Hong Kong: Dim Sum, Dessert, & Family

In Hong Kong, I met my very young Great Uncle Wilson at Tsui Hang Village for a meal. We dined at the Causeway Bay Branch, which had a clean, elegant ambiance and good service. Our meal was a perfect does of family, fine dining, and dim sum before I left Hong Kong.

My uncle did all of the ordering. I just sat back and enjoyed the meal.

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Dumplings with Black Truffles

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Purple Potato Piggy Bun. Fluffy, soft, and a little sweet.

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Deep-Fried Squid.

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Peppers with Filling.

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Honey-Glazed Barbecued Pork

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Almond Paste Bun. My sweet tooth and I both loved these.

After dim sum, my uncle wanted to take me to try some local Hong Kong desserts. We went to the popular Cong Sao Dessert Restaurant nearby. I was a fan. We ordered one hot dessert and one cold dessert. Both were delicious.

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Ginger Milk with Egg White

IMG_1885Sweet Tofu with Mango

I was very, very full.

 

Tsui Hang Village

22/F, Lee Theatre Plaza, 99 Percival Street, Causeway Bay

Cong Sao Dessert

G/F, 11 Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay

 

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Hong Kong: Tim Ho Wan

Tim Ho Wan is known as the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world. The Hong Kong chain (now with locations in Singapore and Manila) is famous for their barbecued pork buns, stellar dim sum, stellar prices, and long lines.IMG_1642

This is the line at 8:50AM, waiting for the restaurant to open at 9AM.

We went to the extremely convenient Tim Ho Wan location in Central Station. We were fresh off the plane and hungry with anticipation.

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The barbecued pork buns were the best I’ve ever had. They were served at the absolute perfect temperature. Sweet and crispy on top, the physical bun portion was delightfully fluffy and thin. The barbecued pork lay inside in thin chunks – none of that mysterious goo that pork buns in the US often have.

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Steamed Fresh Shrimp Dumplings. My friend Anna doesn’t eat pork, so we had a lot of shrimp dishes. I am not usually a huge fan of shrimp dumplings but these were great. Nicely bite-size, simple, and fresh.

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Rice Roll stuffed with Shrimp and topped with sweet soy sauce.

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This was our attempt to experience authentic dim sum dishes. It would be wise to keep in mind that exotic and authentic don’t always go hand-in-hand. The chicken feet were okay. The flavoring was good, but that’s about all they had going for them.

IMG_1677 Steamed Egg Cake. A traditional dim sum dish of steamed brown sugar sponge cake. Not too sweet, not too bland. The texture is so soft and light it essentially melts in your mouth. A divine way to end our meal.

Tim Ho Wan, 2332 3078

Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station (Podium Level 1, IFC Mall) , Central

The Mecca for all Egg Tart Lovers

The French have their croissaints. The Greeks have their baklava. The Jews have their babka. Americans have their donuts. The Chinese? Well, they have egg custards.

Among many things, my dad and I have always shared a love for Chinese egg tarts – small tartlets with flaky, pie-like crust on the outside and a sweet custard filling on the inside. This meant making pit stops on the way back from soccer games at Lung Fung Bakery on Clement St., where the lady behind the counter always packs me the most freshly-baked tarts and adds a few extra in for free. This also meant squeezing our hands between the sides of the pink boxes to sneak a fresh egg tart before Thanksgiving dinner, when my great-aunt brings egg tarts from Golden Gate Bakery in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

I suddenly realized before my trip to Hong Kong that I had to have an egg tart while I was there. A quick Google search produced many articles, including a trending BuzzFeed article of the day, pointing me to Tai Cheong Bakery as the mecca for all egg tart lovers.

It was a spiritual experience.

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The crust was less flaky than I am used to, but was instead more thin and dense like pie crust. It was deliciously buttery and had a slight hint of coconut. The custard had the smoothest, silkiest consistency.

The egg custards are served in small metal tins and are kept hot in a glass case. Be warned, I burned my entire mouth on my first tart and it was a less enjoyable experience. When I went back the next day, I had learned my lesson.

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Egg Tart & Wintermelon CakeIMG_1810

A quick shoutout to my friend and fellow egg tart lover Mr. Medoff. For his birthday one year I got him an entire box filled with egg tarts (probably more than 20), thinking he would share them like a birthday cake. He ate the entire box by himself.

Tai Cheong Bakery

35 Lydhurst Terrace, CentralHong KongChina (Central)

Beijing Bites: The Streets, Part II: Wangfujing

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If you are looking for all of the exotic street food you imagined in China, Wangfujing Snack Street is your place. It’s geared towards tourists, not true connisseurs of these delicacies. It’s bustling and crowded, yet to me, has the right kind of tourist-y vibe to it – accentuating and promoting traditional Chinese food in the form of small street stalls and slightly aggressive vendors.

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Mmmm…protein.IMG_1355  IMG_1367

I honestly thought about trying a scorpion or a similar insect on a stick. After all, bugs are a great source of protein. And, according to most people, they don’t taste like much – just crunchines on a stick. I hoped to have the chutzpah to go for it. Unfortunately, what I realized upon entering Wangfujing Snack Street (which is actually a side street off of Wangfujing Street) is that they display the scorpions alive and squirming on their sticks. Count me out.

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Potato chips. Probably the most popular snack I saw on Wangfujing with the Chinese.

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Fish balls.

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Baozi. Tofu.

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Lamb Legs.

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More Baozi.

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Eggs stuffed with meat, herbs, nuts, and flavor.

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Snails and Crayfish.IMG_1388

Yogurt. I have a daily intake of two SuanNai (Chinese literally call yogurt “sour milk”).

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Crushing some nuts.

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My grilled squid. The actual meat doesn’t have much flavor, but the sauces and spices make it tasty. High in protein, low in satisfaction.

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Cow stomach served in a hot broth. At first, I was fine with it, but soon found that the intense innards flavor (I liken it to a “musty” flavor, but I’m not sure exactly how to articulate it) was too much for me.

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The vendor (and the only vendor on Wangfujing who sells these) here made me pay 30 yuan for a tiny piece of rice-stuffed bamboo. I was furious. It was bland.IMG_1410IMG_1411IMG_1412

This was the best snack I had. We had seen many vendors making and selling the raw dough. It was perfectly light and fluffy on the outside and sweet and paste-y on the inside.

 

Beijing Bites: ShaanXi Cuisine at QinTangFu

ShaanXi (not to be confused with ShanXi as I did) is a Chinese province best known for its capital Xi’an, home of the Terracotta Warriors. What many may not know is that they also have great food.

My friend Anna, who lived in Xi’an for a semester, has been raving about the food and planning a food outing accordingly. There was a lot of talk about her favorite ShaanXi dish, YangRou PaoMo, which is sometimes translated to “Crumbled Flatbread Soaked in Lamb Soup.”

This was the best meal I have had yet in Beijing. We did our research on where to go and what to order and it was worth it.

We went to QinTangFu (秦唐府) in the ChaoYang District. A short walk west from the Chaoyangmen Subway Station. We entered the restaurant to find a large room filled with Chinese. (Crowd Theory: Crowded? Yes. Natives? Yes.) The chairs and tables are wooden and sit extremely low to the ground. The service is fast and the waitresses are nice if you speak Chinese.

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ShaanXi Pork Sandwich (LaZhi RouJiaMo or 腊汁肉夹馍) – juicy, soft pork surrounded by dense, flat bread. What’s not to love? Eat it while it’s hot though, it doesn’t sit very well.

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Garlic Greens – garlicky, oily, good, but nothing special.

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YouPo CheMian (油泼扯面) – this was another dish we had been looking forward to. Xi’an is known for their Biang Biang Noodles, a special kind of noodle that is thicker and wider than most Chinese noodles. (Sidenote: ‘Biang’ also happens to be one of the most complicated characters used in the Chinses language, as seen below.) These noodles were served with some greens and bean sprouts in a perfectly spicy sauce. The balance of flavors was spot-on. The noodles were bomb.

Biang

And now, for the YangRou PaoMo:IMG_1489

Step 1: Cut a whole in the box.

Sorry.

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The actual Step 1: shred the dense flatbread into tiny nail-size pieces. According to Anna, in Xi’an your dining mates will judge you based on how well and how finely you crumble your bread.IMG_1503

Step 2: The waitress will take your bowl of crumbled bread and fill it with broth, Chinese mushrooms, vermicelli-like rice noodles, and of course, lamb.IMG_1514

Step 3: Garnish with a little cilantro and hot sauce if you wish. Pickled garlic is provided on the side.

Step 4: Dig in to a fantastically home-y Chinese lamb stew.

Beijing Bites: The Streets, Part I

Contrary to what I believed before arriving in Beijing, the Chinese city is not overflowing with gloriously rich Chinese food to gorge on. Instead, in my efforts to be “one of the people” (à la Dad Lowe) and immerse myself, I have found much of the daily food enjoyed by natives to be good – not great. Granted, I have also found many everyday dishes in Beijing that I would kill for on any day in America.

One of my goals for my time in Beijing is to differentiate the latter from the former.

And here we go:IMG_1306

Beef noodle soup (or NiuRou Mian) with knife-cut noodles from Planed Noodles (刀削面), a small shop on a side road off of the North 3rd Ring Road near Liangmaqiao Subway Station.

Despite the small amount of beef in the soup, the broth was abound with flavor – one of the most flavorful broths I have ever tasted thanks to the nuts, meat, cilantro, and other vegetables used.

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Little carts selling Chinese pancakes can be found on most streets in Beijing.

The top photo features a delectable rolled pancaked with scallions. Our local produce market has a stall where I will also occasionally pick up a piece of large, flat pancake (like a large Chinese crepe) with egg and scallions within the pancake. The flavor is subtle, perhaps a bit bland for some, but the texture is great and I love them.

Every morning, commuting Beijingers will pick up plastic bags with rolled pancakes of assorted meats and vegetables for breakfast along with some DouJiang (soybean milk). I was quite excited to try one of these pancakes, but found it to be disappointing. The flavors and textures were sub-par – the combination of pancake and potato created an overall mushy texture, and the meat did not taste great either. It also may have just been a case of a bad Beijing pancake.

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This small marketplace lies off of Nanluoguxiang – honestly one of my favorite areas of Beijing. Nanluoguxiang is a quaint, but touristy Hutong, but the majority are Chinese domestic tourists. This marketplace has small stalls with vendors each selling a different dish. The setting is clean and features a nice seating area.IMG_1033IMG_1032

Egg filled with rice and meat.

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Battered crab.

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The size and shape of these buns were similar to XiaoLongBao (or Shanghai Soup Dumplings), but the outsides were bread (like mantou or baozi). They were fluffy and thin on the outside, and exhibited a great bun to meat ratio. They were especially tasty after hours spent on our feet walking and exploring.

 

Amada: A Celebratory Suckling Pig

Is there a better way to celebrate than with a suckling pig?

My sister recently graduated from college, and to celebrate in the style my family prefers we went to Amada in Philadelphia to dine, wine, and cheers the new graduate. We pre-ordered the half roasted suckling pig when we made our reservation.

We started our meal off with some complimentary dishes.

Roasted Padron Peppers

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Crackers with Balsamic Tuna DipIMG_1922

And onto the things we ordered….

The Potato Tortilla Española – it was good, but I’ve honestly had better. The flavor and texture could be enhanced and perfected.IMG_1928

We ordered the Ensalada de Jamón and after receiving it almost immediately ordered another one. It was terrific.

Ensalada de Jamón – serrano ham wrapped around figs, salad, cabrales, and spiced almonds.

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Ensalada Verde – Green Salad, Asparagus, Favas, Avocado, Green BeansIMG_1934

THE LOBSTER PAELLA – Lobster & Seafood Paella, Fava Bean Salad, Smoked Paprika AÏoli, Squid Ink

Obviously, we really like my sister because we went all out for her. The paella was delicious, though the dish itself was very shallow and I’m not sure how I felt about the seafood to paella rice ratio.IMG_1939

While we were polishing off our paella, our pig arrived. It was carved before us into perfectly portioned pieces of pork. I was already quite full at this point, but watching the process unfold before me persuaded me to stretch the walls of my stomach.IMG_1945

Our pork came with sides (in order): Grilled Green Onions, Rosemary White Beans, Herb Roasted Fingerlings, Garbanzos con Espinacas. The fingerling potatoes and the grilled green onions were great. I found both of the beans to be over-salted, especially in conjunction with our pork.IMG_1947IMG_1951IMG_1949 IMG_1952

Cochinillo Asado

A meal for all of the meat-lovers out there to try. The pork was absolutely delectable. We had a significant amount of leftovers the next day and made bahn mi sandwiches with the pork for lunch. It was still delicious – perhaps even more so, because I was more hungry then.IMG_1956

Many thanks to my parents for the meal, and many felicitations to my sister on graduating.

 

Rating Roìa

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I have always loved my birthday. My birthday meant a party, a dinner, and the focus on me. Unlike most young girls, however, my birthday was never all about me. I share my birthday with my mom. Yes, I was the best birthday gift ever (as, I imagine, was the process of childbirth).

While, yes, this means that the focus was never entirely on me for my own birthday, I couldn’t imagine a birthday without my mom. Therefore, it was incredible to have my mom in New Haven to spend our birthday together. It also provided the perfect opportunity to go to Roia – a New Haven restaurant I have been dying to try.

One of the most respected foodies at Yale once casually told me that Roia was the best restaurant in New Haven. Ever since, Roia has been number one on my list of restaurants to try. I have made multiple reservations and unfortunately had to cancel all of them. But my birthday dinner was an event I would not cancel.

Here’s what we ate:

Chicken Liver Mousse served with grilled bread and red onion marmalade

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Carpaccio di FunghiImage

Pesce Di Giorno (which, on this day, was arctic char)Image

Pappardelle with Hen RaguImage

For dessert: Croustillant de Rhubarb – meringue with poached rhubarb sweetened cream and pistachiosImage

A little treat with the check – petite madeleinesImage

I had very high expectations for Roia. Sadly, Roia did not live up to my standards. It was good, maybe fantastic, but not spectacular. The liver mousse was good – I honestly think Heirloom’s (at The Study) is better. The arctic char was more well-done than I usually like, but this is a personal preference. I am a sucker for handmade pasta (and Roia makes all of their own pasta), but I am also used to the incredible high standards for handmade pasta in San Francisco. The pappardelle was good, but the pasta itself was a bit too thick and chewy for my taste.

Sidenote: I will say, however, that the petite madeleines provided a spectacular moment for me. They were little bites of heaven. Perfectly flavorful, soft, and fluffy. I was reading Proust’s A Remembrance of Things Past at the time, where the entire novel stems from a bite of madeleine that stirs Proust’s memory. They were a perfect way to end our birthday dinner.

Semifreddi’s Cinnamon French Toast for Mother’s Day

Like many daughters, every year on Mother’s Day I make breakfast for my mother. This year, I decided to combine two of my childhood favorites (okay, more like lifelong favorites) into one decadently delicious dish. Semfreddi’s Cinnamon Twist, meet French Toast. French Toast, meet Semifreddi’s Cinnamon Twist.

Semifreddi’s is a local Bay Area bakery. I grew up on their cinnamon challah – no joke, I think it was my main source of sustenance for my most important years of growth. Semifreddi’s Cinnamon Twist was a staple in the Lowe household growing up. Their loaves of bread have the fluffy buttery-ness of good challah and the addicting flavor of their cinnamon concoction woven throughout. Think of challah crossed with a cinnamon roll. Nowadays, I only get Semifreddi’s Cinnamon Twist as a treat. My metabolism isn’t quite the same anymore.

But Mother’s Day is, by all means, a special occasion that calls for not just Semifreddi’s Cinnamon Twist, but Semifreddi’s Cinnamon Twist French Toast.

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I used The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book’s French Toast recipe that calls for putting the toast in the oven to dry it out a bit.

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Then the toast is dipped in a combination of egg, milk, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg and placed on a hot griddle. Voila!

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My Mother’s Day meal was completed with bacon and fresh fruit salad on the side.

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Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

 

 

Brunch at Heirloom, The Study at Yale

The Study at Yale is the best hotel in New Haven, and is also home to one of the best restaurants in New Haven, Heirloom.

To be clear – I actually had breakfast at Heirloom on this particular day, and not brunch. The breakfast menu is, from my understanding, just a limited version of the brunch menu and is only available for hotel guests.

Brunch at The Study is notorious and notoriously good – never miss an opportunity to be fed at Heirloom, preferably by your parents or your friend’s parents who are visiting.

I’ll stop with the advice.

 

Study at Kale Frittata – Egg Whites, Milled Tomato, Parmigiano & Burrata, Sunflower Seeds & Farm Lettuces

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Heirloom Oatmeal

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Smoked Fish Plate with Smoked Salmon and Trout Spread Combo

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