Battle hairy crab

Scary hairy crabOr, Why I Won't Ever Try and Emulate R.W. Apple Again…

In preparation for this trip to Asia, I read various food recommendations over at the New York Times, including an article by Nina Simonds entitled
Hong Kong Reignites Fire Of China's Regional Cuisines. Praising the Shanghai-style restaurant Xiao Nan Guo (Little Southern Country), she wrote:

At Little Southern Country, hairy crab, plump with sweet meat and available only from May through December, was succulent. It was in a rich, reduced soy sauce glaze atop soft rice cakes, which absorbed the mellow sauce.

The tempting words Available only struck me, along with her glowing review, so Jason and I went last night for dinner. I will now admit I am not the eater I thought I was. It is sad but it is true.

First of all, why was I suckered by the Available only? May through December? That's eight months! That's like telling someone they need to come to Vermont to experience winter, "we only have it November through April!!!!" Second of all, I DON'T KNOW HOW TO EAT A CRAB!

This became apparent when they brought the plate to our table and there were two creepy sticky looking creatures. The waitress brought a cracker, but when I picked up the claw I discovered the dark covering was slimy (the hair, I guess) and I was repulsed. Then I noticed the top coming off the body and goo oozing out, and a minor wave of revulsion passed over me. I put down the claw and utensils and said to Jason, "I don't think I can eat this." He was all understanding, as he had no intention of eating it in the first place.

The soup dumplings were excellent though: the broth was lighter than in the US but still rich in flavor. I could have eaten an entire order myself. And Jason's "Grandma's pork belly" had crazy looking mushrooms that were delicious, and the pork was sweet and yummy too. So I didn't leave too hungry. Still, my culinary confidence has been shaken. Perhaps a trip to Alain Ducasse's Spoon is in order for this evening.

Related: How to… Eat Hairy Crabs.

Out to Hong Kong’s outlying islands

Boats in harborToday we took the ferry to Cheung Chau, "a picturesque island with a waterfront that bustles with activity." Only a thirty minute fast ferry ride from Central, Cheung Chau was indeed picturesque when we arrived. Fishing boats were moored along the water's edge. School children walked through the streets in their school uniforms. An old woman with a large straw hat placed small fish on a screen for drying. A man worked to repair very fine wisps of fishing net in the bow of his boat. And everywhere people biked to and fro, as the island has no cars. We disembarked with the enthusiasm of tourists ready for a new site. And then the heat nearly felled us.

Outside Pak Tai TempleMy God, but it was hot! The clouds that hung above the skyscrapers of Hong Kong were gone, and in their place was relentless blue. Within minutes we were sweating heavily, and all thoughts of renting bicycles to tour the island were forgotten. We shuffled down the main drag, taking note of possible lunch spots, then ducked into the shade of the Pak Tai Temple, where we lit incense for long life. We should have lit incense for cooling breezes instead!

At Tung Wan beachThen over to Tung Wan beach, which was littered with sea glass of all sizes and colors. I collected two green souvenirs as we walked its unshaded sandy length. Then it was back to the harbor-side of the island for lunch, but not before my sandal had a blow-out. On day two of a twenty-one day trip! Sandal blowoutLuckily, the blow-out didn't seem to effect the mechanics of the sandal whatsoever, and I walked along almost in more comfort than I had when it "worked" as we headed to lunch.

Shade and a checked tablecloth alongside the water's edge beckoned us to Hing Lok restaurant. Looking over the menu, we bemoaned our lack of gastronomic capacity. So many delicious choices, but an emulation of R.W. Apple's culinary adventures was not to be. Jason ordered fried noodles with soy sauce and pork, I ordered "salt and pepper shrimps" and a (what turned out to be quite large) Tsing Tao. As we waited for our food, a woman came out from the restaurant with a live lobster in her hand, its tail flipping and flapping, showing it to the table next to us for approval before cooking. Again I cursed our small bellies with room for only one item each! Secretly I hoped she'd show me a handful of shrimp, but it didn't happen.

Eating yummy shrimpsSoon they whisked a heaping platter of pink shrimp to me and I dug in. By "pepper" I think they meant hot pepper, and by "salt" I think they meant garlic, but no worries, these shrimp were delicious, and I decapitated, peeled, and consumed with relish! When we were finished, we strolled back to the ferry, content to return to its air-conditioned comfort and our return journey "home," a delightful–if slightly shortened–outing to the outlying islands complete.

Battle hairy crab

Scary hairy crabOr, Why I Won't Ever Try and Emulate R.W. Apple Again…

In preparation for this trip to Asia, I read various food recommendations over at the New York Times, including an article by Nina Simonds entitled Hong Kong Reignites Fire Of China's Regional Cuisines. Praising the Shanghai-style restaurant Xiao Nan Guo (Little Southern Country), she wrote:

At Little Southern Country, hairy crab, plump with sweet meat and available only from May through December, was succulent. It was in a rich, reduced soy sauce glaze atop soft rice cakes, which absorbed the mellow sauce.

The tempting words Available only struck me, along with her glowing review, so Jason and I went last night for dinner. I will now admit I am not the eater I thought I was. It is sad but it is true.

First of all, why was I suckered by the Available only? May through December? That's eight months! That's like telling someone they need to come to Vermont to experience winter, "we only have it November through April!!!!" Second of all, I DON'T KNOW HOW TO EAT A CRAB!

This became apparent when they brought the plate to our table and there were two creepy sticky looking creatures. The waitress brought a cracker, but when I picked up the claw I discovered the dark covering was slimy (the hair, I guess) and I was repulsed. Then I noticed the top coming off the body and goo oozing out, and a minor wave of revulsion passed over me. I put down the claw and utensils and said to Jason, "I don't think I can eat this." He was all understanding, as he had no intention of eating it in the first place.

The soup dumplings were excellent though: the broth was lighter than in the US but still rich in flavor. I could have eaten an entire order myself. And Jason's "Grandma's pork belly" had crazy looking mushrooms that were delicious, and the pork was sweet and yummy too. So I didn't leave too hungry. Still, my culinary confidence has been shaken. Perhaps a trip to Alain Ducasse's Spoon is in order for this evening.

Related: How to… Eat Hairy Crabs.

Hong Kong flat duck

Flat ducksOne of the great things about living in New York City is the access and exposure to so many varied cultures and cuisines. Unfortunately that means that upon traveling abroad, one's first reaction to walking the streets of Hong Kong and its markets is to turn to one's traveling companion and exclaim, "Hmm, this is a lot like Chinatown." Except in NYC Chinatown I haven't ever seen the flattened ducks shown in this picture. I couldn't tell if that was fat or skin or a combination of fat and skin surrounding the duck. Nor could I discover what one would do with a duck like this after purchase. Reconstitute in boiling water?

Jaded and shallow NYC Chinatown/Hong Kong comparisons aside, so far Hong Kong is hot! I was ready for winter in October, and now I'll really be ready for winter when we return. But the breeze along the ocean is cooling, the ferry trips across the open water choppy and fun, and the shopping opportunities amazing! Or they would be if we cared to shop, which we really don't. So today we're heading to one of the outlying islands for a more "authentic" experience. And hopefully some reconstituted flat duck dumplings! Or, you know, some great fresh seafood.

In Hong Kong

Jason's got a post about our trip to Asia. I meant to link to this before we left but ran out of time. So now we're here in Hong Kong but I'd still love to hear any suggestions you may have for us while we're here. So if you have some for Hong Kong, Bangkok, or Saigon, go ahead and post to Jason's thread. Of course I am especially interested in food suggestions and places to get great authentic meals.

Remembering November in Paris

Empty chairsIt is hard to believe that three years ago today, Jason and I landed in Paris for a month-long visit between our move from San Francisco to New York. [Insert "time flies" regrets here]. I looked through my posts from November 2002 and memories of the trip came flooding back to me: eating warm chestnuts while walking along the Rue de Rivoli (and discovering I didn't much care for them and then throwing half the bag in the trash bin), having my first successful "conversations" in French at the BHV, mixing warm milk with melted chocolate to create the most delightful hot chocolates ever tasted, and just walking the streets and parks as the dried leaves rustled beneath our feet. And oh, those pain au chocolat sold at the boulangerie across from our apartment: nearly every morning they were warm when we purchased them, oozing chocolate from their crisp buttery folds straight into our mouths!

The sad story of the toothfish

There's a great article from the Sunday New York Times Magazine by Paul Greenberg, The Catch, about Chilean Sea Bass (aka Patagonian toothfish) and the over fishing of our oceans. It's an interesting, and rather depressing, examination of attempts to protect and restore fish stocks in the face of increasing consumer demand and illegal fishing activity. It's long, but well worth reading, though it may make you feel bad about eating fish after you're through.

Snowy snow snow snow!

I opened my eyes this morning and looked out the window. Snow! It was snowing outside and the tall evergreens outside my windows were covered in white frosting! I leaped out of bed and ran to the window, waking Jason in the process with my spazzy movements and excited exclamations, "It's snowing outside! And it's sticking!!" Then I threw on some clothes, grabbed my camera, ran outside, and took some photos.

First snow Snowy detail #1 Snowy detail #2

There's something about the first snow that's still as magical as when I was a kid.

On using email to create an account

To Whom It May Concern (most likely being application developers):

If you're going to design a site or application online, and you want to validate the email address a new user has entered, by all means go ahead and send a "validation email." Only for God's sake, send it immediately!

On Saturday (please note: Saturday was three days ago, which is like twelve dog days or five hundred internet days!) I tried to sign up for a Bloglines account because I decided to bite the bullet and start using an RSS reader again. Well, in the time it took for my "validation email" to arrive (which was, as you may have surmised, three days!) I created a Google Reader account, populated it with my various feeds, and started using it. In fact, in the three days I've waited for the Bloglines validation email, I've already tired of Google Reader and pretty much given up using an RSS reader again! By the time the email arrived in my inbox late this afternoon, I thought, "Gah, I can't be bothered. I'm done using RSS."

To all the application designers out there: if you're going to send the email, send it right away. This goes for all you password-recovery people too. I don't care if I get my password for XYZ app five days from now. When I can't recall my password, I most likely would like to "recall" it as soon as possible, so I can do whatever it is I'm trying to do (log onto my bank account to pay a bill, save a recipe, post in a discussion, etc.). Sending it hours, or worse, days later doesn't do me much good. Time is of the essence! Don't we all know this by now?

Frustratedly yours,
-megnut