Sunday, 29 November 2009

Invite to dinner - Ye Shanghai, TST

After a yummy lunch at Leen Heung, I was invited to an impromptu dinner on the same night by a close HK friend and we ended up having Shanghaiese with her chums at Ye Shanghai, a posh eaterie which is part of the Marco Polo hotel in TST. Pretty nice setting with a lovely view of the new 1881 Heritage luxury shopping mall (mega bling bling!). Food was good but could not fully appreciate cos I was too stuffed from lunch :(

Cold platter including spring roll (a bit limp), celery salad (tasty and refreshing), smoked duck and cold cuts

Stir fried river shrimp - typical Shanghai dish and best served with some black rice vinegar.

Stuffed hairy crab (currently in season)

Braised beef served with typical "mantou" (Chinese steamed bun)

King of Shanghaiese cuisine - siu long bao (lit. little dragon dumplings)

Long beans stir fried with bamboo shoots

 Remnants of dessert (someone else's dish, I was too full to eat any dessert, shock horror!) - mini rice ball dumplings in light syrup

Monday, 23 November 2009

Anthony Bourdain's recommendations, part 1

Day 2 and I dragged Ma Chan and Aunty J all the way out to the nether regions of Central to check out a famous dim sum place that I saw in Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" programme. Its called "Leen Heung" and is one of the few ol skool dim sum places left in HK. According to Aunty J, these are called "day mow" (lit. "crawling on the ground") dim sum places which means that they don't cost as much as more upper class establishments. To be honest, the most important thing for me is whether the food tastes good or not and "Leen Heung" has some pretty tasty dim sum. It was also a bit of a trip down memory lane for Ma Chan so glad that she enjoyed lunch!!

Outside of the restaurant - the sash decor above the sign is very traditional Chinese.

Main dining room - even during a weekday, the place was packed...hate to think what it gets like at the weekends!!

There is a small section at the entrance for buying cakes and biccies for take away.

Ma Chan was very happy when she saw this - red bean paste bun with an extra surprise of egg yolk. Apparently very ol' skool and you don't find this in many dim sum places anymore.

Survival of the hungriest - the dim sum is served by ladies with trolleys. Usually, if there is some new stuff being circulated, HKers are quite impatient and will generally rush to said trolley!

Braised pork knuckles

Chicken feet - very rare to find full feet intact, I'm told!!

   Roast pork belly and BBQ pork on rice - sooo good!! Pork belly had a nice smoky flavour as well as fat that melted as soon as you popped a piece into your mouth....mmmm.....and crunchy crackling as well :)

Breakfast HK style!

A lot of folk might pop into a "cha chan ting" (HK cafe) for their breakfast - the decor is nothing to write home about but you can get a nice filling meal for around HKD20!! (thats less than 2 squid back home in blighty!) This HK cafe was one we found near where we are staying in Shatin. I plumped for a set which included pineapple bun (brioche-type bun with sweet topping), bowl of macaroni with cabbage and ham and a cup of tea. Be warned though, this is no ordinary cup of tea, this is HK tea which basically translates into tea that is brewed extra long (so pretty strong and bitter) and topped up with evaporated milk......a faux pas on my part.....should have asked for a cup of Lipton red!! :)

Hong Kong, ngoh sik! :)

Day 1: Shanghaiese food in Shatin mall. Too hungry to look too far for grub. Food was OK but a little on the pricey side - thats what happen when you want to eat in nice surroundings :)

Chicken marinated in wine sauce (aka. "drunken chicken")- quite tasty but a little too cold, ideally should be served at room temperature.

Stir fried "leen goh" or rice cake with some pork morsels and veg.

Grilled fish - super crispy!

Sweet and sour ribs - too cold when served but had a nice smoky sweet and sour taste!

Vegetable hotpot - OK but unremarkable

Dessert cafe - very popular in HK!!

Mmmm - what to choose??

Mango sago dessert - an old favourite :)

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Pre-boarding grub

Sure beats in-flight food - ginger chicken udon and fruit juice courtesy of Wagamama.

Monday, 16 November 2009

back in Blighty....but not for long :)

The next month or so is going to be pretty busy for me, including a fair bit of plane hopping :)

After my stage ended in Paris, I had a few days to pack up my belongings and head back across the Channel. Once back, my week flew by......a lot of things on my plate: 

  • Doing a bit of prep work and experimentation for a wedding cake which I will be making in December - didn't manage to get everything done but have a fair idea of what I am aiming for.
  • Jobhunting - to date, an interview, 2 trials and 1 job this space!
  • Stage - trying to finalise all details for an ultra-short stage in very prestigious place.....fingers crossed!
Despite all the coming and going, I still managed to find some time to indulge in some treats in the big smoke - you don't realise how much you miss familiarity until you have lived away from it for a while....or maybe I am just getting old and stuck in my ways ;)

Some tasty treats from Fortnum & Mason (Paris-Brest and millefeuille) and which are made by the kitchens of Sketch (of Pierre Gagnaire fame). Unfortunately, the contract is ending within a week so no more pastries :(

Korean food fix at new restaurant called Soju, near Piccadilly - went on the recommendation of new Time Out food and drink guide. Food wasn't bad, service pretty non-existent. Food not good enough to warrant a return visit!

Chilling in Bar Italia with a coffee - a favourite haunt :)

Yummy Korean convenience food from Centre Point Food Store above Tottenham Court Road - pork BBQ, all ready to cook and for your enjoyment! ;)

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

C'est fini!

So the day has finally come and despite already being back in blighty, it hasn't sunk in that I have now left Paris....

My last week of stage was pretty good - I was working the afternoon shift, my first and only week of working this shift. The bummer was only having 1 day off the previous weekend cos we have to work Monday mornings but on the whole, the afternoon shift is far better than the other 2 shifts because:

  • the team is much smaller (chef, seconde and commis) - I got on well with all 3 and since it is such a small team, stagiaires get to do proper production in we get to make stuff rather than just weigh out ingredients and decorate Ispahan.
  • the team is in charge of making fours secs, all biscuit/sponge bases, cakes....IMHO, far more interesting than making a bunch of creams (this is what morning production shift does).    
  • the chef is pretty organised and laid back so the atmosphere is much calmer. 
If I'd known earlier that this was the shift I would enjoy the most, I would've asked for more of these shifts.....the big difference lies with the people, I think and even though we didn't chat at coffee breaks, it didn't feel so awkward.

I also stayed back one of the nights to help someone who is in charge of research and product development for the shop. We didn't do much - it was mainly tidying up but it was nice to chat with her. She has been with the shop for around 5 years, starting off at finition, then working at the "tour", becoming chef at the "tour" and finally being at the post she is now. It sounds pretty interesting - at the moment, she is doing some experiments on the effects of colourants of macaroons following new legislation in France which has changed the amount of colourant permissible for use in pastry. She will have to report her findings back to the big boss in a few days time before extending the research further to macaroons being produced in the Japanese shops and how they will be affected? She seems to really enjoy her job and likes the fact that she gets to do some travelling with the big boss on occasions.

Like my final day at Bonaparte, the chef of this shift also reminded me of bringing in some bubbly to celebrate the end of my stage. At first, I was reluctant to bring any since nobody remembered at Bonaparte so I had wasted a bottle of Laurent Perrier for nothing. However, after a bit of coaxing from JD, I came to work armed with a bottle of Moet just in case.....luckily, the seconde remembered so we all had a glass at the end of the shift......I actually felt a little tipsy after just 1 glass but that might have something to do with the fact that I hadn't eaten anything substantial since midday :)
The Moet got props from the chef and the commis was very sweet and said thanks several times (even though he doesn't like bubbly!!)

Unlike some previous stagiaires, I didn't get any book or macaroons when I left......was I disappointed? A little but at the same time, I wasn't surprised given the mixed feelings I had had throughout the stage. All I can say is that I gave 110% every day I came to work and on a personal level, felt that I had worked well and improved as time went on which is good enough for me - if the establishment didn't feel the same or just plain didn't like me, then there is nothing I can do.

Of course, my stage ended with another little hiccup when trying to get a reference letter. I asked the chef at the end of the shift on my last day and naturally, when he went to look in the office, there was no letter. I was then told to ring on Monday and to speak to the executive chef about it - a minor pain in the bum as I had a telephone interview and visit back to school to juggle as well as this. I rang in on Monday, spoke with the executive chef and he then said that I needed to speak with formally arsey guy about this, which would mean a mad dash back into the lab first thing Tuesday morning before I had to catch a train home, grrrr.....I get up at the crack of dawn on Tuesday, speak with formally arsey guy......luckily, at this point I knew the official word for reference letter ("attestation", merci Won!) and he then told me that only the executive chef could provide this. The executive chef arrived a quarter of an hour (the longest 15 minutes of my life, having to sit in his office), he apologised and thought I was look for my contract (why would I be looking for that??) and after a couple of attempts, I finally got the reference letter I wanted.....still not perfect as my surname is spelt wrongly but what can you do??

As I said to my chef at school later, I am very grateful for him for sending me to PH to do my stage. It was a good experience on a professional level, having the exposure to and working in a professional pastry kitchen. The variety of work was also a plus compared with my fellow classmates, some of whom did the same thing every day for 3 months. Of course, it was tough at times but I never let that affect my attitude regarding work or my drive to learn and improve. The part that I struggled with a lot was the people that I had to work with (after a few attempts of trying to start some banter, I gave up due the lack of enthusiasm from the opposite party). The culture just seemed to be that no-one interacted with each other except for work purposes. Yes, stagiaires come and go and the treatment towards us mainly ranged from being someone's lacky to being personal "ingredient weigher". It comes with the territory but I had hoped to meet and get on with more colleagues than I did - I was also worried about my French sucking and I think one of the reasons that it did not improve more than I had wanted was due to the fact that there was no opportunity (or no-one could be bothered) to shoot the breeze with colleagues. I did a lot of procrastinating as to why I was feeling the way I was (people didn't like me, colleagues didn't have much to talk about, colleagues didn't rate stagiaires, etc) but in the end, maybe this issue just cannot be rationalised?

I am now hoping that my next stage will be better on this level.....the chef who I have already spoken to seems quite nice. He even apologised for his English not being great and noted that the French are quite lazy when it comes to learning English - a breath of fresh air compared to my Parisian experience where no-one was allowed to speak English! (surprisingly, German was permitted??)

So now, I am back to the real world and will need to start earning some sheckles "toute suite" to bolster up my cash flow situation - now is the real test, will doing my stage at PH really open doors and prepare for working in a paid job? Fingers crossed :)