Christmas Eve.

Spent Christmas eve and part of Christmas day in Hong Kong. I shall just let the pictures do the talking, most of it anyway, because I am lazy to write. 🙂

Met the cousin early for local breakfast near his apartment. This is the Hong Kong milk tea, which I find is so much nicer than what we have locally, i.e. teh-c.

The standard breakfast fare, to me at least – soupy instant noodles topped with some ingredients like pork / chicken chop, sausages, eggs, or the likes. Or maybe everything! Order a noodle and add-on the other stuff you fancy, sunny-side up, sausages…
Yummy.
Problem with Hong Kong’s local cafes is that they don’t usually do bread the way I like it. Mostly, when I order a sandwich or toast, it is just 2 slices of plain white bread that is of the soft variety, totally not how I like my bread to be. Even when this is toasted, at an additional charge (!), it still doesn’t cut anywhere close. The smooth, creamy scrambled eggs help to make it a bit better though, but then the processed meat in the form of ham probably isn’t too great an idea.
After we had the milk tea and the breakfast, we still went for the next round of caffeine at a hole-in-the-wall cafe near Jaffe Street.  After parting with my cousin, I went to meet my friend and we decided to check out this soft-serve that was highly-recommended by the cousin. I really love this, because the matcha flavour was very distinctive and strong! And best of all is that it doesn’t feel like it’s too sweet. They have a few outlets, but we went to the one at Fashion Walk. There’s one in the basement food hall of SOGO at Causeway Bay too and if I’m not wrong, near City Super in Harbour City in TST.
Went to meet another friend thereafter, who halted her gym-time to accompany me for the Christmas eve afternoon. We popped into a random cafe where she decided to have lunch, and I ordered a salad which was a total disappointment. Where’s the ‘salad’? This looks more like dessert than salad.  It’s actually a few slices of apple cooked in some sauce I presume, topped with egg mayo and a sprinkling of some powder (don’t ask me what because I forgot), plus 2 sticks of buttered toast, very lightly-toasted might I add. I was then busy scraping away the egg yolk and mayo obviously, and left it in a mess.
After the decidedly-unsatisfying meal (for me at least), we proceeded to Lee Gardens’ Starbucks, which was also very crowded despite that the mall was almost devoid of other customers. Either everyone is out and about in their last minute rush for Christmas gifts, or this mall is just too high-classed to see many patrons. We dropped by the supermarket at Hysan Place first though, to get ourselves a pot of yogurt each to go with our coffee (my third caffeine for the day). Love the variety that is available overseas but again, I’d think this is from the vantage point of being a foreigner and seeing things with a fresh pair of eyes.  Last year, when I met my friend in Hong Kong, we ordered the Christmas orange cranberry loaf cake/bread and since they have it this year again, we ordered it again! We enjoyed this because it’s more bread than cake, meaning it’s a bit drier and crumblier,and not so oily to boot. Wished they had this on our local menu too but so far, it has only made an appearance in 2014.
Headed back for a short run at the gym thereafter, before heading out for Christmas eve dinner. We settled in at an Italian eatery in SOHO, which somehow felt like we were obligated to dine at, because the host-cum-owner was rather pushy and we felt bad walking away after reading the menu. It was probably a wrong choice, because we ended up not ordering the huge Christmas meal that came with 6 courses per person (at quite a reasonable price actually). We didn’t think we could have finished all that food so we opted for a-la-carte, which to them meant ‘budget menu’, and we were being treated as ‘budget customers’. They changed the table setting, removing the napkin and replacing it with a paper serviette!? It wasn’t even like the eatery was some fine-dining place because each table was within an elbow’s width away, even if you are paying for the so-called Christmas set menu. Bleah. What a big downer.

The food was pretty decent though, to be fair to them. It’s just that service sucks, or rather it’s dependent on how much you pay for your food.
  After dinner, we took a short walk to PMQ, where most shops were already packing up. But they had pretty interesting Christmas decor, including a holographic Christmas tree instead of a real physical tree.
  And finished off the evening with dessert near our hotel, sweet soup with lotus seeds! 🙂

cafés… western-styled, local-styled 

Generally, businesses in Hong Kong seem to enjoy a slightly longer lifespan as compared to Singapore. Or maybe it just boils down to them having a better head for business? Cafes and F&B establishments here open and close fairly quickly, but somehow I noticed that in Hong Kong, cafes seem to be enjoying business brisk enough to open more outlets. Perhaps these are only the rare ones that we see, and that there could be much more that are closing which we are not aware of. Anyhow, it was only on this trip when I realised that the Cupping Room, a cafe that I had visited in the Sheung Wan area a couple of times before, had opened new outlets; there is one that is conveniently located along Wellington Street near to the mid-level escalators, and another which is nearer to the Wan Chai area.

I popped into the double-leveled Central outlet one morning for a cuppa while my friend was still sleeping. It was a nice, cool morning, and what’s a cup of Joe without something sweet to balance out the acidity that caffeine brings? So I ordered a banana bread, something I had always wanted to try, instead of going for their breakfast mains, though I was really tempted. The banana bread, more like a loaf cake, wasn’t too bad but again most of them taste generally the same. However, I did enjoy the sojourn, sitting there slowly sipping coffee and taking bites of the bread, while catching up on some reading.

When that was done, I made use of the connecting overhead walkways to IFC Mall, to do a spot of sale shopping at Zara, while waiting for my friend to contact me.

We finally met up at Lan Fong Yuen, which I had read about online and wanted to try their milk tea/coffee and bread. It’s really a non-descript hole-in-the-wall shop that was so cramped on seating that you are literally sitting elbow-to-elbow with other patrons, while trying to keep your butt on the mini stool. I can’t imagine how it must feel like in the summer heat, squeezed in that little space amidst so many patrons. So anyway, we decided to order the 鸳鸯, as my friend didn’t really enjoy the one we had at Tsui Wah, though I felt it was fairly OK, but then again I seldom drink that so I don’t know how it’s supposed to taste like.

For food, we opted for a stir-fried instant noodles with chicken and spring onion oil, as well as the toasted bun with condensed milk.
I think the yuan-yang here was a little disappointing for me because it felt just like a milk tea, without a single hint of coffee. Is that how it’s supposed to taste like, or had the coffee I took at the Cupping Room in the morning seasoned my tongue to the extent that I couldn’t detect the trace of coffee in this mix? The noodles were a winner for me. Despite that it’s a little oily, the fragrance from the spring onion oil made them so tasty! I should learn how to make noodles like that, though it isn’t so healthy to be eating instant mee, even if we are not dumping in that sinful pack of MSG-laden powder. Let’s take a closer look at the plate of heavenly goodness.  Then came the fall. The condensed milk bun… was just sad. For me. I admit that I am not a big fan of white breads, in most forms anyway, but the Tsui Wah bun, and another that I had tried at an open-air local coffee joint somewhere in the alleys of SOHO, were pretty decent and enjoyable. Somehow, this was a complete letdown. It’s like the bun wasn’t well-toasted enough, even if they had more condensed milk smeared on it than Tsui Wah.
Or maybe it could just be that a different type of bun or bread was used? So my conclusion was that, take online reviews with a pinch of salt, even if there are many positive reviews, because we all have different tastes, and also because sometimes reviewers just have not tried enough places to know which are the really good ones.As it was winter solstice, we proceeded to Cong Sau at Causeway Bay to have our 汤圆!  We also ordered the almond paste (or I think that’s what the other bowl was since it’s white haha), and I really like the tang yuan, because of its size. Even though there were 6 pieces which meant that we had to take 3 each, one ball was just a mouthful or two, and it contained black sesame, my favourite! Peanut would have been a good second choice but oh well, both are great. What I also liked about it was the soup base used, which is cooked in ginger, giving you a feeling of warmth as the spiciness of the ginger spreads through you on this cold day. Is it because it’s winter solstice that it feels colder that day? Because the next couple of days felt warmer, with one day even having temperatures that felt like what we typically have in Singapore, for December in Hong Kong – that is just an anomaly.
Since we were at Causeway Bay, we decided to just hang around the area and checked out Hysan Place, where we spent a long time browsing books and stuff at Eslite Bookstore that spanned several levels of the mall. They have pretty interesting reads stocked that I would have thought of buying, but they would just accumulate into clutter for me, even if I personally prefer physical books to e-books. I haven’t been reading much these recent years, which I think I resume reading, but because I was preparing to move, I decided not to get anymore stuff that would require me to transport them from the old to the new home.

After a while, it was feeding time again. Initially, we thought of having a tea/coffee break, so we were kind of looking around for tea-time sets, like coffee/tea with a slice of cake or something. But after some time, we thought that we should just have an early dinner instead, so we checked out this Japanese bistro. Perhaps it was a weekday night, so the place was quite empty, it almost felt like we had the whole restaurant to ourselves. Both of us took the set menu, which came with a small portion of salad and a mushroom soup as appetisers.These were our mains. My friend’s hamburg steak and my teriyaki grilled chicken. They were too generous with the sauce as you can probably see, and the fries were an indulgence for me. 🙂
Close-up of the mains.  
And that concludes the 冬至 day of feasting. Happy ‘belated’ winter solstice!

Christmas in Hong Kong

It isn’t the first time I’m taking a vacation in Hong Kong during the Christmas season, or for that matter, somewhere overseas. But maybe it is the simple knowledge of being on holiday that somehow injects a stronger Christmas vibe within me. At least I kind of felt the Christmas festivities more when I was in Hong Kong, which could be due partly to the fact that it was a temporary reprieve for me from the hustle of the renovation works.

Was it last year when I  visited Hong Kong, in early December, that I also saw similar Christmas decorations in SoHo?This year, Star Wars fever has struck everywhere, from Changi Airport replete with figurines and what-not, and also at Times Square in Causeway Bay, which held an exhibition of sorts of these pretty much life-sized mascots!
The Storm Troopers, up close.  The main reason why we were at Causeway Bay that very first day we landed in Hong Kong, was of course to have dinner! I brought my friend to the Matchbox Cafe, also known as Xi Xi. Last year, my friend brought me here and I so loved what I had that I had to return. Unfortunately, they again had run out of the char siew that I liked. It’s weird, I know, to go to a ‘cha-chan-teng’ for char siew, but cooked together with the CQYD noodles, it makes for really amazing comfort food.

However, even without the char siew, we went ahead to order. Their scrambled eggs and toast smeared with butter are also great, because the eggs are so creamy and flavourful and the toast reminded me somewhat of brioche. My friend had the lemon cola which she said was good, and for the trip, she commented that was the best lemon cola she had!
Closer look at the smooth scrambled eggs that also had strips of ham tossed into the mix. Just thinking of it makes me salivate. Haha.  And this was the bowl of noodles that I ordered! CQYD instant noodles with egg (yes, more eggs!) and a stalk of chye sim. I cannot remember if there were other stuff inside, but it was a serious overdose of eggs for me that night! Check out the super retro pair of small scissors that came with my order. Presumably, it’s for cutting the pack of sesame oil that gives CQYD noodles that familiar and addictive flavour. But it could also be for cutting the noodles so that they are more manageable? I don’t suppose it would be the latter, this being Hong Kong and most people should be quite adept with chop sticks!