Tastebuds

A food blog from everywhere!

Guangzhou: Quasi dinner party chez moi

Tonight, I hosted my first dinner/birthday event at my house, ever! It was my friend Kanisorn’s birthday, so somehow we came to an agreement by designating my home as the place to congregate. I didn’t mind, except that I had to spend so much time scrubbing down the kitchen these past few days! Actually it was supposed to be more like a potluck but I ended up cooking most of the dishes. Not that I complained, of course, since I would naturally hop at any opportunity to cook anyways.

Our Asian smörgåsbord on a very Chinese lazy susan table

I was really excited beforehand, thinking of and writing out everything that I’d like to cook. I really like cooking for other people, even more than I like eating…I guess like any cook, I cherish the moments when someone compliments a dish that I’d made. But I think that tonight, I overstretched a bit and tried to do too many things, leading to some rather unspectacular results. I imagined the shrimp with salted yolk pumpkin sauce, for instance, much more stellar than it actually turned out. And the braised pork stew wasn’t too interesting either. Oh wells, learn from my mistakes I guess.

Here are the dishes that I made:

Prawns with salted egg yolk pumpkin sauce; the sauce had too much pumpkin inside, hiding the chalky yolk flavour. The pumpkin slices, sadly, I didn't roast them long enough! =(

3 Cups Chicken! This turned out really well; nice and crispy chicken with a sweet, smoky flavour.

Baked scallion rolls. These turned out really well as a typical Chinese bread; soft and buttery and slightly sweet.

I don’t have individual photos, but I also made a pork stew (which, as mentioned, wasn’t that popular and lacked a little something), bacon + cream cheese + apple canapes following this recipe (turned out all right, nothing super interesting), and just plain grilled shrimp (which I didn’t find special at all but everyone else seem to enjoy). But then again, with dinner gatherings like these it’s always more than just the food; it’s really the company that makes the night. After dinner I dragged everyone into playing taboo and I think we all had great laughs and an awesome time!

And lastly, here are some of the dishes that my friends made!

A roasted chicken dish that my friend Rena brought!

Stir-fried greens that Rena and Wing made; turned out pretty well!

Thanks everyone, for a wonderful evening!

OH! And on a completely differently note, I’ve decided on a name change for the blog. Instead of the previous mouthful of a name, I’m going to go with something shorter, Tastebuds. And it’s less embarrassing.

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July 25, 2011 Posted by | Guangzhou, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thoughts about food blogs

Today, I’m deciding to take a break and reflect a bit about food blogs and why I’m bothered joining the fray.

This evening I watch some show from a random pirated Chinese DVD about food bloggers. They went around and interviewed some of the most well-known names in food-blog cyberspace, including David Lebovitz, Chez Pim, and Cha Xiu Bao. Apart from it being interesting giving voices to these names and faces that I’ve seen for so long, it also got me thinking about how much work these top-end bloggers put into this singular hobby. Taking notes, photographing, and actually analyzing the flavours and textures and combinational intricacies of their meals. And doing it all in an engaging, relate-able, humourous manner as well. As for me, I sometimes don’t really know exactly where I want to go with this blog.

I think I first started this blog as a way to grow out of the comment section on other food blogs, to voice my own ideas and to write about my own meals. Because I was living in Guangzhou at the time, there was a wealth of little-known food-related fodder to blog about. Like the breakfast culture in southern Chinese cities, vegetable markets, and sooo many more interesting things that I really never got around to sharing. But time and, more importantly, motivation became an obstacle.

I wonder often who bloggers write for, whether they write with an audience in mind. I bet the big name ones do, but for underdogs like me, well, I really don’t know. Sometimes I write for myself, just treating the blog as an opportunity to put down my experiences. Almost like a diary, really. But sometimes, though, I’m really not in the mood to write but I still feel the obligation to write, as if someone out there expects a new post and I mustn’t fail them. Most of the time, though, when that hits me I end up being lazy and reasoning that since my readership is so low, there’s no harm in skipping a couple of days. (Believe it or not, I actually planned to post at least once a week initially! Uh uh, didn’t happen AT ALL).  Then a “couple of days” turn to weeks which turn to months and then, voila, I have a near-dead blog. I actually feel pretty guilty about not writing the whole time, but the lack of readership just provides justification to laze off…

Fellow bloggers, if any of you have faced this problem before, any advice to give an underling?

Another note: One major aspect that differs between most food bloggers and myself is that I’m pretty self-conscious about my food craze. I do not go around advertising the site (partly because the name’s sorta embarrassing. “Gastronomic Adventurer”? Reminds me of…I don’t know, Star Trek or something extraterrestrial. So if anyone can think of a better title to supplant mine I’d really appreciate it), and only mention it in the slightest passing to even my closest friends. I think it’s partly because I’m pretty aware of the negative view that some people have of food bloggers as people who go out to criticize without having any credentials. I’ve met people who view this very strongly, and it intimidates me. As a person I hate being on the wrong side of the line, and so I keep low with my blogging to avoid “playing with fire.”

As for foodblog-haters, I do see what they mean. I mean, bloggers aren’t like restaurant critics who I guess actually know what they are doing. But then again, eating is all about personal taste, and nobody needs prerequisites to express their preferences. I think that as long as bloggers don’t go around haranguing others to match with their preferences or diss people for their choices, there’s nothing wrong with blogging. And that’s the only wimpy argument that I’m offering to justify myself. =)

So why am I getting all deep and reflective all of a sudden? Just to figure things out, I guess. I remember the one blog that really influenced me to start my own was Robyn’s The Girl Who Ate Everything. I just love love love Robyn’s humourous style, and her entertaining rants about food. And especially in the earlier entries, you can sense that despite the humourous gloss that she drizzled over her words the things she wrote about were pretty…heartfelt. And for me, relate-able as well. Yeah, someday I really need to send Robyn a note congratulating her on her awesome blog, although I bet she gets loads of fanmail that I’ll just be one more on the pile.

July 23, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Back in Guangzhou!

Just a small note: after almost a year away, I’ve made it back to Guangzhou! It’s so nice to be home again, in the place where it all started, even though the stormy muggy weather and the pushy crowds did not welcome me all that warmly. Still, that’s all part of the experience, isn’t it?

Now that I’m back, I can’t wait to start filling up on good Chinese food again. A year of deprivation is simply too long. Today, at the Jusco near the train station, I got so excited coming across this:

A mountain of durians!!!

What a beautiful sight =D

Anyways, I’ll try and wrap up my Europe adventures in a few more posts and start feasting on GZ.

July 15, 2011 Posted by | Guangzhou, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lyon: Fraises des bois

After reading David Lebovitz’s (who has a wonderful blog, btw, and pretty foodproof recipes!) post on fraises des bois a few weeks ago while still in Lyon, I decided that I had to get some for myself when I saw them at the St. Antoine market. I have had these little miniature strawberries before; while staying in the Annecy area, we sometimes came across them while hiking in the mountains. But they were rare on the often-trekked hiking trails, so one had to wander off the beaten path to find them (and in fact, once I got lost in the woods chasing after these elusive red fruits!).

Box of wild strawberries

But a whole box of fraises des bois may have been…too much of a good thing? When bumping across them in the wilderness, a surge of excitement and self-satisfaction accompanies their consumption, but when they’re already all boxed up, that aspect is lost. Fraises aux bois are more tart than typical strawberries and sometimes even bitter, and the roughness of the surface seeds adds an extra dimension to them. Truth be told I think I prefer steroided strawberries, which are sweeter and has more traditional strawberry flavour. Or maybe I just don’t have selective enough a palate to enjoy them.

July 14, 2011 Posted by | Lyon, Travels, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cheese Factory Visit in Thônes

A few weeks ago, my community health class took a field trip to a fromagerie in Thônes, a city near Annecy in the Savoie region. The full name of the establishment is Cooperative du Reblochon de Thônes, or the Reblochon Cooperative of Thônes, and it’s usually referred to as Le Farto. It’s called a cooperative because it’s where several nearby farmers sell their milk and cheeses for cheese-making and aging. Apparently it’s one of the largest cooperatives in the region and stores & restaurants all around source their cheeses from here.

Upon arriving, the first thing we noticed was the milk vending machine outside! How often does one come across 24-hr fresh milk?

Milk vending machine!

After lots of ohhing and ahhing, we made our way into the building. Actually, the Cooperative looks a lot like any cheese shop upfront. They have lots of (of course) cheeses lined up, in addition to other dairy-related items and non-dairy related foodstuffs such as saucissons, jams and preserves, and candies.

Confections and sweets

Hanging saucissons! They have interesting names according to their shapes (e.g. ibex horns & bottoms)

Cheeses!

Because we had signed up for a tour, we were lead to an adjacent section of the shop where glass windows allowed us to peer into the cheese-making activity that take place downstairs at the Coop everyday.

Centrifuge of cheese curds!

Cheese-making instruments

Separated curds

The lady/tour guide gave us a speel about the cheese-making process (in French) and how the Coop works. After a film showing the farms where the milk is produced, we were led downstairs to see the caves for cheese aging.

One of the aging rooms

The smell down there was from quite a different world, to say the least, and as you can see from the photos it was quite damp. Not the most pleasant place to hang around, but interesting for sure. The cheeses are arranged according to their type and age.

Stacks of cheesy goodness. I think these are tomme but I'm not sure

Cheese wheels on crates

The Coop makes and ages reblochon and tomme de Savoie and stores/ages several other types of cheese, including comte, emmantel, and other types of tomme for sale. After our basement visit we headed back upstairs and they handed out reblochon and tomme de Savoie samples. The tomme had a salty, nutty favour and the reblochon was soft and mild. I can’t say that I was crazy about either of the cheeses just as a matter of personal taste, but I can definitely understand where their virtues stand.

Tomme de Savoie cubes

Reblochon

One interesting thing to note about reblochon is the derivation of its name. Apparently, in times long pass, farmers had to pay their lords taxes in the form of milk. Wanting to keep some milk for themselves, these Savoyard farmers would purposely only partially milk their cows and pay that milk as tax. Afterwards, they would remilk, reblocher, their cattle and the cheese from that milk is thus called reblochon. Curious!

Afterwards some of us did some food purchasing and then we headed out to again marvel at the milk vending machine. Lots of students actually got some fresh milk and I had a taste of it as well. It wasn’t anything exceedingly special, just whole milk, creamy and cool. I can’t really taste the rawness, whatever that tastes like. Someday I’ll have to consume raw and pasteurized milk side by side to figure out first hand what all the fuss is about.

Another thing that I wonder about is cheese rinds. Do people eat them? I usually do for soft cheeses but is it ever unrecommended? Especially for those moldy rinded cheeses?

Confections and sweets

June 27, 2011 Posted by | Lake Annecy, Travels, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Chinese Breakfasts

Well, I think that I’ve used the school-work excuse way too many times now that it’s probably becoming apparent that the lack of updates is more due to my personal laziness and affinity for procrastination than uncontrollable academic factors. The good thing (for me) though, is that since this is my blog, everyone has to put up with it! =P

So, I would like to break this month-long hiatus with a post about breakfast. Typical breakfasts in of a common Guangzhou-er, to be exact, and which, contrary to prevailing beliefs in the West, does not consist solely of dainty dim sum items everyday. In fact, I think that the real, authentic early weekday morning food culture here is something that’s severely under-appreciated and over-looked by outsiders.

During the weekdays, breakfast is a very quick, on-the-go affair for most people. Walk into any Chinese city on a busy weekday morning and you’re bound to see loads of people hurrying along holding some form of bread-based product in one hand and a soy or milk drink in the other. People here usually buy breakfast rather than take the hassle to cook something at home. Only in the weekends do most people go out for dim sum (which is more brunch than breakfast).

Breakfast is sold everywhere. There are restaurants that set up steaming stations at their fronts, small food stalls that specialize on breakfast foods, and green food carts that only appear during the breakfast hours and disappear thereafter. These vendors all carter to the fast-paced Guangzhou life by being fast and strategically stationed (those food carts, for instance, are always found at major intersections).

So what sort of breakfast fare is typically available? I think that by far the most popular are Chinese baked breads. You know, the pineapple bun, red bean bun, pork floss bun…that sort of stuff. In my opinion, though, these breads shouldn’t be styled “Western” because they are in a whole category of their own. They all have that same characteristic soft, spongy texture, lack texture variable, and have pretty much the same sweet taste with some extra ingredients thrown in. They’re nice once in a while, but I find that they get boring pretty quickly.

Even though those Western-style Chinese breads are pretty popular, those items are usually only available from bakeries or those green food carts. Restaurants and food stalls, on the other hand, sell more Chinese items such as steamed buns, youtiao, congee, and Northern-style panfried breads. These items are on average a lot cheaper than those “Western” styled breads and thus they consist of a large bulk of a workman’s diet. I find that these Chinese items have more variety and are a lot more interesting than those pineapple buns. Take the steamer stalls, for instance, which sell not only white steamed buns but also glutinuous rice siu mai, corn on a cob, fried Chinese dough sticks, congee, tea eggs, soy bean milk, etc. And these items are all extremely cheap as well, with each costing about 1-2RMB. Although the quality may not be on par with fluffy + sugary restaurant steamed buns, the cheapness still equals bang for buck.

Sorry for the lack of good photos in this post; I’m always a little edgy about taking photos of random things.

Next up:
Hopefully I’ll eventually come back to those unfinished Singapore posts

February 21, 2010 Posted by | Breakfast, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pegro at the Westin

Pegro at the Westin
Address: 44th floor of the Westin Hotel
Website: http://www.starwoodhotels.com/westin/property/dining/index.html?propertyID=1706

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Today we had lunch at a very unusual venue: 40 floors above the city! Well, we were grocery shopping at the mall underneath the train station and decided to head to the Westin for lunch. As soon as I saw that there’s a restaurant so high up, I demanded that we must check it out.

Pegro does have a pretty decent view of Tianhe, if you factor out the smog. Too bad today was so smoggy…well, most days in Guangzhou are smoggy, especially when the weather is warm. I bet the view is nicer at night, though, when TianHe turns into a panorama of lights.

The restaurant’s decor is pretty nice. Wow, I sure have really vague descriptions when it comes to anything non-food…You know what, since I don’t care much about decor, you should just judge for yourselves from the pic above.

Oh, and the waitresses had very casual uniforms…overly casual for this type of restaurant…

Anyways, enough said, onto the food!

Well, first of all, Pegro, even though it is listed as an Italian restaurant, serves an international buffet lunch for some reason. I was a little dismayed since buffets are usually known for their quantity over quality approach to food. Some high-end buffets in Guangzhou are exceptional, such as the one at White Swan Hotel, but they all have their hits and misses.

First I went for the cold appetizers. The grilled tuna was pretty decent. It had that nice, rare sheen. The jelly ladeled on top was interesting; it was slightly spicy. That, plus the juicy fish eggs, added a unique flavour and texture to the tuna.

The mango salad with sliced beef wasn’t that interesting. The beef was nice and thin but lacked flavour. The mango salad also lacked flavour. Yeah, uninteresting.

The bruschetta was pretty good. The tomato topping was flavourful but the bread underneath has definitely suffered from sitting under the lamp for too long; the olive oil and juices from the topping has made it a bit soggy.

Next to the bruschetta sits the green bean salad with quail eggs and dijon mustard. Not too interesting, though the dijon mustard did jazz up the otherwise mediocre mayo-based dressing.

Of course, and I also got sashimi! Pegro, unlike most other buffets, has a self-serve sashimi platter where you can take as much as you like. Awesome! However, the quality of the fish wasn’t that good. Too many tendons in everything but the salmon. ANd the octopus was too tough. Oh well.

Sorry, my cold appetizers are over yet. To sum up the first stage of the meal I got two freshly-opened oysters! They were fresh and tasted like how oysters should taste.

Ok, onto hot foods. The roasted pumpkin would have been good had it been warm, but alas, it was practically at room temperature. The Yorkshire pudding (I think that’s what that was…not sure…it was eggy and savoury) also suffered the same ailments. The roast beef was better, but too stringy in the well-cooked outter layer.

ABove is the random hot foods plate: clockwise from top right, we have a cheese and spinach baked oyster, rice ball, meat puff, and chicken tikka. The oyster was seriously lacking in flavour; one would expect anything with cheese to be pretty flavourful but NOO, this was not so. Don’t bother trying it out. The rice ball was all right, but it wasn’t as hot as fried foods should be. Take a look at the rice ball innards!!

Right. Back to the rest of the items on the random hot foods plate: the meat puff was pretty good. Well, actually, it didn’t have enough stuffing, and I couldn’t quite make out what the stuffing was (I think it was pork floss or something), but the pastry was very well executed. Very flaky with numberous identifiable layers…yum. Oh, but the chicken tikka, don’t even bother looking at it. It was the most bland, dry, and boring piece of chicken ever.

Wow, this has been a lot of food…I actually had a plate of vegetables that I forgot to take a picture of but they were nothing amazing. There was this mixed vegetable dish with egg yolks that was nice but the other stuff was just mediocre.

For my pre-dessert course I had cheese and bread. I love cheese, but one can not get good cheese conveniently in Guangzhou. The cheese selection here was pretty unique; instead of sticking to the boring cheddar, cream cheese, and brie combination found elsewhere, Prego had three strange cheeses that I did not know the names of! However, I only liked the soft cheese…the hard ones had really strong, sharp flavours that I’m not too fond of. Yeah, I guess I’m not much of a cheese connoisseur.

Oh, and you see a piece of salami there. I don’t like salami much so I shouldn’t comment.

Prego also has a nice selection of bread, but I only tried out the baguette and the grainy dinner roll. The baguette was too dry, probably as a result of sitting around for too long, and the dinner roll was too Chinese-bready (AKA sweet and soft and spongy). Alas, no good bread here…

All right, finally, after all that, came the most important part of the meal: dessert! I actually tried out almost every dessert that they had on offer cause I have no self-control. Haha.

The chocolate mousse was rather boring. Too monotonous in texture, and not chocolatey enough.

The chocolate mousse cake was nice though; pretty chocolatey. The cherry was unnecessary.

Walnut brownie with buttercream= The buttercream frosting was good: not too sweet and not over-powering. However, the brownie wasn’t good: overly dry.

Apricot tart: very nice. The apricot had a nice tartness that actually complimented the sweet crust quite well. And underneath there was this nice gooey layer of custard. Awesome textural contrast.

The creme brulee, on the onset, was highly disappointing, as you can see by its LACK of a caramelized crust.

Despite that great flaw, however, the custard underneath was awesome. Very creamy and not overly sweet.

I found that I liked the coffee cheesecake quite a lot since it wasn’t too strong. Yeah, I don’t like super pugnent foods.

However, although I don’t like the overly strong stuff, neither do I enjoy the overly weak stuff, and this mango cream thing fell into that category. I really don’t know the actual name of this concoction but it tasted like a dense whipped cream dome surrounded by mangoes. And the cream had absolutely no flavour.

All right, my last photo: walnut pie! It was awesome. Last time I tried to bake walnut pie all the nuts floated too the top of the pie, leaving the layer beneath a mass of corn syrup goo. Here somehow they managed to get the walnuts to disperse throughout the filling so that the layers weren’t so separated. Tasted awesome.

Wow, that was one long entry. Yeah, it was a long meal. Actually, I didn’t walk out TOOO full cause I did not finish all the stuff on my plates. I guess that’s the best way to enjoy buffets: take little bites of everything and only finish the stuff that I really enjoy. Pegro’s buffet was, well, average. There were hits and misses, as with most buffets out there. However, it’s not everyday that one gets to eat 40 stories up so if you’re ever in the area and are looking for a splurge, this may be the place to go!

November 30, 2009 Posted by | Guangzhou, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Another trip to Hong Kong

So this weekend my dad and I took another random trip down to Hong Kong. Yay! Well actually the reason was because my dad needed to renew his visa but me, I’ll look for any excuse to go to Hong Kong. Really I think Hong Kong is one of the greatest cities in the world and I would absolutely LOVE to live there one day. It’ll either be Hong Kong or New York.

Anyways. As we all know, any trip to Hong Kong requires splurging, and this one was no different. As soon as we got out of the train station I went over to a bakery and got an egg tart and a bbq pork triangle.

The egg tart (which was, btw, very fresh and still warm from the oven) was of the uncaramelized variety, the type that I don’t quite like as much. I find these type of egg tarts to be too monotonous in texture…the whole thing is just…soft and filmsy. Of course they taste just fine but I find that they lack textural variation.

The bbq pork triangle was also pretty decent. The filling was saucy and sweet without being overly so. However, one common trait about all char siu bakery items that really bothers me is the presence of fat chunks in the filling. The pork meat tastes great but the chunks of gooey pork fat are quite off-putting…do people actually eat them???

After that little snack we went off to go book browsing. Yep, in this side of the world Hong Kong is practically the only place where I can stock up on English books.

After book shopping we decided to have lunch at one of the innumerable Japanese restaurants that can be found in just about every crack and cranny in Hong Kong. In Tsim Sha Tsui, at least, one can locate a Japanese eatery in just about any random direction. Assailed with so many different choices we haphazardly settled on Sushi One Plus.

As soon as we entered I knew it probably wasn’t a good choice because the place simply didn’t feel authentic. But then of course I was hungry and didn’t bother searching out some other place. So an unauthentic Japanese meal it’ll have to be!

Looking to eat light so that I’ll have room for junk later on, I ordered three small dishes. First came the fatty tuna sashimi, which was expensive but wonderful. The fish was a little cold but that didn’t detract too much from its creamy, melt-in-your-mouth taste and texture. Yummm….

The uni handroll was unglamourous. I wish they added a piece of cucumber to provide some crunch and texture contrast to the roll. The uni was also a bit too small. It tasted fine and fresh and all but I know that it can be done better.

My last order was the asparagus with caviar. The asparagus was sort of weird; it seemed like it couldn’t decide whether it should be hot or cold. However, I think that those little sprigs of asparagus matched with the plumpy caviar quite well. The flavours of both were subtle and thus complemented each other. Unfortunately the strong Japanese mayo at the bottom somewhat ruined that harmony…

My dad ordered a lunch combo and I tried some of his items. Above is the tamago, which was served steaming hot, was sweet and rather dense. I didn’t really enjoy it.

The lunch combo also came with this salmon and mango sushi, which I didn’t try but it looks like it’s got too much rice and not enough filling.

After that semi-decent Japanese cuisine experience we headed over to Harbour City to accomplish my main purpose of the day: buy MACARONS from JEAN-PAUL HEVIN! I’ll blog about that in the later post but below is a photo of the awesome hallowed macarons =)

After splurging on macarons I walked around Harbour City by myself, looking for edible interests. First I stopped at the Panash Bakery at Ocean Terminal and quite impulsively got a chocolate croissant. Unfortunately it wasn’t such a good choice. The nice shiny croissant looked promising on the outside but the inside was dry, tasteless, and paper-like. Even though it was no longer warm the chocolate was in a sauce form and not a solid block like it should be. I took two bites and threw the thing away. Bleh! >

After the failed pain au chocolat I felt in the mood for something cold so I lept at the sight of a very unusual ice cream cone in 7-11: Ovaltine ice cream =O!

Definitely not a flavour that you see around often. As you can see, the top of the cone is covered with chocolate and in the first few bites the chocolate completely obscured the ovaltine. However once the chocolate covering was gone the wheaty ovaltine flavour was unmistakable. Even though I don’t like ovaltine much I quite enjoyed this cone for it was something unique. My only complaint (a defect that affects all pre-packaged cones in warm weather) is that the cone was soggy…

Oh yeah actually a funny thing happened while I was unwrapping the ice cream. Because the weather was so warm, I was in a hurry to get my camera out and take a photo and I think in my haste I accidentally threw my camera case into the trash can along with the ice cream wrapping. Wow, I must have looked really stupid doing that…Thank god it was the case and not the camera.

Anyways, later in the afternoon I walked into Starbucks and, spotting an interesting cake flavour, couldn’t resist trying it out. The Earl Grey cake was quite mousse-like with a hazelnut base and a jelly-like topping. The Earl Grey taste was definitely present at just the right amount. The cake was pretty light and so if you like Earl Grey and light cakes, you’d definitely like this.

All right, lastly and finally I had some chocolate from Leonidas. The Palet d’Or, which had 75% or something cocoa content, consisted of a mousse-like center enrobed with dark chocolate. It was very chocolatey and slightly bitter though I found the center to be a bit dry. Overall a nice piece of chocolate.

The truffle naturel wasn’t really a conventional truffle; instead of being a dense chocolatey mass it was a ganache covered with a thin layer of chocolate and cocoa powder. It wasn’t what I expected so I can’t say much about the truffle…it was good, but it wasn’t what I wanted.

Whew! What a long post! And that, readers, is the documentation of my day of fooding in the wonderful city of Hong Kong. The end =)

November 1, 2009 Posted by | Bakery, Desserts, Hong Kong, Japanese, Miscellaneous, Restaurants, Travels, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!
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Today is the mid-autumn festival! Wow, so many celebrations clumped together this year!

So anyways, what better way to celebrate the mid-autumn festival, I thought, than to blog about mooncakes! Since today IS the actual holiday, mooncakes have started going on sale, so I’ve gone out and brought back several varieties of mooncakes from various locations to taste.

Mooncakes are traditionally eaten during the moon festival. However, these days, few people actually buy them for the sake of eating them. Mooncake quality have simply gone down or they have simply become untrendy…these days people usually only purchase mooncakes to give away as gifts. It is more of an obligation than anything else. Moreover, the received mooncakes are often thrown away rather than eaten, which is somewhat sad.

True, mooncakes aren’t a delicate type of food. They are heavy, dense, and not particularly healthy. They’re usually stuffed with only one filling, making them rather one dimensional in flavour. There are newer, less traditional types of mooncakes in the market that have interesting flavour variations, though. And of course there is now the increasingly popular snow skin mooncakes, which are less dense and supposedly healthier. Don’t know, but I’ll go give them a try.

Cantonese-Style Mooncakes

Cantonese-style mooncakes are the ones baked with a glossy crust and filled with a traditional filling such as red bean, wu ren (a seed, nut, and syrup mixture), or lotus seed paste.


Lotus-paste with egg yolk

The lotus-paste filling is probably the most popular flavour for traditional mooncakes. They’re supposedly the most expensive types. The above sample is from the Marriot Hotel, given to us by some business-friend. In the center is a part of an egg-yolk, which gives the confection a sweet-salty taste that may take some getting used to.


Errg I couldn’t figure out the flavour, but it isn’t one of the traditional ones


Wu ren flavoured mooncake

Well, the cake above isn’t really 100% traditional…the filling is traditional, the crust is traditional, but the size most certainly isn’t. This dinner-plate-sized concoction weighs 2kgs! Don’t know who can finish that…I didn’t get to try any because it was given away before I had the chance, but my dad said it tasted pretty good. Again, no elaboration.


Look at the size!

Suzhou-Style Mooncakes

Suzhou-style mooncakes, unlike the Cantonese ones that are usually found in supermarkets, have a flaky lard-based crust. However they usually have the same sort of traditional fillings. Here in Guangzhou they don’t tend to be as popular as the other varieties.


Taro + egg yolk filling

Snow Skin Mooncakes

Snow skin mooncakes are a fairly new variety that is very rapidly rising in popularity. In fact when I went looking for them this morning, they were the only variety in most stores that have not gone on sale because their inventories have already gone so low! Unlike the traditional mooncakes, the snow skin ones have less dense fillings (such as mung bean) and are wrapped in a thin layer of moochi. This type of mooncake usually requires refridgeration and they tend to de-shape easily so they aren’t as portable as the traditional variety.


Peach-flavoured


Sesame-flavoured

The ones below don’t require refrigeration so you can see that their crusts look a little baked, even though they were still labeled “ice skin mooncakes.”


Green tea flavoured


Mung bean flavoured


Corn-flavoured


Egg yolk flavoured


Flower-something flavoured


Can’t remember what flavour…

Other Untraditional Mooncakes

Come this time of the year every food-related enterprise comes up with some form of mooncake-like product to try and take advantage of the local Mid-Autumn mooncake-buying culture. Haagen-Daz serves up ice cream mooncakes, Starbucks produces coffee mooncakes, and ….

A while ago I tried one of Haagen-Daz’s ice cream mooncakes. They basically consisted of a block of Haagen-Daz ice cream moulded into a mooncake shape and covered with chocolate. They had two flavours on offer, macadamia nut or strawberry. I had the macadamia nut one, which at the centre had a little scoop of mango sorbet to imitate an egg yolk. Neat, I suppose. But really this mooncake wasn’t that spectacular. The chocolate coating was sooo hard that one needed a saw to slice through to the ice cream. Because I was eating at a Haagen-Daz restaurant, the mooncake was served on a plate and began melting quite fast. Alas, I had to gobble up everything at a higher speed than I would like and as a result I was unable to truly savour the ice cream. At a whooping 78RMB, I really don’t recommend you purchase a Haagen-Daz mooncake.


Vegetable juice flavoured

And lastly is this crustless mooncake that I found at C-Store listed as vegetable juice flavoured! Strange…

Well, hopefully you enjoyed this post! Now I have got a whole ton of mooncake to eat…

October 3, 2009 Posted by | Guangzhou, Uncategorized | | 1 Comment

Food Adventure in Tian He

All around Tian He

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Last week, after a super stressful few days, I decided that it was time unwind by…exploring and eating! So in the evening I headed out to Tian He.

My first stop was at Bread Papa’s on the 2nd floor of Grandview Mall. Bread Papa has come quite a long way; I remember getting a cream puff back when they opened their first store in Guangzhou at Grandview back in 2005 or 2006. Back then they only had one option on the menu! Now they have so many choices and they’ve opened so many stores all around China…

My feelings are quite mixed about Bread Papa. I would never rave about their cream puffs for they’re not that good, but I guess they do hit the spot it you ever get a craving for cream puffs. Bread Papa’s cream puffs are pretty big and filled right up with sweet custard-like cream. They bake their pastry right on location so it is fairly fresh. However, the one that I had had evidently been sitting around for a while for it was somewhat dry. Cream puffs are also somewhat messy to eat…I ended up with powdered sugar and filling all over my fingers.

After my cream puff fix I decided that I wanted cake. So I headed out to a bakery that I’d never tried before called Angel Simple. I had passed by the place a few times before and they have a large selection of cheesecakes so I decided that it was time to go and give them a try. Like Bread Papa, Angel Simple is a chain store that is fairly new on the Guangzhou food market; it wasn’t around till only a few years back.

After taking quite some time feasting my eyes on their large selection of cakes, I settled with the green tea cheesecake. Bad choice. The cake certainly looked promising, but it didn’t taste like cheesecake at all. It was light and airy, more like cream cheese whipped with cream…I guess it is an Asian thing, since dense, strong cakes aren’t favoured in this part of the world. The flavour of the green tea, however, was very subtle, almost too subtle to be noticeable. In the end the artificial flavours just became too much and I didn’t manage to finish the cake, even though the slice was fairly small…So, the credo is that if you like American cheesecake, don’t get your cake fix from a Chinese bakery.

After all that sugary stuff I wanted something salty. So I headed down to Festival Walk, the underground mall east of Teemall, and got some fried octopus balls (takoyaki) from one of the stalls.

I actually really liked this snack. For 6 RMB you get six takoyaki freshly made to order smothered with mayo and some brown sauce and sprinkled with dried fish flakes. The takoyaki itself didn’t have great flavour but it tasted good with the condiments. However there was a bit too much brown sauce, which was somewhat overpowering. I also do wish that the takoyaki had a crispier exterior as that would contrast with the soft centre quite well.

By the time I finished the takoyaki I was very full. However, I was determined to have some frozen yogurt before calling it a day. I headed over to Dolciberry, also located in Festival Walk. It seems like one of the few places in Guangzhou where one can find frozen yogurt. They’ve opened fairly recently and don’t have many flavours, only original tart and a “monthly special” which for at least the past two months has been mango. For 18 RMB you can get a small cup with one topping. I got the mango yogurt with pineapple topping.

The topping was canned pineapple, nothing special at all, but the mango yogurt was pretty good. It didn’t really have that yogurt-like taste that original tart has and which I don’t like all that much. However, it was really too much food for me so I left over half of it unfinished.

After stuffing myself I somehow did managed to hobble myself back home. Ah, it was a good evening.

September 21, 2009 Posted by | Guangzhou, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment