but didn't like the arrangement.
Typical Hong Kong Wedding Banquet Run Down
Hosts usually start to receiving guests at around 4pm.  Guests can play games, such as mahjong till 8pm.  Hosts and guests usually take photos before dinner.  Then after a short ceremony and video presentation about the couple's love story, dinner starts.  Here's how I don't like the arrangement.
MC announced that dinner will start at 8.15pm (while the invitation card says 8pm).  Well I would say a 15-minute delay is acceptable.  Guess what, dinner didn't serve till 9.30pm.  Guests all gathered around the tables, waiters were standing there waiting for nothing as they've done all they could, but there were no signal from the host that dinner could start.  Everyone getting very impatient and very hungry.  After dinner, the hosts were still busy taking photos and even forgot to go shake hands and say goodbye to the guests until the restaurant master reminded them.
Fortunately the food was not as bad as the arrangement.  I would say it was quite a good dinner.  Good food, fresh ingredient, well presented and served.
Good Chinese food has three elements:  look good, smell good and taste good.  Here are a few good examples.  For wedding banquets, all dishes are given very beautiful and meaningful names.  Please excuse me as I'm really unable to translate these names.
Stir Fried Spiral Shell and Broccoli
Very colorful and beautiful

South African Abalony with Cabbage and Goose Web
My favourite!  Each one of us has an abalony.  The goose webs are very soft and delicious.
Mushrooms, Bean Sprout and Dry Scallop in Melon
A very healthy dish, mostly vegetable, looks good and tastes good
Shark Fin Soup with Crab Meat
I don't mean to offend shark fans, but this dish was exceptionally well done.  The crab meat in the soup was like the size of my little finger.  The shark fins are thick and chewy.  It's expensive.  I can realise that top grade ingredients are used.
It's time for a break.  In a Cantonese wedding banquet, the bride and groom as well as the host family members will walk around the floor and toast to each table.
After the toast, it's time for the fish and chicken to show off.
Oh my goodness, this garoupa is really giant, fresh and yummy.  Do you notice the little bowls and dishes around the fish.  That was for the waiter to serve us.  We were not allowed to grab the food oursleves.  Instead we had to wait for the waiter to share for us.  They replace a fresh serving plate for each guest for each dish.  Well, good services, but not environmental!
Steam Giant Garoupa
Cantonese banquest always fill guests stomach to their limit.  After the heavy 8-course dinner, there were rice and noodle, dessert duo style and fruits.  Come on, we simply couldn't eat any more.  After all, everyone had to take the oranges home.
Hasma Dessert with Lotus Seeds
Few people will host their wedding banquet with this dessert, because hasma is expensive.  That's why I say the dinner arrangement was bad, but the food was really good. 
Wedding Menu
Here's the menu.  In a typical Cantonese wedding banquet, food is usually served in this sequence.  Depending on the budget of the host, the choice of food may vary.  I must say this banquet may cost around HK$6,000 per table.
Roasted Piglet * Prawns of Duo Style * Mushroom and Scallop * Spiral Shell and Broccoli
Shark Fin with Crab Meat * Abalony and Goose Web * Giant Garoupa * Crispy Chicken
Seafood Fried Rice * Dumplings and Noodle * Hasma Dessert * Pudding Dessert * Fruits

Wedding date:  November 29, 2012
Restaurant: Chao Dynasty, 132 Nathan Road, Kowloon
Standard gift:  HK$500
In the Hong Kong Cantonese culture, we usually give cash coupon as gift when attending wedding banquets.  Of course this is the most welcomed gift.  I spend $500 for this dinner, but well worth it.

Hong Kong Food Blog - Wedding Banquet

Message to Shark Fans
Please DO NOT post comments about your shark protection / protest message.  I will NOT publish them.  If you want to protect sharks, here are my suggested methods:
  1. Advertise in mass media
  2. Everyday protests, demonstrations…in front of all shops selling shark fins
  3. Everyday protests, demonstrations in public areas such as streets, parks to educate the public not to eat shark fin
  4. Letter, fax, email, telephone or personal visits to restaurant owners to insist them to remove shark fin from their menu
  5. Write to the government to request shark fin eating to be illegal
  6. Hire fleet of ships to go out to the sea to stop any shark catching activities.
Leaving comments in my blog is a matter of wasting my time to read and delete.  It is in no sense contributive in saving sharks.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Old Hong Kong Cool Tea Culture

Cool Tea in Hong Kong is nothing new. In fact it has been part of the life of Hong Kong Cantonese for centuries. However traditional cool tea shops are close to extinct.

The other day I was exploring the restaurants in Soho, the next day I continue to explore Hollywood Road and found one of the endangered cool tea shops.

Herbal tea shops in Hong Kong had been very popular especially during the 60s when TVs were expensive.  I remember when I was a kid, we like to go to nearby cool tea shops, sat there for an hour or so to enjoy a cup of cool tea and at the same time watching television.  Nowadays, life pace is fast, people just walk by the shops, place a few dollars on the table, drink and go.  Of course they can still choose to sit down and drink, but there are no televisions in the shops.

Traditional Cool Tea Shop at Hollywood Road Hong Kong
My Sesame Drink was only HK$8
Cool teas are not necessarily cool in terms of temperature.  To be more realistic, they are kind of Chinese herbal tea mainly derived from tradition and culture.

But why cool tea is called cool tea while it is not cool?  It is believed that these herbal teas will provide cooling effect to the body, hence some of the minor defects could be cured without consulting a doctor, such as sore throats, flu, hangover or ailments. 

There are many kinds of cooling tea. Most popular being 5-Flower Tea, 24-Taste, sugar cane juice, sesame drink. The 24-Taste is actually quite bitter.  But as they are believed to be good to our bodies, it remains very popular among people of all ages.  You can find these in almost any cool tea shop.  The price is usually between HK$6 and 8 per cup/bowl.  The other day my sesame drink at Hollywood Road was only HK$8, not cool but iced, providing very good hydrating and cooling effect under the mid day sun.

Middle photo - the 5-Flower Tea costs HK$7 per bowl

Right photo - 楊春雷 in Wanchai
Although traditional herbal tea shops are close to extinction, the culture of drinking cool tea remains popular among Hong Kong Cantonese.  New generation cool tea shops are everywhere in the city.  However if you want to have an old Hong Kong feel and drink a cup of cool tea at a very traditional cool tea shop, here are the two oldest in my knowledge:  春回堂at the corner of Stanley Street and Graham Street in Central; 楊春雷at Spring Garden Street in Wanchai.  The one at Hollywood Road is also very old, but I don’t recall it’s name.

春回堂 on Stanley Street
See people just pay, drink and go

New Generation Cool Tea Shop
The new generation cool tea shops usually sell Turtle Puddings on top of the traditional cool teas.  They also sell bottled cool tea for take away.

Hong Kong Food Blog - Old Hong Kong Cool Tea Culture

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Soho Restaurants in Hong Kong

How many Soho restaurants are there in Hong Kong? And what is special about them. These mini to medium size restaurants in Central Hong Kong are mainly situated around Elgin Street, Staunton Street, Shelly Street, all easily accessible via the Central escalator. One thing special about these restaurants is that they are all very cosy, stylish and with wide range of international foods.

If you've been following my blog, you may know that I usually omit lunch and do generally one meal a day.  My office has recently moved to Central, nearby the Soho area.   Although I do not eat lunch, but I have fun exploring the Soho restaurants and here is a summary. 

Pampas - Argentinian Steak House
G/F, 32B-C Staunton Street, SoHo, Central, Telephone: 2868 6959
They claim to offer fresh organic prime beef cuts flown in direct from Argentina
G/F, 47 Elgin Street, SoHo, Central, Telephone: 2525 9944
60-seat Mediterranean tapas and wine bar
This is my boss's favourite.  He enjoys sitting at the entranace area.

G/F, 32 Elgin Street, SoHo, Central, Telephone: 2521 1608
Contemporary Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine with an Australian flavor

F.A.B French American Bistro
G/F, 30 Hollywood Road, SOHO, Central
Telephone: 2810 1600

Quite a cozy Italian restaurant.  There are many Italian restaurants lining up at Soho.
El Taco Loco, 9 Lower Staunton Street,
(Off Central Escalator) Central, Hong Kong, Tel: 2522 1239

Mexican Cuisine - Signature dishes include Frijolesy, Carne Asada as well as Tacos, Burritos, Quesadillas and Nachos. Margaritas and Mexican beers are a specialty.
Marouche Lebanese Cuisine
G/F, 46-48 Cochrane Street, SoHo, Central
Telephone: 2541 8282
The meat is mainly sourced from the US and New Zealand, but the spices and ingredients used are imported directly from Lebanon, and even the chef is Lebanese.

G/F, 14 Staunton Street, SoHo, Central, Telephone: 2869 6212
Evolving from the Royal Nepalese cuisine, into an assortment of contemporary dishes

I’m curious about Nepal food, so I took a photo of their menu.  Main course is BBQ/curry, your choice of meat/vegetables.  Starter is Bhenta Tareko (fried eggplant with Nepali herbs); Samosa (stuffed deep fried cone pastries with light spices) or soup of your choice (pumpkin, tomato, lamb, mixed beans), coffee and tea.  HK$98+10% service fee.

If you want to spend reasonable money and enjoy unique food in unique stylish comfortable restaurants, you may want to spend a month to do your lunches in this area.

The set lunches for most restaurants are set around HK$98+10% service fee.  This may be the way shop owners keep themselves competitive.  Please prepare to pay a little more if you choose to go a la carte.   

There are places lining up with Italian restaurants, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, British…you name it and you’ll find it.  If you want to explore more about Soho restaurants, click here.

Hong Kong Travel Blog - Soho Restaurants

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Trendy Mooncakes

I've noticed that mooncakes in Hong Kong are becoming more and more creative.  Apart from the ice cream mooncakes I've introduced before, I found some trendy mooncakes this year.  These include chocolate mooncakes and coffee mooncakes.  Now let me showcase some of the most interesting trendy mookcakes in the market.

Limited Edition Chocolate Mooncakes
You've heard of limited edition anything.  Perhaps not mooncakes!  Luxury chocolate GODIVA  is launching 5 brand new 2012 Mid-Autumn limited edition chocolate flavours that comes in two different sizes: the refreshing apricot – mandarin crunch and the rich strawberry- lychee crunch are available in the regular sizes, whereas the tangerine- banana crunch, the mango-cranberry crunch, and the creamy passion fruit almond crunch are available in petite chocolate mooncakes.
Coffee Mooncake
This year, you won't go to Starbucks for coffee only, but mooncakes.  In 2012, they are launching coffee mooncakes - Espresso & Hazelnut Mooncake; Salted Caramel & Almond Mooncake.  HK$218 per box with two flavors and regular size, bulk discount available

The Moon and Nine Stars
Haagen-dazs sells Ice Cream Mooncake as usual.  But this year I found a new series of a big box and each box contains ten Ice Cream Moon cakes with nine flavors: Belgian Chocolate (2 pcs), Strawberry, Vanilla, Chocolate, Cookies & Cream, Coffee, Cookies & Chocolate, Summer Berries and Caramel & Biscuit.  HK$463 per box, early bird discount available.

Semi Traditional
The mini mooncakes are what I classified as 'semi traditional'.  I thought they only become popular in the recent years.  Of course cake makers try to be very creative in the stuffing, apart from the traditional lotus paste.

Traditional Moon Cakes
No matter how many trendy and creative mooncakes are there, my favourite remains traditional - dual yolks with lotus seed paste.  This year I received a gift pack from HSBC - Maltitol Low Sugar Golden Lotus Seed Paste with Two Yolks.  They look and taste very traditional however healthy in a way using simple sugar.  That could be less demanding for the stomach.  Quite a good idea for health conscious people.

Mid Autumn Festival Fruits
There are wide range of fruits available in Hong Kong year round, but there are some fruits more popular than others at time of Mid Autumn Festival.  They are namely star fruit, red persimmon and pomelo.  Ever since I was a kid, these fruits has become the best mooncake partners. 

Hong Kong Food Blog - Trendy Moon Cakes

Note:  I'm not a shareholder of any of the mooncake suppliers mentioned in this blog post.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Paleo Breakfast

If Paleo diet sounds new to you, let me do a little briefing here. It is a diet that resembles what our ancient ancestors ate - foods from hunter gathering, wild game, seafood, fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts, whatever naturally from nature. There is no wheat, no grain, no rice, no pastry, no dairy.

What is special about Paleo diet and why I go on with it?  I have digestive problem, some of my readers did suggest Paleo diet to me.  But I’ve been doing well with intermittent fasting, so I’ve put this idea aside.  Recently I’m suffering from some seasonal allergy, my doctor suggested a number of holistic healing methods and one of them is to go on a temporary Paleo diet. 

Actually I don’t really fond of the idea of food restriction, as it is quite inconvenient when I have to eat with others.  So buffet is a good idea, as each one of us can eat whatever we love to eat.  Today I have a free coupon to eat at Café Too of Island Shangri-La.  Below is a summary of my Paleo breakfast.

Anna - Paleo Breakfast at Cafe Too, Island Shangri-La Hong Kong
One Egg Omlette with Ham and Mushroom
Vegetables and Meat Balls.  The string-like thing is not noodle, they are green bean sprouts.
Chicken Curry and Cucumber - I invented this combination!
Usually I do curry with rice, but on Paleo, I chose cucumber.
Poached Fruits - Prune, Apple, Appricot are very delicious and healthy.  The one next to appricot is a baby pear.  It's my first time to come across a pear of such size (like the fist of a new born baby).
Fresh Fruits to wrap up my Paleo Breakfast together with a cup of coffee.
 I'm still eating what I love to eat.  Not bad at all!
To do Paleo diet is not that difficult, but in the first few days, I do feel miss my favourite fried rice, fried noodle, pizza, hamburger etc.  After the first week, it becomes much easier.  As I’m not on strict Paleo, so I can still enjoy coffee and tea with a bit of milk.  However at the buffet table, I do miss my favourite toast.  Anyway, temporary food restriction is a test of my willpower.  I’m sure I can do it, especially I’m doing it for my health.

If you want to try Paleo diet, please understand this diet encourages weight loss.   I’m quite below par according to BMI, but I lost five pounds in the first week.

If you want to find out more about Paleo diet and learn prepare your own Paleo meals, here are some links for your reference.

Buffet Breakfast at Cafe Too: HK$298 + 10% service charge
7/F Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Weekend Brunch Special

Managing time is a good strategy to eat good food at low price in Hong Kong. Today I pass by Spaghetti House and notice their weekend brunch special.  I have a three-course lunch including a pastry soup, tomato prawn risotto and coffee.  It's only HK$62 + 10% service fee.  It is only 50% of the same items on a la carte which will cost HK$140.  But for the weekend brunch special, you only have to place your order before 12.30pm and pay your bill before 1pm.  There are several of such weekend brunch special sets ranging between $59-62.  Good deals!

Pastry Soup with Clam and Mushroom

Tomato Prawn Risotto
May be I don't know Italian food well enough.  I think risotto is far more creamy than the one I had.  And the waiter just named it fried rice.  Well, how should authentic risotto be?

Spaghetti House is a mid-range western chain restaurant in Hong Kong.  Not too expensive, good food and reasonably nice eating environment.  Their tea sets are quite good deals.  Click here to view tea set menu

Hong Kong Food Blog - Brunch Special

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pear Charlotte Healthy Birthday Cake

Pear Charlotte is something new for me.  We usually find mango, strawberries kind of fruits on cakes, but pear is quite rarely used.  May be it is time consuming to poach pears.  The cake shop manager recommended this to me as a healthy cake which is not too sweet, light and delicious.  Though my brothers’ blood sugar levels are at the border of diabetes and my cholesterol (HDL) is very high, we still feel comfortable having it. 

My two brothers and I were born in late June (22, 25, 27).  This year our birthdays happen around Dragon Boat Festival (23).  So we had a family gathering on 24 to celebrate all.

The restaurant served us Chinese style birthday buns free of charge.  But I had a cake coupon from Island Shangri-La (because I’m a member of their Health Club), so I also brought my own birthday cake.  Unlike wine opening, most restaurants in Hong Kong won’t charge cake cutting fee.  They even helped to arrange birthday songs while cutting and serving the cake.  Of course we paid a little more tips as appreciation.

Pear Charlotte

Poached Pear on top and inside ladies fingers

The June Birthday Trio of the Yuen Family - from left to right - 27-25-22

PS:  Enjoying a delicious dessert at the end of a great meal is one of life’s sweetest pleasures. 

But we often feel guilty for indulging in sweet treats. After all, most desserts are filled with sugar, refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats, and they pack more calories than the meal itself!

The healthiest desserts are home-made.  There is a book called Guilt-Free Desserts which guides you through better baking.  It was written by Kelley Herring the Founder and CEO of Healing Gourmet, and also the Editor-in-Chief of a four-book series published by McGraw-Hill including: Eat to Fight Cancer, Eat to Beat Diabetes, Eat to Lower Cholesterol and Eat to Boost Fertility.

It will change the way you think of desserts. Even if you don’t decide to buy the book, you should opt in to subscribe it’s free newsletter and get instant access to two free reports Eat Your Way Into Shape: Your Get Fit with Food Guide - including a fat-burning 7-day meal plan!

Hong Kong Food Blog - Healthy Dessert

Saturday, May 5, 2012

German Buffet in Wanchai

I love buffet, but good deals are not easy to find.  Some are too expensive, some are not my favourite taste.  German buffet is not too expensive, however the foods are quite good.  I had it couple of years ago and had one recently. 

Don't assume that knuckles and sausages are crown jewels.  On the day of my visit, the dessert and salad bar were doing the best.

Here is the crown jewel of the day - Serradura.  I had never tasted such silky soft lovely serrudura even at Macau top notch Portuguese restaurants.

My top pick of the day - Serradura.  I would really appreciate to have mini cups instead.  But big bowl was ok.  I ended up had several rounds of it.

Something new - German Luncheon Meat.  It was hided inside a loaf of bread.  The chef open it up for me to take a photo.  Of course, I had a slice of it, very yummy, taste really like luncheon meat.  But I thought it should be ham of some kind.
These mini lobsters were sitting on the salad bar along with some very lovely salads and vegetables.  Healthy and nice.

We could also picked our own ingredients and had a dish of cook-to-order spaghetti.  We could chose between spinach noodle and bow noodle; white sauce and tomato sauce.  However the dish size was quite big, we had to share between the two of us.

Here are the knuckles, but not stars of the day.  It was good but for some reason I thought it could be better.  The sour cabbage was however very good.

The sausages really upset me.  I really don't think a German buffet offers only two types of sausages and they were in no way pleasing.  They didn't look good nor taste good - extremely salty.  If you notice the assorted mushrooms and mini eggplants on the right hand side of my dish - those were the stars.  I collected them from the salad bar for several rounds.

The various desserts, jelly candy, serradura, puddings...all are lovely, not to mention the ice creams.
To wrap up the buffet, a cup of coffee/tea was included.  However if you want to have latte or Cappuccino, you would need to pay extra.

King Ludwig Beerhall
G/F, 183 Queen's Road East (tel: 2861-0737)
Weekend Buffet:  HK$189 +10% per person
Buffet starts 12:00

Hong Kong Food Blog - German Buffet