The Week of Netball & Chocolate

Time to have a quick round up of what I’ve been doing with myself the past few weeks.  Firstly, I have been playing a lot of netball.  A LOT!  So much so that my injuries are starting to hurt again which is not cool, but what is cool is that we are top of the league huzzah.  Mighty Eagles (yes that is our name!) have soared to the top of Division 4!  We’ve one game left to go before we reach the play offs and figure out if we’re going up a league.  Truth be told, I’d be scared of moving up, I’d worry we’d lose every match whereas this season (sorry to brag) we’ve won practically everyone…

I’ve really enjoyed joining a club and making new friends in Hong Kong.  As you all know, I’ve tried joining other things and never really stuck at it, the gym, yoga, crossfit (more out of cost concerns), learning mandarin and dragon boating to name just a few (!).  But what is great about this netball club is that I’m not forced to practice every week and play a match.  It is all pretty casual, and the team is made up of a mixed bunch of ladies of different ages, background etc. I say casual, but lets face it, the team is pretty competitive on and off court!  We lost last week, and although I said I didn’t care at the time, I really bloody do and if we play that team again there is going to 110% effort going in.  They’ll get what they dished out back, ha.  No hard feelings post match, honest!

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The full team minus Tara!

I just hope my injuries don’t return so I can continue playing – last season’s calf tear and sprained ankle combo was, to put it mildly, a bit of bitch.  So here’s celebrating something in my social life that wasn’t just a fad, ha, and I really hope the team are all on board for next year.  Particularly looking forward to getting some new uniforms potentially, because lets just say after two years of hardcore playing, mine has seen better days!

Second highlight of the week was visiting the Hello Kitty cafe in Austin.  Ah, Kitty, how much I do love thee, especially, when you are serving chocolate custard buns in the shape of you dressed up as a monkey.  Delicious.  To be fair, there wasn’t an awful lot I could eat now I’ve given up meat but those buns, and some fried silky tofu were top notch.  I also ate the shrimp dumplings too, which were very pretty although a little bland.  Nothing a bit of chilli couldn’t fix though!  The decor is all Hello Kitty-tastic too – chairs, tables, cutlery everything has her face on it.  At the end of the meal you earn ‘stamps’ which you can then go and shop with in the souvenir shop next door.  Five ladies of a certain age who were eating there that night (ahem) rather enjoyed purchasing Hello Kitty shot glasses and magnets!  Basically, whoever happens to be visiting me and the ‘Kong next, you will be taken here for date night whether you like it or not.  An unmissable local attraction I would say, and why the hell hadn’t I been there before (well I do know why the crazy queues when it first opened)?  I’m expecting to get a few more of these themed cafe kicks when we head to Japan for Easter.

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One final item of note for the week was date night last Saturday.  There’s a new dessert place that has opened literally across the road from us in Shek Tong Tsui called COBO HOUSE.  Not like the l0cal sweet shops, this is an upmarket Italian joint.

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When we moved into the area I never expected to associate the word upmarket with any of our local shops but here we are two years down the line.  Since the MTR opening things have been changing in the ‘hood.  I was actually surprised at the prices, a fancy dessert dish costs around HKD100, and a glass of wine around HKD70.  I was even more surprised to find out that this place is owned by a renowned award winning pastry chef in Singapore, Janice Wong, and that it is her first restaurant in HK.  Highly recommend going to visit, there is an outdoor seating area which in the evening is perfect for watching the world go buy, with chocolate and other sweet delights on hand of course.

Looks like it was a good job I played all that netball this week hey?!

Easter in Taipei – all about the food!

Another overdue post, and one that is going to be pretty long…  So maybe I’d suggest grabbing a cuppa before sitting down to it.  I’ve got four days in Taipei to write up for Pete’s sake!  So because there is generally so much to talk about I though I’d put up some posts in different chapters I guess?  So this one is all about the eats.  I thought I’d start with the grub seeing as it is one of biggest loves, and because I’m sitting here feeling a tad peckish.  It might spur me to leave the sofa in search of dinner…

So we did the whole air bnb thing and managed to bag ourselves a cute little studio for a very small amount of money.  We stayed in the Da’an District, and right where we were was really close to the university.  Which meant there was an array of cool coffee shops, places to eat and shop. 

The food on offer here was amazing, and so cheap if you are going for street eats.  I’m going to give you a run down of some of the places we went to because they were out of this world!

One of the best places we ate at was this little shop called Lantern Soy Sauce Braised Food at the end of Shida Night Market.  You basically pick up a plastic basket and choose lots of different veg, meat and fish that you want with you noodles and they cook there and then right in front of you.  They basically boiled it in a really tasty stock and then when its done they whack it in a bag and you just eat out of it right there and then with your chop sticks – delicious! 

It would be rude not to mention Din Tai Fung, basically the most infamous restaurant in Taipei.  There are branches in HK that we haven’t visited, but I plan on returning there after the culinary delights that were on offer!  The queues outside were crazy, everyone gets given a ticket and told the time they have to return.  Reason for the popularity –  this place has a Michelin Star and creates the most delicate and beautiful dumplings I have ever eaten.  There is a special way of eating the soup dumplings.  You take them out the bamboo steamer they arrive in and drop them onto your spoon.  Prior to this you will have put together almost like a dressing sauce into the spoon – two parts vinegar and one part soy with some shredded bits of ginger.  Now then there is debate what to do next, the shop recommends that you poke a hole into the soup dumpling to let the liquid surrounding the meat out, slurp the soup up in the spoon and then eat the dumpling.  However I have heard via the Fresh Off the boat vice series that “only hooligans poke a hole” and that you should just let the dumpling cool down in the mixture and then eat it.  Either way, it’s like eating little parcels of heaven!

Third on the list has to be the lovely meal we had at James Kitchen.  Despite the very western sounding name, we ate lots of beautiful local dishes.  It wasn’t dim sum but the way we ordered things on the menu it ended up a bit like tapas!  The best dish by far though was the bamboo shoots, which I have never eaten in this form before.  I think prior to this tasting the only bamboo shoots I’d eaten was the yellow rectangles in Chinese takeaway!

Breakfast each morning was supplied by the local bao hatch on the way to the MRT (MTR/tube whatever you want).  some of you might not know what a bao is.  Basically it is a Chinese steamed bun made with yeast and normally inside there is a filling of some sort, most typical is that of pork and herbs.  They are pretty big and filling, but somehow it doesn’t sit heavy in your tummy like normal takeaways!  So think like the local, lighter version of a Cornish Pasty!  I ate a spring onion bao which was just the dough wrapped up without a filling, instead the spring onion was kind of dotted into the dough, like a speciality bread roll!  Joe was loving the red bean paste bun which is actually sweet and not at all like a kidney bean, honest.  Maybe that would be like the pain au chocolate…

Finally, the best place to taste the tastiest local foods are any of the array of night markets in the city.  We ended up heading to the Raohe location as we’d read this had the best food stalls on offer!  I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t go to Shilin to buy penis waffles (yes really), but as Joe rightly pointed out we should head to the places that are about quality over gimmicks!!  My eyes were seriously bigger than my belly when we got here – I wanted to eat everything.  There was so much more on offer than we could physically eat so in the end we opted for freshly fried squid, Taiwanese style fried chicken and this gorgeous vegetarian huge dumpling.  It doesn’t sound like a lot I guess but it was really filling!  I was glad we arrived when we did though because the place soon got rammed, which meant that the only way to get around was in a conga like queue that shuffled through the little lanes.  No dancing though. 

One thing that was rather unpleasant was the smell of stinky tofu.  Have you ever smelt smelly tofu?  Oh my god it is the most horrible smell, well to me.  I can’t even describe it but it smells almost like vegetable death.  I honestly had to hold my breath when we were going past it because it did make me gag!!  To be fair, I didn’t try it so it could be really delicious.  Maybe if we return I’ll be brave enough to give it a go.

Not purple rain, black!

This update has been long overdue!  Have done quite a bit over the past week or so…

Firstly I experienced my first crazy Hong Kong weather storm.  Every so often here the observatory issues severe weather warnings, and the weekend that passed was my first black rain experience.  Black rain being the hardest and heaviest storm warning before you go into things like typhoons (I’ll be cacking my pants when that happens!).  I can only say how happy I was to be indoors at the time, because it was seriously crazy!  The hail stones were the size of golf balls and hurtled to ground with such force that they broke the roof of a shopping centre!  Yes really, the water all caved in, luckily no one was hurt.  My friend Joey’s bus was diverted because of trees in the road and it took her ages to get back home to safety.  Although all the madness of the storm was unfolding, there was something kind of cool about being able to watch it from the comfort of your own home.  Nothing like a good to storm to wake you up and remind you of that fear you felt as a kid.  I just felt sorry for people who were caught out in it.  actually that reminds me, what is all this I have been reading about London smog?  I thought the bad air quality was the sort of thing that was going to get me but so far no sign of it over here.  Looks bizarre.

My new job has been going well!  I’ve already taken part in one beer tasting (staff training obviously) and heading to a second tonight.  I need to know what I’m selling of course.  I totally fell in love with a stout by Evil Twin called Imperial Biscotti Break.  God it was like heaven, I could have drank it all evening.  It was quite chocolatey but not in a horrible gimmick way, in a very very tasty and good way.  I’ve bought a bottle and going to open it on a special occasion.  I must admit I’ve been under the weather recently so I’m hoping that I won’t get taken down too quickly in the tasting tonight.  We tasting beers from Jolly Pumpkin, Little Creature and Belhaven to name a few.

Talking of drinking the good stuff, we also went to a really cool restaurant the other night in Sheung Wan called Little Bao.  This was hipster food paradise!  Basically the shop is seriously small and the only place to sit is either on bar stools around the edge of the shop or around when the magical cooking happens.  Basically instead of batches (okay buns baps whatever) you have the bao, and inside there is a variety of amazing filling I had a fish bao and Joe had a spicy chicken one.  The best bit though was desert…  Deep fried mini bao with  slice of slated caramel ice cream in the middle – hello!  Will if you make it out here to Hong Kong this place is definitely right up your street.

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I thought I’d alert you all to these little beauties.  Now it doesn’t look like your standard cupcake true, and doesn’t come with the pretty casing BUT it is really tasty!  Basically it is a hot, sweet, waffle cone with egg in it.  Doesn’t sound that revolutionary does it?  However, you have to trust me these little beauties when hot melt in your mouth. 

They kind of remind me of when I used to go into town with my nan when I was younger and we’d go to the doughnut man to get five hot, sugary pieces for a pound. 

Perhaps we could make them look more appealing by piping pink icing all over them?  Double sweet hit…

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Or Happy Lunar New Year! Very much looking forward to the year of the horse here in Hong Kong. The horse is apparently said to bring prosperity and wealth. Babies born this year are animated, active and energetic – watch out Becky and Rob sounds like your new arrival will be keeping you busy!

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I’ve really enjoyed taking this special time of year in and hearing from locals about all the traditions they observe. There was one particular one which made me smile, apparently in the first month of new year some people won’t buy shoes because it sounds too much like the noise hai which is a sigh and not a good way to start.

So we saw the night parade on Kowloon side. The amount if people there was insane. We managed to get a spot where we could see the parade well, well until the parade actually started and then all of a sudden it felt like ten cameras and phones got pushed past my head to capture the show. I do struggle with this to be honest, I just want to scream just bloody watch the thing – especially when you can see the quality of films that are being made, I don’t know who wants to watch a lamppost in the middle of the screen for two minutes! Sorry rant over! The parade itself was good, I think my favourites though we’re the gymnasts and street performers rather than the floats themselves. The highlight though for me is when the huge red dragon went past and collapsed onto the sides of the crowd who squeaked with delight!

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We also managed to see most of the fireworks from the terrace of our services apartments. There were two huge buildings in the way but luckily we had a good view in the middle of them. They were beautiful, so many colours and so loud – it went on for twenty minutes. I couldn’t help but wonder how much the fireworks all cost and also the effort of coordinating them all.

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Finally, we’ve definitely observed one tradition – to eat a lot! To be honest with you we do that anyway, but we have enjoyed dim sum. Well, apart from the chicken feet which I found so gross, it’s all scaly and the nails are still on. I just couldn’t do it, maybe I’ll be raving about it in a few months time who knows…

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My new favourite restaurant near the hotel is this cute little Thai place called Thailand Noodle. It’s a cafe with a very small menu but it’s cheap and tastes amazing. I ate a Thai noodle soup which was so tasty I didn’t have to add any sauces. We had some snacks for starters and some very welcoming and refreshing coconut juice after the antics from the night before.

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