Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bubble Tea!!!!

One of my favorite treats is bubble tea (milk tea with pearl tapioca). It was the first think I learned how to say in Chinese when I was in Taiwan more than 10 years ago. Although it originated from Taiwan, there are places in Hong Kong that make them just as good.

One of the places I passed by in Causeway Bay, somewhere near Sogo, was One More Cup. It caught my eye not only because I'm always on the look out for bubble tea, but that there was a crowd of people waiting on the street. It was a small place and you have to wait about 5 minutes because their drinks are so popular many people stop by.
The pearl milk tea here is not as milky as most places, but it was definitely worth the wait!
There is also a stall right across this one that sells bubble tea and other HK snacks. The wait is about 30 seconds. The drink is a little milkier and just as great.

Friday, June 12, 2009

BO Innovation, Hong Kong

Every time I visit Hong Kong, I always look forward to the food. YUM!!!! Most of the places are good; the street stalls, the hole-in-the wall restaurants, and the food courts. I've been here so many times, but I've never gotten a chance to eat in a fine dining restaurant.

The first night, we went to BO Innovation. It's a two Michelin star restaurant opened by Chinese Canadian Alvin Leung. His food is labeled "X-treme Chinese" because he takes Chinese dishes and deconstructs, re-cononstructs, and transforms them into something so creative by using different techniques with new ingredients not found in traditional cooking.
They had a vegeterian menu prepared which was a pleasant surprise. We ordered the Chef's Tasting Menu, which was a 12 course meal.

Amuse Bouche: Pomelo Foam frozen in Nirogen; done table side.
First Course: Tomato Jelly
Second course: Tofu with spring onion and lime sauce.
Third Course: BO's version of Dan Dan Noodles (Sesame and Peanut Sauce)....delicious and not too spicy.
Fourth Course: Spring Roll of Bamboo Shoots.
Fifth Course: Sweet Potato Lettuce Wrap with miso sauce.

Sixth Course: Mushroom Dumpling. (Didn't really enjoy this one)
Seventh Course: Lettuce salad with kumquat sauce. (I'm not a kamquat person, so I didn't care for this dish much.)
One thing that really bothered me was that the menu first presented to me was completely incorrect. While I was eating the dishes, I noticed that it wasn't what I was supposed to get or something that was not on the menu. Finally, at the salad course, I asked where it was on the menu and the server pointed out that it was the lettuce wrap, which I had a couple courses before. It turns out that there was a new vegetarian menu and they presented and gave me the old one! They gave me a copy of the menu during dinner and as they were explaining each dish, they could see that I was looking at the menu as well. It seems that they were trying to pass it and see if I didn't notice or that the servers are just completely clueless with the food. They finally gave me the correct menu which was newly printed. I was so bothered by this incident, considering it's a two Michelin star restaurant.

Eigth Course: Crispy rice with peas and Sichuan SauceNinth: Mushroom with vermicelli noodles.
Tenth: Cauliflower with black truffle
Eleventh: Rice noodles with black truffles. (My favorite of all the dishes.)
Black Sesame Soda
During the dessert course, I liked the dessert wine that went with it and ordered a glass. As compensation for their "stupid mistake," as the server put it, the glass was complementary.

Dessert: Poached banana with fried banana ice cream.

The menu was a little heavy on the starches, but most of the dishes were still quite delightful. There were a couple things that I wasn't too fond of, but with such a risky concept, it's really quite impossible to be completely satisfied.It was a very unique and interesting experience; one that was definitely worth a try.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Urumuqi Minority Markets

One of the places I enjoyed visiting was the local minority market. They sold many things like rugs, mirror compacts, hats, pashminas, local fruits, juices, and nuts.

The nuts they sell were still in their shells. I bought some roasted almonds; it took some work to eat, but very delicious.

I also bought freshly churned milk flavoured ice cream. The temperature being 40 degrees Celsius, it was so cool and refreshing. The turnover of the ice cream was so high, once it was churned and mounted on the plate, it kept selling cup after cup. A small cup cost 3 RMB.Another popular item was the freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. I didn’t try it since they didn’t wash the fruits before it was squeezed nor did they wash the glasses so I didn’t want to take my chances with still having a few days to go in the trip.It was a fun experience to see the market, eat the food, and chat with the beautiful people. The Chinese people here are much friendlier than other places I’ve been to in China.

Welcome Banquet in Changji, Xinjiang, China

I’ve been to China numerous times, but I have never travelled to Xinjiang, the province in the northwest part of China. It borders the countries, some of which are, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia; so many of the Chinese people in the area belong to the minority groups the largest of which are the Uygurs and the Kazaks.

On our first night, the group was invited by the local government for a welcome banquet. We had dinner in their guest house which is not open to the public. The place seems newly built and has some interesting decors, I’m assuming it’s native to the province.

The yogurt was served first and it was so delicious, especially with the strawberries. It’s made fresh from the province’s local milk. I was informed that Xinjiang is the only province that wasn’t affected by the whole melamine issue.

Lamb is the province’s specialty, so they served us some lamb skewers and stewed lamb. It’s like the lechon of Cebu. I don’t know how it tasted, but the guests were raving about it.

During the night, there were a couple things that caught my eye. One, the table was covered with plastic. I guess this makes cleaning easier. Second, they don’t change plates, which is what most Chinese restaurants do. Instead, they take your plate and dump the garbage on their tray! It would be so much better if they had a large bowl on the tray to put the garbage in, but as I observed with the meals after this, this is the norm in the province.

Aside from dairy and lamb, the province is also known for their cherry tomatoes, watermelons, melons, and grapes. Everything was sweet and delicious, except we never got to try the grapes because they aren’t in season yet. Overall, the food was pretty good. Everything was very fresh just a tad oily, but that’s China. It was definitely a unique experience and a nice start to the visit.