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Kate Abbott visits Hong Kong, the dining and shopping capital of the world, tells us where to have the most fashionable four o’clock cuppa in great style and explores fascinating ‘must go’ places.  First Published on Show Cook.Com  http://www.showcook.com/2012/travel-culture/hong-kong-on-a-plate-with-kate-abbott/

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My taste buds were once again in need of some food adventure, the plan being to revisit Singapore. Unfortunately South African Airways no longer fly directly to Singapore, routing via Hong Kong instead. The short time available for this particular excursion therefor brought about a new set of travel plans… so it was goodbye to Singapore for now and hello to Hong Kong.

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Hong Kong has it all, there is something to suit all tastes and budgets.

Hong Kong is everything other than what I expected; full of delightful surprises, friendly, clean, and a shopping and gastronomic paradise. As one of Chinas most vibrant cities it proudly boasts the title Culinary Capital of Asia. If fine dining in a bustling city is your idea of a brilliant holiday, then Hong Kong is where you need to be. Locals and visitors alike can indulge in a wide range of culinary experiences; savour some truly spectacular food, and enjoy the impressive combination of the finest ingredients, the dazzling range of international cuisines and some of the world’s best wines that are on offer. It has it all.

Eating is certainly one of the cities favourite pastimes, indulge in a simple snack, or an extravagant meal at an exclusive restaurant, or immerse yourself in the Asian culture, do as the locals do and dine in any of the abundant noodle houses and open food stalls; there is something to suit all tastes and budgets.

Soho is definitely one of the cities popular locations; a trendy dinning districts in the heart of Hong Kong known for its exotic range of cuisine, chic bars, and upscale boutiques. It is upmarket and specialises in many different cuisines including French, Nepalese, Italian, Mexican and Indian.

But Hong Kong offers far more than just great food. Its rich culture, colourful history, fabulous shopping and breath taking scenery all make this city a must visit, with so much to do, see and eat, not to mention shop.

Hong Kong is a free port and showcases commodities from all over the world, catering to every taste and budget.

Shopping areas are divided roughly into Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. The highlights are Central, North Point, Admiralty and Causeway Bay, Repulse Bay, Soho, on Hong Kong Island and Tsim Sha Tsui, Yau Ma Tei, Jordan and Mong Kok situated in Kowloon.

Malls and department stores are widely distributed in Hong Kong. All of the world’s designer shops, boutiques, and signature brands are everywhere to be seen, goods ranging from dresses, leather ware, home ware, antiques, watches to jewellery. The atmosphere in the malls is one of relaxed luxury, dotted cafes and a wide variety of restaurants. If you are looking for designer labels and luxury brands other than in the malls, visit Canton Road which has a high concentration of designer shops and goods situated around the Harbour City shopping centre.

Touristy shopping places include Repulse Bay, Stanley market, Jade market, and Ladies market, and are consider must go places when visiting Hong Kong. Here you will find an interesting array of little shops selling anything from souvenirs, garments, bags, art, pearls, silk and silk fabrics and costume jewellery. After browsing and shopping you can by a good lunch at any one of the many restaurants, which are frequented by locals and tourists.

Take a walk around Sheung Wan District to view shops and buildings that have retained a trace of the old Hong Kong, this area is also home to lots of traditional Chinese foods, herbal medicine and sadly lots of shark fins too.

Apart from shopping and eating there are of course other things to do. Victoria harbour is considered one of Hong Kong’s greatest assets, admired by everyone no matter how many times they visit the city; it bustles with activity day and night. To experience the energy take a ride on the star Ferry, a harbour cruise, or a ride on a traditional Chinese Junk. It is a lot of fun.

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There is no better way to capture the magic of the harbour than by taking a night time cruise aboard a ferry where you will be able to enjoy the Symphony of Lights

The stunning multimedia show featuring more than 40 Hong Kong skyscrapers in a dazzling extravaganza. The show is displayed every night, weather permitting, at 8pm. It is an orchestration of music, decoration lights, laser light displays and pyrotechnic fireworks, all lasting about 15 minutes.

Some of the great vantage points from which to view the Symphony of lights include the Avenue of Stars, on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront Kowloon side, on sight-seeing ferries where one can enjoy the sights on both sides of Victoria Harbour, or from open deck bars such as Sevva’s in Chater road, Hong Kong.

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Take the peak tram to Victoria Peak for spectacular views of Hong Kong, the surrounding area, the city, the harbour, and the views across the harbour to Kowloon. Afterwards enjoy lunch at The Peak Lookout Restaurant with its rustic interior and spacious terrace. It is another of Hong Kong’s landmarks, situated in a stunning location high above the city. The building is said to be one of the city’s oldest buildings. The restaurant has an extensive menu featuring Western and Asian flavours, it is also where I enjoyed a memorable plate of wonderful Hainan Chicken.

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Hong Kong afternoon tea is quite a celebration in the City too, enjoyed by locals and tourists alike and worth planning into your afternoon of things to do. It is an extravagant spread of dainty sandwiches, plump scones with clotted cream, melt-in-the-mouth pastries and milky teas. The English introduced the traditional pre-dinner snacking-cum-social hour to Hong Kong, and the city’s hoteliers have since perfected the experience in atmosphere, service, and deliciousness.

Many venues indulge in the practice of Hi Tea; a few suggestions would be the iconic Peninsula Hotel situated in Kowloon. This very grand hotel opened in 1928, underwent refurbishment in 1994 and has tastefully combined colonial and modern elements in the finished product. It remains the definitive spot for English afternoon tea just as it was over 80 years ago. It’s all about the crumbly scones, string quartet, classic Indian and Chinese tea blends, served with a sense of style and ceremony in the grand colonial lobby.

The Four Seasons may not have the Peninsula’s history, but its afternoon tea is distinctly traditional, with finger sandwiches, scones, Devonshire clotted cream and homemade jams. The surroundings are modern, and very elegant.

Other recommendable places to enjoy afternoon tea are; Sevva’s, in Chater road Hong Kong, described as the very best in town. Timeless in décor, oozes warmth, and exudes an air of sophistication. Or try The Cosy Clipper lounge at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, or the historical Hullett house, Tsim Sha Tsui; this boutique hotel’s parlour is all about English afternoon tea in the grand tradition, served under the imposing arches of the hotel terrace. For elevated vistas over Victoria Harbour, Cafe Gray on the 49th floor of The Upper House hotel is the place to be. Here afternoon tea is a versatile affair; you can order anything from a cup of Valhrona hot chocolate with an apple crostada on the side to a selection of sandwiches, pastries and scones. Then there is The Verandah restaurant located in scenic Repulse Bay, which is about as close to a tropical vacation as one can get without leaving Hong Kong Island. Run by the Peninsula and similarly housed in a gorgeous old colonial structure.

Site seeing: Break-a-way from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong and head for the nearby islands, where there is lots more to discover. Lantau Island is famous for its beaches, fishing village, Disneyland and big Buddha, and is rich in nature and wildlife. Lamma Island is well known for its seafood and also its eclectic lifestyle. Here you will find Herboland where swathes of summer and winter herbs are cultivated by two entrepreneurial people. Their herbs are supplied to the hotel and catering industry; to some local markets and also cultivated for medicinal use.

There really is so much one can do and experience when visiting this amazing city and its islands, from eating, to nature walks and all that is in between, the choice is yours.

Where to stay; Hong Kong has literally hundreds of hotels from which to choose, so there is something to suit every budget. Popular and well located hotels are The JW Marriot, The Four Seasons, and The Oriental situated on Hong Kong Island and The Peninsula Situated in Kowloon. Hullett House Boutique Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, The Upper House, Pacific Place, Hong Kong, and The Repulse Bay Hotel, in Repulse Bay.

Memorable meals; there is just so much to choose from, and one is really spoilt for choice, having said that there were a few dishes of which the simplicity and flavour, left a lasting impression and urge to recreate back home. Some complicated and some fuss free and easy. Here I share something that is fragrant and delicious and easy to prepare.

Cantonese-style steamed fish

This simple but gentle technique is a favourite Chinese cooking method. With steaming the fish remains moist and tender and you can savour the aromatics and flavours of the combination of ingredients.

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Serves 4

Ingredients

450g firm white fish such as cob

1 tsp. coarse sea salt

1 ½ tablespoons finely shredded fresh ginger

3 tablespoons finely shredded spring onions

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon groundnut oil

2 teaspoons sesame oil

Garnish with fresh coriander sprigs

Method

Rinse and pat the fish dry and rub evenly with salt. Place the fish on a plate and scatter the finely shredded ginger evenly over the top.

Prepare a steamer or place a rack into a wok or deep pan, fill the pan with about 5cm of water and bring to the boil. Place the plate with the fish on the rack (or in the steamer), cover tightly and steam the fish until just cooked; this should take about 5 minutes. The fish should be opaque and the flesh should flake slightly when tested.

Remove the plate with the fish from the steamer and pour off any liquid that may have accumulated during the steaming process. Scatter the spring onions on the fish, and then drizzle over the light and dark soy sauces.

In a small pan heat the ground nut and sesame oil together until the oils start to smoke, remove from the heat and immediately pour over the fish.

Garnish with coriander and serve with steamed rice and stir fried spinach with garlic.

Quick stir fried spinach with garlic

Simple to prepare and a good accompaniment for the Cantonese-style steamed fish.

Serves 4

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Ingredients

700 g fresh spinach

1 tablespoon groundnut oil

2 tablespoons garlic coarsely chopped

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

Method

Wash the spinach in several rinses of water. Remove the spinach stems, retaining just the leaves.

Heat a wok or pan over high heat. Add the oil and when hot and slightly smoking, add the garlic and salt and stir fry for about 10 seconds.

Add the spinach and stir fry for about 2 minutes, make sure the leaves are thoroughly coated with the oil, garlic and salt.

When the spinach has wilted and reduced to about one third of its original size, add the sugar and stir fry for a further 3-4 minutes. Pour off any excess liquid and transfer to a bowl to serve.

Steamed Rice

The Chinese way of cooking perfect rice without it becoming sticky is simple. Cook the rice uncovered in a pan of water at high heat until most of the water has evaporated. Then turn the heat down low, cover the pan and leave the rice to cook slowly in the remaining steam. Don’t uncover the pan once the steaming process has begun.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Long grain rice to fill a glass measuring jug to 400 ml

600 ml water

Method

Place the rice in a large bowl and wash it in several changes of water, until the water becomes clean, about 3- 4 washes. Drain the rice.

Place the rice in a pan with 600 ml water and bring to the boil. Boil for about 5 minutes until most of the surface liquid has evaporated; at this stage the rice will have lots of small indentations on the surface.

Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid; turn the heat down as low as possible. Cook the rice undisturbed for about 15 minutes; switch off the heat and leave to rest for about 5 more minutes.

Serve.

I like to follow the above meal with an orange mousse dessert, which is equally easy to prepare.

Orange Mousse

This light and refreshing orange mousse is a perfect ending to a meal and is quick and easy to prepare.

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Serves 4-6

Ingredients

2 eggs separated and chilled

Salt

1 tablespoon icing sugar

2 tablespoons castor sugar

1 tsp. corn flour

Juice of 4 oranges, strained

Juice of 1 lemon, strained

Method

Place the chilled egg whites in a bowl with a dash of salt and whisk until stiff. The whites are ready when the whisk leaves a clear trail in the mixture. Add icing sugar and beat gently for about 1 minute. Set aside.

Place the yolks, castor sugar and corn flour in another bowl. Whisk together until homogeneously combined. Then whisk in the orange and lemon juice bit by bit. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and while whisking, cook over low heat for about 12 minutes. By this time the mixture should resemble thin custard. Pour the warmed egg yolk and juice mixture into the whipped whites, folding gently with a wooden spoon.

Pour the mixture into a serving bowl or individual little dishes, leave to cool and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Serve chilled.

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