Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hong Kong, oh, how I love you!

We just spent a few days in Hong Kong over Christmas!  A little trip to someplace warmer than Seoul, and to a place that I have always wanted to see.  I loved it!!  And there were palm trees along the road from the airport!  I never knew I missed them until I saw them there, lining the road.

The view of the Hong Kong side of the harbor to the east from our hotel room window:

Since Hong Kong is a former British colony, they drive on the left side of the road.  So along the cross walks, they painted which direction you should look.

The Star Ferry terminal at the Convention Center.  It takes less than 10 minutes to cross the harbor from this terminal to Tsim Sha Tsui on the Kowloon side.

On our first day in Hong Kong, we rode the tram west out towards Kennedy Town and walked back towards the convention center area where we were staying, checking out the dried seafood store area and some of the main shopping areas.

Poinsettias at a nearby building -- definitely a holiday flavor.  In the more crowded areas, Christmas music was playing on the streets.

A walkway along the harbor.

Sign in a park.  Spitting is not allowed in Hong Kong, which makes for a nice difference compared to Seoul, where you need to watch when you're walking along the street for men about to spit.  There is also a lot of no smoking laws in Hong Kong, so bars and restaurants aren't filled with smoke.

Sign on building.

Tram that runs along Hong Kong Island.  $29 for a Subway value meal seems like a lot, but $29HKD is really only about $3.75USD.

A dried seafood goods store.

A narrow building.

Street off of the main drag in one of the high end shopping areas.  Note the large crowds -- this is normal.  Although out at the more residential ends of the tram line, it's much less crowded.

The Victoria Peak Tram, as viewed from the observation deck. Riding the tram up is kind of like riding Thunder Mountain at Disneyland, except there are no curves, it's just straight up.  And riding it down is like riding Thunder Mountain backwards, because you sit facing the peak.

View of Hong Kong Harbor from Victoria Peak.

Dumplings!!  We had lunch at the Chinese restaurant there at the top of Victoria Peak.  We had (clockwise, from upper right) beef balls, pan fried pork dumplings, and steamed bbq pork buns.  The pan fried pork dumplings are my favorites.  Or is it the crab, pork and asparagus?  Or the Shainghainese style dumplings in Macau?  Oh, they're all so good.

More poinsettias.

Building in Central area.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cook the Book: Pioneer Woman's Perfect Pot Roast in Seoul

This is based upon the recipe found at Serious Eats:  Cook the Book Perfect Pot Roast. I've been craving pot roast.  Especially when I walk past this restaurant down the street on my way home and I swear it smells exactly like my Mom's pot roast.  So when I saw this recipe, I figured I'd try it and see.

Step 1:  Go to commissary and haul home a chuck roast of reasonable proportions.  I'm not feeding a horde of ravenous teenage boys, just me and the husband, and I have only a normal sized dutch oven.

Step 2:  Make beef bouillon.

Actual instruction 1.  Preheat oven to 275F.

Step 3:  Calculate what 275F is in celsius.  Ok, Google says it's 135C.  Hm, oven only has 130 or 140.  Preheat oven to 140C.  Hey!!  The oven turned on after only 1 try!!

Actual instruction 2.  Heat Dutch oven over medium high heat, add olive oil.  Let it get really hot while prepping other ingredients.

Actual instruction 3.  Generously salt the chuck roast on both sides.

Step 4:  Carefully balance a plate on the counter along the edge of the sink, pour salt out from Morton salt jar into hand, and sprinkle over chuck roast.  Manage to turn roast over on carefully balanced plate with only one hand since the other one is now covered in salt.

Actual instruction 4.  Cut a couple of onions in half from root to tip.

Step 5:  Carefully balance the cutting board on the edge of the sink, and slice onions, after making sure they are in the correct location so as to prevent them from flying onto the floor when sliced.

Actual instruction 5.  Cut off the tops and bottoms and peel off the papery skin.

Step 6:  Ok, I can do this one.

Actual instruction 6.  Place the onions in the oil and brown on both sides, about 1 minute per side.  Then remove and set aside on a plate.

Step 7:  Ok, onions in the pot.  Hm, they're getting brown.  Good, good.  Time to take them out.

Actual instruction 7.  Wash but don't peel the carrots.

Step 8:  Carrots??  Hm, looks like we don't have any.  I could go downstairs and get some.  Nah, it's 32F out there.  I think we'll be fine without carrots.  Yeah, yeah, I know, they add a nice flavor.  But it's cold out there.

Actual instruction 8. Throw the carrots in the same pot and brown, then set aside.

Step 9:  Skip the carrot step and go directly to Step 10.

Actual instruction 9. Remove the carrots and let the pot get really hot again, add another tablespoon of oil if needed.

Actual instruction 10.  Place the meat in the pot and sear it, about a minute per side.  Remove and set aside on a platter.

Step 10:  Sear the meat on both sides, about a minute each side.  Ok, it's getting nice and brown.  Now, the challenge is to get it out of the pot and onto the plate without a detour to the floor.  Careful, careful.  Now balance the plate on the counter.

Step 11:  Damn!  The oven's beeping at me telling me it's ready.

Actual instruction 11.  Deglaze the pot using 1 cup of the beef broth.

Step 12:  Ignore beeping oven, with the knowledge that if I don't at least hit a button that the oven will turn itself off.

Step 13:  Deglaze the pot.

Actual instruction 12.  Add the meat back to the pot.

Step 14:  Wrestle meat back into the pot without dropping it.

Actual instruction 13.  Add the carrots and onions to the pot.  Pour enough beef stock to cover the roast halfway.

Step 15:  Toss the onions back in.  Pour in the remaining beef bouillon.  Oops.  Not enough.  Hey, I think the water's still hot from the first batch.  Make second batch.  Stir.  Pour it in.  Ok, that's enough.

Actual instruction 14.  Put in fresh rosemary and thyme springs.

Step 16:  Fresh?  It's winter here.  Nothing's fresh except the tangerines.  Let me see what I've got.  Ah, here's the thyme.  Let's sprinkle some in.  Rosemary.  Where's the rosemary?  I could have sworn we had rosemary.  Hm, it's not on the counter.  It's not in the middle shelf.  Should I drag a chair over and see if the husband has put it up on a shelf that only he can see?  Nah.  It's just beef.  We'll survive without it.

Actual instruction 15.  Cover the pot and roast for 3.5-4 hours.

Step 17:  Put lid on and wrestle pot into the oven that is now off.  Turn oven back on.  Turn oven back on again.  Set time for maximum amount: 1 hour.

Step 18:  Wait for one hour.

Step 19:  Restart oven.  Twice.  Hm.  Oven not turning back on.  Open oven door.  Hey!!  Oven will turn on now.  Hm, starting to smell really, really good.

Step 20:  Wait another hour.

Step 21:  Keep checking clock on oven.  Ok, seems to be working, but time does seem to be going by very slowly.

Step 22:  Put DVD in.  Tired of listening to AFN.  Not really interested in whether Tiger Woods is a sex addict.

Step 23:  Hey, the oven's beeping!  Open oven door.  Let delicious smell waft out.  Turn oven on.  It worked the first time!

Step 24:  Wait for yet another hour.

Step 25:  Still waiting...

Step 26:  Oven's beeping!!!  Restart oven.  Count number of times oven has been started.  This is number 4.  Cool!  Because it's beginning to smell really, really good in here and it's making me hungry.  And I shouldn't eat all the chocolates that the husband got as Christmas gifts from the second grade class he's been subbing for.

Step 27:  Put in another DVD.  Wait some more.

Step 28:  Oven is beeping.  Is it done?  Wrestle with Dutch oven and plop it on stove.  Open lid and poke roast.  Yes!! Success!! It is done.  And it's falling apart.

Step 29:  Put roast and onions on plate.  Pick at roast and taste test.  Pull mashed potatoes out of refrigerator.  Put serving on plate and nuke.  Add some roast.  Try not to eat it as it's going on the plate.

Step 30:  Eat.  OMG -- this is so good.  Even without the carrots and the fresh herbs, this is excellent.  Only thing missing is some nice rich gravy.  Maybe next time.  Remember to get fresh herbs at astronomical prices at commissary next time.  And a couple of carrots.

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Chinese food in China Town

There's a small China Town area near the edge of Myeong-dong that has several Chinese restaurants. I have no idea what the one we went to was called, but it had a dragon door handle.

Sweet and sour pork. Notice how it's not pink?

Beef with peppers and onions, served with rolls that you pull apart. You eat the bread and beef with peppers together.

Chicken with cashews.

Soup with seafood.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Random signs in Seoul

As I walk around town, I see all sorts of signs that intrigue me, or that I find entertaining in some fashion or another. This one is for a cupcake shop in Samcheongdong-gil. It's down the road from another dessert place called 'Aroo' that the basset hound afficionado in me finds highly entertaining.
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Saturday, December 12, 2009


Tonight we headed up to Samcheongdonggil, which reminds me of a college town in northern California with all of its eclectic shops and restaurants. We stopped at an Indian/Nepali restaurant called Om for dinner, and had a delightful meal.

Their cups, glasses, and silverware were an interesting copper/stainless mix that I've not seen in restaurants before.

We splurged on a bottle of wine. They served it in these glasses which did leave a slight metallic taste.

We ordered mutton korma (dish in front) and chicken curry (dish in back).

Garlic naan. One of the best things made ever. Nothing better than dipping naan in the curry sauce. I'd be happy with just the naan and the gravy.

For the two of us, two dishes with a dish of rice and 3 naan was just perfect. The spice level was just right for me, a confirmed wimp when it comes to spicy food. There was a slight kick, but it wasn't tear inducing, and it was flavorful. The mutton korma had a slightly sweet spicy taste to it, which I'm not sure was cardamom or not. This meal reminded me of a friend's description of Indian food one time, where she said she had no idea what she ate other than orange goo and green goo, but it was all good. We had orange goo, and it was very tasty.
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Seoul at night

This is the fountain out in front of the Shinsegae Department Store near Namdaemun and Myeongdong. They turn off the water and put up lights during winter.
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It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

There was a small Christmas cookie decorating party the other night, with Christmas music, and good food, and icing and sprinkles and cookies. With a few kittie cats for company.


Big O


And more cookies...

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