Traveling Solo in BKK | Drink Like a Local

For a city like Bangkok where nightlife thrives as much as that in the day, visiting local bars is on the travel itinerary.

Before I made my way to Bangkok, a bartender friend in Hong Kong recommended me the charming Vesper Cocktail Bar & Restaurant in Silom area, close to Sala Daeng BTS. What’s good about this visit is that it’s new to myself and Book as well as his local friend, kind of a discovery for all of us.

We sat by the bar, ordered from bartenders Oil and Milk (who were just announced to be Diageo World Class Thailand Top 16 finalists, and Milk, later proceeded onto becoming one of Thailand’s Best Bartenders).

Secret Earl Grey (THB360) is a mix of earl grey-infused Tanqueray and lemon juice, topped with a frothy layer of egg white and a few dashes of grapefruit bitters. It’s presented with the dry ice fog effect that has the subtle scent of berry tea.

It’s lovely when we can involve in the making-of of our eating and drinking experience. Hemingway’s Sazerac (THB450), made of rye whisky, Hennessy VS, bitters and absinthe, is served in this medicine bottle that we poured out of onto the lemon zest air to watch it slowly melt into the drink.

 

Book and his friends brought me to several other places at night. Iron Fairies, though along the main road of Thonglor, can be hard to spot. It is a dark and moody jazz bar with iron machine parts, pipes, chains and cages, and tiny jars of “fairy dusts”.

We had two rounds of drinks, two of which The Iron Fairy (Red) (THB380), a heady drink of La Fée Bohemian absinthe, with hazelnut syrup, gin and hibiscus, and also Erin’s Fire & Sea (THB310) that has this amazing roasted, salted flavours of nori seaweed. What I remember most is that it was Monday, open mic night. I stood on the iron staircase, the centerpiece of the bar, and sang Fly Me To The Moon with the live band in front of like 60 people.

The reward? A shot of vodka that made me wanted to sing more.

 

We also went to —

Blues Bar (aka. Adhere The 13th) near Khao San Road, a small bar with an amazing ambiance thanks to the hippie decor and the different bands that play every night. I’d say half of the customers were young locals and the other half expats — all laid-back and chillaxing along with the beats.

 

BREW Beers & Ciders in Thonglor, offering a broad range of cold, fizzy beverages. It’s where I met Book’s coworkers and friends in the music industry, including the famous ukulele artist and singer Singto Numchok (!).

 

Mulligans Irish Bar on Khao San Road, again with a live band and singers, casual place for friends to gather, have some beer… and flaming Sambuca shots.

– Judith

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Traveling Solo in BKK | Eat Like a Local

“Most travel, and certainly the rewarding kind, involves depending on the kindness of strangers, putting yourself into the hands of people you don’t know and trusting them with your life. This risky suspension of disbelief is often an experience freighted with anxiety.”

While travel writer Paul Theroux put himself in the hands of a driver at the border of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in 2006 (read Ghost Train to the Eastern Star), I was lucky to have met Book, my “personal foodie guide” who’d spent two days and nights with me exploring the city (and also cared to send me back to the hostel in the middle of the night).

 

Our first meal was a pleasant lunch at his go-to place for a relaxed meal — Khao Jao Bangkok in the hip and trendy Thonglor. As this is a district where most Japanese expats hang out at, not only that the menu is trilingual, but also the simple, home-like interior made use of the natural sunlight and is decorated with furnitures made of reclaimed wood as well as anime toys and figures. “Khao jao” means long grain rice.

 

Thai Papaya Salad, Stir-fried Salted Turnip with Eggs, Stir-fried Minced Pork with Black Olives; Khao Jao, Bangkok Starting with the smaller dishes, Thai Papaya Salad (THB80) was fresh and excitingly hot. Book says the spice generally defines Southern Thai cuisine.

Stir-fried Salted Turnip with Eggs (THB70-80?) was nice but quite ordinary to me in terms of the texture and the taste. I’d say it’s best to have a bowl of rice to with it, to tone down its excess saltiness.

Stir-fried Minced Pork with Black Olives (THB70-80?) too reminded me of a Chinese home-cooked dish that’s essentially the same. Salty and spicy, very flavorful, cooked with seasoned minced pork and chopped water spinach.

 

Green Curry Fried Rice with Fish (THB80) came with this pronounced flavors of fragrant Thai herbs and was slightly spicy, but after a few spoonful I felt that it’s a tad bit drying in the mouth. Rice with green curry on the side might have been a better option.

Pork Spare Ribs Spicy Soup (THB80) was a tasty clear soup, with the sour-spiciness of Tom Yum that whetted my appetite. But I couldn’t have more than one bowl because it’s too hot to bear!

 

On another day, Book brought me to Victory Monument. We walked along the skywalk upon exiting from the MRT, looking at the military monument on our left that stood in the middle of a roundabout.

It didn’t take long until we turned right into a canal bridge with street food stalls lined up on both sides, and saw Best Boat Noodles (orange uniform) and Ruathong Noodles (pink uniform), which I preferred better.

 

They stay true to the tradition of serving in small portions when this could avoid spilling when eating on the wobbly boats, and it actually makes the experience super fun because when your noodles are gone in two slurps, and you order more and can form a stack of bowls next to you in no time!

The splash of pig’s blood broth was savoury in Thai Noodles with Pork Meatballs (THB12) and Thai Noodles with Beef Meatballs (THB12). I thought a pinch of chilli flakes added excitement.

 

The bigger bowls were the delicious Stewed Beef Noodles topped with coriander and deep fried garlic that reminded me of famous ones from Taiwan, and the rich, sweet and creamy Khao Soi (Coconut Curry Noodle Soup with Chicken) with strands of fried egg toppings that gave me an idea of Northern Thai cuisine, a reverse of the piquant food down south.

 

Me finishing everything; Ruathong Noodles, Bangkok With local Thais around me, I knew I was at the right place. And as you can see, I had altogether 4 small ones and 2 big ones that were equivalent to… I guess 6 small ones?! That added up to a shocking 10 for a petite-sized like me. Book was in awe and so was myself.

– JD

Traveling Solo in BKK | Street Food

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I’d definitely spent my time wisely before starting my new job. Just one afternoon I decided to buy a return ticket to Bangkok, where the flight was the next morning.

Traveling with a friend is fun, but when it comes to my first time doing it solo, things became entirely different – I’m the kind of person who’s fine with staying in hostels, and would prefer down-to-earth street food that reflect the lives of locals over fancy restaurants in shopping arcades, though tasty. When on my own, I can follow my instincts, do whatever I want and go wherever I like.

I revisited a number of food spots that I love, including the street vendor near Sala Daeng BTS that sells this super comfort food: Banana Pancake (~THB30-40).

He hand-stretched and tossed the dough ball into a thin sheet, place it into the hot pan drizzled with oil, add and spread out the yolk before adding in banana slices. He then folded the four sides into the center, add a small chunk of butter, flipped to heat both sides until crispy and golden brown.

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“Condensed milk?” “YESSSSSSSS!”
“Sugar?” “YESSSSSSSS!”

He laughed while I was jumping up and down like a kid. I told him we don’t have this in Hong Kong, but it’s good or else I will turn into a fat girl in no time.

I also went back to Kaiton Pratunam Chicken Rice closest to Chitlom BTS. Their Khao Mun Gai (THB40) does not come in big portion, but enough for a person like me who’d like to save stomach space for other food.

Chicken meat is tender and promises freshness that’s rare to find in chicken in Hong Kong, given that most of the times they are frozen due to the avian flu that attack almost on a yearly basis. I mean fresh, safe ones are available but are limited and can be pricey.

The rice is cooked with chicken broth and oil, therefore amazingly fragrant on its own. A drizzle of the red-chilli-and-ginger-infused sweet soy sauce adds a unique Thai flavor. Chilled coconut water is a must-have after the meal.

That’s all for now!!

— Jude

My favourite Canteen…

This is the 3rd day I’m officially unemployed.

I’m never a very nostalgic person, though there are a few things that I kind of miss after a year working at the company and eating out occasionally… Singapore and Malaysia Canteen is on the list.

Exterior; Singapore and Malaysia Canteen

It’s inside a Market next to a ferry concourse, meaning it’s not particularly comfy when there’s this heat and humidity in the summer. I can bear with that, however, for the food:

The Noodle with Singapore Dark Soya Sauce (HK$35) comes in generous portion and is my usual order on warmer days, whereas the slurp-worthy Noodle with Pepper Soup (HK$38) might be your new cold winter fave that promises to warm your bones for hours on end. I like to order them with:

  • the savoury, unbeatable Barbecued Pork Neck Meat
  • the gelatinous, comforting Braised Chicken Leg and Pork Leg
  • the simple, delicious Barbecued Lemongrass Chicken Steak

It’s nice to have a drink too – I’d either have the simple, refreshing Iced Barley Water (HK$16) or the satisfying Singapore and Malaysia Milk Tea with Ginger Sauce (HK$15), depending on the weather.

 

Despite all the above that I loved and kept going back to, I have a few **REMINDERS** for you upon your visit:

  1. Do not order rice. The rice is always in that unbelievable gooey state, and you can imagine how bad it can get when drenched in chicken oil if you order it with Hainan Chicken;
  2. 8/10 times they will bring you the wrong dishes – after a fairly long wait; and
  3. If you love barbecued pork neck and Hainan Chicken, visit early because they tend to be the first two menu items that run out.

 

Singapore and Malaysia Canteen
Shop 20, 1/F, Kwun Tong Pier Cooked Food Market, Kwun Tong, Kowloon, Hong Kong
T. +852 2344 2347

– Jude

Life-tasting at Uchi

French people I’d worked with love afternoon naps and would always urge me to leave the office on time because “you have to have a life”; former colleagues who are Italian would often indulge in a 3-hour lunch with a bottle of invigorating Pinot; and friends visiting from the Maldives simply couldn’t understand why we’re always in a rush.

You might call them lazy, but I would say that they savor and add quality to their lives.

I have heard of Uchi Coffee for countless of times over the past two years but have never given it a try. My initial impression for both it and Uchi Days and Meals was “maybe just another Taiwanese/Japanese-inspired café with tidy, minimalistic design but mediocre and small-portioned food that leans on the pricey side”.

Tbh that wasn’t fair; and I’m glad to have finally given it and myself a chance. I have dined there for several times during its soft-launch period, and these are the things ordered:

 

Chef Special Salmon Set (HK$118) with Hot Ginger Tea:
The fillet is grilled to give sweet and salted flavours, rich salmon oil on the golden crispy skin (omega-3!!!) complements the delicate, moist and flaky flesh.
Steaming hot Ginger Tea is just the drink you need for humid early spring.

Kansai Braised Beef Set (HK$89) with Hot Matcha Latte:
Thinly sliced meat on a bed of “harusame” glass noodles that soaked up the satisfying sweet beef broth, where the chewy texture makes it a joy to eat along with the rice.
Matcha Latte is slightly thin in the consistency, not oversweet and lovely.

 

Salmon Ochazuke (HK$65):
An effortless dish made by pouring hot green tea over rice, topped with salmon, tiny rice crackers, seaweed and a Japanese parsley called “mitsuba”; another dish besides sushi and “hiyayakko” the chilled tofu appetizer that suggests the simplicity of the Japanese culture.

Yam Puree Spring Egg Cold Soba (HK$85):
Refreshing and healthy, but a bland taste is inevitable in this combination of ingredients. Prefer cold soba noodles with simple tsuyu sauce.

 

Homemade Pork Udon Soup (HK$79):
Another highlight of Uchi. The meat is tender and tasty (though I have had better ones elsewhere), udon is chewy and bouncy in the clear soup.

Prawn Tempura Udon Soup (HK$82):
Fresh prawns with just a thin, airy layer of deep-fried crust. Again, nice udon.

 

Earl Grey Waffle (HK$48):
Looks cute, with classic flavour of bergamot found in the ice-cream scoop. But totally unimpressed by the “waffle” that’s actually a crumbly dougnut – not only that it is absent of iconic squared pockets to carry all the chilled goodness, but it also keeps falling apart as we eat…

 

Uchi wins Hongkongers’ hearts by promoting the art of slow living. You can feel the atmosphere once you step inside, as if you can finally unburden yourself, take time to appreciate the food and the person sitting right in front of you (note: 90-minute limit).

P.S. “Uchi” means house in Japanese, particularly referring to a person’s home and has a warmer feeling to it 🙂

Uchi Days and Meals
Shop No.4, G/F, Double Cove Place, 8 Wu Kai Sha Road, Ma On Road, New Territories, Hong Kong
T. +852 2662 0102

– Judith

Quick Update: We Went on a Picnic!!!

Picnic spot; Ngong Ping picnic

Another wonderful time with my wonderful friends 🙂 The weather last Sunday was clear and sunny, with temps of about 12 or 13 degree Celcius – perfect for a hike & eating outdoors!

Food; Ngong Ping picnic

Along the Ma On Shan Country Trail we walked uphill for an hour or so until we reached the picturesque Ngong Ping Plateau. We just couldn’t wait to find a spot facing the cliff-side, line a shower curtain (LOL) on the grass and share the food we prepared.

We had freshly DIYed sandwiches, with ingredients including cherry tomato, cabbage, avocado with salt, cheddar cheese, ham and salumi. A drizzle of sesame dressing played a huge role!

Just-out-of-the-oven-chocolate chip & poppy seed muffins (by me!! 😀 ) The only question I have is I’d coated the chocolate chips with part of the all-purpose flour before I incorporated them into the batter, but most of them still sank to the bottom of the liners…

Super-duper cute Fungi of the Fungi Gardening Kit, one of the top grossing Japanese game app (click here for recipe)!!

We also had this classic Hong Kong-style picnic snack Frankfurter sausages with pineapple that everyone loved since childhood, Sara Lee pound cake in original flavour, bananas and blueberries too.

It was pure awesomeness to just lie there under the sun, laugh hours away, cheer for gliders who’d take off from the plateau, and pat dogs that would occasionally come near our picnic mat in search for food.

Who loves hiking and picnic like we do? 🙂

– Judith

Lovely, “Oldish” place to chillax

Haven’t updated my blog for some time, but this place named Oldish in Sheung Wan that I went with my girl friends last Friday has given me motivation in typing!

We booked a table ahead and were seated close to the entrance. It’s a warm, cozy place that serves up international dishes, and these are what we ordered:

Starters / Side Orders –

Thai Minced Pork Salad with Herbs & Glass Noodles (HK$128): Love the freshness of the lettuce. The ground pork tasted kind of light, not as savory as traditional ones from Thailand. Of course you may argue that it’s healthier in such a way.

Salt & Pepper Chicken Wings (HK$85): Deep-fried single bone wings were addictive and easy to eat (thanks for being thoughtful because girls wouldn’t have to worry if they look bizarre when chewing to get the meat off!). The fried garlic pleased me as a huge garlic lover.

Roti (HK$45, photo forgotten): Hot, puffed up and light, a perfect match with Thai Curry (see below).

Thai Style Potato Stir Fry (HK$75): Evenly-cut potato cubes cooked with onion and bell pepper, coated with spicy, sweet and sour sauce that stimulated the appetite. Potato cubes were moist in the inside but the lack of crispness on the outside was what I thought needed improvement.

Garlic Stir Fry Broccoli with Anchovy (HK$75): Simple veggie dish made special with bites of meaty anchovies!

Main –

Smoked Salmon Brown Rice Risotto in Cream Sauce (HK$148): I didn’t have problem with its mild, creamy taste but I found it too dry as in having too little cream sauce, let alone the desirable all’onda consistency.

Thai Style Fried Brown Rice with Minced Pork & Sunshine Egg (HK$148): This wasn’t impressive as it was, like the Minced Pork Salad (above), absent of the rather bold and exotic flavors typical in Southeastern food.

Thai Curry with Lemongrass Cornflakes Chicken (HK$168): Well, the same issue… maybe it’s because Oldish does not focus on just one type of cuisine, Thai curry did taste fine but did not taste Thai… and I suggest that they serve a bigger portion of it to do the Roti justice (after all, without its dip it’s nothing). Cornflake-coated chicken were good – crunchy and tasty.

Baby Pork Shanks with Spicy & Sour Sauce (HK$148): Cooked to just right, the meat was so tender that they came off from the bone effortlessly. The other girls skipped the sauce because they found it too intense, but to me it was fine and could add excitement to the meat.

Dessert –

Oldish Ginger Crème Brûlée (HK$70): This was essentially a Crème Brûlée flambé! After a minute or so when the flame had gone out, with our spoon we tapped to crack the caramel crust to reveal the creamy, decadent custard that wasn’t sickly sweet (thank God). Very satisfying, and we loved it.

Oldish Tiramisu (HK$75): Classic Italian recipe with a twist, making it look like a donut or an inflatable pool ring. It was smooth in the inside, with the sweetness balanced when eaten with a spoonful of black coffee.

Along with a bottle of German Riesling (Pieroth Blue 2013), the dinner cost roughly at HK$1,460, about HK$290 per head.

In all, it’s a rather secluded place to chill. They have warm, welcoming staff, not to mention Norman, one of the owners who passionately recommended dishes, brought us Crème Brûlée and two glasses of bubbly for free and took time to know our thoughts on his restaurant (and photo-bombed us).

Show Us Your Tattoo (ig: @oldishhk); Oldish

P.S. Do not miss the “Show Us Your Tattoo” promo!
(check out their Instagram: @oldishhk)

P.P.S. Wooden stools, tables and other furniture and household items are available at Growth Ring & Supply, if you like them 🙂

Oldish Limited
G/F, 53 Tung Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
T. +852 2697 3313

– Judith

Guided tasting at HKIWSF 2014

Being at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair (6 – 8 November) this year was quite a different experience. Rather than as an exhibitor, I was invited to a wine session and tasting tour hosted by sommelier Damon Yuen, together with some others in the blogging community on the last day of the fair that was open to traders and the public. Thanks again to HKTDC and WeShare.

We began with a 20-minute USA wine session that centered on the geographical and weather conditions in the states of Washington and California, and the effects they have on the grapes thus wines produced. It was followed by tastings at various booths with guidance — see, smell, swirl, smell again, sip and savour.

First tasted were some Japanese whiskies, and then German blanc de noir that’s described as “the wine perfect for ladies to drink when looking at the sunset and then the next sunrise”, followed by an elegant rosé and pinot noir that are not only a pleasure to drink, but also of good quality-price ratio.

Stopping by another booth, we tasted single-malt beer and ale that carry a prominent sweet floral scent to the nose, finishing with a hint of fresh ginger and yeast in the mouth — much different from the commercial brands that I often refrain from drinking.

Since the topic of discussion at the session was USA wines, we moved onto the third stop and with two Oregon whites (p.s. Oregon’s the state in between Washington and California, along the west coast), we engaged our senses and learned to tell if wines made of the same grape have been aged in steel tanks or oak barrels.

The tour ended with a taste of three decent Karma Tequilas made of agave that were all distilled to their purest forms, quite powerful to the nose yet velvety-smooth on the palate, followed by a lingering finish. A tiny sip goes a long way. The interesting part comes when they handed us Tequila Karma bracelets found on each bottle, which made me curious of its background. After Googling, it came to my knowledge that it donates a portion of its purchase to Karma Care, a non-profit org that supports the well-being of children around the globe 🙂

Later, I met with a few friends and spent the next couple of hours tasting wines to our liking. It was a shame though for missing on a few good (and popular) French producers whose booths closed early for they have ran out of wines; not to mention the freshly-made gelato at Vinitaly too! 😡

i’m already looking forward to in HKIWSF in 2015! How about you?

– Judith

Hi all, long time no see…

Nanjing Olympic Sports Center; Nanjing, China (c)Nanjing POOL

I’ve been approximately a month away from my food blog since I’d been super busy working on Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games, which was a totally awesome experience that added value to both my personal and career life!

During the entire August in Nanjing, my colleagues and I have tried out many different restaurants. There were a few good ones that we kept returning to because of their proximity to the Olympic Sports Center of where our office was, and there were some that we’d only been to once but left behind a very good impression.
 
Generally speaking, Nanjing’s food tastes a lot stronger than the food in Hong Kong. Even if we asked for less salt and oil, we often got ignored, and the food would still be quite salty and oily… delicious, but not very healthy.
 
Also, experience tells us that places that look older and more local usually offer better food. I mean, you can imagine that some places have obviously overspent on interior design and overlooked the quality of the dishes. (Of course, exceptions do exist!!)
 
Please give me some time to rearrange stuff, and in my next blog post I will introduce to you Xi Ming Restaurant! 🙂
 
– Judith

{Santorini, Greece} Zafora – Lunch with premium spice & an impeccable view

Lucky us — we had the time to pay a visit to Santorini after everything was settled at Athens!

Let’s talk about Zafora, our first lunch destination at Fira! It sits on the hillside, right next to the cable car station and along the pedestrian that’s packed with tourists at all times. Needless to say, from the photos above you can see that its unobstructed view is absolutely picturesque.

Santorinian Salad; Zafora, Santorini, Greece

Santorinian Salad (EUR$9.5) was fresh, with local, seasonal products like cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, black olives, sliced onion, green pepper and kritamos (note: the pickled leaves and stems). It’s slightly too “local” and it didn’t exactly suit my taste, but I deny not its extreme freshness.

"Zafora" Lamb with White Eggplant, Feta Cheese & Safran; Zafora, Santorini, Greece

Ordered next was “Zafora” Lamb with White Eggplant, Feta Cheese & Safran (EUR$13.5) because it seemed to us a signature dish. Cutting down to the meat was juicy, lean and tender. The highlight though, lied on the use of local spice saffron that contributed to the distinct taste and aroma of the dish.

You might ask what saffron, the world’s most expensive spice by weight, actually tastes like. To me, there’s a hint of bitterness and sweetness, a combination that’s entirely new to my palate. But of course, I can’t tell if this is the real taste of it, so do many other gourmands on the internet (yup, I Googled).

Gyros; Zafora, Santorini, Greece

Coming last was Gyros (EUR$11). Eating warm pita bread and grilled pork with tzatziki, a cold, creamy-textured dressing made of strained yogurt and cucumber (that kinda stuck to the roof of my mouth…) was strange but comforting and addicting at the same time! I guess the chef had intentionally over-seasoned the meat since there was the tzatziki to tone everything down.

Tasty food paired with an impressive view, what more can I ask for?

Oh wait — there’s one thing. The only regret was that the restaurant manager’s quick change of attitude as we asked for the check, while he kept saying “tips, tips, tips” (well yes, he did vocalise it…) but what we paid did not meet his expectation. After all, this might be one of the most common downsides that one can come across when dining in touristic parts of a city.

Zafora
84700 Thira, Kikladhes, Greece
T. +30 22 8062 3203

– Judith