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Friday 1 February 2008


You may wonder what's Patras, and I can understand that. Before I went there, I've never heard of it as well. It's just a city in the western part of Greece which is the gateway to Greece for the ferries coming from Italy. That's all about Patras, nothing touristy.

Why did I eneded up there? Well, I was there to perform my official duty. That's how I acquired the sponsored air tickets and a few nights stay in Patras and Athens. Apart from the Rion-Antirion cable-ctayed bridge, I can't think of anything else, except the excursions to Delphi and Olympia which I did not go because of the conference.

Although I did not do much of sight-seeing in Patras, I enjoyed the time in the conference discussing on the area of my research interest. The most memorable thing has got to be bumping into my Sifu from the National University of Singapore while I was pursuing my Ph.D. some more than 10 years ago. Besides the discussions on serious topics, we had a great time during the conference dinners. One of the dinners was held at a restaurant on top a a hill overlooking the sea where we had our food while watching the sunset.

It was quite a memorable stay in Patras because I bumped into many Korean and Japanese professors whom I met in conferences elsewhere. I had many great chats too with some Taiwanese engineers who work with the transportation department.

If you would like to read more of my travelogues on Greece, here are the links:-

1. Athens – The Homeland of the Gods

2. The White Dream in Mykonos

3. Santorini – Almost Heaven

4. Miscellaneous

Thursday 31 January 2008

The Noodles Specialist

Noodles are essentially the main source of carbohydrate for the Chinese in the northern part of China in the ancient time. It is now a very popular type of food for the overseas Chinese. Where there's Chinese, there are noodles. Even Marco Polo couldn't live without noodles and brought back the noodle making skills back to Italy to make spaghetti, though the Italians may not agree and insist that they invented noodles. Well, noodles have been in China for thousand of years, that's the fact.

Hong Kong is no exception that noodles are aplenty. I may the exaggerating, but you'll find a noodle shop within a hundred steps. So, there must be some famous noodle shop around, and we found one at Wellington Street, Central. You can get there from Central MTR station, Exit D1 and D2. This shop is called Tsim Chai Kee (沾仔记).

This is a real nooldes specialist shop. You don't get anything else on the menu, just noodles. There are only three variants, the signature wontan noodles (招牌云吞麵), fresh fish ball (鲜鲮鱼球麵) noodles and fresh beef noodles (鲜牛肉麵). The price is also standard at HKD15 per bowl. The rest are just mixture of the three main ingredients or just plain noodles and side order of vegetables. If you dare to ask for a roasted meat noodles, the aunty taking your order may just ask you to leave and let the other queueing customers take over your seats.

As we are the famed food bloggers, we got to taste everything in the shop.

My favourite of all the three has to be the wontan noodles. There's no doubt about putting it as the signature noodle item in the menu. Each wontan was filled with two or three whole shrimps that are really fresh. I could really tell the freshness from the crunchiness.

In fact the soup and noodles in all variants tasted the same. The difference was only in the topping. I could tell that the soup is boiled for hours with the thigh bones. It has that unique sweetness taste. The fish balls tasted like fish paste to me, as they were softer than the usual fish balls, but thet were very fresh.

The thinly sliced beef was soft and tender with the juice well kept in the meat. Well, what I can say about this shop is that you can't go wrong with any type of noodles you order. Just choose your favourite topping. If you are indecisive, just throw a coin on the menu and see where it lands. If you have darts, that's even easier.

Wednesday 30 January 2008

The First Meal in Food Haven

Since it was already past lunch time after we've checked in to Novotel Century Hong Kong Hotel, we started pursuing on our gastronomic journey. First on the list is the place prominent for the barbecue meat, from barbecue pork (叉烧), roasted pork (烧肉), roasted goose (烧鹅), etc. This place is Keung Kee Restaurant (强记饭店) at 9-17 Tin Lok Lane, Wan Chai. It is within walking distance from both Wan Chai MTR and Causeway Bay MTR stations. The shop is open from 7 a.m. to midnight.

First on our priority list was the barbecue pork (叉烧) which is barbecued twice with a glaze coating of honey, together with the roasted pork (烧肉) with crispy skin (HKD65). The barbecue pork was tender on the inside and sweet and crunchy on the outside due to the glazing. The skin on the roasted pork was crispy with more lean meat than fat. Both went well with the plum sauce bundled with the order. This dish came with some peanuts which were good for munching as well.

One thing that should not be missed in Hong Kong, particularly at Keung Kee, is the roasted goose (烧鹅). We ordered a drumstick (HKD45) and it tasted better than any roasted duck in Kuching! The skin was roasted to perfection of golden brown with crispy texture. The meat was juicy and tender. It went well with the plum sauce or the sweet sauce bundled.

A meal with all meat was too cinful, so we tried to swallow some vegetable (油菜). Probably I was exaggerating. The plate of boiled vegetable in oyster sauce (HKD8) was actually very crunchy and the juice was well kept in the vegetable.

A bowl of good soup could quench all the tiredness away and wash down the oil, so I ordered a bowl of double-boiled chicken in coconut, white fungus and red dates (椰子雪耳红枣炖鸡). The soup is very thick sweet and I like the coconut flavour. I didn't know coconut could go so well with the other ingredients before this. Besides, I like hard coconut fresh too which was good for my mouth exercise. Each bowl costs HKD38. The bowl served to me had all the promised ingredients.

Wordless Wednesday – The Ants' Life

Tuesday 29 January 2008

Arrival in Hong Kong

Taking the TurboJet from Macao to Hong Kong took us only an hour. The vessel arrived at the ferry terminal at Sheung Wan (上环) where it is connected to anywhere in Hong Kong by the MTR. Our first experience in the urban Hong Kong was actually the underground.

Approaching the Sheung Wan MTR station.

The MTR is the most convenient way for travelling around Hong Kong. Almost every station has something to see about Hong Kong. We bought the Octopus Card (八达通) which is valid for the MTRs, buses and ferries. Each card costs HKD150 with stored value of HKD100.

The blinking bulbs different from those in Macao.

Having the Octopus Card saved us remarkable time for not having to queue for tickets from vending machines or ticket counters. In addition, each of our trip was charged at a discounted rate.

Tickets! Tickets! Anyone?

I like the idea of the MTR station designer of having different strong colours for the stations. One can easily identify the station by colour if one missed the announcement.

Very strong colour indeed.

Coming out from the underground, the first thing we saw is the old Hong Kong. I thought Hong Kong has been heavily refurbished but there are still many old buildings around. The flat tenants still line their clothes dry on the outside of the windows.

'Flags' of many colours.

The old wisdom of 'home-office' concept.

Just a couple of minutes of walk along the old street of Hong Kong, we finally arrived at our hotel, the Novotel Century Hong Kong (世纪). We were pleased to be staying in a hotel in the heart of the city, as we saved loads of time moving around. Remember that most taxi drivers have no clue if you mention the English name of hotels. Do ask the front desk for the name in Cantonese if you rely on taxis to get around.

The hotel is at Wan Chai (湾仔).

The Novotel Century is a very decent hotel to stay in. The ambiance is very inviting and warm. Although the room is not extremely big, it is very clean. Most importantly, it is very easy to get around Hong Kong from here.

The invitation.

The warm lighting.

The cosy corner.

Sunday 27 January 2008

Nuts about Kebab

I was supposed to join my Lions Club's fellow members to enjoy the sun, sand, wind and seawater at Sematan yesterday, staying overnight and have some wonderful fellowship there. However, due to being beaten by the food-poisoning bug the second time after just one month, I was, and still is stuck at home watching loads of tv programmes and browsing the internet while admiring the blue sky out there. My abdomen feels like having muscle clamp and my stomach is belching. (I'll never touch dragon fruit again!)

Well, I'm really feeling lucky that I gobbled up the food in Istanbul and Santorini without damaging my gastronomic system.

I once wandered into a small alley of Istanbul and found this restaurant with very interesting menu. The waiters there are also very friendly that he explained everything on the menu in detail to me, so I decided on the Ottoman Plate.

Every restaurant in Europe serves complimentary bread, and this one served me the rolled pita bread.

The 'Ottoman Plate' is mixed kebab serve in the palace during the Ottoman period.

The mixed kebab is basically chicken and beef with capsicum and onion served in a stoneware on top of a bronze plate.

Sometimes when I wanted to save money on meals during my trip, I would walk in the golden arch many times. It's always worth checking the McDs out because they always have some local items that you'll never find it elsewhere.

The McTurco.

The McD version of kebab, beef paté wrapped in pita bread.

The Greeks call the kebab as souvlaki, and we call them satay here. When I was in Santorini, I was told that there's a shop that sells extremely good kebab wrapped in pita bread, which is called gyros. After I've tasted it, I went back to the shop three times just to savour my gastronomy. When the shopkeeper asked me: "With everything in?" My answer was always: "Yes!" And this was what I got every time.

This one is with sliced meat. You can ask for one with meat cubes too.

It's only €1.75 each. There are sets that you can order at discounted rate.

I'm feeling lucky. I wish they'll open a branch in Kuching.

If you would like to read more of my travelogues on Greece, here are the links:-

1. Athens – The Homeland of the Gods

2. The White Dream in Mykonos

3. Santorini – Almost Heaven

4. Miscellaneous

If you would like to read more of my travelogues on Istanbul, here are the links:-

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