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Back to basics: Egg sandwich from the Australia Dairy Company

9 Nov

MoonTrekker 2012 is officially over. It happened over three weeks ago and was an exhilarating experience. Despite a few injuries and setbacks, the race went really well. I couldn’t have asked for better teammates. We finished beyond our expectations, reaching Lantau Peak before sunrise and finishing 3rd in the all girls team category for the Sunrise race (42km route). Of course, a full post will be dedicated to my first MoonTrekker experience. But for now, I feel like talking about food.

After a long Friday night of hiking through the forest and mountains of Lantau Island into the wee hours of Saturday morning, I sure was tired. Exhausted. Hungry. At the same time, I felt a sense of relief and self-fulfillment. Not much was accomplished that Saturday after the race. After a sleepless night on the trails, most of the next day was dedicated to snoozing, sitting on the couch and eating leftovers. I was definitely content on being lazy. I deserved it. When I woke up on Sunday morning, I felt much better but was also left famished. And what can fill you up after having been through such an experience? I had just finished my first trail race – in the dark may I add – so I felt like I needed something special for breakfast. What did I want? What did I need? Where to go?

Chinese boyfriend must have seen my distress as he immediately came to my aid and made arrangements for breakfast. I decided to follow his lead. I felt rather gutsy that morning, knowing that he sometimes has some rather special gastronomic tastes, in my humble opinion.

His answer to my need turned out to be fairly simple. Back to basics was his motto for the day. No need for a champagne brunch or an all-you-can-eat buffet. For my post-race day breakfast, my boyfriend treated me to… (drumroll!)… an egg sandwich. Yes, an egg sandwich. Simplicity.

My first reaction was of bewilderment. I have always associated egg sandwiches to two thin slices of white bread filled with cold egg salad, which reminded me of my lunch box during my high-school days. Why did he speak of this egg sandwich in such high regard?! But I shall not be fooled, as the egg sandwich from the Australia Dairy Company restaurant is not your average sandwich. Far from it!

I knew the food was going be good when I saw a long queue of about 25 salivating, hungry locals waiting to be seated. But I didn’t mind waiting that day, having a 42 km night race tale to share with my breakfast buddy. We actually ended up waiting for only 10 minutes. I was surprised by the short wait but was about to discover why fairly soon.

We sat at a small table with two other ladies, which is something very common in local restaurants/cafés in HK. In Hong Kong, space is scarce and time is precious. You must sit where there is an empty chair. The restaurant, which has been in business for over 50 years, has kept its authenticity: bright, no frills, filled with small tables and little plastic benches. The menus are all in Chinese, plastered on the walls or taped to the tables. All the servers are men, wearing white traditional uniforms, making their way efficiently and fluidly through the many small tables that were strategically added to cater to their growing business.  I really love how they kept almost all of the interior decor as it was when they first opened.

My boyfriend and I both ordered a simple scrambled egg and ham sandwich with a hot Chinese milk tea. Although I have had better milk tea in Hong Kong before (stay tuned for a future post on my favorite Chinese milk tea place in town), the egg sandwich was just divine! Divine… A word I had never expected to use when describing an egg sandwich. The crust less white bread was thick and toasted to perfection: crispy yet moist on the inside. The scrambled eggs were fresh, tasty, creamy, buttery and slightly salted. A simple heavenly egg mixture with fresh milk, a thin slice of ham, and two buttered pieces of white bread, and you get yourself a perfect egg sandwich for only HK$17 (US$2).

From the moment we sat at the table until we paid our bill to the cashier, no more than 20 minutes had went by. Everything is fast-paced at the Australia Dairy Company. They quickly take your order and the food is on your table before you even know it. They expect you to eat as soon as possible and to leave the premises right after. It seems to be an unwritten rule and I sure remember the intense gaze we got from one of the managers there when we started chatting at the table, even after the sandwich and the milk tea had been consumed.  It was as if he was motioning us to leave. We sure got the message and quickly left, feeling a little uneasy from such bad customer service. I understood why we didn’t have to wait that long before getting a seat. Eat and go, that’s how they roll. However, I must admit that such feeling vanishes rather quickly as you soon find yourself salivating for more of that good old egg sandwich.

Where is it?

Australia Dairy Company is located on Kowloon side in Jordan, a 2 minute walk from Jordan MTR station. It is actually right next to my favorite shrimp wonton soup restaurant. That street sure seems to be a hot spot for food lovers. The exact address is 47 Parkes St., Jordan.

The good?

The food is amazing. Everything on the menu is dairy-based as it is their specialty: milk tea, eggs with butter, porridge with milk, milk and egg puddings, etc. Service is efficient (read not friendly at all as I explained previously) but when you feel hungry, quickness and yummy food often overcomes friendliness.

The bad?

Customer service is horrendous. I went there with my Cantonese-speaking boyfriend but I still wonder how foreigners can communicate with the unfriendly servers.

The place is really popular among locals. There is always an endless line-up of people outside the restaurant. While waiting in line, an employee was dispatching the customers on the tables, in a fairly rude manner. I couldn’t understand what was being said but I could definitely sense the annoyance of the locals being treated this way. But in the end, the food is just so delicious that most people often forget this upon the conclusion of their meal.

Anything else?

Since that unforgettable egg sandwich feast on the Sunday after the race, I went back to the Australia Dairy Company on two consecutive days, as well as the following week. The great taste of the egg sandwich has been constant. I decided to ignore the servers’ bad attitude and simply enjoy the food. For someone who worked for years in the F&B industry, it was not an easy decision for me. That’s how good the food is.

I suggest you also try out their milk or egg based pudding. Another definite double thumbs up.

 

Shrimp wonton soup: My cure for homesickness

24 Aug

Let’s go back in time. It is all about being nostalgic today.

June of 2011.

It is hot and humid in Hong Kong. Nothing abnormal. A typical summer day on the island I guess. But my Canadian body is having a hard time adjusting to this harsh weather. After a three years stint living on the equator (literally, as I lived in Guayaquil, Ecuador), one would think that I could acclimate to humid environments. But as I was starting my new life in Hong Kong, I quickly realized that I had no idea what “hot and humid” really meant. In a city where tall buildings often dominate the skyline, the gentlest of winds tend to be scarce and therefore one can often suffocate from the intense humidity.

I am sweaty and tired, my curly mane is spiraling out of control, and a headache is slowly creeping its way up towards my forehead. On top of it all, I am missing home today. I usually take great pride in calling myself an experienced world-traveller whom can easily adapt anywhere. But somehow, here I am, feeling homesick after a mere three weeks in Hong Kong. What is happening to me? Am I getting too old? Too sensitive? I see my reflection in the window of a store on Kimberley Road. Oh God! I really need to do something with this hair of mine! Must find a way to reduce frizz! (Sigh)

I am heading towards Jordan to meet a friend for lunch. I am hungry and looking forward to try a new place. My friend, a local from Hong Kong, is taking me to a small restaurant renown for its wonton soup, which they have been serving for many years. Mak Man Kee Noodle Shop is even more famous after being featured on Anthony Bourdain’s television show “No reservation”. Let’s hope they have air conditioning.

It is lunchtime and the place is crowded. I am not sure if I can deal with people right now.

“Do you like shrimps?” my friend asks as we enter the premises. “Do you like wonton soup?” The smell of fresh food, combined with the idea of eating noodle soup at an old school authentic Chinese restaurant, just seems too enticing to pass up.

“Yes, yes, I do!” I reply to both of his questions, already salivating. The place smells good, my stomach is growling and my taste buds are starting to get aroused. Seeing the locals queuing up outside and waiting for seats overcomes any reservations I have.

Only one table is available so we quickly slip into this small wooden booth. My friend orders the food for us. Excellent! Today I just don’t have the energy to look through a menu written in Chinese and pick something to eat. I just want someone to make a decision for me.

Fairly quickly, the food is served: a fuming, enticing bowl of yellow noodles, with four big wonton floating in the broth. As I start eating, I know right away that I will come back for more in the very near future. It is love at first bite. I am no food critic, but having been a shrimp-lover for as long as I can remember, I do have a certain culinary knowledge when comes the time to rate the quality of those little crustaceans. And this is definitely a keeper. The shrimp is meaty and juicy, with a firm texture. Its flesh is flavorful and sweet. Just the way I like it.

I am struggling with a hanging noodle, trying to gracefully slurp it back into my mouth when a middle-aged Chinese couple suddenly decides to sit into the same booth as us. I find it quite odd. The booth is really not THAT big. I am feeling slightly annoyed (I later find out that this kind of open seating is quite a common practice amongst old school Chinese restaurants). They place their order (shrimp wonton soup and sweet spicy shredded pork noodles) and the man politely asks me in impeccable English where I am from. “Canada” I say as I sip the tasty soup. Well, isn’t it a small world! My booth companion happens to have lived in Vancouver for a few years (as many other Hongkongers have as I will soon realize), so we both have something in common. This small detail makes me feel so much closer to home. Okay, my hometown of Quebec is quite far away from the Pacific coastal city of Vancouver. But let’s not obsess over a few kilometers people! For the next 30 minutes, the Chinese man and I swap stories about Vancouver (my favorite Canadian city) and Quebec city (a place he visited twice during his stay in Canada). We talk about politics and poutine. I tell him how much I miss winter sometimes. He tells me why he really doesn’t. All in the while of enjoying our savory bowls of noodles.

I went home that afternoon with a full belly and a happier mind. I realized later on that all I needed was a friendly conversation about my home country over a bowl of fresh shrimp wonton noodle soup. For a ridiculously low price of HK$29, I was cured. My homesickness had vanished and I was back to my normal free-spirited self.

Since that unforgettable day of what I like to call “wonton soup therapy”, which occurred over a year ago, I have visited the famous restaurant in Jordan many times. True to myself, I keep ordering the same savory dish. When I feel stressed from work, sad or homesick, the shrimp wonton soup from Mak Man Kee Noodle Shop is still therapeutic. On my list of favorite comfort food, this local dish is right up there, a close second to a plate of mac & cheese.

Where is it?

The restaurant is located in Jordan, on Kowloon side: 51 Parkes Street, G/F. (www.makmankee.com)

The good?

The noodle shop has a long history and it is one of the few original shrimp wonton soup restaurants in Kowloon. The place is clean, the food is fresh and the service is fast and efficient. It is a perfect place to go for lunch. Although I do prefer going at the end of my work day, as it is more quiet… and you are likely to get your own booth.

The setting itself is not grand or cute, nor is it intimate or romantic. It can be loud, bright, crowded and the decoration is, well… inexistent. It is a typical, local Chinese restaurant. But part of me likes that. It’s all part of the game.

Anything else?

A little bird told me that the shop serves a mean bowl of pig feet noodles. I believe him. And do try the dish if you feel tempted by it. As adventurous as I am, I just haven’t been able to muster up the courage to try this Chinese delicacy. The idea of eating feet, let alone the feet of a pig, just doesn’t quite do it for me. Again, probably just my sensitivity to words as it is apparently quite tasty. Will I ever try it? “Never say never” my parents used to tell me when I was being fussy about food. In this specific situation, I’ll respond “Not for a while”. To be continued.

When the waffle craving hits

12 Aug

I am a big fan of waffles. I have a sweet tooth and waffles are definitely up there on my list of favorite sugary snacks. Therefore, when I discovered a local Hong Kong delicacy with that waffle flavor I liked so much, I was over the moon. I now have a Plan B when my craving creeps up. Plan B is called egg balls.

The smell of waffles always brings me right back to my parents’ place in Quebec, when my dad used to prepare breakfast for us. It definitely evokes vivid memories of L cooking up a storm in the kitchen for our family brunch on Sundays. Pancakes, French toasts, omelette, fruit salad and of course waffles were always signature breakfast dishes at our house. I unfortunately believe that my dad’s passion and talent for cooking have been passed on mostly to my brother, leaving very little for me. Therefore, nowadays, such mouth-watering homemade breakfasts only occur on very rare occasions (read barely never). Sorry boyfriend.

A few weeks into my big move to Hong Kong, I experienced my first strong waffle withdrawal. Therefore, that delicious scent of sweet, crispy dough grabbed my attention right away as I walked past a little shop in Tsim Sha Tsui. I was slightly disappointed when I found out what this fragrant delicacy was called… Known as Gai Daan Jai (雞蛋仔), its English translation is actually egg balls. Egg balls… Really? Egg balls? I am not particularly fond of the name. Keep reading my posts and as you get to know me better, you will notice that words always play a critical role for me when comes the time to choose what to eat on a menu or pick a nail polish color for my pedicure. If I like the name, I buy. My ex-roommate and partner in crime from back home would know exactly what I mean, as she is even more word sensitive then I am. But let’s get back to our egg balls.

Fortunately, I decided to overcome the name issue and I bought the pastry. Needless to say, it hit the spot. The concept is in fact pretty simple: a mixture of eggs, sugar, flour and evaporated milk poured into a mold and voilà! The result: an amalgam of little waffle balls, the size of a big olive. The taste: perfection. The doughy balls are crispy yet chewy, and truly addictive. No need to add syrup or any other condiments. It is simplicity at its best.

 In order to get my weekly fix, I visited various “egg balls specialists” around Kowloon side. All of them pretty much offer a similar version of the tasty snack, with some variations in the flavor department. I like my egg balls the basic way, but other popular flavors are coconut or taro, to name a few.

However, my favorite egg ball spot is this small stand called LKK. It is located on Nathan road between Jordan and Tsim Sha Tsui, and the waffle scent will hit you from one block away. It is a tiny joint and one can often see it crowded with locals and tourists queuing up in front of the shop, waiting for their number to be called. There is no place to sit. It is a “buy and go” concept. And their egg balls are simply divine! It is definitely a must try when visiting Hong Kong.

Where is it?

Look for Shop E, Nathan Road 178, on the corner of Nathan and Hillwood road, in Tsim Sha Tsui. I could tell you to simply stroll along Nathan road, between the Jordan and the TST MTR station until you smell the waffles and see a crowd of people, patiently waiting for their order. But to make it simpler, just have a look at the map. They have other shops around HK but their Tsim Sha Tsui shop is simply more convenient for me.

The good?

Other then the amazing waffle flavor, I would say the price is the next best thing. HK$15 (HK$28 for 2) and your waffle craving will be immediately satisfied.

The bad?

I guess having to wait in line to place your order and pick up the food goes into this category. But waiting for something in Hong Kong never really takes THAT long, this city being on “fast forward” pretty much all the time. On a Friday night, 5 minutes is the usual waiting time. Not bad at all.

Anything else?

The place has quite the notoriety within the HK community. The walls are plastered with pictures of local celebs, famous politicians and newspaper clips reviewing the place. Besides egg balls, the shop sells a lot of other yummy snacks, another famous one being fish balls. When I stop at LKK, I always end up ordering the egg balls. For those interested in trying their other snacks, this place also has more to offer as well. Maybe you can try them and give me a feedback on it?

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