Friday, 25 September 2009

Cooking Home-Made Laksa

Good Laksa places in Hong Kong are very rare to find and there are only a few places to come to my mind -- Katong Laksa Prawn Mee (加東叻沙蝦麵), Grand Cafe at The Grand Hyatt, ToastBox for the Sinagpore style Laksa. I am not a chef by trade but will share with you some insights to my experimental Laksa which I thought was extremely delicious! Essential question, what is Laksa?? Laksa is a traditional dish which is a spicy soup noodle which is a combination of the Chinese & Malay culture and is commonly eaten in Singapore, Malaysia & Indonesia. The term "laksa" is used generally to describe the two different basic types of noodle soup which is mainly curry laksa and asam laksa. Curry laksa is a coconut curry soup with noodles and Asam Laksa is a sour fish soup with noodles. On regular circumstances, thick noodles known as laksa are commonly preferred although vericelli is also commonly used. On a lazy Sunday evening, missus & I decided to cook up our own Laksa and see whether we can actually do so as Chefs say that the hardest part about Laksa is the broth. Off to the wet market we went to Causeway Bay to search for the fresh local produce and to cook up a traditional Laksa, one will require below ingredients: Ingredients for Our Home-Made Laksa Broth: *Fresh Chilli, Lemon Grass, Turmeric, Shallots, Thai Ginger, Fresh Garlic, Mint Leaves, Chicken Stock, Coconut Milk, Dried Shrimp Paste & Chilli Paste, Peanut Oil (I used Olive Oil), dried prawns Ingredients for Our Home-Made Laksa: *Bean Curd, Bean Sprouts, Fresh Prawns, Fish Cake, Laksa Noodles (Thick Noodles) Traditionally, there should also be a boiled egg, squid, fresh clams but to trim the cost down, above should be enough to get you started. The whole preparation of the meal lasted around 45 minutes and a lot of people asked me about MY SECRET INGREDIENT which I will now disclose is the usage of the PRAWN HEADS & SHELLS for the broth base. When you buy the prawns from the wet-market, wash it, gut it then separate the head from its body whereby it will be used to flavour the broth. The Prawn Heads give the broth an extremely aromatic flavour and believe me, do try this method for your own Laksa. Note to remove the Heads & Shells from the broth as the shells will become tough and very un-juicy for eating. When serving up the Laksa, remember to be generous on the final top-up of the Chilli Paste that will give the bowl of noodles an extra kick! Best paired with an ice-cold pint of Beer!

For those that are Laksa Fans, do try this at home and believe me that if you use all of my above ingredients you can also cook up the perfect Laksa. Bon appetit and enjoy!

Happy Eating!


Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Food Journey #22 - One Night in Tai Hang (大坑)

Have been relatively quiet for past few days as am still recovering from that long posting on Monsieur Chatte which is still lingering in my mind. As they say, what comes up must come down and this posting truly reflects on my journey to Tai Hang (大坑) last Saturday evening. For those that do not know where Tai Hang is, it is quietly located on the corner of Victoria Park near Tin Hau and they say that Tai Hang is a secret and hidden food paradise -- NOT!!!! As my missus lives extremely close to this area therefore we decided to give it a shot at some of the restaurants around the neighbourhood. My first stop Block 13 Beef Offal (十三座牛雜) is this extremely seedy and isolated shop that sells Mix Beef Organs. Not a place where you sit down and eat but it is a quick grab & go on extreme Chinese cuisine such as your Beef Intestine Skewer, Beef Brisket, Beef Offal Skewer etc. I know it is not a very usual place that expats will go to due to the nature of food but answer me, what is the difference between eating Foie Gras and eating a skewer of Beef Entrails, Beef Brisket, Beef Intestines, Beef Offal and the answer is Absolutely no difference at all as they are all internal organs. Block 13 Beef Offal has opened in Hong Kong for some time and the taste is a definite guarantee and my recommendation is to enjoy this skewer with a dash of Gui Lin (桂林) Chilli Sauce After the quick skewer, we ventured into King Street in the Tai Hang Area which is a territory of unknown. The streets were dark, dirty and there wasnt many people in the neighbourhood until we reached the spot whereby we spotted some bright lights coming out from this ramen-ya restaurant (Japanese Noodles House) called Masyu 魔手和風拉麵. My first impression was that such traditional ramen-ya restaurants were very commonly found in the alleys of Tokyo & Osaka therefore I was hoping in my mind that this could be a special authentic Japanese surprise considering there were around 5-6 people waiting outside. However, I was truly devastated by the quality of food. First up was the appetiser which was salted cucumbers & eggplant and see photo below. They were foul and boring and tasteless. After the initial taste on the appetisers, I knoew something was very wrong about this restaurant Second up, I ordered the Mixed Sashimi Bento with Fresh Tomato & Parsley and my missus ordered the Deep Fried Pork (Tonkatsu) with Noodles (see photos below). The Sashimi Bento Box appeared a lot bigger in the menu and when it arrived, I was shocked to see the size of the bowl. So small that it was not enough to fill a kid's appetite and never mind the taste. "Fresh" tomatoes certainly were not freshed and in fact tastes like the leftovers from Wellcome Supermarket. The texture of the rice was good but the sashimi was not as fresh as the waitress made it out to be -- major disappointment indeed.

Deep Fried Pork looked like a plate of dead meat, very colourless and the ramen bowl looked & tasted like a pot of Instant Noodles (出前一丁) and tasted exactly like a bowl of MSG infused broth. The Deep Fried Pork (Tonkatsu) was very tasteless and the meat was dull as anything. Tasted like it was marinated 15 yrs ago and the mayonnaise on the side was definitely a cheap pot from Wellcome. To sum up, absolutely horrible experiences

Up side of the dinner was the Egg Roll which was decent enough as that was the only item which we ordered that was actually normal. It is a steamed Japanese egg roll with the wording 魔手 (name of the restaurant) engraved into it. However, I have never been a huge fan of Egg Rolls therefore will not comment on this

Overall experience was mediocre and I will definitely not return to this place as the food was below par, service -- where was the service, and no ambiance with a air-conditioner which dripped on my shoulders while I was eating. Way to go Masyu Last stop of the evening was Jam Bakery which was located on Shepherd Street. It is a small bakery that sells a variety of cakes, biscuits or cookies and cupcakes. Seemingly disappointed from the experience from Masyu, we didnt have high hopes for Jam Bakery but the Hazel Nut Chocolate Cake which we ordered was divine. Was very tempted to order another cakes to try out but again, Masyu really screwed my whole dinner over therefore a NO!. Chatted with the cashier lady and that Jam Bakery also offers baking classes which I will be attending next week. The Hazelnut cake wasnt too sweet , was extremely rich in Chocolate flavour but not in Hazelnut flavour and the texture was similar to a mousse. However, for a bakery place like this, $26 for a slice of cake I thought was comparable with other premium cake shops in Hong Kong. Will recommend readers to come and try out this place.

Block 13 Beef Offal (十三座牛雜)

Address: 51 Sun Chun Street, Tai Hang, Hong Kong (大坑新村街51號地下)

Food Quality (5* the highest): ****

Price (5$ = very expensive): $

Masyu 魔手和風拉麵 -- BLACK LISTED

Address: 22 King Street, Tai Hang, Hong Kong (大坑京街 22 號地舖)

Food Quality (5* the highest): *

Price (5$ = very expensive): $$$

Jam Bakery

Address: 28 Shepherd Street , Tai Hang, Hong Kong (大坑施弼街28號)

Dessert Quality (5* the highest): 3/1/2 *

Price for Dessert (5$ = very expensive): $$$$

View Larger Map

Monday, 21 September 2009

Food Journey #21 = Monsieur Chatte

This posting is dedicated to a true group local food heroes in Hong Kong - the Chattes Family. Although French, we should be proud to have such quality of French fresh produce existence in Hong Kong and this has been one of the best food adventures up to this moment. The 3 floored shop is quietly located on Bonham Strand without much signage therefore took me some time to locate the shop but the moment I stepped in, I was blown away with the abundance of food & wine.

Ground floor of Monsieur Chatte looks a resemblance of a deli shop, similar style to IL Bel Paese where you can find fresh French cheese, fois gras, Baguettes, Saucisson, French Wine, Canneles etc (see photos below). Once you look at the price tag, it is a lot more affordable and cheaper comparison to your other delis around town which makes it even more attractive. 2nd floor carries mainly French Fine Wine + plentiful of French Desserts & Sweets including Crepes and 3rd floor is the best part of Monsieur Chatte and has an aura of traditional French styled living room. Wooden table, wooden chairs, stereo system playing French music, toast machines for making your own toasts, daily papers & magazine + complimentary Wi-Fi, this will become one of my regular hang-out spots during the lazy afternoons!

My visit on Friday consisted of several reasons:

a) To visit an old friend -- Monsieur Chatte himself

b) To solve my hunger with some proper French styled lunch on a lazy Friday afternoon

c) To learn more about French Cheese

Part C was the most wonderful part of the journey as god knows how many types of cheeses I sampled on the day. Am a strong flavoured Cheese lover therefore didnt bother having the usual & boring types as local Hong Kong people eat on average such as your Brie, Camembert, Cheddar etc. Few of the highlights which I want to mention;

-Tomme De Savoire
= Tomme de Savoie is a variety of Tomme Cheese from Savoie in the French Alps. Usually made from skim milk left over, the cheese is relatively low fat in content. Soft type of cheese and extremely pungent in smell & taste
= Cantal cheese is a releatively firm cheese from the Cantal region
. Cantal cheese along with Roquefort is one of France's oldest cheeses and has 2 forms of it ranging from Semi-Hard to Hard Cheese. A well ripened Cantal has extreme vigorous taste and a young cheese has the sweetness of raw milk, similar to Cheddar texture. Cantal is an uncooked cheese made from the milk of cows that graze in the mountains of the Auvergne region, which makes up part of the Massif Central mountain range in the south of France.
= Comté is a French Cheese made from unpasteurised cow's milk in the Comte region of Eastern France The rind is usually a dusty-brown colour, and the internal pâte is a pale creamy yellow. The texture is relatively hard and flexible, and the taste is mild, slightly sweet, and 'nutty'.

-Petit Valencay Cheese
= This soft cheese is made from raw goat milk. The shape of a fl attened pyramid has always been very eye-catching and is often used for baking in TV-shows. You will often see chefs wrap Pancetta or Bacon around the Petit Valencay which is then placed in the oven. Imagine all the melted cheese along with eat bite of the bacon -- delicious.

Other cheeses which I highly recommend are Beaufort & Munster which are a true culinary delight!

Monsieur Chatte is also infamous for its Home-made Fois Gras -- one of the finest delicacies ever left the country of France. Monsieur Chatte fois grad is the purest form of foie gras, consists of a whole foie gras that has been de-veined, cleaned, seasoned and cooked in its own fat with 0 preservatives added. Extreme dense texture and is a ready to eat product and is SUPER SUPER ULTRA FRESH. The foie gras from Monsieur Chatte has got to be one of the finest foie gras I have ever tasted in Hong Kong. I lost count on how many "slices" I had because it was simply delectable on a Friday lunch to have tasted such exquisite Foie Gras!!!!

After trying all the Fromage & Foie Gras, I was still fairly hungry therefore a typical lunch in France will consist of whole-hearted French Baguette. Looking into the fridge, what really caught my eye was the fresh ham, Bayonne Ham which is an air-dried salted ham from the Bayonne region in the South West of France, as well as Cantal (read above) and a French White Baguette. Decided to head up to the 3/f and made my own Ham & Cheese Toasted Baguette and voila, see below and it is one of the best lunches you can get. What a baguette to have on a Friday afternoon.

Monsieur Chatte also introduced me to a few very interesting French Desserts & Sweets. At Monsieur Chatte, they carry a Chocolate Fondue (see below photo in the midde)). It is 100% pure natural cacao which is a fondue and you can buy fresh fruits and simply dip into the can of chocolate fondue. The fresh strawberry jam (1st image on the left) are produced from all hand picked fruits daily which is the freshest product & with no added sugar to the jam, this is truly a healthy jam to be used unlike the usual sugary jams we buy from supermarkets. The Jam literally tastes like the sweetness of the fruit.

To top off my baguette, Monsieur Chatte and myself digged into French Crepes, just plain French Crepes with white sugar. Feels like eating the pancakes which you get with Peking Duck but a lot nicer and pairs well with a hot chocolate for sure. Monsieur Chatte also gave me a very traditional French Yoghurt - Petit Suisse and is often eaten by kids in France. Never been a yoghurt fan in my life but after one spoonful of it, I finished the whole pot of yoghurt and it was very pure, fruity & simply delicious. Or at least I did not have the gult of eating this after such scrumptious meal!

Wonderful place, wonderful food & wonderful people. Hats off to the local heroes of Hong Kong and Monsieur Chatte, I salute you! You made me even more want to visit Paris on my next trip with all the quality of French food. If you want true French produce & food, this is your place.

Happy Eating & Happy Drinking Beautiful French Wine!


Address: 121 Bonham Strand, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong (上環文咸東街121號地下)

Tel: 3105-8077

Food Quality (5* the highest): *****

Price for lunch (5$ = very expensive): $$

View Larger Map