DoesThatHelp

When you just don't know what to do with that stuff

Posts Tagged ‘Chinese

The undeniable draw of egg tarts

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With one of the local malls always seeming to have some kind of “food festival” at any given time, the selections offered have become somewhat commonplace. While still delicious, with the same vendors participating, there isn’t much variety. However, during one of the recent events, came to an abrupt stop when noticing egg tarts on display.

On previous occasions, I have had the opportunity to enjoy egg tarts in Hong Kong, Macau, and New York City’s Chinatown.

An export from Portugal to their former colony of Macau, the egg tart has since been adapted by China and proliferated throughout their culinary culture.

On visits to Hong Kong, there always appear to be egg tarts on display at any given bakery. With the small pastries usually sold at a really low cost, it’s hard not to pick one up to enjoy later on. In Macau, a shop at the foot of the Ruínas de São Paulo sold fresh egg tarts, nice and warm with a beautiful view of Macanese history.

When it comes to choosing between Hong Kong and Macau style, it goes to Macau.

While in New York City, also happened across a restaurant in Chinatown that offered egg tarts and picked up a couple. From there, proceeded to Columbus Park and took a seat on a bench while indulging in the sweets.

On the most recent encounter, found out they sold “Macau” and “Portuguese” style egg tarts; got three of each. To be honest, I couldn’t really discern one from the other, but they were delicious nonetheless.

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A reliable source… for dinner

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On numerous occasions I have found myself ending the workday, shutting down for the night (way past a traditional dinnertime), and scrounging around for something to eat. When there weren’t leftovers from lunch or a random smattering of ingredients in the refrigerator – resulting in one’s personal episode of “Chopped” – there’s always the old reliable ramen.

While the ramen collection sits proudly on top of the refrigerator, with a variety of flavors on display, the old favorite sits along the side. Whenever I’m not in the mood for a hot, steaming bowl of ramen, with a delicious broth ready to be savored after slurping a big pile of noodles, there is always jjajangmyeon.

At first, was unfamiliar with the dish and had no idea how much of a classic it was in South Korea. Going through the instructions, it said to drain most of the water, with the remaining left to be mixed with the sauce powder. Putting it all together, it was delicious, rich, and savory – became apparent why the dish is so popular.

On the first visit to Seoul, had work obligations and was left to scrounge for dinner late into the evening. Staying in the Myeongdong section of the city, there was plenty of activity late at night and managed to find a hole-in-the-wall spot selling a variety of local fare. Spotted jjajangmyeon on the menu and there was no question a fresh-made bowl needed to be sampled.

Obviously, it was better than the instant variety.

The sauce was creamier and, with real bits of meat scattered throughout, the savory flavor was even more pronounced. Visited Seoul again the following year, stayed in the same neighborhood, and, by chance, found the same spot – ordered jjajangmyeon.

Locally, there is NOWHERE to find jjajangmyeon; and the places that purport to sell it are just serving an order of the instant pack (and adding half a hardboiled egg as a garnish). At least, on those late nights at home, can enjoy a bowl of one of the most unique-tasting noodle dishes and pair it properly, with danmuji (picked radish).

Stopping in Guangzhou before heading home

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After a couple months away, cruising the Mediterranean and reuniting with friends in New York City, it was time to head back to the Philippines. On this trip, flew with China Southern Airlines – a first. On the flight out, had an 11-hour layover and got the opportunity to explore Guangzhou, the airline’s hub. Passengers with a minimum eight-hour layover and eligible to receive an entry visa for the day, along with hotel accommodations; for me, I used the entire time to wander.

The return leg wasn’t as exciting, it was a shorter time period, so it was just wandering the departure hall at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport. To be honest, it doesn’t have the amenities of Seoul’s Incheon International Airport or Hong Kong International Airport, especially getting in early in the morning.

After arriving from New York City and getting through security, prepared for a few hours in the departure hall. With most of the places still closed, took the time to explore and see what they would have available once everything opened. There really wasn’t very much, unfortunately. One would need to leave the departure area to see more of what the airport had to offer, noticed a lot more amenities after getting through customs on the flight coming in

There was, however, one restaurant open. Looked over the menu and they served a variety of basic Chinese dishes; went with an old favorite, noodle soup with beef. It’s become an odd tradition at this point, when visiting Shanghai, had noodle soup at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, had noodle soup when leaving Guangzhou for NYC, and now before the flight home.

It was one would expect; delicious, chewy noodles served in a rich broth. The experience was one of those “people watching at the airport” moments, seeing the restaurant fill up and empty out while enjoying the meal; watching people rush back and forth, while, with the security of a couple hours (and eventual delay), having the chance to savor the dish. In addition, the pickles served on the side were exceptional.

Written by Paulo Loreto

May 27, 2018 at 8:40 AM

Picking up takeout on a lazy Brooklyn afternoon

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Since moving to the Philippines five years ago, on those indecisive days trying to figure out what to eat, the old reliable Chinese takeout place becomes a very-much missed commodity. Something as basic as the standard Chinese takeaway joint is all-too-often taken for granted and one of those things I’ve grown to miss once it’s not there anymore.

Not sure why the concept hasn’t taken off in Bacolod City. There are Chinese establishments, but they are all expansive restaurants (with attached banquet halls). However, the only thing I’m craving is a hole-in-the-wall spot that has a $4.75 lunch special.

Stopping for Chinese takeout was a regular occurrence back when living in the US; on every visit back, there has always been a visit to the random spot down the street or around the corner.

The classic entrée that comes with rice and the choice of soup or soda, is all too typical when living and working in New York City, but when visiting, after at least a year of being away, those kind of things become treasured. It would seem like something so simple would be adaptable to most cultures – given the practice has expanded to other parts of the world outside the US – but for the local culture in Bacolod City it, for whatever reason, doesn’t seem to be something attractive.

On the last trip, while staying in Brooklyn, after a long morning of work, followed by some time at the gym, venturing into Manhattan was the last thing on my mind. Stopped at a nearby grocery store and noticed a Chinese place a block over. Placed an order for a sesame chicken lunch special, along with an order of dumplings, and went back to the grocery store as they prepared the lunch set.

Getting back to the apartment, put the groceries away and plopped on the couch for some basic takeout and daytime television. Thinking back while sitting behind a desk in the Philippines, yes, those things, as mundane as they may seem, are definitely taken for granted.

Written by Paulo Loreto

February 18, 2018 at 5:20 AM

Filling up on Guangzhou street food

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During an 11-hour layover in Guangzhou, China, was provided a 72-hour visa to roam the city while waiting for the connection to New York City. After making an obligatory stop at the Canton Tower, it was getting close to sundown and meandered to the Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street (with assistance from the accommodating staff at the tourist center at the base of the tower).

Exiting the subway station, found a street lined with small shops and restaurants, everything looked great but was skeptical if it was even the correct place. After a bit of wandering and turning down random alleyways that led to small residential enclaves, found the street. It was wide with tons of people walking around (while dodging cars that are permitted on parts of the “pedestrian street”), with stores both local and international, along with restaurants – also, both local and international.

As time went by and the ticks continued to pile up on the phone pedometer, it proved difficult finding a place to eat; not that there wasn’t anywhere to eat, but there was too much to choose from. Started snacking by stopping at roadside stands and enjoyed things like bubble tea and scallion pancakes. Happened upon a food court that was packed with people and noticed one stand putting out, what looked to be, cups of sesame chicken. It looked good and tasted even better; big, meaty hunks of chicken in a delicious sauce, all for about 25 RMB (just a bit over $3.50).

After a while, noticed the hunger was gone and realized snacking down the Shangxiajiu Pedestrian Street provided enough to make a meal – and there was still so much more to enjoy.

A pleasant surprise after a big disappointment

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On the previous visit to Hong Kong, enjoyed dim sum at Maxim’s Palace, an amazing restaurant with those traditional food trolleys rolling around loaded with delicious small plates; on the most recent visit, received a tip on a dim sum place in the Sheung Wan district.

Upon arriving, it was a bit daunting, located on the second floor, it was crowded and was sharing a table with a couple other parties. With no employees making eye contact and unsure of what even to say if one was called over, backed out and scoured the neighborhood for a new spot.

After walking for a couple blocks, even wandering into a food center without anything terribly inviting, found a small restaurant tucked away along a side street. The menu had a variety of choices and, by that time, was very hungry.

Among the selections, ordered some fried noodles, rice, a large beer, and fried shrimp.

Ordering fried shrimp on a menu, had an image of the typical, western-style, shrimp with breading – maybe even something along the lines of popcorn shrimp (living in a place where cutting corners in the food industry is the norm, it has unfortunately now shaped one’s instincts).

As a pleasant surprise, a plate arrived with these large, beautifully-fried shrimp, atop some steamed broccoli (have been told, anything broccoli is not authentic Chinese, but it was a nice presentation). Grabbed one immediately and upon separating the head from the body, the juices that ran out was incredible, lesson learned for the next one. The breading was wonderfully light, the juices were marvelous, and the shrimp was delicious and meaty.

Dad says, finding Crowd Restaurant was probably meant to be, considering the original destination was a bust.

Arrived at the restaurant, unaware they were about to close lunch service, but they didn’t seem bothered too much. They may have turned off the lights in the unoccupied portion of the restaurant, but in no way was there pressure to eat faster and get out – professionals.

Arrived at the restaurant, unaware they were about to close lunch service, but they didn’t seem bothered too much. They may have turned off the lights in the unoccupied portion of the restaurant, but in no way was there pressure to eat faster and get out – professionals.

Written by Paulo Loreto

November 5, 2016 at 10:50 PM

One of the greatest dishes in the history of food

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Have been to Hong Kong and Macau on two prior occasions, and visited Shanghai and Taipei previously, yet never in any of those instances was there the opportunity to sit down and enjoy the glory that is Peking Duck. On this most recent occasion, it was a priority to sit down and enjoy the ever-revered dish. And, contrary to popular belief, this is a much different entrée than the typical roasted ducks everybody sees hanging in the windows of many Chinese restaurants – still delicious, but Peking Duck is an entirely different beast.

It was on the day of arrival in Hong Kong that the dinner was already planned. Flew into Hong Kong International Airport aboard Cathay Pacific around 3:00 p.m. and made a beeline for the train heading downtown.

Staying in the Tin Hau district, it was a quick ride on the Hong Kong MTR to Central Station and, even before heading above ground, there it was – Peking Garden in Alexandra House, a one-Michelin star establishment.

Even though reservations are required, arrived a bit before the dinner crowd and was asked if it was possible to finish the meal before 6:30 p.m., it was around 5:15 p.m. – said it can be done and was seated right away.

Immediately, was served tea from a very ornate tea set and snacks of pickled vegetables and bean curd; opened the menu and dug around for the Peking Duck.

Putting in the order, the duck came out very quickly – assuming the place expects nearly every table to order at least one – and it was marvelous. The first server came and asked if there were a preference to separate the skin or not, went with keeping skin and meat together, he then left to carve the duck on the other side of the room. Another server arrived with plates of vegetables, sweet sauce, and steamed rice pancakes.

The duck spread across two gorgeous plates.

Before anything, had to try one piece on its own, to savor the dish that everybody and their mother raves about, and it was magnificent. Juicy and flavorful meat and crispy skin, a travel show on Korean network TVN called the taste unforgettable, it’s also indescribable. Started putting together little rolls of the duck and all the add-ons wrapped in the rice pancakes and it was nothing short of heavenly.

Doubt there will ever be another trip to Hong Kong without at least one night sitting down to a plate of sumptuous Peking Duck.

Peking Garden has several restaurants across Hong Kong, the Central location is in the basement of Alexandra House, at exit H of the Central MTR station.

Peking Garden has several restaurants across Hong Kong, the Central location is in the basement of Alexandra House, at exit H of the Central MTR station.