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Duvel

Tales from the Fragrant Harbour

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“… and so it begins!”

 
Welcome to “Tales from the Fragrant Harbour”!

In the next couple of days I am hoping to take you to a little excursion to Hong Kong to explore the local food and food culture as well as maybe a little bit more about my personal culinary background. I hope I can give you a good impression of what life is like on this side of the globe and am looking very forward to answering questions, engaging in spirited discussions and just can share a bit of my everyday life with you. Before starting with the regular revealing shots of my fridge’s content and some more information on myself, I’d like to start this blog and a slightly different place.

For today's night, I ‘d like to report back from Chiba city, close to Tokyo, Japan. It’s my last day of a three day business trip and it’s a special day here in Japan: “Doyou no ushi no hi”. The “midsummer day of the ox”, which is actually one of the earlier (successful) attempts of a clever marketing stunt.  As sales of the traditional winter dish “Unagi” (grilled eel with sweet soy sauce) plummeted in summer, a clever merchant took advantage of the folk tale that food items starting with the letter “U” (like ume = sour plum and uri = gourd) dispel the summer heat, so he introduced “Unagi” as a new dish best enjoyed on this day. It was successful, and even in the supermarkets the sell Unagi-Don and related foods. Of course, I could not resist to take advantage and requested tonight dinner featuring eel. Thnaks to our kind production plant colleagues, I had what I was craving …

(of course the rest of the food was not half as bad)

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Todays suggestion: Unagi (grilled eel) and the fitting Sake !

 

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For starters: Seeweed (upper left), raw baby mackerel with ginger (upper right) and sea snails. I did not care for the algae, but the little fishes were very tasty.

 

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Sahimi: Sea bream, Tuna and clam ...

 

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Tempura: Shrimp, Okra, Cod and Mioga (young pickled ginger sprouts).

 

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Shioyaki Ayu: salt-grilled river fish. I like this one a lot. I particularly enjoy the fixed shape mimicking the swimming motion. The best was the tail fin :)

 

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Wagyu: "nuff said ...

 

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Gourd. With a kind of jellied Oden stock. Nice !

 

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Unagi with Sansho (mountain pepper) :D

 

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So, so good. Rich and fat and sweet and smoky. I could eat a looooot of that ...

 

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Chawan Mushi:steamed egg custard. A bit overcooked. My Japanese hosts very surprised when I told them that I find it to be cooked at to high temperatures (causing the custard to loose it's silkiness), but they agreed.

 

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Part of the experience was of course the Sake. I enjoyed it a lot but whether this is the one to augment the taste of the Unagi I could not tell ...

 

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More Unagi (hey it's only twice per year) ...

 

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Miso soup with clams ...

 

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Tiramisu.

 

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Outside view of the restaurant. Very casual!

On the way home I enjoyed a local IPA. Craft beer is a big thing in Japan at the moment (as probably anywhere else in the world), so at 29 oC in front of the train station I had this. Very fruity …

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When I came back to the hotel, the turn down service had made my bed and placed a little Origami crane on my pillow. You just have to love this attention to detail.

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On a completely different note: I found this Uji Matcha tea capsules at the little supermarket at the Chiba Minato station. As I do own a Nescafe Dolce Gusto, I am very curious how that tea does compare to the real thing. Will report back in due time …

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I love smoked eel but it does not return the favor so it is a rare treat. The eel you are eating looks delicious. The food presentation of the Japanese is always something that captures my heart.

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Thank you for taking the time and effort to share your fantastic travels and delights with us. 

 

Curious, were there many bones in the eel (hard to tell from the photo).  I love eel, but after an incident as a child with a fish bone caught in my throat and a trip to the ER, those little elusive calcium needles have always frightened me!

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The amount of detail given to the food presentation, starting by selecting the right dishes to present, followed by the right (complementary or augmenting) color, texture, taste of the different items and the coorect order in which they are served was something that has drawn me to Japanese food from the very beginning.

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11 minutes ago, TicTac said:

Thank you for taking the time and effort to share your fantastic travels and delights with us. 

 

Curious, were there many bones in the eel (hard to tell from the photo).  I love eel, but after an incident as a child with a fish bone caught in my throat and a trip to the ER, those little elusive calcium needles have always frightened me!

No bones whatsoever, just the fillet. The Japanese conger eel Anago (actually a different species) has plenty of bones, but even for that little critter the chef usually takes the time to remove them. You could call it a labour of love, but then again you would not have seen how they gut and skin them :$


Edited by Duvel Spelling (log)
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Aooni IPA is from Nagano. You're right that the craft beer scene in Japan has exploded since the laws  changed. And that's why I went there for 6 weeks just to drink beer (mostly).

 

I had many good beers in Japan but also many many bad ones. Their "beer culture" is still very much in its infancy and needs to look to other countries to learn and improve. Serving all beers in a Weissbier glass in a craft beer bar is odd. Some places do that.

 

OK, never mind. Let's get back to your HK topic.

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Amazing.  I adore eel.  I would adore it even more if there were no bones!

 

Also, those bay Mackerel....unreal.  Never seen those before.  Can only imagine!

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6 minutes ago, Duvel said:

The amount of detail given to the food presentation, starting by selecting the right dishes to present, followed by the right (complementary or augmenting) color, texture, taste of the different items and the coorect order in which they are served was something that has drawn me to Japanese food from the very beginning.

I'm looking forward to taking this tour (it's probably the only way I'll get to the far east!); given the above comment I have to say I was a bit surprised at the tiramisu! Are Western desserts often served after such a carefully ordered meal? (Just wondering, not judging. I'm a dessert person.) The origami crane is beautiful, I used to do origami, but never with such precision. I've seen people use tweezers to get perfect folds! (Just hanging out in Japan a while longer until we get to Hong Kong.)

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1 minute ago, cakewalk said:

I'm looking forward to taking this tour (it's probably the only way I'll get to the far east!); given the above comment I have to say I was a bit surprised at the tiramisu! Are Western desserts often served after such a carefully ordered meal? (Just wondering, not judging. I'm a dessert person.) The origami crane is beautiful, I used to do origami, but never with such precision. I've seen people use tweezers to get perfect folds! (Just hanging out in Japan a while longer until we get to Hong Kong.)

In more traditional places you would have classic desserts such as fruit, bean jellies (yokan) or glutinous rice products (omochi). Despite how nice the food actually looked (and tasted), this was a casual restaurant and western style desserts are most welcome in these places (being maybe more exciting to the average customer) ...

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Aaahhhh. Makes me SO want to go back to Japan. I loved the food, the presentation, the ceremonious service in even the casual restaurants. I loved the country, as a whole.

 

I have had the tiny mackerel, just didn't know they were mackarel. Very good. I loved the food courts in the train stations and the array of food vendors outside the baseball stadium (buy your dinner/snacks, AND beer, and take them inside! Not to mention draft beer in the stands, courtesy of vendors with pony kegs strapped to their backs!).

 

I would go back tomorrow, given a choice.

 

 

 

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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What a great appetizer to your HK trip! Looking at your meal photos when I've skipped breakfast is making me wish I hadn't.

 

I am really looking forward to your adventures in HK, as I'm planning a trip there next year. Haven't been there in 30 yrs, so I'm eager to see what's changed (a whole lot, I'm sure!) and what you'll be eating.  Will be taking notes!

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@Beebs I don't know what @Duvel has in store for us, but there was a big discussion of dim sum and cantonese restaurants that really helped me plan my trip in 2011 here:

 

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Good morning from Tokyo Haneda airport. My day started rather early today, as I had to commute from Chiba city in the east of Tokyo bay to Haneda in the south-west. It rains cats and dogs today and I shared one train (out of three this morning) with a group of slightly disappointed younger girls – all dressed up in colorful Hawaiian shirts and some sort of jeans dress – heading out for Tokyo Disneyland, still hoping for the rain to clear on the 40 min ride. Unfortunately, it still goes on …

Commuting at this time of the day guarantees for the “full japanese experience”, as everyone tries to squish into the trains. Filling grade reaches maximum very fast – lucky are those who catch a sitting place in one of the origin stations, as some of the poor guys need to stay in the local trains for far more than one hour.

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Arriving at Haneda I headed out for buying the ususal “Omiyage” or small gifts you present to your family and coworkers upon arrival from travels. I choose cookies from Kyoto, made from brown rice flour and flavoured with cinnamon, then dipped in chocolate of your choice (green tea / strawberry – I do prefer the former). They will make some people very happy :)

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The Cathay lounge in Haneda is one of the finest they have, only surpassed by the newer ones in Hong Kong. Usually I’d go for a Japanese whiskey from their very extensive selection, but given the time in the morning I opted for the Japanese breakfast set and an extra bowl of Dan Dan Mian (the latter of course just for the purpose of this blog).

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From the right lower corner (counterclockwise): Salted dried Kombu, Wakame, Miso soup, rice with Umeboshi (pickeled plum), Tamagoyaki (egg), some sort of root pickle, picledDaikon (radish), broiled salmon in the middle. And a bowl of Cathay's Dan Dan Mian as an innocent bystander on the very left. 

 

I am heading out now for the Gate and will report back from Hong Kong in some hours …

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This blog already promises to enlarge my culinary world.  What would be the protocol for eating the breakfast you show above?  Would one eat a small bit of each dish (except the miso soup) using the chopsticks, alternating among the various dishes?  Would one mix them?  Add them to the dan dan mian? Why are the eggs square?  It all looks fascinating to me, but if I were presented such a meal I'd be looking furtively around in hopes of seeing how someone else ate it.

 

The yasuhatchi boxes are charming.  I'd be delighted to receive a gift like that, even if the cookies turned out to be abysmal. 

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Thank you for writing this blog.  As others have said, this will give me a glimpse into a world I know little about.  I look forward to reading further posts.

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20 minutes ago, Smithy said:

This blog already promises to enlarge my culinary world.  What would be the protocol for eating the breakfast you show above?  Would one eat a small bit of each dish (except the miso soup) using the chopsticks, alternating among the various dishes?  Would one mix them?  Add them to the dan dan mian? Why are the eggs square?  It all looks fascinating to me, but if I were presented such a meal I'd be looking furtively around in hopes of seeing how someone else ate it.

 

The yasuhatchi boxes are charming.  I'd be delighted to receive a gift like that, even if the cookies turned out to be abysmal. 

Yes, normally you would eat the pickles and/or the protein always alternating with the rice. For the Japanese it's actually the rice as the main dish and all the other components are optional (but not less welcome, of course). The Dan Dan Mian has nothing to do with the rest of the ensemble. I am just having a bowl of it basically everytime I use their lounges - kind of tasty tradition ...

The egg derives it's shape from being made in a small square pan and rolled up in it a couple of times. As a coincidence I bought a new Tamagoyaki pan on Sunday in Tokyo and will post a picture later with the other spoils of war I got ...

And finally: I do like the boxes too - they are very cute and make great presents. But the cookies inside are even better. Maybe I just open one later ... for quality control 9_9

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The train commute is mirroring the current commute into Manhattan thanks to closed tracks. 

  I don't envy you or my husband! Are the trains equipped with A/C? 

 

Have a a safe flight! 

 

 

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9 hours ago, MetsFan5 said:

The train commute is mirroring the current commute into Manhattan thanks to closed tracks. 

  I don't envy you or my husband! Are the trains equipped with A/C? 

 

Have a a safe flight! 

 

 

Yes, all of them have A/C. And rightnow, with 30 oCand more outside, it's definitely necessary ...

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The flight from Tokyo back to Hong Kong was quite pleasant. Unlike the flight to Japan, where we passed a minor typhoon and had a very bumpy experience, this one was smooth sailing. I was hoping for an upgrade, but no. Lunch was decent: Zaru somen (cold noodles with soy/dashi), salmon roll with rice and icecream …

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As I am back now to my apartment, let me welcome you all to Hong Kong, where we will spend most of the upcoming week !

Maybe first just a tiny bit of personal background: I am a German guy in my early forties, married to a lovely catalan wife and we have a fantastic, almost 4 year old son. About two years ago I got the offer to run a part of the operations / technology for our company in Asia Pacific, so I moved from Germany to Hong Kong. Beside for professional reasons, part of the decision was the prospect to experience all the different cultures that are now at our finger tips. Both my wife and me have already lived in Japan for 2.5 years some while ago at the end of my academic career, so that very positive experience was a big decision  as well to return to Asia.

Hong Kong is ideally located to visit both East Asia as well as South East Asia. In my job I need to travel a lot, mainly to Mainland China, Japan, Korea and Malaysia. Privately, we do have a long list as well, that we diligently work on and so have visited Vietnam, Japan, Singapore, Cambodia and China in the last 18 months. Experiencing the food in these places has always been a big motivator, if not the biggest …

Complying with eG food blog tradition, I’d like to show you my kitchen first:

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I have a 5 burner gas range, and a decent oven. I do like to make bread and pizza and I can’t complain at all about my set-up.

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The obligatory fridge shot(s).

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Don't judge :$

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 Freezer. Mostly meat, frozen stock, Gyoza and Gin ...

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Spices !

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Baking ingredients ...

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Shelves in the storage room ...

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My (limited) booze collection.

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Cookbooks. I could only take a fraction when we moved, but have successfully replenished the ranks …

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Tomorrow I show you around the place where I live on Lantau Island (you’ve seen the beach in the teaser pictures already) and we have a deeper look inside a supermarket …

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And as promised: the spoils of war from my shopping trip last Sunday at Kappabashi in Tokyo, where all the restaurant suppliers are located. Took me 45 min to gather :$ ...

 

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Would you say that the kitchen of yours is of typical size in HK?  I've always heard that HK apartments are very small, but your kitchen is huge!  Do you live on Lantau all the time, or is it a weekend place?  If there all the time, what is your commute like - I assume you work in Central?

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Are those Japanese curry cubes in the yellow package?

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      The common cover A red cover A white cover A white version of the common cover An ornate and shiny cover  There may or may not be a "Box set." At first, I thought this was a difference in book editions, but that doesn't seem to be the case. As far as covers go, I'm at a loss. If anybody has more info, I'm all ears.
       
      Buying the book
      Alright, so I've hunted down many sites that used to sell it and a few who still have it in stock. Most of them are priced exorbitantly.
       
      AbeBooks.com ($160 + $15 shipping) Ebay.com - used ($140 + $4 shipping) PurpleCulture.net ($50 + $22 shipping) Amazon.com ($300 + $5 shipping + $19 tax) A few other sites in Chinese  
      I bought a copy off of PurpleCuture.net on April 14th. When I purchased Sichuan Cuisine, it said there was only one copy left. That seems to be a lie to create false urgency for the buyer. My order never updated past processing, but after emailing them, I was given a tracking code. It has since landed in America and is in customs. I'll try to update this thread when (if) it is delivered.
       
      Closing thoughts
      This book is probably not worth all the effort that I've put into finding it. But what is worth effort, is preserving knowledge. It turns my gut to think that this book will never be accessible to chefs that have a passion for learning real Sichuan food. As we get inundated with awful recipes from Simple and quick blogs, it becomes vital to keep these authentic sources available. As the internet chugs along, more and more recipes like these will be lost. 
       
      You'd expect the internet to keep information alive, but in many ways, it does the opposite. In societies search for quick and easy recipes, a type of evolutionary pressure is forming. It's a pressure that mutates recipes to simpler and simpler versions of themselves. They warp and change under consumer pressure till they're a bastardized copy of the original that anyone can cook in 15 minutes. The worse part is that these new, worse recipes wear the same name as the original recipe. Before long, it becomes harder to find the original recipe than the new one. 
       
      In this sense, the internet hides information. 
       
    • By KennethT
      OK.... here we go again!!!  While this post is a bit premature (we don't take off until around 1:30AM tonight), I am extremely excited so I figured I'd just set up the topic now.  As in previous foodblogs, I may post a bit from time to time while we're there, depending on how good my internet connection is, and how much free time I have... but the bulk of posting will really get started around July 9th - the day after we get home (hopefully without too much jetlag!!!)
    • By KennethT
      Happy New Year!  I'm sitting at the gate waiting for my flight from Saigon to NYC connecting through Taipei so I figured this would be a good opportunity to get started... But this is just the intro- the rest will gave to wait until I land about 22 hours from now, sleep for about 12 hours, then get my photos in order! We had a great week enjoying beautiful weather, taking in the frenetic yet relaxed street life and eating some amazing local food...
      Our flight here was on EVA Airline and was very pleasant and uneventful. Our flight from Nyc to Taipei left around 12:20 AM on the 24th. I love those night flights since it makes it very easy to get a decent amount of sleep, even in coach. EVAs food is quite good eith both Chinese and western choices for dinner and breakfast, and they came through several times with snacks such as a fried chicken sandwich with some kind of mustard. I think I had 4 of them!
      Once I get home, I'll continue posting with pics from our feast in the Taipei airport.... Spoiler: those who have read my Singapore foodblog from July may see a slight trend...

    • By KennethT
      OK - so I think it's very fitting for my 1000th post that I start this food blog...  I love eGullet, and have been a member for several years, but I don't post that often, and have never done anything like this, so please bear with me!!!
       
      My wife and I left NYC for Singapore on July 1st, at 1:25AM on an EVA flight connecting through Taipei, Taiwan.  There used to be a direct NY to Singapore flight on Singapore Airlines, but SA discontinued it a few years ago.  I like the long overnight flight to Asia because, on a 14 hour flight, it gives you plenty of time to eat (they feed you very well on those flights), medicate yourself and sleep for 6-8 hours, then wake up and watch a few movies before landing at about 6AM.  Plus, since the flight leaves so late, it makes it much easier to sleep on the flight (especially after working a full day beforehand).
       
      The EVA flight is quite comfortable, even in coach.  When I say they feed you well, I mean it - dinner was a stir fried chicken with steamed bok choy and rice, with many sides.  Throughout the flight they came through the cabin with mustard coated fried chicken sandwiches as snacks, then breakfast of pork congee with many sides (including a package of fish floss).  Sorry, I didn't take photos of the above - I was exhausted!
       
      We had about a 2 hour layover in the airport in Taiwan, so what does that mean?  Time for dim sum and beef noodle soup!!!

      This was our breakfast destination

      Left to right, Xie Long Bao (Shanghainese pork soup dumplings), char siu bao (fluffy buns filled with BBQ pork - although this Taiwanese version was not nearly as sweet as the typical Hong Kong version), Taiwanese beef noodle soup, and a loose leaf oolong tea.  With the waters, cost about US$20!!!  It was quite the feast, especially after the constant EVA flight 'buffet', and the fact that they were going to feed us again on our next flight to Singapore!
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