Sunday, May 26, 2019

Hong Kong and the Edible Bird Nest

Ok, only one full day in Hong Kong. Make it count. Anddd go!

Spending a little time perusing the guidebook before hitting the streets is an investment.

Well as I mentioned previously the hotel restaurant was even in the Michelin guide. And while it was just hotel breakfast fare I still thought it was a fun setting.

I was on the look out for some weird stuff. Mission was accomplished.

As expected steam turnip cake is not good.

I thought the Man Mo Temple in Sheung Wan was pretty cool on the exterior. The classic building up against modern skyscrapers was fun. I guess "Man" Tai is a civil god and "Mo" Tai is a martial god. So the temple where you can chat with both of them is called Man Mo.

Upon entering I couldn't have been mo impressed.

There was incense happening all over the place. I was especially amused by these giant coils of incense hanging from the ceiling. They had little plates underneath to keep the ash off your head. They reminded me of giant mosquito repellent coils.

There were grumpy workers trying to deal with all of the incense waste. I lit some and stuck it in a pot and a worker grabbed it and threw it away before it had even finished burning.

The weather was a little warm.

We wandered around in a train station a bit before we found our lunch spot: Tim Ho Wan. Ol Timmy has a few locations, one of which got a Michelin star.

"The second branch of this famous dim sum chain is roomier than the original, but don't be surprised to still find a queue of expectant diners at the entrance. Over 20 different dim sum are on offer, all skilfully made and reasonably priced. Some items rotate every two to three months to keep the menu fresh. Don't miss their shrimp dumplings, baked buns with barbecue pork filling and steamed beef balls. Two rooms on the first floor offer more privacy."

While I was standing in line I realized that this was a cash only joint. Lovely. The line was long enough that I figured I would go find a cash machine while Lydia held our spot. Easy peasy.

Well it turns out that Hong Kong ATMs no likey US Bank debit cards.

I had to go back and collect Lydia, and we wandered around sticking all of our cards in every machine we met until one gave us some sweet, sweet dumpling money.

The place was crammed full of humanity so you sat next to whoever you could find a chair next to. We got placed next to a nice South African couple that live in Dubai. That old story.

I got ridiculous on these steamed fresh shrimp dumplings.

The bell of the friggin ball though, was these baked buns with bbq pork inside. Oh my god.

The buns were like honeyed biscuits with bbq pork inside. I would do terrible things to have those again.

Here's your damn cash your highness.

We walked out of there after an awesome meal and marveled: “That was literally in a subway station.”

Fancy tea shop.

As we strolled around some fancy shopping areas we began to see these like shanty picnics full of women everywhere. They were sitting on cardboard and some even had little box fort things set up. What the hell?

Finally a stained glass window that makes some sense.


I had guessed that all of these women hanging out were immigrant domestic workers and this was like their one day off a month or something. When I saw a bunch of them in line sending remittances to their families we all congratulated me on how right I was.

We stopped back at headquarters for a bit to pick up some adventuring equipment.

The Western Market is one of the oldest structures in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Island. It was opened in 1858.

Maybe the only thing that I remembered from my 2008 Hong Kong excursion that I had wanted to do but was unable to accomplish was to see the horse races. Well I wasn't going to let that failure haunt my nightmares any longer. NO REGERTS!!

I rolled up to the Hong Kong Jockey Club at the Sha Tin Racecourse to purchase a couple of tourist badges. They started giving me lip about wearing shorts, but I was prepared with a pair of pants rolled up in Lydia's bag.

Just like that I was part of Hong Kong high society, partying with glittery horses.

This place is a big deal. Wikipedia:

The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC, Chinese: 香港賽馬會) is one of the oldest institutions in Hong Kong, having been founded in 1884. In 1959, it was granted a Royal Charter and renamed The Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club (英皇御准香港賽馬會). The institution reverted to its original name in 1996 due to the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997. Membership of the club is by nomination and election.

It holds a government-granted monopoly in providing pari-mutuel betting on horse racing, the Mark Six lottery, and fixed odds betting on overseas football events. The organisation is the largest taxpayer in Hong Kong, as well as the largest community benefactor. 

There were some clearly fancy people walking around. Apparently a real membership here costs around $50K. Some of the badges people had on were really ornate metal things. I was still pretty happy with my paper guy though.

It turns out I'm just as bad at picking Hong Kong horses as I am every other nationality of horse.

I learned one important lesson: you always win when you bet on egg tarts.

Our Uber driver's stick shift was Mickey's Fist.

We farted around Kowloon Park.

The park is home to the Hong Kong Heritage Discovery Centre which is located inside an old British colonial barracks.

This seems to be an alien store.

There was a golden R2D2 that Lydia refused to buy me after everything I've done for her.

Should we go to the Canon store and point high powered cameras at models of Hong Kong? You're goddamn right we should.

Gweilo is Cantonese slang for white people. Wikipedia shine your light upon us!

"Gwái (鬼) means "ghost", and lóu (佬) means "man". The term gwáilóu therefore literally means "ghostly man", and is sometimes translated into English as "foreign devil"."

In some circles in China I'm known as "the gweilo to die fo".

I booked our reservation at T'ang Court inside the Langham hotel a couple of weeks prior just to be safe. I did some research on three star (their highest rating) Michelin restaurants and I think picked a winner. Michelin:

"It's easy to see why this restaurant remains so popular and is soon to celebrate its 30th birthday. Comfort and luxury are factors, thanks to the plush fabrics, beautifully dressed tables and Chinese art. But it is the ability and experience of the head chef and his kitchen that plays the greatest part. Their classic and accomplished Cantonese cuisine includes dishes like Peking duck, lobster with onions and shallot, and baked stuffed crab shell with onion."

The black chopsticks are to eat with and the white are to grab things from the communal plate and move them to your own. I thought that was a nice system. I completely ignored it, but it was nice nonetheless.

We went with the tasting menu. Let's do this!

People may think I'm weird for taking so many pictures but this poor woman had to sit with a guy who set up a freaking GoPro on the table!

I don't think this was on the menu. Might have just been a "howdy-doo" snack.

I ordered some tea and got classy with it. I stopped referring to things as "howdy-doo snacks".

Baked stuffed crab shell with crab meat and onion. This may have been the most normal thing I was going to see here today.

Stewed imperial bird's nest with mixed seafood in pumpkin soup.

Our server was very nice and interested in our experience. She could tell we were amused by the bird's nest in a bowl in front of us, masquerading as food. She offered some encouragement at first: "It has lots of protein." She then asked if I knew what the bird's nest is made out of. I hesitated to say spit in such a classy joint so I pretended to not know. “It’s the saliva.” Such a classy place.

I’ve eaten a whole lot of animals but I think that’s the first time I’ve eaten one's house. Well I have eaten honeycomb. I dunno I'm a bad person I guess?

It tasted a lot like how you might imagine congealed bird spit tasting. I don't know why Lydia always wants to order this weird stuff. Weirdo.

Baked fresh lobster in chicken broth. I assume there's some lobster spit mixed in there as well.

Stir-fried Japanese Wagyu beef with green vegetables, coriander and spring onion.

Fried rice with whole abalone, diced duck, chicken and conpoy wrapped in lotus leaf. I was not worried about any of this being too dry: I had multiple mouthfuls of spit at this point.

Dessert was fresh fruits and T'ang Court delight.

There was a fun jelly thing going on. That thing on the right tricked me because I thought it was pear.

But it was a delicious little work of art confection.

Egg tarts were also invited to the party in my mouth.

Well that was an expensive yet awesome dinner.

There was a case of chopsticks with people's names on them.

We rode the star ferry back across Victoria Harbour. After that splurge of a dinner it was a nice change: I think $1 covered both of our tickets.

Hong Kong is great.

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