Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I know last post I said I was going to talk about language. I'll do that post later. But first, I have some things I want to say about food.

Hong Kong is one of the famous places in the world for its food. And so far my experiences have been fairly limited but I have enjoyed what I've had. There are just so many choices here, and not just for Chinese food. And I've only tried a few things. So I won't be able to really say much about HK food until awhile from now.

I will say that I subconsciously expected there to be lots of dishes like the Chinese food we have back in LA. And it's not that these don't exist--it's just that the popularity of the various kinds of dishes is very different. Sweet and sour pork is very hard to find. Noodle soup with shredded seafood is very easy to find. Orange chicken, broccoli beef, moo shu pork: these are all among the most popular dishes in Chinese restaurants in LA. But while it's possible to find some of these on some menus, they're not the big items here.

Noodles are really big here. Now, I like noodles. But somehow I had it in my head that noodles were a more northern thing, and stuff-with-sweet-sauce-on-rice was more the Southern Chinese fare. But for every dish I see served on rice, I see about five dishes served in noodles.

Another issue is that most of these are served hot, and quite frankly, it's hot enough outside as it is.

The hotel staff brought me a complimentary fruit basket. It had an apple, two bananas, an orange, and a firedragon fruit (fo long guo). Thanks to my Cantonese tutor, I knew what this was before I got here (Thanks, Jackson!). Here's a picture of some of the varieties. It's the most improbable-looking fruit I've ever seen. And it's quite tasty. Though I had to ask the receptionist downstairs in the hotel lobby how to serve it (do I peel it like an orange? Chop it into slices? No, I cut it in half medially, and treat the top and bottom as bowls, scooping out the white pulp with a spoon).

With the heat as it is, I'm surprised I don't see more restaurants serving these fruits.

Allow me to backtrack a bit to Taiwan. As I've mentioned, I hit Taiwan twice: once on the way to the Philippines, and then back. The second time I was recovering from TD, and had a bit more time to sample the local fare. Actually I think that not all of that was TD. I think some of that was I now was getting a lot more fiber in my diet than I'm used to. You know when your mom said, "eat your vegetables"? And "You'll learn to like it"? Well, it seems the Taiwanese actually did eat their vegetables, and they actually did learn to like it. And now, when I order a meal at a restaurant and ask for recommendations, the waitress points out some dishes, and when I pick out a meat dish, she helpfully suggests that to balance that, I should get a plate of mixed vegetables. This involved a few carrots and mushrooms but many more things that I can't identify. I also didn't know what to expect. I saw a small yellow bulb that looked like a squash or tomato of some sort, but when I bit into it, it seemed like it was made of dough. I gagged at first because of the discrepancy.

I suspect my digestive system just didn't know what to do with all of this fiber. Actually, digestive systems don't know what to do with fiber, which is why it cleans your digestive system out. But the sudden shock of all this fiber was probably partly why my gut felt weird for a few days.

Hong Kong food has lots of veggies too. In fact, I think in the US, there are veggie plates for vegetarians and for people who want to feel healthy. In Hong Kong and Taiwan, there are no veggie plates: there are lots of dishes with lots of veggies in them, because these veggies are popular. Some of these have meat in them, so it's not for the vegetarians per se. In the US, especially when ordering Chinese food, we think in terms of what kind of meat is involved. Here, there might be meat, but the main attraction might be some vegetable.

Also, in Hong Kong especially, everything is seafood. I like seafood, generally speaking. But I don't think of it as one of the main food groups. In fact, it's an afterthought for me. When ordering at a restaurant, thinking about what kind of meat I'd like, I think of chicken, beef, and pork. Oh yes, and there's various kinds of seafood too--I almost forgot. Here, it's more a matter of what kind of seafood you'd like. And if you want a change of pace, sure, we have chicken, beef, and pork.

In the interest of bringing some balance to my diet, I ate at McDonalds last night and had a couple of Big Macs. They tasted just like Big Macs back home. They did seem to have a menu that included breakfast stuff at the same time as regular stuff. In particular they had orange juice. I ordered one. The large orange juice was still small, but that's true of orange juice in McDonalds in the States, too.

The placemat was full of assurances of the quality and cleanliness of their food. It even said that their chickens were kept protected in an enclosed area to prevent mixing with wild birds. Now, in the US this kind of thing brings protests from PETA, but here, in light of Avian Flu, it's the sort of thing that reassures customers.

I'm off to Macau today. It's more than sightseeing, actually: when I left for Hong Kong, my work visa hadn't yet arrived, so I arrived with a tourist visa, went to HKBU, and picked up my work visa. To have this approved, I need to re-enter the country, hence, going to Macau and back. Actually, Hong Kong and Macau are now both part of the same country, namely, the People's Republic of China. But under the "One Country, Two Systems" policy, they are considered separate as far as visas and immigration and such are concerned.


At 6:19 PM, Blogger Robert E. Williams said...

Get the camera and start posting some photos! (I love your descriptions, but pictures would be a great accompaniment.)

At 1:22 AM, Blogger Kevin Iga said...

OK. I'm still looking around for good prices on digital cameras. So far the prices have all been comparable to what I found in the states. I'm planning on going looking tonight in a district that is supposed to have cheap electronics.


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