Bitter Sweet Trip to the East: Part One

After more than 12 years on hiatus, I finally built up the courage to book the ticket back to the land of the Sleeping Giant. Actually, being brave was not it, I have to go back to China for two sad reasons:

  1. Go to Hong Kong to attend the funeral of my youngest aunt, who was a great human being, but unfortunately had just lost her battle against Lung cancer.
  2. Got back to Tianjin, my hometown, to see my dear grandmother. She, at the age of 96, is the last remaining grandparents of mine.  Her health has been deteriorating quickly within that last year.

One may ask me why I have not been back sooner. Oh, there are many reasons – some are good reasons, but others are not. To not turning my blog of fun and enjoyment into a psychoanalysis one, I will only say one thing – my brilliant cowardness had play a big part in convincing myself that it is always easier to move forward if don’t ever look back.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

My aunt’s funeral turned out to be one of the most elegant that I have ever attended. It was fulfilled with fresh white roses, fresh flowers sympathy bouquets, a hall full of people who came to pay respect to her, and most importantly, the loves from her two sons and from all of us.

Because of this funeral, I also have the opportunity to reunite with many of my cousins from my father’s side, whom I haven’t seen for many years.  It was quite interesting to discover that all my cousins turned into foodies, just like me – What’s a surprise!  Every time we went out to eat, we would take turns at the banquet table to take food pictures (quite a funny scene to say the least).

Yummy Dim Sum

As one may already know, everything Chinese do revolving around food. Therefore during this stay in Hong Kong, me and my cousins found enough reasons to explore the famous Hong Kong culinary scenery for both commemoration and celebration. I am happy to report back that Hong Kong deserves her reputation as one of the Culinary Heaven on earth.

I was lucky enough (thanks to my Hong Kong Cousins) to have the opportunity of visiting one of the awesomeness-packed area called Tuen Mun Shing State (屯門三聖村). This area is famous for its Dai Pai Dong (大牌檔) style Cantonese seafood, and are mostly frequented only by the locals. The Tuen Mun Shing State Dai Pai Dong is not a place for up-scale fine-dining experience but a rather unique one, especially if you are into eating fresh and diverse selection of seafood at a more affordable price point.

Hong Kong

To complete this experience, first, you need to hand-pick the main ingredient by shopping among 15+ seafood market stalls that full of fresh and lively fishes, shrimps, lobsters, crabs, and many other type of not known to me crustacean.

Picking Seafood from the market
Live crab
Beautiful Scarlet Shrimp
Second, you will go across the street to have one of the food stalls (many of them are quite large) to have them preparing those goodies you have just picked up. It won’t hurt to add an order of those heavenly Cantonese-style roasted goose or duck (huh, actually, you may need to call ahead to get those ordered and prepared).

Roasted Goose

Finally, the best part of course, you will sit down with your family around the table at the Dai Pai Dong to share and enjoy each of the those freshly prepared dishes as they come. If you like, you can also continue to commemorate or celebrate whatever the reason you come here for.

Eating with family

 

More Pictures on Flickr!!!

 

The Spanish-Dream is forming!

Although reluctant, my 2 weeks long visit to the 3 great cities in northern Spain - Madrid, San Sebastian and Barcelona – has finally drawn its conclusion. The verdict is? It was awesome!

The only negative outcome came out of this trip, oh, other than the burning a big hole in my wallet one,  is that this new experience has started to put my American-Dream in question, and to make me wonder why shouldn’t I start a Spanish-Dream? Second thought, I knew why: no habla espanol; and Spain’s near 25% unemployment rate.

Seriously though, there is absolutely no excuse  to eat bad in Spain even if one were on a tight budget. I have never had so many awesomely delicious food and great quality wine with the price tag ranges only between £1.5 to £5 per order. On top of that, if you were in Madrid, you don’t even have to order food to feed yourself in many of those tapas bars, at least those we visited on Calle Cava Baja and Calle Jesus. Usually, each drink you ordered comes with a complimentary small appetizer (various from Potato chips, fries, bread, cured sausages, small open-face sandwich,  to cheese).  The caveat  is that if you order a tapas along with your drink, then the free appetizer may longer come to you. Therefore, if you are a hungry man, always ordering your drink first (Thanks to the tip provided by Rick Steve’s guidebook). Maybe because the culture differences among Spanish, Catalan and Basques,  it was much harder to find a bar that is practicing this old Andalusian tradition in Barcelona and San Sebastian.

The most tapas fun we had on this trip was in San Sebastian. However, we did face quite a  bitter-sweet challenge while pinxtos bars hoping there. Because those mouth-watering Basques pinxtos plates were all laid on the counter right in front of the customers, it was very difficult to not over-ordering food.  Believe me, 3 of those small pinxtos could fill you up fast. Fortunately, we got some helps. According to those travel experts’ suggestion on tapas bar crawling the local way (making the best out of each bar ‘s offering), one must practice discipline of self-control – sticking to 1 order with 1 drink per bar, and then moving on to the next one.  It was a lot of fun!

This trip was my very first visit to Europe. Some may wonder why Spain, what about France and Italia? As a Foodie and a Wino with proven track records to demonstrate my eating and wine-sipping addictions,  I have to say Spain was the no-brainier choice because it is the best foodie destination, and a culinary powerhouse of Europe.  According to, not  me, but the Restaurant magazine, 3 out of the top ten restaurants of the 2013 in the world are from Spain (sorry France and Italy)1. And guess what? San Sebastian, a city’s population is less than 2 size bigger than the City of Denton, owns 2  of those top restaurants: Mugaritz (No.4) and Arzak (No.8).  Yeah, Yeah, those are all subjective opinions, and I admit I am one of those nuts that always believe in Anthony Bourndin’s unreserved opinion. Nevertheless, San Sebastian is an awesome place for foodies like me, period.

Top three memories of this trip:

3. The experience of eating the fresh, massive and heavenly Carabinero Prawns)

2. The mind-provoking visit to the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid for its Salvador Dali’s special exhibition, Dali: All of the poetic suggestions and all of the plastic possibilities.

1. Tapas bar hoping in Spain

More Roses!!!

Portland trip was fruitful! For real, the entire city is a botanical garden. Although during my visit (about a week long), it rained everyday and night. On the last day of my stay, and just when I was about to give up on the idea to visit the Rose Garden, the Sun came out (briefly). So I hopped on the excellent Portland Max Light Train, and 2o mins later, I was in front of the Washington Park. High five to myself :)

Thank you the Portland Rose Garden for helping me enrich my rose garden photo collection!

Go local item 1- Cardo’s Farm Project Devil Eggs

  • 12 medium eggs
  • 2 egg yolks for homemade mayo
  • Country mustard
  • Santa Barbara Olives Co. – Sliced Green Olives
  • Dills for garnish
  • Homemade cucumber pickles, finely chopped