Korea’s America-style Fast Food Joint Not to Call Burger ‘a Burger’

Does anyone know if Coca-cola is sold within the borders of North Korea? Is it even possible to just rename / rebrand EVERYTHING American? Sooner or later, something’s gonna get through and Kimmy is (or his sons are) gonna be like … “aww crap.”

And just what are they gonna call “hot dogs”?!?! A …  (I’m not even going to bother)

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Korea’s America-style fast food joint not to call burger ‘a burger’
Ani
July 27th, 2009

PYONGYANG – While North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has finally allowed his countrymen to eat American fast food with the opening of country’s first fast food joint in Pyongyang, the joint is careful not to call any item by American names, like burger.

On the menu is a tasty “minced beef and bread” that’s definitely not American.

The restaurant called – Samtaesong — has been set up in cooperation with a Singaporean company, which provided training to staff and supplied equipment, The Sun reports.

Inside, it’s just like a normal fast-food joint – but the menu is careful not to call its signature fare a hamburger.

That’s because the isolated country’s authoritarian government doesn’t want the outside world to think North Koreans have embraced the iconic American meal.

Paranoid officials – fearing a popular revolt against Kim Jong-il – won’t let foreign words be used and coin alternatives in Korean instead.

Most people in the poverty-ravaged state that suffers chronic food shortages won’t be able to afford to eat out at Samtaesong though.

The cost of a burger – just 1.70 dollars – would eat up more than half of the average North Korean’s daily income.

The restaurant also offers kimchi – Korean pickled cabbage – as well as waffles and draft beer.

And it plans to add croissants and hot dogs to its menu in the coming months – but with Korean names. (ANI)

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Siu Yeh Turns 1 Year Old!

Time for reflection? Maybe. An excuse to celebrate? Absolutely!

Birthday Cake for Me / Siu Yeh from Sparkz!

Birthday Cake for Me / Siu Yeh from Sparkz!

*This birthday cake really was baked from scratch from an extremely talented chef at Sparkz for me (my birthday isn’t too far off from Siu Yeh’s bday). Thanks also to Albert 🙂

With traffic numbers in the low 6 digits, 160+ posts and 250+ comments later, Siu Yeh officially turns 1 year old on July 24th. Can’t believe it’s already been a year since I started randomly writing about food … and what started as an experiment turned out to be so much more than that. And that’s all thanks to you, most of whom didn’t even have a clue about Siu Yeh, but randomly stumbled across my blog through Google, links or word-of-mouth, etc. but continued to stick around afterwards.

Its kind of funny that whatever useless ratings and comments I give to restaurants turn out to be somewhat decently useful for some people (thanks for writing back!) … and its good, especially for my ego, to know that I had some influence in your decision-making. That in itself is what fuels this blog I think, coz heck dude … someone once told me you can make money from advertising in blogs? I thought … oh, that’d be a bonus! But it really is next to impossible for food blogs to do any kind of promotion for anything (other than marketing toilet brushes for housewifes reading my articles) because advertisement related to restaurants would most definitely be taboo here. Its a little different from blogs for gadgets or cosmetics  … well … debatable.

But having said all of that, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It is also amusing to have met other foodies and commented with them within the *ahem* Foodies Blogosphere, which is quite a bit bigger than I had originally thought. Actually, I didn’t know such a thing existed … but food bloggers really is a force to be reckoned with and I’ve, randomly enough, found myself to be a part of this gigantic spinning wheel. I never intentionally meet anyone online, that’s like really dodgy … and even though I’ve never met in person, KennyT, Cha Xiu Bao, Helen from WFG, e_ting, laowai … I feel like I know them already. I better stop before this becomes too gay. This almost sounds like a last post.

So, what do I intend to do with this blog in the coming months?

Well, I was thinking maybe its time for an overhaul / complete redesign of the site – it looks like crap I know. I was thinking maybe I’ll start to write properly too – perhaps like a real journalist or a better food critic. Most of the time, I don’t really describe the food in as much detail as I would like, which is what Siu Yeh should be about. Maybe I’ll write a little more about wine, which has been a new passion of mine … I know, Siu Yeh is evolving a little bit and is doing slightly more than what it was set out to do.

Anyway, thanks for the support from friends, fellow bloggers and just random folks wanting to find out a little more about the restaurant they’ll be visiting tonight – I hope my blog is worthwhile for you.

Thanks,
j

PS. And even to that restaurant who threatened to sue Siu Yeh a couple months back, if you’re reading this … you are forgiven. Its all about love here lol … goodness me, this is a tribute to MJ too. Long live the King!

PPS. Yes, I’ll continue to be anonymous, thanks for asking. I like the mystery surrounding my own identity.

PPPS. Tim, happy birthday to you too!

PPPPS. Does any one have contacts for companies promoting toilet brushes? I’d love to offer Siu Yeh as a great advertising platform to promote their products.

Su Casa

Following my less-than-satisfied experience at Meet Lobo, I was offered another chance to try out another private kitchen, Su Casa. Before I go on, I should probably explain that my definition of a “private kitchen” is any dining area open to the public in old residential buildings (and usually not ground floor) and is run by a family … sort of.

But Su Casa is slightly different. They fall somewhere between a private kitchen and a real restaurant. Their operation is slightly bigger, meaning they have more (hired) staff, seats more people than a private kitchen and operate like a small restaurant. What’s more is Su Casa has a sister restaurant over in Henry House called Casa Fina and together they form the Casa Group.

Hmm … not quite so private I think.

Anyway, this gem of a restaurant is my latest find (recommended by my brother) that has a comfortable ambiance, has an attentive staff team, excellent (I don’t use this word lightly) food and most importantly, reasonable prices (perhaps even borderline cheap for what it is).

I almost don’t want to share with you, but judging from its fine food, I’m sure it’ll pick up and thought if anyone should tell you, it’ll be ME!!! Okay, we had for 5 people:

  • 2.5 X dozen of Oysters (buy 1 get 1 free, which ends up being something like HK$17 each, which is unheard of in HK unless you go to buffets dinners)
  • 2 X Escargots
  • 1 X Fish Soup
  • 2 X Caesar Salad
  • 2 X Moscato D’Asti (at HK$350 each)
  • 2 X Grilled Razor Clam
  • 2 X Foie Gras Linguine
  • 2 X Half Lobsters

And I’ll try to describe each in a little more detail.

15 Types of Oysters to Choose From!

15 Types of Oysters to Choose From!

Oyster Platter 1

Oyster Platter 1

Oyster Platter 2

Oyster Platter 2

I can’t quite remember what we got, but I think it might’ve been Utah Beach, Coffin Bay, Scotland Pearl and something else. Regardless, these oysters are extremely fresh … and, well I guess they taste like fresh oysters. I can never, for the life of me, describe different oysters like I do with wine. I guess I’m not quite there yet. (Btw, I had a really bad experience with oysters at Louis Steak House a couple months ago, just thought you’d know).

Escargot at Su Casa

Escargot at Su Casa

These escargots weren’t bad … but they’re – and I believe this for all escargot – they taste the same everywhere you go whether the restaurant is fancy or not, whether its expensive or not. Is there only 1 way to make escargot? I don’t think so, but this is the “safe” way to make them … jab them into a bed of mashed potatoes, put a chuck of butter and minced garlic and spice on top of each escargot, shove it in the oven and you’re good to go.

Wine List from Su Casa

Wine List from Su Casa

We chose the Bersano Moscato D’Asti, which was a little sweet for me but turned out my family loved it and thought it went well with the oysters.

Caesar Salad from Su Casa

Caesar Salad from Su Casa

I thought the Caesar Salad was done just right with the right amount of dressing (not too much), right amount of bacon bits, Parmesan shaves and large croutons. I love large croutons.

Foie Gras Linguine at Su Casa (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!)

Foie Gras Linguine at Su Casa (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!)

Next up is the foie gras linguine! I’m a huge fan of foie gras and pasta separately … imagine what this must’ve been like for me!

This dish kind of reminds me of the Sea Urchin Spaghetti I had at Robuchon a while ago … not quite as thick and creamy, but comparable in satisfaction and cholesterol level. Quoting my friend Vince who also had a similar dish in Thailand, “… foie gras pasta, which was just a hunk of nicely seared foie gras on top of the pasta … but I took my knife and fork and mashed up the foie gras to incorporate it into the whole pasta …”, only here, they mashed up the duck liver for you already (including generous amount of mix mushrooms),  giving ample time for the linguine and mushroom to really absorb the juice, fat and oil for the foie gras.

I highly recommend this dish to those of you who decides to visit.

Grilled Lobster at Su Casa

Grilled Lobster at Su Casa

The last dish was a grilled lobster (or rather, half a grilled lobster) which is quite fresh and was cooked just right. Definitely not tender or dry – in fact was quite the opposite. The dish also came with broccoli mashed potatoes, broccolis, cauliflower and asparagus on the side.

And the bill came up to HK$2,550 (or thereabouts). The restaurant does not charge an extra 10% service charge and they only take cash (Perhaps, and I’m only speculating, a reason why they’re able to offer you such good quality at such competitive rates? A little grey area here and there? … Maybe? I’m guessing, I don’t know.)

If it weren’t for the 2 bottles of wine, the bill would’ve only been HK$1,800 for 5 people = HK$300 each for oysters, escargot, razor clams, foie gras pasta and lobsters?! Mi Casa, Su Casa 🙂 Oh, don’t worry, I’ll make myself at home alright! No problem!

Note: Photos taken with a BlackBerry Curve 8900

Siu Yeh Rating: 9/10
Special Remarks: Very reasonable prices, courteous staff team, comfortable environment, decor is average

Su Casa
2/F., No. 2 Sun Wui Road
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2805 7031

Also …

Casa Fina
13/F., Henry House
42 Yun Ping Road
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2504 2928

Meet Lobo

Last week, I was invited to a friend’s birthday dinner, which was held at a private kitchen called Meet Lobo. This place is situated right opposite Times Square in Causeway Bay inside one of those older buildings (Entrance is between Body Shop and Emperor Watch and Jewelry).

View from Meet Lobo 1

View from Meet Lobo 1

To the left ... you'll see Maid Date, Hong Kong's first maid cafe

To the left ... you'll see Maid Date, Hong Kong's first maid cafe

As a side note: To the left of the porch where I was standing, there’s the famous (or infamous) Maid Date (Hong Kong’s first maid cafe). My mediocre phone camera wasn’t quite up to the task of zooming in, sorry about the poor resolution  … I still haven’t been there, but I wouldn’t mind going and “try out their food”.

Maid Date - Hong Kongs First Maid Cafe

Maid Date - Hong Kongs First Maid Cafe

Anyway, back to Meet Lobo. This private kitchen’s been around for over 3 years now and apparently, it received fairly positive feedbacks in OpenRice, which is why my friend decided to go there for his celebration in the first place. I’ve been to a couple private kitchens before, most of them are bunched up in Wanchai (Star Street) or Sheung Wan (around Bonham Strand) … so visiting a private kitchen in the heart of Causeway Bay felt a little awkward.

I don’t know about you, but I have extremely high expectations from private kitchens. Because why would I pay to eat inside a stranger’s “home” (even though most of the time, it really isn’t … maybe their place is like 1 floor up or sth). But you know what I mean? Private kitchens don’t rely on a nice view, nice decor, nice ambience, advertising or anything that a proper restaurant is. What is boils down, especially for private kitchens is good food and that alone should take care of your viral marketing campaign.

Crispy Prosciutto Rounds with Tartar Egg White & Salmon Caviar

Crispy Prosciutto Rounds with Tartar Egg White & Salmon Caviar

So! First dish of the night …

Unfortunately, this was a pretty bad start to the meal. The “crispy” prosciutto wasn’t really crispy, but was rock hard and cold. It was almost like the chef deep-fried it a while ago and it was just left to cool and became solid. The Tartar Egg White also turned out to be diced egg white with a lighter version of Kraft mayonnaise. The best part of this was the “Salmon Caviar” which, in any Japanese restaurants, they would just called it “Salmon Roe” rather than make it all fancy by calling it “Caviar”.

Presentation-wise, this was also a pretty bad attempt. My first impression was just like … “What is this? Is this what I ordered?”

Seared Scallop with Fennel & Pernoid Sauce

Seared Scallop with Fennel & Pernoid Sauce

A friend sitting next to me had the seared scallops which apparently wasn’t bad, but wasn’t anything to write home either.

Soup of the Day - Tomato and Pepper Puree Soup?

Soup of the Day - Tomato and Pepper Puree Soup?

Then came 1 of 2 soups of the day, which was the only HOT dish of the night. It was a tomato and pepper puree soup, which I actually thought was alright, but some friends questioned my judgment and my profession as a food blogger when they said it actually tasted like Campbell Soup.

The other soup was a mushroom soup and that’s got some pretty positive feedback.

Seared Foie Gras (Goose Liver) on Baby Spinach & Toast in Meet Lobo's Signature Sauce

Seared Foie Gras (Goose Liver) on Baby Spinach & Toast in Meet Lobo's Signature Sauce

Oh man, right about here, I think I was about to give up and have something else across the street. The Foie Gras was only warm on the outside and even felt a little cool in the center. The “Meet Lobo” signature sauce was also a little too sweet, nor was there anything inside the sauce which I haven’t tasted before, and definitely nothing to justify it’s own name.

Presentation again looks half-assed and didn’t help make the dish any more appetizing. A friend who’s been here a couple months back described her experience then as great, where the food was cooked deliciously and they even used bigger dishes + better presentation. This night, it almost feels like they were using saucer plates.

Australian Lambrack with Traditional Red Wine Gravy

Australian Lambrack with Traditional Red Wine Gravy

Finally, when the lamb rack came, I honestly wasn’t expecting much from it, but luckily this also turned out to be the best dish of the night for me. Again, it was only warm. To be fair though, I think poor Lobo was the only chef in the kitchen preparing meals for 18 people so I understand its almost impossible with limited resources and equipment to make sure everything’s perfect. The lamb rack was cooked medium-rare to medium and was still very juicy so I was pretty happy with that. The mash potato and zuchinni was not bad so I clear that also.

It was a 6 course meal (I only talked about 4 courses). 1 course, I can’t remember whether it was before the foie gras or before the lamb rack was a sour lime sorbet to open up your appetite a little. And then I didn’t stay for dessert and tea which was the last course.

Alas, Meet Hobo Lobo failed to meet my expectations. From what I’ve been told, it feels like they’re capable of so much more, but they didn’t deliver what I was looking for that one night I was there. Private kitchen experiences have always been very pleasant for me … until this time. I did end up meeting Lobo that night and he’s a nice, courteous gentleman. Maybe he wasn’t feeling his magic that night.

Note: Photos taken with a BlackBerry Curve 8900

Siu Yeh Rating: 3/10

Meet Lobo
4/F., Room B, Tak Fat Building
50-52 Russell Street
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 6438 3363
Website: www dot meetlobo dot com
Email: info (at) meetlobo.com

Boiling Water Freezes Faster Than Water at Room Temperature?

An interesting topic and one that’s still being heavily debated (after hundreds of years) … and no apparent answer. Thanks for providing the theory, Tony.

The “Boiling Water Freezes Faster” Camp

The “That’s BS” Camp

  • Joe Kissell from Interesting Thing Of The Day (ITOTD) (I’m not much of a scientist, but dropping wooden chopsticks into the test agents to see whether it froze or not doesn’t sound logical to me. Temperature aside, water freezes because all the particles have settled … throwing a chopstick in would disrupt that process … so yeh, don’t think this guy did it right)

And here was a debate on Digg back in 2007.

New Starbucks on Duddell Street

There’s this section inside a new Starbucks on Duddell Street (just down the staircase from Ice House Street) that’s totally retro, designed by G.O.D. This 1950’s Hong Kong tea house design was done extremely well and is almost an exact replica of some of the older tea houses you can still find in Mongkok and Yaumatei.

The attention to detail was quite impressive; they’ve got everything down from those red round plastic support for the glass (on the tables), the prints on the table, those old-school electric switches, adaptors and to even the type and colour of the blinds, the dusty old fans and folding chairs.

Here’s a photo of what it looks like. More to come later.

New Starbucks on Duddell Street in Hong Kong 1

New Starbucks on Duddell Street in Hong Kong 1

Oh, they even use the old tea house menu design for Starbucks’ menu. Unfortunately though, the drinks are the same. It would be great (not to mention a great marketing ploy), if they offer a special milk tea (奶茶) or ying-yang (駌鴦) to go with the menu that’s only available in this particular Starbucks.

New Starbucks on Duddell Street in Hong Kong 2

New Starbucks on Duddell Street in Hong Kong 2

Old School Power Sockets & Adapters at Starbucks on Duddell St.

Old School Power Sockets & Adapters at Starbucks on Duddell St.

New Starbucks on Duddell Street in Hong Kong 3

New Starbucks on Duddell Street in Hong Kong 3

Menu at Starbucks on Duddell Street

Menu at Starbucks on Duddell Street

This menu is done so well … the timeless green + red fonts … unmistakeably “Bing Sutt” (冰室)

I can see more of these Starbucks popping up not only in Hong Kong, but perhaps even in China with the type of tea houses they have back during those Dynasties.

Edit: Did you hear about that Starbucks in the States that serve alcohol now? What are they doing?!

Note: Photos taken with BlackBerry Curve 8900

Award: The Siu Yeh Stamp of Cool

Say No to Shark’s Fin Soup

As much as it pains me to do this, I believe it is the right thing to do. Below is an article that’s been circulating for some time now, but when a point is being made, it never gets old.

I’ve known for a while that there’s no taste in shark’s fin – its all in the soup base / broth anyway. I guess I was in denail for a while. Anyway, I’m not someone who would take away something so precious from you without suggesting alternatives. According to my friend Robin (the same person who sent me this and made me all miserable 🙂 kidding), Ovologue does mock shark’s fin soup. Unfortunately though, her group has yet to find vermicelli or mock shark’s fin with the same consistency, but as long as the soup still tastes the same … I guess I don’t care 😦

Re: Previous entries with shark’s fin soup, I’ll leave it be. It’ll be a memory for me.

GO ME! I rock.

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Dear Friends,

I used to think my cousin Leo only wanted to stop eating Shark’s Fin soup because he wanted to see more sharks when he went diving, but after watching the documentary “Sharkwater”, I am no longer going to have shark’s fin either.

The documentary makes some really valid points and reveals the cruelty of “finning.” Once caught the shark’s fin is hacked off and the animal is tossed back into the ocean, left to bleed to death slowly before drowning. And no, sharks DO NOT regrow their fins. This is a common misconception. Once their fins are cut off, they suffocate and die.

Next time you are offered a bowl of shark’s fin remember that:

1) Sharks Fin has no flavor and little nutritional value. The flavor of the soup is a result of chicken and pork stock. And recent studies have found high levels of mercury and methylmercury in shark fin above World Health Organization levels that can cause a variety of severe health problems in humans, including sterility in men, central nervous system problems and kidney diseases.

2) Shark populations may have been reduced by as much as 90% because of the high demand of shark’s fin soup. Great whites are now endangered species. Sharks play an important role in the marine ecosystem. Sharks are the ocean’s apex predator and provide an important function in maintaining the ocean’s balance. Sharks eliminate many diseased and genetically-defective animals and thus helps stabilize fish populations.

Oceans without sharks is becoming a real possibility since female sharks produce only one pup a year and the young shark may take up to fifteen years to reach maturity. Without sharks, their former prey destroy other species, including phytoplankton, which produce 50% of the earth’s oxygen and help control global warming. Our food supply and even our oxygen could be at risk without sharks.

3) In addition, worldwide sharks kill an average of 10 people every year. According to WildAid, humans kill up to 70 million sharks over the course of a given year. Who’s the bigger killer?

By eating sharks fin, we are not only partaking in a very cruel trade, but we are endangering ourselves as well. Why put mercury in your body unnecessarily? Let’s save the environment by saving the sharks.

Sharks Fin 1

Sharks Fin 1

Sharks Fin 2

Sharks Fin 2

What can you do?

1) Educate your family and friends. Because of films like “Jaws,” humans have been conditioned to fear sharks. It is time that we reverse the misunderstanding. We are more dangerous to sharks than they are to us. In a way, we are endangering OUR own environment. Sharks play a vital role in the ecosystem and help counter global warming. The depletion of the sharks is an imminent threat, not one that will affect future generations, but one that will affect us now. For more information, go to: http://www.sharkwater.com/education.htm. If you would like a copy of the DVD, please let me know.

2) Follow the lead of celebrities like Yao Ming, Ang Lee, Jackie Chan, Tony Leung, and Stefani Sun and stop eating Sharks Fin. Tell your parents/ uncles / aunties not to order it at restaurants.

3) Consider alternatives for banquets and weddings. Be socially responsible. Make a statement by not serving it at your wedding and encouraging friends to consider alternatives. The statement that you care about the environment and the welfare of animals in danger is much more important than the status symbol that the bowl of sharks fin will represent.

4) The more consumption means greater demand, and greater demand means higher prices. Curb demand-  Say No to Sharks Fin!

5) Support our foundation: http://www.hksharkfoundation.org/ (website still under construction, but you can join us on facebook!). We recently produced a short film called “Fin” that won the ishothk short film People’s Award. 🙂