Alot of people ask these questions when cooking scallops: “Why aren’t they searing?”/ “Why do they look like they’re steaming?”/ “Why are they shrinking?!”
My answer to perfectly seared scallops: Brine and Dry.
You don’t have to buy super expensive ones like $40 – $50 for a box of Hokkaido scallops but if you’re feeling rich or are rich then please go ahead. I either get mine from Giant– I forgot the brand– at $17 (?) for 12, or from Song Fish. I don’t really know how to choose scallops, or how to differentiate between “wet” and “dry” scallops just by looking at them. Look at the ingredients list. “Wet” scallops are usually treated with phosphate solution, a preservative which prolongs shelf life (duh) and makes the scallops heavier and larger. If not prepared properly, all the added water evaporates during cooking, leaving your scallops the size of clams.
“Dry” scallops are not treated with this chemical solution and do not absorb unnecessary water. As a result, they have a shorter shelf life but the taste is sweeter and more natural. And yes, they are far more expensive than “wet” scallops.
I buy “wet” scallops because I am “budgetpantry”. The secret to getting them to sear the way they do in these pictures is to brine them with a lemon juice and salt solution, then dry, dry, dry them before cooking in a hot oiled pan. You’ll be tempted to flip them after three seconds to “check” how they’re doing. Don’t do it. Scallops are like ex-boyfriends. There is no need to check how they’re doing.
I don’t know if the fact that I’m starting my new job on Monday has anything to do with it, but the withdrawal symptoms are really bad this time round.
I miss Hong Kong. I miss being there. I miss the solitude, I miss taking the bus. I miss sharing tables. I miss the familiarity and unfamiliarity. I miss the quietness as I read my book after all the whatsapp updates. I miss all my days there.
And I also miss Polo Yau. Polo Yau is essentially a butter bun with sugar cookie topping sandwiched with a slab of butter in between. It is also called “Pineapple Bun” because the cookie topping resembles the outside of a pineapple. There are many versions of “Pineapple Bun”- plain, with charsiew, with butter (like this), with custard, and I have even seen some places selling it with red bean filling, although I don’t think it is very common. To me, you eat a butter bun to taste the butter, or there is no point.
We were at Ellenborough Market Café, Merchant Court, for dinner buffet early last month to celebrate Michelle’s promotion. We probably also celebrated Kelvin’s and my farewell but more on that another day. Thank you Michelle for the treat!
Apart from the black pepper crayfish, the dish that knocked our socks off was the Tomato Basil Soup. I had two bowls, I think. #honeystarsaddict had a gallon (I’m exaggerating because now must put disclaimer). Quite incredible, the creamy soup was tangy without being overpowering, and it was the best soup I’ve had in a long time.
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After checking in at Just Inn, I took a quick shower and walked across the road to Champagne Court for some cheese noodles. This was the start of my Cha Chan Teng (Hong Kong tea restaurant) hop. Sun Kee is famous for its pork cheek cheese noodles and it is hard to understand why. Yes, you read me correctly. The noodles are raved by locals and tourists because of its unique cheese sauce, but I don’t really get it.
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I tendered my resignation a month ago to finally write for a living. Some of you might know that I was journalism-trained, and more than ten years on, it still escapes me why I did not go into writing right after graduating. Now, it just feels like I’ve been given a second chance. A career change at 33? If not now, when？
I decided to go on a solo trip to reconnect with myself and space out. Where was I headed? Without a doubt, Hong Kong, a city that means many things to me. Of course, travelling means different things to different people, but to me, if you simply go to Hong Kong to 買東西，吃東西，那你沒有尊重到這個地方。
I had the best trip of my life and I am thankful to the husband for letting me. Many years ago when I first got my first pay check, I bought a ticket to Hong Kong to fulfil a dream which I shall not dwell on. I stayed in many cramped hostels in not-so-savoury districts and buildings for SG$30-$50 a night. All the hostels I stayed in, for example, Dragon Hostel and Ah Shan Hostel in Mongkok, were clean, no frills, and extremely tiny. But all that was ok. I needed to be in that city, never mind that my Cantonese sucked (and still do).
When I started earning more money and travelling with friends, I stayed in hotels like Eaton, Kimberly, and Metropark, which many of you might be familiar with. But while hotel stays were more spacious, something was lacking.. I just couldn’t put a finger to it. Then I kind of realised that the hostel experience reminded me of a long time ago when I was young, when I had to scrimp to travel, when I was happy with just a bed and clean sheets, when I was.. contented.
I knew I had to stay in a hostel this time. I decided on Just Inn, a contemporary, cosy, “art gallery” hostel in Tsim Sha Tsui. This is what the apartment looks like. There are a few rooms here and there’s a common area where you could read a book, browse travel material, watch TV, or sit and chat with other travellers.
Just Inn provides a fridge, microwave oven, Diamond water dispenser with hot and cold water and a coffee machine in its common pantry. Does it have WIFI? Hell yes, I wouldn’t go anywhere without WIFI.
Artworks curated by Just Inn’s hosts, and artists and designers of the city are displayed and updated frequently in this little “art hub”.
“The writing on the wall”.
I got Plato.
Before you get all excited to book that room, know that it is tiny. If you’re claustrophobic, look elsewhere. Now. Or if you’re someone who needs a huge-ass bathroom or you get depression, staying in a Hong Kong hostel is probably not your best choice.
Here we go. This is where you hang clothes.
Where you sleep.
Where you shower.
Where you walk (plus a few more squares but really, they don’t make a big difference).
And that’s that. The room comes equipped with a hairdryer, power adaptor, an extension cord to charge whatever you want, nifty shelves for the remote controls and a bedside ledge (not pictured) for your shopping, luggage, and other stuff. The towels were changed and bed made daily. I paid about $78 a night after a credit card discount.
The location is at Lock Road, accessible by a straight bus (Cityflyer A21) from the airport. The fare costs HK$33 and the journey takes 30 – 40 minutes. I don’t take the Airport Express because it is expensive, doesn’t save me much time, and is troublesome with the connections and all. Just Inn is 2 minutes away from Tsim Sha Tsui MTR Station and from there, you could walk along Nathan Road to Jordan, Yau Ma Tei and Mongkok, if you love walking as much as I do. Would I stay here again? Goes without saying if I were travelling alone again.
Thank you Just Inn, for making my trip a precious one.
23, Lock Road, 7 Floor
Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
(they have another outlet nearby. check the website for details.)
Bacon and Peas. They have a special place in my heart.
Whenever I’m in Florence, I make it a point to go to Trattoria da Rocco in Santa Croce for a quick but homely lunch. This little gem of a trattoria is located inside San Ambrogio Market (Address: Piazza Ghiberti | Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio, 50122 Florence, Italy), just a few minutes away from Piazza dei Ciompi flea market (you know I have a thing for thrifting).
Trattoria da Rocca’s Primi Piatti (first courses) are €4.00, Secondi Piatti (seconds) €5.00, Contorni (sides) €3.50 and Frutta e Dolce (desserts) are just €2.50. Travellers to Italy would know you hardly come across these prices anywhere! There was a cover charge of €1.00 per person, very common in Italy. Some places charge €1.50 – €2.00, depending on how touristy or high-end they are. We ordered a lasagna, sausage and beans, and bacon and peas for our lunch that day on a November afternoon. We always gotta have them bacon and peas.
Ahhhh. Custard Cream Puffs. My childhood memories of custard cream puffs came from Balmoral Bakery, an old-school bakery now located at Sunset Way. Since I was 7 or 8, Balmoral Bakery has been my playground and obsession, for my aunts loved to buy chicken pies, samosas, sausage rolls, buttercream cakes, paper sponge cakes and yes, custard puffs from the 49-year-old establishment.
My sister-in-law gave me a Meyer Fujimaru Evolution Chinese wok out of the blue just because she’s awesome like that, and in my favourite shade of green too! What’s the first dish that I should cook in it? Fried rice, I think!
I don’t usually eat rice but these days, I’m on a to-heck-with-the-diet mentality so until I decide to lose weight again (I’m starting Monday), I’m gonna cook alllll the carbo dishes I can think of. My ban-mian recipe is in desperate need of a photo-haul. I have a good mind to cook it again next week, erm, before Monday.