Hong Kong: Dim Sum at the Airport

Sorry about the absence–I moved and started a new job, so have been busy. But to close out our series of posts on the Asia trip, we’ll end with pics of quite possibly the cutest dim sum ever:

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This was at the airport, believe it or not. Another one of Dad’s old school friends is a surgeon in the city, and he came to meet us for breakfast. The dim sum place at the airport was surprisingly decent. But bunny marshmallows and goldfish dumplings? I almost felt bad about eating them, they were so cute.

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Hong Kong: Avenue of Stars

After graduation, I felt I deserved to blow a little cash and go on a big trip. Since justtwomorethings was on Hong Kong and our dad thought it time to visit his family in Malaysia, we decided to combine the two. But due to smoke in one of the control towers in O’Hare, dad and I missed our connecting flight in Narita and met justtwomorethings a day later than planned in Hong Kong. So we barely got to do anything on my list of things I wanted to see. Oh well, good excuse to go back, right?
          What I did insist we do was visit the Avenue of Stars. We went there the day after dinner at Hutong Restaurant. Movies in general but Hong Kong cinema in particular is a soft spot for our family; some of my fondest memories are watching Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Andy Lau, Stephen Chow, Bruce Lee and all the others on the couch with my dad. The Avenue of Stars is Hong Kong’s answer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
          The Avenue of Stars is a paved walkway right at the water’s edge, so you get a great, completely uninterrupted view of the Hong Kong skyline. The only problem was it was just so damned hot and sunny, that we almost melted making our way down the promenade. Eventually we gave up oo’ing and aw’ing over over all the handprints. I quickly snapped pictures of all the stars I knew, and we hurried over to the lifesize Bruce Lee statue for a photo before fleeing to blessed air conditioning.

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Hong Kong: Hutong Restaurant

Justtwomorethings and I like street food. It’s often cheaper and, more importantly, a great deal more genuine and authentic way to experience a culture’s cuisine, being the food locals actually eat everyday rather than the gussied up versions presented in restaurants.

Not that there is anything wrong with restaurants. In Hong Kong, Hutong Restaurant is excellent. The decorations are Modern Chinese (think dark moody modern with an Asian twist), and the views are fantastic. The place is located at the top of a hotel, and three of the walls are entirely windows, providing an unparalleled view of the Hong Kong skyline.

Justtwomorethings’s manager graciously invited me and my Dad to dinner when we arrived. I took the plunge and had the soft-shell crab. The presentation was impressive–it came in a giant bowl stuffed to the brim with the red peppers the fried crab had been steamed (?) in. Very simple, but very yummy–the crab was fried just right, crunchy without being greasy and melting on the tongue. Since it had been steamed in peppers instead of the more conventional use of pepper oil for the spice, the spiciness was nicely subtle, allowed to build up into a warm heat over time, instead of exploding immediately.

Soft Shell Crab @ Hutong

Soft Shell Crab @ Hutong

I also had the the lychee wine. I like my drinks sweet, as I don’t like the taste of straight alcohol and this delivered. It was sweet without being cloying, and surprisingly light. Oddly, it came in a little clay teapot with a tea cup–we weren’t sure if this was deliberate or if the restaurant–which was very busy–simply ran out of containers.

Lychee wine @ Hutong

Lychee wine @ Hutong

Hong Kong: Snacky food

Obviously, I had dim sum more than once.  The Langham is conveniently located near a fairly well-known dim sum place called The Sweet Dynasty, which was quite good for an impressively low price, considering what the Langham charged for its haute cuisine versions.  But the real show-stoppers at The Sweet Dynasty, as you might have guessed from the name, are the desserts.  I got mango tofu–super-soft silken tofu topped with mango puree and mango chunks, plus tapioca pearls just ’cause–and it came out in a crazy mad-scientist billow of smoke, courtesy of a larger bowl of dry ice underneath.  Once I blew all the fog away, the actual food itself was simply executed and delicious, taking full advantage of it being mango season.

I probably should’ve hit more than one soup dumpling place as well, but didn’t really have the time.  That said, the place I did go to, Crystal Jade in the IFC mall, had some…interesting takes on the dish.  Pork and black truffle (good, but not as good as it sounds), spicy chicken (odd), pork foie gras (almost inedible burnt rubber undertaste, foie gras is totally not meant to be steamed), pork and French beans (tasty).

Soup dumplings, Crystal Jade

Soup dumplings, Crystal Jade

And for breakfast, while I mostly hung out in the Langham’s upstairs lounge, I did go out early one morning to a nearby Macao restaurant for a crunchy, buttery but insubstantial crispy bun and traditional Hong Kong milk tea.  The bun was a lot like eating cotton candy, yummy but unsatisfying, while the milk tea showed up all posh in its own little ice bucket, like a fine wine.  Still, tea was well-balanced, creamy but still distinctly tea-flavored.  Probably a better afternoon snack, overall.

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Hong Kong: Feathered Fortune

This post is about animals.  Or rather, the lack of them except for a notable few.  Considering the latitude, I was really surprised not to see more wildlife around besides a few pigeons (not pictured, because I consider them flying rats).  Hong Kong’s urban areas are all crowded up on the shoreline and the interior areas are certainly green enough to support animal life, but I rarely saw any.  As for domesticated animals, it’s surprisingly free of strays for an Asian city, and apparently, people do not take their lapdogs everywhere like they do in NYC.  I did spot the occasional store cat, which I dutifully documented for entropyenator’s benefit:

Obligatory cat photo

Obligatory cat photo

Otherwise, it was up to a slightly bonkers party I attended to really see any people-animal action.  As part of the entertainment, a fortuneteller was giving readings to whoever was interested.  The procedure was that you told the fortuneteller (and his translator, the man leaning over the table) your question, and he consulted his birds on who felt like handling it.  One of them then hopped out of the cage and onto a deck of cards held on its side, where it pulled out one card with its beak.  After getting fed from that small metal box in the fortuneteller’s hand, the bird hopped back into the cage while the fortuneteller interpreted the chosen card according to your question.  Birds were surprisingly efficient, out-pick-in within a few seconds, but then, it’s a pretty easy way to earn your daily seed.

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Hong Kong: Langham Hotel

The blog’s been on a bit of a break, as both entropyenator and I were in Asia.  I was in Hong Kong for business reasons, and let me say, whoever decided to hold a conference at that latitude in May was an idiot, weather-wise.  Running around in at least business casual clothing in 80+ ºF heat, with humidity set at approximately Turkish steam bath, was an endurance, to put it politely.  And also?  Rainy season.  So please excuse the moody nature of the outdoor photos to come.

Thankfully, it was much nicer indoors.  I stayed at the Langham Hotel, which I’m told is a relative newcomer from a very old, distinguished British parent company.  It had some weird quirks to me, unfussy American–there’s a slot just inside the room door where you have to insert your room key to get the light switches to work (common to a lot of HK hotels, actually), turndown service (someone shows up mid-afternoon to flip down a corner of the blankets)–and some excellent perks.  A nice soft bed, power adapter provided in room to forgetful me who didn’t bring her own, representatives lurking everywhere waiting to ask you if you need help, and some very, very good food (including sugar lumps! shut up, I like to sneak them and crunch them in my teeth).  This is where I had breakfast every morning:

Breakfast buffet in the upstairs lounge, Langham Club

Breakfast buffet in the upstairs lounge, Langham Club

Their Tang Court restaurant is Michelin-starred and priced accordingly, and is probably the only place in the hotel where I felt a bit gouged in the wallet.  Tasty as the dim sum was, fancy as the ingredients were, you can get equally good elsewhere for less.  Otherwise, a way better package than the slightly dingy room you’d get at a middling NYC Midtown hotel for approximately the same price.

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P.S. I should mention that, while the appetizer bar (pictured below) was great, the Langham’s The Bostonian restaurant was the worst meal I had in Hong Kong.  Absolutely no salt, like high-end hospital food.  And before you point out the idiocy of eating in a restaurant designed to ape an East Coast steakhouse in Hong Kong, it was a business meal, I had to be there, I definitely wouldn’t have gone otherwise.

Appetizer bar, The Bostonian, Langham Hotel

Appetizer bar, The Bostonian, Langham Hotel