Thursday, September 18, 2014

Huaiyang Cuisine in Hong Kong

Just found a brand new Huaiyang restaurant in Hong and tried it out. It was a combination of delicacy and yummy food.

Dinner at Empire City Huaiyang

If you're not too hungry, but have a lot of time and money to spend, this is an ideal place.  Dishes were delicately presented, in relatively small portion however extremely long delivery time.  Going through their menu, the dishes are quite mild, I mean not too spicy, very close to the taste of Hong Kong Cantonese.

Sliced Mushroom (HK$75) 蔬衣麻菇 
These two starters took only 5 minutes to get onto our table.  But then it stopped there.  We got to sit there for anther 30 minutes for the next dish.

The mushrooms were just like a piece of artwork.  Nicely cut, well presented and tasted good.

Salty Duck (HK$125) 鹽水鴨

As Huaiyang is concerned, Salty Duck is an everyday food for people living there, so we must give this signature dish a try.  Not bad at all.  And it was the only meat dish of the night.  We followed the rule of 'more vegetable and less meat' quite well.

Vegetarian Dumplings (HK$60) 蒸素餃
Delivery time:  35 minutes from ordering.  It came in a huge amazing tray, and with the lid off, we found these four tiny, well, medium size vegetable dumpling.  Although we didn't know why the chef chose to serve on lotus leaf rather than a traditional bamboo cage tailored for steaming, it was delicious and the shape was quite creative.

Noodle in Fish Soup (HK$78) 魚湯小刀面
Delivery time: 40 minutes from ordering.  Its Chinese name said 'little knife noodle in fish soup'.  But I didn't find any relation between the noodle and a knife.  The soup was little fishy, meaning it was really fish soup.  With a few slice of ham and egg, it was just next to plain noodle.  And each of us could only share a tiny little bowl.

Boiled Cabbage (HK$108) 開水白菜
Delivery time:  70 minutes from ordering.  You may not believe if I tell you this is a high class super luxury dish.  Indeed it is.  This dish originated from the imperial Qing Dynasty kitchen.  The master chef brought the recipe back to his home town in Sichuan and since then this dish only appears on the most deluxe banquet.  In contrast to its good taste, its appearance is very plain and pale, and is a result of complex cooking steps.  Former Prime Minister Zhou Enlai served his VIP guest at a national dinner and the guest was very reluctant at first however found it to be very delicious after tasting.  

Boiled cabbage name says 'Cabbage in Clear Water'.  The 'water' is actually a well-cooked chicken, stewed through the complex process out of the soup to Sauvignon and clear water. Cabbage in use is the most tender part of a cabbage - hearts only.  The dish at first glance looks like a few flowers floating on water which is completely out of oil. It is not only a food, but an artifact.

Rolling Donkey Dessert (HK$68) 驢打滾
We ordered this dessert on condition that it has to come fast, as we've lost our patience in waiting.  The waiter suggested this one and it actually took only 5 minutes to come.  It was good to have something sweet to wrap up our dinner. Again this is from the Qing Imperial kitchen and we had this in Beijing before.

About this brand new restaurant, there is one thing that I really appreciate which is the space among tables.  The eating environment is perfect.  But there were a few negative things I've observed.  Most of the other guests around us were chasing for food.  Like us, everyone one had lost their patience in waiting. The guests on our next table complaint about their fish, the waiter end up replaced a new one for them.  The tea pot was made of iron, extremely heavy. So heavy that I was unable to lift it.  May be this was why the waiters were friendly helping us to re-fill our cups.  And personally I was not happy with the tea temperature which was not hot enough to be enjoyed.

Cost of Food:  HK$514
Pre-meal Snack: HK$30 ($15 per person)
Tea: HK$40 ($20 per person)
Service Charge: 10%
Total Bill:  HK$642.4 (US$82.4)

Empire City Huaiyang 大都淮陽
8/F Convention Plaza, 1 Harbour Road
Wanchai, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2628-0218

Hong Kong Food Blog - Huaiyang Dinner

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Mid Autumn Festival - Hong Kong 2014

I have a day off today as it is the day after Mid Autumn Festival. In tradition, Chinese celebrate the festival in three phases - Welcoming the Moon (August 14th), Admiring the Moon (August 15th) and Chasing the Moon (August 16th).

We used to have holiday on the Festival day, ie. 15th, but somehow the former colonial government said people admire the moon at night, they can still work in the day.  However people sleep late after admiring the moon, the following day became a holiday. And this has been practicing after the handover through now.

The Mid Autumn Festival is all about the moon, moon cake, lanterns and many other celebrations.  Let's not only focus on food and talk about the Festival in Hong Kong.

The Moon - Although the moon looks the same anywhere in the world, but this was the one I took after dinner last night.  And I had a second chance of admiring her while on bed - she was shining on my bed through the window. Exactly what Li Bai said - 床前明月光.  It was a bit of luck, because admiring the moon all depends on weather.

Mid Autumn Moon in Hong Kong
September 8, 2014 - 8.16 pm

The Moon and Chang'e - the moon has always been a charming subject and hence there was a legend saying that Chang'e (a very beautiful woman) stole and ate some 'longevity pills' and flew to live in the moon.  In fact she was lonely there with only a rabbit friend.  Hence there was a poem saying 嫦娥應悔偷靈葯, 碧海青天夜夜深. (Chang'e would not stole the pills if she had a second chance.)

Chang'e Flew to the Moon - c.1500BC

The Rabbit Lanterns - this has been a forever symbol of Mid Autumn lanterns in Hong Kong.  When we were kids, we lit the rabbit with candles and we needed to handle with care as we were playing with real fire.  Nowadays there are electronic ones which are more safe.  Knowing that rabbit is the only friend of Chang'e in the moon, it is easy to understand why rabbit lantern is such an important symbol of the festival.

Rabbit Lanterns

Star Fruit Lanterns - there are several fruits more popular around the Mid Autumn Festival.  Star Fruit is one of them.  No wonder star-fruit-shape lanterns has also been one of the most traditional lanterns in Hong Kong.

Star Fruit Lanterns

Traditional Lanterns - although electronic lanterns are widely popular in Hong Kong, but it can never replace the traditional way we play with lanterns.  At home, we prefer to lighting lanterns with candles.  After all, it's more fun although we had to take extra care to look after them.

Traditional Lanterns

Moon Cake and Taro - what has moon cake to do with taro? 'Rich people eat moon cake, poor people eat taro'. What?  Is there such a rule?  Of course not, but in any society, there are rich people and poor people.  Somehow most Cantonese in Hong Kong have heard about this: 有錢人家吃月餅, 冇錢人家吃芋頭.  Mid Autumn Festival is a time when family members get together, enjoy food and celebrate.  If you want to eat something good but cannot afford moon cake, then eat taro instead.  This could be the poor people ridiculing themselves.

Moon Cake and Taro

Pomelo Lanterns and Peels - pomelo is one of the fruits exceptionally popular at Mid Autumn Festival.  As it is large in size, it is good for family members to share.  Apart from this, the pomelo peels are very useful.  You see, the peels are so thick, hence we make lanterns and food out of it.


Pomelo Lantern - it all depend on your skill.  Some people can make very creative pomelo lanterns such as the one here.  

Pomelo Lantern

Pomelo Peels Dim Sum - Some people even turn pomelo peels into food. Today (the Moon Chasing Day), I specially order this pomelo peels over my dim sum lunch as part of the festival celebration.  In fact, cooking of pomelo peels take a bit of time and effort.  My mother used to cook it at home.  We need to get rid of the zest first and then soak the thick peels until soft, add some seasoning before steaming.  Shrimp roes and oyster sauce are usually used. When we were young, we had great fun helping our mother in preparing the pomelo peels and making of pomelo lanterns.

Steam Pomelo Peels with Shrimp Roes

If you want to learn more about the Mid Autumn Festival legends, stories and history, there is an article at the International Business Times.  Take a look and have fun.

Hong Kong Food Blog - Mid Autumn Festival 2014