Sunday, January 24, 2010

So we got married. I met a man who understands me, who loves really amazing food just as much as I do, who views the world the same way that I do--as simultaneously small and huge; a playground for those who are willing to explore it and an enormous universe it could take more than a lifetime to come to know--and, I married him, dear readers. In a beautiful ceremony last November which deserves a post all to itself (coming soon). And we went out exploring the very large, large world on a honeymoon that was itself nearly a year in the planning......after all, it's kind of a big decision: Where to go? Common wisdom has it that you visit some tropical locale, some beachfront resort where the sand is fine and powdery, the drinks are icy sweet and be-umbrella'ed, and nearly every activity is a 'tourist activity.' Sounded fine to us, I guess, but we yearned for more adventure. Plenty of time, after all, to be tourists! We wanted to be young and unconventional!

Then it happened that Paris beckoned with the usual siren call: 'Come, young lovers, and eat my baguettes! Philosophize! See the great works of art! Wander indolently along the banks of the Seine, drink the red wine and smoke the sexy French cigarettes and be young loveeerrrrssss, come oonnnnn........', and I have to admit, it was tempting. We almost had our tickets booked, we practically had our fingers poised over the 'Submit Order Now' button, and then.......and then.............I happened to ask at that particular moment, 'What about Hong Kong?'

Wait a minute, what about Hong Kong???

We'd had Asia in our sights when we first began planning the wedding and realized we'd actually be able to take a honeymoon. We wanted, after all, to be different! We dismissed it, of course, as too expensive, based mostly on hearsay. I'd heard HK was a luxury haven, nothing more than a business trip stopover for Westerners, a money-sucking pit. We decided to focus on Europe. Until the fateful day we actually began to compare prices--plane tickets, hotels, food, you name it--and realized we'd actually be able to spend more time abroad and have more fun in Hong Kong than just about anywhere else, especially Paris. Sorry, t'aime, after all! But it was destined to be Hong Kong all along. For two weeks we wandered its markets and back alleys and shopping malls and suburban streets and racing tracks and temples and monasteries and ferry terminals and hiking trails and restaurants, oh my god, restaurants of all kinds! Following the advice of all sorts of opinionated locals and travelers, we found ourselves eating stupendously well day after day, night after night.

And, to make a long story short...........then we came home.

And I missed Hong Kong.

And so I started cooking.

.......Mike and I ate 90% of our Hong Kong meals during our two-week stay either standing up at street hawker stalls or sitting on plastic chairs at 'temporary markets,' watching steam pour from tiny, makeshift, plastic-tarp draped kitchens, clicking together neon-orange plastic chopsticks and watching hilarious Cantonese period-drama soap operas on wavery old televisions placed in the corner, drinking watery Chinese tea while waiting for steaming bowls of fish ball soup, tender baby bok choy, or stir-fried pork slices with noodles. I developed a taste for all of this that I may never satisfy again until we revisit Hong Kong. I can't re-create the ridiculous soap operas, the peculiar smell of soy, rice and diesel and who knows what, the insane freshness of the seafood (from live crab in a streetside market tank to aromatic curried crab on your plate in less than ten minutes!) or the insistent bustle of Hong Kong streets as you are jostled down the road narrowly avoiding pedestrians and taxicabs in your search for the lunch/dinner/snack/hangover remedy/whatever you so desperately need.........but i can re-create some of the more memorable staple dishes we relied on during our time in Hong Kong.

......Pork spring rolls, or 'Sping Rolls,' as they were referred to at our favorite outdoor street-level dining place in Kowloon district's Temple Street Night Market. Filled by me with ground pork, cabbage, carrot and scallion, just as they were on Temple Street.

A meal that approximates my beloved Hong Kong street food, above. Spring rolls, pork ball soup with noodles, and an Asian-style slaw of shredded cabbage, carrot, red onion, sesame oil and rice vinegar.

I can't cook roasted quail eggs, stuffed duck's foot or deep-fried octopus on a stick (or CAN I??) at home, but the basics are easy enough to cover. Hong Kong, you and your markets and stall and bizarre, tiny street-level shops of all kinds are embedded in my memory. I can't wait to come back.

Homemade Pork Spring Rolls

Saute ground pork over medium heat until meat is about halfway cooked, add shredded cabbage, grated carrot, and finely chopped scallions [I don't measure things like this, your amounts may vary. Add until it looks good, maybe 50% pork and 50% vegetables. You've probably guessed that you can easily make this vegetarian by skipping the ground pork and just using veggies! So easy.].

Continue to saute until pork is completely cooked, add a splash of soy sauce [...or a few splashes. I personally love salt. See the name of this blog for evidence.] and remove from heat. Let cool slightly.

Place a small amount of this mixture onto a wonton wrapper [storebought is great, but they're easy to make as well], tuck sides & roll shut. If you are finding it difficult to seal these all the way shut, dab a little cornstarch-and-water paste on the seam and it will act a bit like glue! Great trick. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes. After they've set up in the fridge, you can throw them into a freezer bag and then--duh--into the freezer. They keep well like this and make a great instant meal down the road! If you're going the freezer route, thaw them ahead of time by placing them in the fridge or putting them BRIEFLY in the microwave, then dry them thoroughly before cooking.
Remove rolls from fridge. Heat at least 1" vegetable oil in a skillet until very hot [around the high end of medium-high or the low end of high, know what I mean?]. Place spring rolls in oil with plenty of space around each [don't crowd the pan!], cook for several minutes on each side until golden brown & bubbly on the outside. Remove and drain on paper towel or brown paper. LET THEM COOL THEY ARE SO SO HOT AND I SWEAR YOU'LL BURN YOUSELF!! Really. Just be cool for a few minutes. I know they look delicious. Just wait. ;)

Dip in sauce of choice. I like sweet & sour type sauces with a hit of sriracha, or straight-up soy or fish sauce. Enjoy!!


  1. This post made me hungry! I have shrimp dumplings in the freezer for after my long run tomorrow, and I want them now!