Category Archives: chicken

Stuffed in Isaan

Lunch at Jay Gai Som Tum in Udon Thani

It’s 10 in the morning, and I am already stuffed. I cannot imagine what lunch holds in store for us.

Yes, I am starting this all over again. The first book, researched while I was pregnant with my second child, gave me … well, the joy of publishing my first solo effort, and 25 extra kilos. This second, well, who knows? I certainly don’t want 25 extra kilos, and I’m not sure if I could do it, even if I wanted to. My digestive system is screaming, What are you thinking?! even as I lurch my way through downtown Udon Thani. And this is only the beginning.

After landing in Udon Thani, our gracious hosts promptly whisk us off to VT Nam Nueng (www.vtnamnueng1997.com), a Vietnamese restaurant that, well into its second generation, is just about as big as any enterprise can get in Udon Thani. Every day, an assembly line churns out thousands of sticks of nam nueng (pork sausage wrapped in a flat rice noodle, lettuce and herbs and drizzled with a sweet-tart dipping sauce) and goong pan aui (shrimp mince wrapped around a sugarcane stick), later to be sold at either the restaurant, replete with air-conditioning and imposing Chinese-style furniture, or at the aggressively efficient take-out counter. There is even a hotline, where a motorcycle awaits your call should any nam nueng emergency arise. Not to mention the branches at the airport, or the various other Vietnamese-Thai restaurant chains in town, helmed by cousins or children of the original VT founder, who made his dipping sauces in a secret room so as to minimize infighting among his children.

The namesake dish at VT Nam Nueng

But Udon Thani isn’t all about Vietnamese food (though it does boast a sizable Vietnamese community, said to have fled the country during the French colonial era). Newcomers to the city jonesing for street food but unsure of where exactly to go should simply get themselves to Naresuan Road, which appears to be Street Food Central for the entire town. Here, you will get anything you could possibly want: toothsome Chinese-style rice porridge (jok) as well as the looser Thai kind (khao thom), boiled with pork cartilage to a porky mellowness; hunks of muu satay, pork slathered in coconut milk and grilled on bamboo skewers; winningly large portions of silky, golden, whisper-soft homemade egg noodles — what it must feel like to eat Jennifer Aniston’s hair, if her hair was delicious.

But the standout, for me, has to be the Isaan food — fiery, acidic, deep with the bass note of the fishy and fermented, without any fancy-fingers gimmickry or sugar. At Jay Gai Som Tum, you have to pick up a number and wait in line for a gander at one of the maestro’s artfully pounded concoctions: thum pa, a jimble-jamble of fermented rice noodles, some slivered green papaya, boiled snails, green pak grachet and bamboo shoots, perhaps? Maybe a thum lao, green papaya mixed with the bewitching brew of fermented Thai anchovies (pla rah) and pickled field crabs, or thum mamuang, julienned mango topped with tiny field shrimp and flavored with the juices of an especially large mashed field crab. Or maybe you’re a traditionalist and want to stick with thum Thai, in which case — why are you here again? The point is, there’s a lot of different kinds of som tum, from the traditional green papaya version to mango, to gratawn (the sweet-tart santol) to the rice noodle, or kanom jeen-based som tums that appear to be the default setting for the som tums here  — Thai fusion in action, a Central Thai ingredient getting the Isaan treatment.

Jay Gai's mango som tum

What perfectly sets off all that fire and acidity? A simply prepared bowl of snails, a mere 10 baht per dish, boiled with kaffir lime leaves.

Udon Thani is a great town that I must visit again, but I had to venture up to Khon Kaen, today one of Thailand’s biggest, fastest-growing cities. So we girded our stomach linings and made a special effort to go to Saeb Nua (Mitraphab Road across from Srinakarin Hospital), which ended up not being street food but special nonetheless, despite its factory cafeteria ambiance. Another long menu of som tums here, as well as delicious larbs (minced meat salads, including larb goy, or raw beef larb) and nam toks (grilled, rare meats in a spicy dressing). But the stars here are the gai yang, or whole chicken, pressed flat within the recesses of a wooden stick and grilled, and pla pow, freshwater fish encrusted in salt, stuffed with an herb parcel and also grilled. There is a lot of grilling in Isaan food.

Saeb Nua's grilled fish

At night, a meal of jaew hon (Isaan-style sukiyaki, with a chili-touched broth and strong, spicy dipping sauce that leaves every other sweet, cloying dipping sauce in the dust) at lakeside stall Tik Jaew Hon and we were done, clutching at our charcoal pills and glasses of water.  A “not spicy” salad of naem (cured pork sausage) arrives looking like a crime scene out of CSI, splattered with a lurid coat of smashed red chilies. If you haven’t noticed, Isaan food also likes its chilies. Alas, I do not. I will have to return to Isaan, later. After my stomach has a nice long rest.

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Filed under Asia, chicken, fish, food, food stalls, Isaan, restaurant, som tum, Thailand

Something Special

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I — like many of my fellow Bangkokians — am feeling a bit down. The kind of down that doesn’t bear talking about.

So why am I writing a blog post? To tell you the truth, I don’t really want to write a blog post. For something that is better done, funnier and far more likable, you should deffo check out writer/actress Mindy Kaling’s blog: http://theconcernsofmindykaling.com/, because we all need a little bit of inspiration now and then, and where better than from the author of “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” (the answer is yes).

Do you want your inspiration to come from somewhere closer to home? I am nothing if not obliging. Let me do you a favor and direct you to another something special, http://mysousvidelife.wordpress.com/. Is she not adorabun? Someone get this woman a cooking show, stat! Another thing: despite being a “flood refugee”, she is still decorating Halloween cupcakes and figuring out fun things to do with all those shmackets of Ma-Ma noodles lurking in all our kitchen cabinets (no need to front, you know you have them too).

Are you still here? Geez. Well, if you’re not up for something fun and uplifting, I’m your girl. As one would naturally expect, the floods are taking their toll everywhere, including on the sidewalk. Many, many, many of my fave vendors are MIA: the buay loy guy on Mahachai Road; the khao kluk gapi (rice with shrimp paste) vendor in front of Baan Phra Arthit; the Hainanese chicken rice people in front of Great Shanghai; the chicken and bitter melon noodles guy behind Emporium; the Sukhothai noodle guy (why didn’t he call to tell me?) next to Klong Saen Saep; and the guay jab people across from Benjakiti Park. There are more, many more whose absences I have yet to discover and mourn.

 

Not available right now

These people spent their working lives making us happy; now they are gone, with nothing to mark their absence except maybe a shuttered storefront or, more disconcertingly, nothing at all. They have vanished into thin air.

Then there are the people who are stubbornly sticking it out. They deserve special plaudits, because they are idiots*. Riverside, prey to the fickle lords of high tide? Sign me up! Alongside the beef noodle folks at Nai Soi and the famously taciturn Roti-Mataba is Khao Na Gai Ha Yaek (085-124-5511, open 10-19.00). Just steps down Phra Arthit road from Roti-Mataba, this chicken-and-gravy on rice vendor is quietly packed most lunchtimes, but inspires none of the usual fanfare, which makes it very special indeed. Yes, there is the khao na gai (35 baht), as well as versions with gun chieng (sweet Chinese sausage, 40 baht) or runny fried egg (42 baht), or best of all, both (47 baht). There are also noodles topped with chicken gravy, deep-fried noodles with chicken gravy, and sticky rice with red pork. But the namesake dish is the best.

Wandering down the road at high noon, unable to find ANYTHING I once loved in a landscape that looked familiar but wasn’t, this plate of chicken gravy on rice crowned with torn fresh coriander, fried egg and sweet sticky sausage was a godsend, the best thing I had eaten in weeks. I forgot I wasn’t supposed to be hungry, and ate it all.

*Obviously, I don’t really think they are idiots.

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Filed under Asia, Bangkok, chicken, food, food stalls, rice, Thai-Chinese, Thailand

Useless election-pegged food quiz

Passing vans blare loud music, election posters mark every signpost. Thailand is officially in the throes of Election Fever, once again.

Some people seem to be unsure of who to vote for. But more pressing matters await our contemplation. Maybe, if you are like me, you need a little quiz to figure out whether your political allegiances dovetail with your food stall choices? After all, quizzes tell you everything you need to know! I once spent an entire afternoon taking a plethora of “Which Hogwarts House are You?” questionnaires (I am a Hufflepuff, of course).

So in honor of looming elections, here’s a quiz that pretends to sort out everything for you via highly inaccurate and gross generalizations, without really telling you anything! Remember, it’s all in good fun! *laughs nervously, then runs away*

 

1. When you were in grade school, you were known as:

a. The great big nerd who told on everybody and cried when I (I mean she! I mean you!) got a “B”

b. The daydreamer who frequently got caught staring off into space

c. A big ol’ bully

d. Sort of a rebel, like Judd Nelson in “The Breakfast Club”. No, I do not have more recent cultural references. Too bad for you, Person Born in the 1990s!

e. You were home-schooled

 

2. Who do you find more handsome?

a. P’Mark. He went to Oxford and everything!

b. Richard Gere. He is a Buddhist who still managed to make tons of money out of “Pretty Woman” and then, against all odds, “Runaway Bride”!

c. Russell Crowe, now

d. Russell Crowe, “Gladiator” era

e. Yourself

 

3. You most value:

a. Tradition and stability

b. Tolerance and kindness

c. Law and order

d. Equality and fairness

e. The right to dress animals in clothing. Oh wait, what?

 

If you answered mostly A’s, you like … 

BLUE

What does blue stand for again, aside from how I feel when I’m standing on the scale? I forget. Anyway, congrats! You like blue. And people who like blue can do worse than heading to the blue plates of Nai Peng (20, Chula Soi 20, Suan Luang market), where delicious guaythiew kua gai (chicken fried noodles) are the order of the day. You can even throw caution to the wind and order “taro” (processed squid strings) instead of noodles! It’s a crazy night out for you! Go insane!

Flat fried noodles with chicken and egg

 

If you answered mostly B’s, you like …

WHITE

With a color like white, you like everything and nothing. Because of this, who really cares what you eat? But if you must be pressed for a choice, then why not opt for the warm, comforting embrace of the Chinese-style rice porridge at Jok Samyan (245 Soi Chula 11)? It’s like a mother’s hug, only gooier. And that’s what you’ve been secretly yearning for all along, haven’t you?

Chinese-style rice porridge with preserved egg

 

If you answered mostly C’s, you like …

GREEN

Look, eating on a rickety stool while taking exhaust-fume farts in the face from passing buses is not your thing. There is nothing wrong with that. No need for any pretense otherwise. We are all non-judgmental here, to your face. So go ahead and spring for the panorama of deliciously stir-fried  greens at Nakorn Pochana (258-260 Chula Soi 11), where the crab fried rice and deep-fried crayfish are city-renowned, the beer flows plentifully, and the air-conditioning is on at full blast.

Garlic chives with pork liver

(Photo by @SpecialKRB)

If you answered mostly D’s, you like …

RED

Red is the color of passion and of fire. It is also the color of hot, hot chilies. You know where I’m going with this, right? Of course you do!  Just two, er, three (or more) words: Hai Somtum Convent (2/4-5 Convent Rd., off of Silom).

Somtum Thai, with minced pork salad in background

 

If you answered mostly E’s, you like …

YELLOW

Yellow is the color of sunlight and (some) butterflies, and cookies. Also, snow that you shouldn’t touch or eat. Also, bananas. Yellow is such an all-purpose, useful color! Do you know what else yellow stands for? That’s right: bamee, or egg noodles. And where better to have some delicious egg noodles than on Sukhumvit 38, close to mom’s house? Make sure you arrive close to opening time (20.00) if you want a good parking spot for your luxury SUV. Haha, just joking! That’s the driver’s job!

Bamee at Sukhumvit Soi 38

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Filed under Asia, bamee, Bangkok, chicken, food, food stalls, Isaan, noodles, restaurant, rice porridge, seafood, Thailand

What your khao mun gai place says about you

Have you ever read those stories promising to tell you all you need to know about yourself, based on something completely random, like, what’s in your left pocket at that particular moment, or what ice cream you had last week? I certainly do! Aren’t the findings always totally arbitrary, and frequently infuriating? Yay, random generalizations!

So let’s pass judgment, even though we know absolutely nothing about each other! Where do you like to eat your Hainanese chicken rice?

Montien Hotel Ruenton Coffee Shop (54 Surawongse Rd.)

You like tradition, and stability, and saying you know more than anyone else. You like big portions, and creature comforts, and stuffing your face. You are kind of boring and your friends are only pretending to listen to what you say. You also really like good chicken rice. For the record, this is my favoritest chicken rice, EVAH, still, after all these years. I like this chicken rice almost as much as I, like, commas.

What makes it isn’t really the big tranche of plump, tender chicken meat (dark meat or breast), topped (or not) with a sliver of skin, nestled next to two slices of congealed chicken blood and resting atop sliced tomato and cucumbers. It’s not even really the rice, glistening with chicken fat. It’s the sauce. People who really like sauce will LOVE this dish, which comes with not one, not two, but FOUR sauces: sweet thick, slivered ginger, brown bean/garlic, and soy sauce/chili. Yum!

Khao Mun Gai Gwon Oo (at Thalad Gow, Yaowaraj)

You are straightforward and like simplicity and honesty. You dislike and mistrust frou-frou, complications and anything overly ornate. This means you are a little bit like a hobbit, or other magical little creature that people idealize without actually envying.

I like the chicken rice here because it is about pure chicken flavor. The boiled chicken is presented simply, shredded and without skin, on top of rice carefully cooked in chicken stock and set off by slivered cucumbers for texture. The sauce and soup are almost like afterthoughts. This dish is about substance, not bells and whistles. It’s almost … wholesome (for a dish where chicken fat plays a starring role).

Gai Tawn Pratunam  (Petchburi Soi 30)

You like nostalgia, reminiscing over your plate of food with dusk threatening, headlights sliding past you as you contemplate next week’s work project. You are social and trusting and tend to believe the best in people. Also, you are sort of old.

Random enough for you? Honestly, this place is pretty good, even if I don’t get to it as often as I could. I would totally have included it in my book … if not for the, uh, 50 other food stalls that I put in it. So there’s that. They are proud of their dish and take care in selecting and presenting the best chicken (non-egg-laying female chickens, to be precise) that they can. The soup has good flavor and service is efficient. It has all these things going for it. They don’t need little old me anyway. We can still live together in harmony.

Shanghai Chicken Rice (Rama IV)

You yearn for adventure, newness and surprising others. You hate convention and conformity, and like to be onto the Next Big Thing before anyone else. However, your tendency to tell people about the Next Big Thing helps to undermine you, and can sometimes threaten to make you look like an asshat. You are probably a food blogger.

Because this place is open 24 hours, you are also probably a bit of a night owl. Nighttime is good for you, because this place is a lot less crowded when it’s not serving lunch. You have your choice of steamed or fried chicken, rice with Chinese seaweed, or “Shanghai chicken rice” with a dipping sauce liberally flavored with chili oil. For you, variety is good, and the possibilities are endless.

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Filed under Asia, Bangkok, chicken, food, food stalls, restaurant, rice, Thai-Chinese, Thailand

Taking it for granted

Allow me to get a little personal with you today. It’s been only a few months, but I feel like I know you already.

I could tell you a long and boring personal story, but I have been told it is far too long and boring to torture readers with on this blog. So I will tell you this: I am in the process of distributing my book. It has seen interest from everyone we’ve talked to, but I have to leave it at that because I’m superstitious and can’t take anything for granted until the ink on the forms is dry (although I can say all the paperwork for distribution at B2S is done! Yay!)

It’s a good book, one that a lot of people worked really hard on. It was a first time for all involved, and I am proud of the work we all did. The stalls are all excellent, and you should definitely try them out.

The problem: I left something out. Namely, this.

 

Bamee Asawin from Bamee Gua

I first went to Bamee Gua maybe 15 years ago. I was not yet Bangkok Glutton, and despaired in the lack of air conditioning, in the small portions, in the silent, elderly diners around us. Known by some as “Bamee Asawin” after their signature dish, Bamee  Gua is the very best type of egg noodle shop: clean and efficient, with enough confidence in the kitchen to offer a wide variety of noodle- and rice-based dishes.

But I turned my nose up at the bamee asawin, delicately flavored with bits of thang chai (pickled turnip) (35-45 baht). I ignored the buttery, silky e mee topped with strips of ham and chicken (100-160 baht, available only on Saturdays). I didn’t even see the delicious khao na gai (rice topped with chicken and gravy, 30-35 baht) or khao moo yang (grilled pork rice, 30 baht). I basically acted like my 9-year-old daughter now acts when we drag her to a street food stall. Like I was counting the minutes to Burger King.

Chicken and gravy rice with Chinese sausage

Since then, Bamee Gua’s e-mee has become a weekly habit, picked up every Saturday to reward myself after a punishing workout. I bow down to the excellence of their egg noodles (ranging from 35 baht for regular yentafo, or pink seafood noodles, to 55 baht for egg noodles with chicken, squid, pork, fish dumplings and fish meatballs). I acknowledge the buoyancy of their fish meatballs (40 baht with pork dumplings). Their minced pork-topped flat noodles, accompanied by a single raw egg yolk and accented with lots and lots of cumin (35 baht), are absolutely delicious.

My Saturday lunch

Are they in the book I just released? No. I know, I know. I know! I took them for granted. I plum forgot about them, writing about other places as I chomped down on their hammy ambrosia (to be fair to me — because we must always be fair to me — there is a whole bunch of awesome street food in this city, ESPECIALLY when it comes to egg noodles). I hope they don’t cut off all ties in retaliation, denying me the pleasure of my typical Saturday lunch. To make up for it, please allow me to say: Go here. Eat at this place. It tastes good.

Bamee Gua (full name: Bamee Gua, the originator of “Bamee Asawin”)

On Lang Suan, across from the Kasikornbank building

02-251-6020, 02-251-9448

Open Mondays-Saturdays 9.00-14.00

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Filed under Asia, bamee, Bangkok, chicken, fish, food, food stalls, noodles, pork, rice, Thai-Chinese, Thailand

Things to be Thankful For

Yes, I know. “You’re late, beeyotch”, you say. I am indeed a day late, but last night, sitting among friends and a table groaning under the weight of delicious food, I found myself, for once, momentarily forgetting to complain about my sad-Jen-Aniston-dust-bunny-in-a-girdle existence. Instead, I found myself feeling thankful. And I don’t want to let go of that feeling just yet.

So here, in no particular order, are Things to Be Thankful For:

Pumpkin danish from La Creation de Gute in Hong Kong

Pastries. Need I say more? This is the entire reason people still get up for me on the Skytrain (cuz pregnant ladies be needin assistance!)

Geoduck sashimi in Shenzhen

Travels. Going anywhere new gives you (and by you I mean me) the golden opportunity to 1). meet great people, 2). try things you’ve never tried before, like this geoduck sashimi in China, and 3.) blather on about it endlessly in blog posts that make no point. How lucky is that?

Rambutan in Chantaburi

Thai fruit. It’s the best in the world. Really! The range and variety of fruits in this country are dazzling. And they are all delicious, in their own different ways and in their own various seasons.

Thalad Gow in Chinatown

Outdoor markets. Is there a more fascinating place to explore? From France and Hungary to Vietnam and Japan, outdoor markets are my favorite place to go to find out about a place. Someday, I may even work up enough courage to try out this pickled crab stand in front of the Old Market in Chinatown.

Tamarind chili dip with purple long beans in Sukhothai

Chili dips. They are my favorite part of a Thai meal. And they are so criminally underused, especially in Thai restaurants abroad! Tamarind, shrimp paste, crab eggs, lohn (coconut milk-based dips) — krueang jim are the dish that packs in a significant amount of protein and a wide variety of veggies, making it (and a bowl of rice) a complete, nutritionally balanced meal for millions of Thais, every day.

Chicken wings in kajorn blossom broth at Guaythiew Pik Gai Sainampung

How could I go this long without mentioning street food? Thailand, obviously, has some of the best in the world. People may be up in arms about farangs taking to their own mortars and pestles in restaurant kitchens, but Thai food’s real heart comes from the street.

Family. In a fit of earnestness (which will die at the end of this sentence), I am actually posting a real family picture and not a shot of the Kardashians. Of course, I am not in it.

Other things for which to be thankful: great wines (I would include a picture, but let’s face it, when I start being thankful for wine is the exact moment when I start being incapable of taking a picture); good friends; air-conditioning; the Steelers (haterz gonna hate!); people who are bored enough to occasionally read this blog (thanks, really); and the fact that my infant son is so readily diverted by a tissue.

Oh, and this:

Nam ngiew

I’m off to Chiang Rai next week for even more. Enjoy the start of your holiday season!

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Filed under Asia, Bangkok, Chantaburi, chicken, Chinatown, dessert, food, food stalls, Hong Kong, markets, noodles, Northern Thailand, restaurant, Thailand

Glutton Abroad: Full of crab in HK

I never miss hairy crab season in Hong Kong. For the past six or seven years, when the “cold” weather comes around, I have faithfully trekked to this sun-soaked little spot in South China. The thing is, I sometimes end up having to do some strange things in order to get to that hairy crab (without having to endure a corresponding dent in my bank account, that is. Ahem).

Which brings me to this packed supermarket in Wan Chai, staring at a row of beer bottles, and debating whether to choose the popular Tsingtao or the vastly less expensive Pabst Blue Ribbon (half the price of the Chinese beer, to be exact). Not a beer drinker myself, I am tempted to spring for the PBR and let the chips fall where they may. I then remember that I will soon be sailing in the middle of a very large body of water, and that some people on board will want to throw me into it.

We are buying supplies for a boat race from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, a boat race that ends up not being a boat race (at least on the first day), halted by authorities of something for some reason or other in the hours before it is due to start. My heart silently lifts, thinking I will be spared a five-hour boat ride to the mainland, only to plummet minutes later when it is decided: we will “go at around the same time other people go, to the same destination”, my husband acting in some important sailing capacity and me as weight.

I could bitch and moan for pages about the rest of that trip; how I endured moments of terror each time our boat tipped through another white-lipped swell, and how later, when I got sick, I didn’t care what happened to us.  But I’ll leave it at this. I’m still alive. And I had plenty of hairy crab to console me.

Holy crab!

Hairy crab, also known as “freshwater crab”, are called that for the seaweed-like “hair” around their claws, and come from eastern Asia. They are prized for their sweet, tightly bound meat and, at around the end of each year, the dabs of glutinous rice-like eggs underneath their carapaces, which are too yummy to be adequately described. The best and biggest, I am told, are said to come from a certain lake near Shanghai, where the “slime” at the bottom is apparently ample, giving each crab a proper workout. Although hairy crabs are sourced from all over the place, only a handful of HK restaurants have a certificate allowing them to purchase crab from this one lake. The following place is one of those restaurants.

Hang Zhou (1/F, Chinachem Johnston Plaza, Johnston Rd.)

Before I start, I’d like to talk about an invaluable tool to anyone who wants to ensure they get a good meal in Hong Kong (aside from very accommodating and generous friends, which we also had): www.openrice.com. This site recently started up an “English” version, enabling tourists to get the nitty-gritty from the locals.

However, I put “English” in quotation marks, because a lot of the time what is said is a little too local. For example: “I ate (insert Chinese character here), which was so so good! Make sure you (insert Chinese character here)” — turning a lot of reviews into a sort of madlib in which you can feel free to insert whatever your heart desires at the moment. I find this strangely mirrors a lot of interaction in HK nowadays, where people seem to speak a lot less English than they used to (“why don’t anyone speak amerikin, goddamit?!”), making verbal interaction a sort of mental madlib where there is only one right answer.

Ordering in Hang Zhou — and everywhere else we went, for that matter — went a little like this: “I would like honey ham.” “Huh? Somethingsomethingsomething ham somethingsomething pork?” Then you would be forced to repeat “honey ham” over and over again like an idiot until someone said “Ah! Honey ham!” In a way, it was a little like ordering in Thailand for me, but in English instead of Thai.

So, here, we did finally get that honey ham: slivers of ham paired with crackling skin, shoved into a steamed white bun and dipped in the ham’s honey-like sauce. There was a succulent baked fish with halved cherry tomatoes for eyes; a virtuous mound of braised spinach; shell-on shrimp in a shallow pool of tea; and row upon row of hairy crab. There was also what we were told was a “beggar’s chicken”: an entire bird wrapped in lotus leaf and baked — easily our favorite discovery here.

The "special baked chicken"

Him Kee Hotpot (1 & 2/F, Workingfield Commercial Building, 408-412 Jaffe Rd)

Woman need not live by hairy crab alone. This friendly and, uh, aromatic hotpot place allowed us to order a host of ridiculous things and two different broths (one, mild with corn and carrots; the other, thick with the tongue-numbing, thick-shelled Sichuan peppercorns). We ate many things, most of which we did not finish: a mountain of tofu, platters of mushroom caps, baby bok choy, slivers of beef, and goose intestines — delightfully springy and creamy, all at once. My favorites were the pre-hotpot offerings of snails, slathered in chilies and deep-fried garlic. But — sob! — the plates of bacon were left half-eaten.

An immobile feast

A new thing for me: chicken testicles. They ended up being surprisingly big, if I may say so myself (a little bigger than the pad of my thumb). Blanched in the broth, their tense, elastic texture gave way to a creamy burst of liquid when bitten into (and this will be the first and last time you read a sentence like that on this blog).

Dude, where's my balls?

Spring Deer (42, Mody Rd., 1st Fl., Tsimshatsui Kowloon)

I had been looking forward to going to a Peking-style hotpot restaurant ever since reading about it on @e-ting’s blog. How bitterly disappointed I was, then, to discover that it was FULL on the only day I was free to go. Thinking I would then end up wandering around the Elements mall, the lovely concierge at the W pressed this card into my hand and said, “This is very traditional. I will make a reservation.”

Needless to say, I lurved it. And not really for the food. Spring Deer is mainly serviced by a staff of white-coated old men, reminding me of the very old restaurants in Rome where the average age of the server is around 55. Unobtrusive, swift, and discreet (no guffaws of incredulity at the amount of food we order, the server simply tries to run away when he thinks we’ve had enough), the service here is among the best we’ve ever had in HK, and that’s including Caprice et al.

The signature dish, of course, is the “world famous Peking duck”, a dish we’re told requires two staff cooks who make 100 ducks a day. It’s different from the kind we get in Bangkok: rounds of smoky flesh are still attacked to the crispy skin and wrapped in thicker, floury pancakes with slivers of cucumber and leek and an inky plum sauce.

Spring Deer's Peking duck

Aside from a multitude of other dishes that I’ve clean forgotten (unable to gauge when a lot is too much, we usually stop ordering when the waiter tells us “I think that’s enough”), we ordered deep-fried mutton, not as nice as the duck. Chewy like a sort of makeshift jerky, it’s paired with a vinegary sauce that is meant to cut through the fattiness but doesn’t quite manage it.

Deep-fried mutton

Yung Kee (32-40 Wellington St.)

Everyone knows Yung Kee. But I’d never eaten here before. I am ashamed to say I can’t tell you how many times I passed by this restaurant on my way to some dodgy place in Lan Kwai Fong. So when our friend suggests going here, there is nothing to do but agree.

This restaurant is, obviously, an HK institution — the equivalent of what La Tour d’Argent used to mean to Paris. We’re told it seats thousands of people per meal, and that the higher the floor, the better the food. Of course, the dish we are all supposed to order is the roast goose. So we do, and we do again (no one here stops us, or even blinks an eye). We order deep-fried spare ribs, goose webs in abalone sauce, sauteed scallops in XO sauce, deep-fried beancurd, eggplant with mushrooms, braised duck in orange peel and platter upon platter of garlicky greens. We order until we can’t bear to look at our plates again, and after that, we order mango pudding. We order a lot.

Goose, goose, deep-fried beancurd

Kam Fung Cafe (41 Spring Garden Lane)

Our last meal before boarding the plane involves sweet, soft hot buns split and stuffed with heart attack-inducing slabs of salted butter, surprisingly savory eggy tarts that break apart when you bite into them, and cup upon cup of milky tea. We’re at Kam Fung Cafe, sharing tables with strangers who are surprisingly friendly, and watching locals consume bowls of what appears to be an HK-style version of Western food: soupy macaroni or egg noodles, topped with a runny fried egg or slivers of cooked ham. The ultimate in comfort food, after days of fatty fowl and chicken balls, trekking from Shenzhen to HK and back again, enduring seasickness and a rugby game where I am accidentally doused with beer by an irate NZ fan aiming at a gloating Aussie (in all fairness, he was pretty annoying). I am tempted, but still too full.

Breakfast

Next up, I will embarrass myself not once, not twice, but FIVE times on various golf courses throughout the Pacific Northwest, all for the privilege of dining at Portland’s Castagna and Seattle’s Lark. Because someday, eventually, I will be hungry again.

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Filed under Asia, beef, chicken, Chinese, dessert, duck, food, Hong Kong, pork, restaurant, seafood