Japanese Pop-up Food Fair at Sogo

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If you fancy a taste of Japan head over to Basement 2 of Sogo in Causeway Bay where a Japanese Local Speciality Fair (Actually Sogo are calling it a ‘speialty’ fair). There a range of Japanese food products you can’t often find locally including Hokkaido cream puffs ($38), Japanese cheesecake, assorted sweet rice desserts. A broad range of seaweed and savoury delights  as well and a 5019 Premium Factory pop-up burger stand.

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The 5019 Premium Factory is a well known burger outlet in Kochi and will be opening a branch at 46 Graham Street in April. Before then you can sample their wagyu burgers including the signature Ryoma ($98) which is a stacked burger made from a 90g wagyu beef patty, demi-glace sauce, cheese, eggplant, tuna, grilled tomato, lettuce and a variety of sauces. The pop-up store is also offering a wagyu egg burger ($68) and a wagyu avocado burger ($78).

The fair runs until the 21 February.

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Taste of Hong Kong 2017

The Taste of Hong Kong returns for a second year to Central Harbourfront from 16 to 19 March. This year’s festival features an increased number of Hong Kong’s top restaurants, confirmed so far are Amber, Arcane (Sunday only), Cafe Grey Deluxe, Chino, Duddell’s, Kaum at Potato Head (Thursday & Friday only), Mercato, Okra (Saturday only), Rhoda, Tin Lung Heen, Tosca, Yardbird and Zuma with perhaps three more to come. Each restaurant will serve four taster portion sized plates: three standard items at prices $50-$200 and one iconic dish that could cost anything…

So what is Taste? The concept is that you can sample taster size portions of dishes from restaurants that you might never visit and create a meal from a range of cuisines. It is a interesting idea, sort of like changing restaurants between each course of a meal – and organisers IMG have turned it into a very profitable global concept.

bc was underwhelmed by last year’s event, not by the concept but by the execution – read the report here. We do love food though, so we spoke to IMG about how they’re looking to ‘improve the experience’ this year.

As HongKongers we’re accustomed to queuing but IMG have said they’ll be working with the participating chefs and restaurants to improve the service efficiency. Increase the information about which dishes are still available, including having far more of the icon dishes per session. As well as having drinks carts serving people in the queues.

There is to be more seating, covered and uncovered. A wider range of entertainment and more artisan shops to purchase food and drink from. Plus an expanded range of talks about food and wine.

The invited chefs look to have a better understanding of the concept and several of the icon dishes show they’re looking to offer something unique at Taste.

IMG appear to have addressed a lot of the frustrations that dampened enjoyment last year with some more improvements yet to announced but it all sounds promising for a tasty event in March.

Taste of Hong Kong
Date: 16-19 March, 2017
Venue: Central Harbourfront
Tickets: $678, $198, $168 from Ticketflap

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Chocolate Lovers High Tea Delight

Attention chocolate lovers, Three on Canton‘s latest offering looks to sate your desires. The ‘Divine French Chocolate High Tea Set’ features an array of chocolate-themed savoury and sweet treats. What’s immediately obvious when the three-tiered high tea arrives is the amount of food. Too often tea-sets feature micro-bites, here each is at least two bites and you’ll certainly not leave hungry.

The tea set features 11 beautifully presented offerings, 4 savoury and 7 sweet, and you can enjoy your food with a cocktail, mocktail, tea or coffee. The savoury chocolate bites are a chicken nugget in a delicious dark chocolate dip – what a fine combination – and a mango and prawn brioche with white chocolate yoghurt sauce, it sounds delicious and is. These are served with two popular favourites Toast with fig, blue cheese and Parma ham and Smoked salmon asparagus rolls.

The sweet bites cover a broad range of flavours and textures and include: Chocolate and pear panna cotta, Dark chocolate mousse with mixed berries pie, Double chocolate cream puff, Milk chocolate mousse with vanilla apple filling, White chocolate mousse with apricot cake, Dark chocolate brownie, Coconut and chocolate chip butter scone with real clotted cream and jam. All are tasty and while none stand out, there are also none you’ll want to ignore.

The ‘Divine French Chocolate High Tea Set’ ($488/2 people, 3-5pm daily) offers a fine way to spend a relaxing afternoon, sitting inside or out. The portions size are good and although there’s a lot of chocolate the chefs have cleverly balanced it with other flavours and textures to ensure that it doesn’t overwhelm your taste buds.

Three on Canton / Be on Canton: Level 3, Gateway Hotel, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui. Tel: 2113 7828

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Tasty Swedish Delights

It might not be obvious to those who think of Sweden solely in the terms of IKEA and meatballs, but there’s a lot more culinary delights to enjoy. So if you’d like to expose your taste buds something new visit SverigeShoppen in Star House where there’s a broad range of Swedish dried goods, sweets, frozen produce and dairy delights.

Among the most popular items in the store are Filmjölk ($34), a type of fermented milk and a breakfast staple in Scandinavia. Anna the shop assistant assured me that pea soup ärtsoppa soldaten ($55) is a traditional staple. Licorice remains very popular and two of the favourites are Gott&Blandat ($26) and Hallon/ Lakritsskallar ($15). Falukorv ($38) is a Swedish sausage made of a grated mixture of smoked pork and beef.

Last but no means least among the most popular items is cheese (ost in Swedish). Västerbotten ($149) is often referred to in Sweden as the ‘Emperor of Cheeses’ and has been made the same way since 1872. It’s a hard aged cow’s milk cheese with a strong aromatic flavour.

SverigeShoppen also has an online store and offer next day home delivery ($55).

In recent years Sweden has become well know locally for its stringent food production controls and it’s organic and natural products. moreorganic is a newly opened sister store to SverigeShoppen, located at 2/F, K11, it stocks a range of organic and natural nordic products including Goodio vegan chocolate and Roomi a dry non-alcoholic premium culinary beverage made from cold pressed Nordic berries.

SverigeShoppen
Unit 1825, 18/F, Star House, TST. Tel: 2312 19192312 1919
www.sverigeshoppe.com

moreorganic
201, 2/F, K11, 18 Hanoi Road, TST
www.moreganicsweden.com

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Cheung Hing Kee Shanghai Pan-fried Buns @ Sham Shui Po

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The first franchise run Cheung Hing Kee Shanghai Pan-fried Buns outlet is in it’s soft opening phase at 96 Yen Chow Street in Sham Shui Po. Cheung Hing Kee has worked really hard to leverage it’s mention in the Michelin 2016 guide at it’s own stores (and suffered well publicised landlord exploitation). Looking to expand further it’s now taking on franchise owners to spread their love of sheng jian bao.

The menu is the same, the core ingredients are provided by Cheung Hing Kee – all the franchisee has to do is make and fry the buns. At the moment Edbert Tsang’s shop is only offering a partial menu, with only the ‘signature fried-bun’ and some soups available. He expects to be selling the full menu early in 2017.

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And the sheng jian bao? They’re pretty darn good and consistent with the quality at the other outlets. The dough is soft, tasty and chewy with a crispy base, the pork filling though soft and tender lacks a little flavour – but it does create a lot of well flavoured juice.

For those who haven’t eaten a sheng jian bao before, take a small first bite or you’ll have a face and shirt full of hot meat broth.

A box of 4 signature sheng jian bao costs $28. Sham Shui Po is a very working class area, for the same price around the corner you can get a full meal with a drink. As a couple of local customers commented it’s good, but for them a little expensive. That said, we’ll be back for more.

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Cheung Hing Kee Shanghai Pan-fried Buns:
96 Yen Chow Street, Sham Shui Po. Tel: 2711 6227
Shop 6A, G/F, 48 Lock Road, Tsim Sha Tsui. Tel: 2915 0389
Shop G50, G/F, PopCorn 2, 9 Tong Yin Street, Tseung Kwan O
Shop C-D, G/F, 9 Lok Shan Road, To Kwa Wan

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‘Twas The Week Before Christmas…

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It’s the week before Christmas and you’ve got nothing ready or planned… While the festive season for many in Hong Kong has zero religious significance it is a time for gifts and feasting. And there is no better gift that either cooking someone a good meal or gifting them a tasty bite. Thankfully our local supermarkets are all up to speed and there to make your life easy and Christmas a tasty treat.

bc‘s ‘no cooking needed’ Christmas feast starts with a trip to Great in the basement of Pacific Place with a side stop at Marks & Spencer is all you need – in fact a trip to Great’s website probably suffices as whether you want roast turkey, beef, lamb or pork all can be ordered online and delivered or collected. They also offer all the trimmings: roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips, Brussel sprouts, cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing…. The roasts can be ordered uncooked or cooked and in different sizes depending on your needs.

White truffle and caviar at Great’s luxury food counter

Starter
Smoked salmon: IKEA offers packs of frozen smoked salmon (Lax Kallrökt) $69 for 200g.

Main
Roast Turkey, roast potatoes, parsnips, red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce.
Roast Turkey: Great: cooked US roast turkey $120-220/kg (4-6kg). Buy at the cooked food counter including Christmas Day. They also have roast beef, roast lamb and baked gammon if you prefer something other than turkey.
Roast potatoes: Great: cooked
Parsnips: Great: cooked and raw
Brussels sprouts: Great: cooked and raw
Red cabbage: sadly we couldn’t find any cooked this year
Turkey gravy/ bread sauce: Marks & Spencer: $49/400g
Cranberry sauce: Marks & Spencer: $49/400g
Stuffing: Marks & Spencer: sage and onion/ cranberry & orange stuffing
Bacon wrapped sausages: still unable to find this staple side dish in a cooked version.

Dessert
Christmas Pudding with Brandy Butter
Christmas pudding: Great: Cole’s Classic Christmas Pudding ($159/454g),
Brandy Butter: Great: Cole’s Brandy Butter $15.5/42g
Panettone: Great: An Italian Christmas favourite that can be enhanced wonderfully with a can of classic Bird’s custard mixed with a dash of brandy/ rum.

Cheese
Great’s cheese room is one of the wonders of Hong Kong, the choice is varied, constantly changing, delicious and if you’re used to US and European cheese prices, expensive – but what is Christmas without cheese?
English Stilton: Great: $46/100g

Christmas Cake + Mince Pies
A good tasty Christmas cake is a Christmas necessity, especially one with marzipan and Royal icing.
Christmas Cake: Great and M&S have several choices at different prices from $89 (Gluten free – M&S) upwards. Most are sadly more like fruit cakes than Christmas cake which is a shame as the two are subtly different in taste.
Mince Pies: Again Great and M&S have several choices, but after sampling several none are that special that we recommend one over another.

Drinks
Mulled Wine: Great: Shropshire Spice Traditional Mulled Wine Mix: $33.9/8g

Store Details + Contacts:
Great Basement Pacific Place, Admiralty Tel: 2918 9986 www.greatfoodhall.com
IKEA Causeway Bay, Shatin, Kowloon Bay www.ikea.com.hk
Marks & Spencer various stores www.marksandspencer.com

Edit: 21 Dec – Added Christmas cake photo and updated text

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Learn Traditional French Cooking

Two years ago Disciples Escoffier, the French culinary association launched a partnership with Towngas Cooking Centre to offer a course in traditional French cooking the Disciples Escoffier Diploma in Culinary Arts. Established in France in 1954, and based on a 5,000 menu cookbook published in 1903, the Disciples Escoffier Diploma is an intense and expensive culinary programme, taught locally by chef Vincent Leroux and split into the 3 levels. Each level features 180 hours of study and cooking over three months.

The Basic level ($60,000) teaches the core French cooking techniques, including knifing skills, ingredients and sauce matching, handling of unusual ingredients, as well as dish plating and creativity training. Upon completion of the course and passing the exam you can move onto the Intermediate ($70,000) and Upper ($80,000) levels.

The ability and quality of those able to complete the full course is such that the CEO of the Institut Culiniaire Disciples Escoffier Robert Fontana commented that if he rang a Michelin starred restaurant in France and asked them if they’d employ a course graduate – the restaurant would offer them a trial sight unseen purely based on the person having graduated the course. Application for the February 2017 basic course is now open, contact 2576 1535 for more information.

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J.CO Donuts to Open in Wanchai

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Asian donut shop J.CO arrives in Hong Kong. The shop will open, subject to government licences, sometime this week at 55 Hennessy Road in Wanchai. J.Co has hundreds of outlets across Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia offering donuts, coffee and frozen yoghurt.

Locally the store will offer 24 different flavoured donuts including 4 Hong Kong themed ones in two different styles ring and filled. According to Managing Director Frankie Lin the local specials are ring donuts Alcapone, Jacky Chunk and filled shells Tiramisu, Coco Loco and Why Nut.

The $15 donuts are light and not too sweet, the dough is a lot less dense and filling than traditional European styled donuts – which given their success across Asia obviously goes down well with Asian palates. For me, based on the three we tried, they’re a little unsubstantial and bland, but there’s still 21 to taste.

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There are also boxes of mini donuts called J.Pops ($98) which look perfect for gifting or sharing with friends. They only make a limited number of boxes each day, so call ahead and order if must have a box.

The J.Club breakfast menu, available until 11am, offers 5 different breakfast sandwiches ($22) made using the donut dough. We didn’t get to taste these, but will be back to try them out. None of the drinks were available so we can’t comment on the quality of the Indonesian coffee.

The shop is bigger than you’d expect and offers numerous seats – whether J.Co will be comfortable with long term seat hogs as happens in many coffee shops remains to be seen.

J.Co has one big problem though, it makes extensive use of that disgusting artificial plastic tasting fluffy white stuff that masquerades as ‘cream’ in Hong Kong. It’s piled on top of drinks, mixed into some of the donut fillings which ruins both. Steer clear of this ‘cream’ and you’ll enjoy J.Co a lot more!

J.Co: 55 Hennessy Road, Wanchai
Opening hours: 7:30am-9pm www.jcodonuts.com.hk

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Edited: 13 December to correct a factual error

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