Sunday, May 30, 2010

News round-up

The latest in news stories from the local paper:

Yesterday, day six of Hong Kong Art Week, a group called the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China erected two artworks in a public square - a replica of the Goddess of Democracy statue that was built by students during the 1989 mainland democracy movement, and a six-meter-long relief called Tiananmen Massacre. Police promptly arrived, scuffled with the group, and arrested many of them. A hygiene officer (yes, these were officers from the "Food and Environmental Hygiene Department") said the statues were taken down because the exhibition was unlicensed "entertainment" and "rejected claims that the prosecution was political in nature." Mmkay.

Then there was the story about the former senior government lawyer who's on trial for shoplifting a package of peanut cookies from the supermarket. Her attorney tries to mitigate the charges by pointing out that the cookies were of no use to her, because she's allergic to peanuts.

And sometimes you don't need to know the whole story. Sometimes just one sentence from an article says it all. For example: "His lawyer said Lau Siu-wah, 51, dressed like a woman and stole the nail polish because he missed his wife, who died in 2007."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Of banks and buns and bands - an eventful three days

Thursday, after ten months of living in this "international banking center" I finally convinced a bank to give me an account. To get a bank account here, you need proof of your Hong Kong address - something like a lease, a utility bill, etc. When we first moved to Hong Kong, I had no employment (we moved for Kelly's job, of course) so I couldn't get on the lease. And all of our utilities had Kelly's name on them. I tried to get a phone - "you need proof of address, like a bank account." I tried to get a bank account - "you need proof of address, like a utility bill." Can I get on my husband's account? - "We need proof that you're married."

So for months I've been running from utility company to bank, to other bank, to yet more banks, clutching my paychecks in my sweaty little hands, desperately trying to get someone to believe that I live here. Finally I received a letter and a check from my former employer and took it to a bank where I bullied my way into an account. So I'm a real grownup now. And I don't have to ask my husband for beer money anymore.

Friday we planned to go to the famous Cheung Chau bun festival - contestants clamber to the top of a bamboo structure covered with buns (these days the buns are made of rubber) and race to collect the most buns. I was dying go because the festival requires that for three days everyone on the island abstain from eating meat and I desperately wanted to try the McDonald's mushroom burger, but it wasn't meant to be. You see, the festival begins at 11:30 p.m., with the climbing of the bun tower at midnight. And I'm just not as young as I used to be. By 10 p.m. I was yawning on the couch, and by 11 I was in bed. So maybe next year.

I also pooped out on Saturday, when we were supposed to go see some bands play at a local club. Kelly and I went out for a couple of beers beforehand and by 8:00 I was longing for bed. I think this has something to do with the heat - as the temperature goes up, my alcohol tolerance goes down. So I came home and went to bed while Kelly went to meet friends at the club. And apparently it was a successful evening, because I found him drunk on the couch at 4 a.m. mumbling that he was starting a band with "some Chinese guy" and they were only going to sing Celine Dion songs. Also, his credit card was sitting next to his laptop. I wonder how this will turn out?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Beach BBQ

Saturday dawned hot and humid - the perfect day to sit over an open fire roasting meat - so we headed out to Stanley for a barbeque at St. Francis Beach. We roasted pork, chicken, beef, tiny disgusting fish, hot dogs, fish balls, chicken wings, etc. etc. etc. I thought I took photos throughout the afternoon, but there's about a six-hour gap where I'm not entirely sure what happened.

Let's go on a journey throughout the day. Here we are setting up and starting to grill:

***many hours pass***

Arm wrestling! WOOOOOOO!!!!!!

Singing! Yessssss! OMG - I love this song that I just heard for the first time three minutes ago!!!!!!1

Somehow we got home and are still alive. And that's how you do a Hong Kong BBQ.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hanging with Japanese housewives

According to friends Suka and Yuriko, Japanese housewives have a lot of time on their hands so they always know the best places to go. Oh, this is true. We spent Thursday afternoon shopping and eating our way through Tsim Tsa Tsui, and they introduced me to wonder after wonder. First we went to Uniqlo - the Japanese clothing store that's poised to take over the world - and then on to Muji, a Japanese department store. But look, we all know we're not here to talk about shopping - let's move on to the food.

Lunch was the famous xiao long bao (soup dumplings) at Din Tai Fung. This is a Taiwanese chain that makes dumplings that will change your life. They're filled not only with whatever meat you choose, but also with a savory broth so when you bite into them they explode with soupy salty brothy goodness in your mouth. Here is the army of chefs preparing the dumplings:

We had pork dumplings, pork and crab roe dumplings, spicy cucumber salad, stir-fried pea shoots, shrimp wonton soup, and shredded pork fried rice.

One of the best things I've ever eaten. Ever. EVER. They're now on the list with the knoblauchcremesuppe I had in Austria in '96, the Chicago hot dog I had in '02, and my mom's chicken-fried steak.

Din Tai Fung has got a few chains in the U.S., so if you're in New York or California (maybe they have others - I don't know) it's definitely worth a visit. I dream about those dumplings. I think I always will. (Except on nights when I drink too much gin and apple juice at a beach BBQ, come home, eat a bag of jalapeno pretzels, and pass out. Then I apparently dream of Nancy Kerrigan and Amy "Long Island Lolita" Fisher getting in a fight over the last piece of vegetarian chicken at a Japanese gas station.)

Next was more shopping, then on to Sweet Dynasty for dessert. We had tofu pudding with tapioca and lotus root and tofu pudding with fresh fruit (these were served in bowls of dry ice):

Then came these rice balls:

They were served floating in a vat of ginger soup, on a burner to keep them warm, and were filled with black sesame paste:

The sesame paste doesn't make for the most visually appealing dessert, but damn they were good.

Moral of the story: always listen to Japanese housewives. I would follow them into the bowels of hell.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A brief visit to Macau

On Sunday we headed over to Macau for a day or so. We did some perfunctory sightseeing:

Ate a bag of cookies:

And some Portuguese food - African chicken:

Fish in lemon:

Portuguese sausage:

Then caught a cab over to the Venetian for some gambling.

Now here's the odd thing about gambling here - it's not linked with drinking. In the States, of course, drinking and gambling go hand-in-hand. Drinks on the gaming floor, bars everywhere, etc. But here? People drink tea. TEA. And it's next to impossible to locate a bar in a casino. Once we finally found a bar and settled in a for a quiet vodka gimlet before hitting the slots, this started up right next to our table:

After a couple of rounds I sat down at the slot machines, where I immediately quadrupled my money and then almost as immediately lost it. This necessitated more drinks.

We left the casino fairly late and we couldn't find anywhere to eat downtown until we stumbled upon "The B+ Diner." Really more of a B-minus, but at that time of night it was perfect. Korean fried egg sandwich:

We checked into our hotel - Pousada de Mong Ha - excellent place:

I wanted to take photos of the cute tiled courtyards, gardens, and waterlily pool, but there was a crazy thunderstorm the next day. The rainy ferry ride home:

And a random bonus photo from a painting in a religious museum - flying baby heads!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Why knowing just the teeniest bit of Cantonese is fruitful:

As I was walking out of my apartment building I saw our maintenance lady going through the trash and giggling. As I passed by, she called over our doorman and handed something to him - she'd found several "Penthouse" magazines in the trash. I saw what she was giving him and said "wahh!" (which essentially means "OMG!"). She started laughing hysterically and he turned bright red. Excellent.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


You do not want to be standing under this tree when autumn rolls around.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Loving Hut

Kelly and I were wandering through Wan Chai around lunchtime today (and sweating profusely, because we're starting that climb towards the impossible-to-describe heat and humidity of a Hong Kong summer, which is never relieved when you finally find somewhere to eat, stumble to the table begging for water, and are served the ubiquitous HOT water that Hong Kongers seem to love. But that's not important right now.) so we decided to try Loving Hut - a vegan/vegetarian place we'd read about somewhere.

I had fried flat noodles with char sui "pork", steamed cabbage with sesame oil, and winter melon tea:

Kelly's meal looks disgusting, but it was excellent! It tasted just like the salisbury steak you used to get in the school cafeteria (which, yes, is sort of disgusting, but dammit I miss school cafeteria food!). Actually, it was probably pretty close to the school cafeteria recipe, because I'm almost positive that wasn't meat we were being served back in 5th grade.

Anyway, he had New York style cutlet with gravy, red yeast rice, and baby bok choy:

Not pictured is his black sesame soy milk, which was...not so good.

So overall, I'd go back to Loving Hut. But not the next time we're in Wan Chai - that's reserved for this place - "Giant Foot Restaurant":

A cold beer goes to whoever can offer a reasonable explanation as to how this place got its name. I can't think of any.