Vodka Hanoi

Vodka Hanoi.

Vodka Hanoi

Vodka Hanoi

Just thought this was a little odd. I mean, I understand where the French influence (i.e. baguette and coffee) came from – and to quote Wikipedia again, Vietnam was colonized by the French in the mid-19th century. Efforts to resist the French eventually led to their expulsion from the country in the mid-20th century, leaving a nation divided politically into two countries. But vodka? I don’t think the Soviet ever controlled the country right? The booze must’ve came with Soviet AK’s during the Vietnam War.

Anyway … didn’t mean to bring up bad memories … but let us not forget 🙂

Back to food.

Michelin Bestows 31 Stars on Hong Kong

This is the headline for today’s Ming Pao: Michelin confirming that Hong Kong is worthy of being branded the “Paradise” for food lovers. Thanks! That’s great and all … but behind all of this fanfare, is Michelin Guide worthy of our recognition? I’m tempted to say no.

Ming Pao Headline

Ming Pao Headline

As expected, the introduction of a Hong Kong & Macau Michelin Guide drew heavy criticism recently with a famous local food critic, Chua Lam, saying that this is “just a joke … like a dialogue between idiots”. I think the Guide definitely awarded stars to restaurants that are undisputedly worthy of the recognition, but there are also ones that probably should not have been on the list. And there are quite a few more that wasn’t even mentioned! The problem is, there are just too many restaurants in Hong Kong (and Macau) that are also “worthy” of such recognition, and the folks at Michelin would risk diluting the power of the stars if they had went on a star-awarding spree …

It should also be noted that of the current 90 Michelin “inspectors”, 70 are based in Europe, 10 in the United States and only 10 are based in Asia … I dunno … Not to offend this chubby white tire-man named Bibendum (Edit: Thanks Peech!), but Asia’s a big place … and with 70 inspectors based in Europe, I’m in favour of the camp that says “Michelin’s a little bias in favour of Western cuisine and in particular, French cuisine”.

Oh, it is also worth noting that only 2 out of 20 “inspectors” who “inspected” all of these fine restaurants were Chinese. Hmm … I dunno, I think Chinese can rate their own cuisine just fine. I’m just trying to connect the dot and something seems a little fishy … (oh what a pun).

It’d be interesting to see what they do with the guide next year … on the one hand, they have a 108-year-old tradition to follow, but on the other hand, if they want to write a good food guide for Asian countries (save Japan), they need to drop their arrogance (or some might say, their narrow perspective) and embrace fine dining at a local level. Nevermind the ambience, “innovative dishes” and the servers’ attitude. This is Asia, screw the knifes and forks (and even chopsticks) … use your hands for the fried pigeons … forget manners, get down and dirty and just dig in, because at the end of the day … its all about the food.

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Here’s an article from today’s South China Morning Post:

SCMP Michelin Bestows 31 Stars on HK

SCMP Michelin Bestows 31 Stars on HK

Michelin Bestows 31 Stars on HK
By Vivienne Chow, Ng Yuk-hang and Amy Nip

A Hong Kong chef has become the world’s first Chinese Michelin three-star chef. Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons hotel, whose kitchen is presided over by 40-year veteran Chan Yan-tak, was the city’s only restaurant awarded the top three-star accolade by Michelin in its first guide to Hong Kong and Macau, launched yesterday – its first venture into China in 108 years.

French restaurant Robuchon a Galera in Macau won the only other three-star ranking, which denotes “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”. There are only 75 three-star restaurants in the world.

The rankings delighted the chosen restaurants but the guide came under criticism from some food critics after it was disclosed that just two of the 20 inspectors who assessed the restaurants were Chinese.

Guide Jean-Luc Naret said inspectors had visited the Lung King Heen 12 times and found its quality was consistently high.

Seven Hong Kong restaurants were awarded the second-ranked two stars, including Amber at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and T’ang Court. Fourteen received one star, including Fook Lam Moon, Forum and Yung Kee.

Twenty-four restaurants that didn’t make it to the list were recommended in the Bib Gourmand section, which highlights quality restaurants offering a full three-course meal for HK$300 or less. Also mentioned were less pricey choices, such as Mak’s Noodle and Tsim Chai Kee.

Macau had one two-star restaurant, four one-star restaurants and two in the Bib Gourmand section.

The guide, which goes on sale on Friday, features 169 restaurants from Hong Kong and 33 from Macau, chosen from a shortlist of more than 1,000 visited anonymously by more than 20 inspectors since last year. It also featured 33 hotels in Hong Kong and 16 in Macau.

Of the inspectors, one was from Hong Kong and one from the mainland.

Questioned about the others’ expertise on Chinese food, Mr. Naret said: “You don’t have to be French to understand French cuisine.”

But Chua Lam, one of Hong Kong’s most famous food experts, said it was “just a joke … like a dialogue between idiots”.

“These people didn’t know about Chinese cuisines. The guide was only to create controversy so that people would buy it,” he said.

Lau Kin-wai, food critic and owner of Kin’s Kitchen, which was listed in the Bib Gourmand section, also questioned the inspectors’ knowledge of Chinese food. He could not agree with some of the choices.

Winning restauranteurs were more complimentary. “This guide has a long history and it has international recognition,” Michael Au, resident manager for both L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and Robuchon a Galera, said, adding that the honour might increase the chosen restaurants’ business 20 to 30 percent despite the financial crisis.

Alvin Leung, chief chef of two-star Chinese restaurant Bo Innovation, said the uniqueness of the dishes was the key and vowed to make Chinese cuisine more fashionable. “I want to drive Chinese dishes to a fine dining level,” he said. Kinsen Kam, director and general manager of Yung Kee, said he was “very happy” that the restaurant had made it to the top 22.

Chinese Pudding (砵仔糕) in Soho

If you happen to walk past the intersection of Staunton Street and Shelley Street (the escalators leading up to Mid-levels) from around 2:30 to 5:00PM on Saturdays and Sundays, you might be able to catch a granny selling Chinese pudding (砵仔糕) with her husband (he’s seen here walking back to the cart after finishing his banana). From what I hear (and seen), the hard-working pair has been around the area for quite a long time now, and they’re still doing what they do best: making delicious puddings for people in the neighbourhood.

Its really quite impressive that they’re able to keep up at their age. But I suppose what matters is they’re happy and it looks like they love what they do. Besides, they have a huge following … and you’ll probably have a hard time looking for Chinese puddings anywhere in Hong Kong nowadays, so next time you’re fortunate enough to catch them, try one! They’re second to none; definitely try the red bean flavor 🙂

Edit: Thanks to my little sister for correcting me. She said “those chinese pudding in soho are all in red bean flavour. The only difference is the brown one is made of brown sugar and white one, white sugar. Brown ones are usually more popular (coz it seems to be healthier than white sugar?)”

Granny Selling Chinese Pudding in Soho

Granny Selling Chinese Pudding in Soho

Note: Photo taken with iPhone.

Chinese Pudding (砵仔糕) in Soho
Intersection of Staunton Street and Shelley Street
Soho, Central
Hong Kong

How the Chinese beat Pizza Hut in China

I got this from an email forward titled “How the Chinese beat Pizza Hut in China” and found it very amusing. I remember doing something similar at a local Pizza Hut when I was a kid, of course, not piling up nearly as much. Actually, I haven’t dined inside a Pizza Hut in so long, I’m not sure if they even have a salad bar anymore. Its not a surprise Pizza Hut had to adopt a “1 visit to the salad bar” policy … but if anyone can bend the rule, Chinese can!

The Base

The Base

"The Pillar"

Second Base:

Securing the Pillar

Securing the Pillar

The Second Storey

The Second Storey

Preparing the 3rd Storey

Preparing the 3rd Storey

Putting Pressure in the Middle

Putting Pressure in the Middle

My Favorite Peaches!

My Favorite Peaches!

Fill Those Spaces with Corn!!!

Fill Those Spaces with Corn!!!

Preparing the 3rd Storey ...

Preparing the 3rd Storey ...

Where are the Security Guards?

Where are the Security Guards?

Mayo Acts as Glue

Mayo Acts as Glue

5th Storey

5th Storey

And Finally ... 7th Storey

And Finally ... 7th Storey

1 Salad for a Group of 10!

1 Salad for a Group of 10!

And if you thought that was good … check this out …

PAGODA!

PAGODA!

I Think That Reads 20+ Inches Tall

I Think That Reads 20+ Inches Tall

PAGODA WITH SNOW!

PAGODA WITH SNOW!

At the end of the email, it says that “Pizza Hut is suffering huge losses in China” … which adds to the humour of these pictures, but I’m not so sure if they really are. YUM! Group seems to be doing especially well in China …

Now if only they have “Pizza Bars” … “Dear Valued Customers, one visit to the pizza bar please” … use your imagination 🙂