Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Beautiful Hong Kong 香港 城門水塘 元朗大棠 紅葉

Dogs are getting on flights and going places, but we are probably not gonna enjoy being stuck in the cargo section for hours on end stuck inside a tiny cage. Mum and dad try to do the next best thing, taking us to beautiful places in Hong Kong.

Red leaves in Dai Tong early December 2011 

You only get isolated patches of these red leaves, but still they brighten up the hillside tremendously.

Shin Mun Valley 城門水塘

These local monkeys do come along and break the tranquility of the woods.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Wildlife at home!! Spider and skink in Hong Kong

Slender Forest Skink - Along each side, a thin black line forms a dorso-lateral stripe from the eye to the anterior 2/3 of the tail.

To be ID.

Worst menu item translation

I bet you don't look closely at your holiday photos. With terabytes of data on your hard drive, it's perhaps understandable. Once in a blue moon, you might overlook little gems in the far corner of your photos. Check out the menu below:

Guess you wouldn't want to eat this piece of sushi upon seeing this translation. That fish will give you malignant smallpox!! The trouble is even a Japanese speaker may not know the exact menu item.

This translation suffers from a multitude of sins.

First, "tlatfish" is in fact flatfish with a typo and they are better known as flounders.

But more importantly, the first two Kanjis, 松皮, which can be translated as an abbreviated term of a malignant form of smallpox, should not be translated in isolation here. "松皮かれい"is in fact barfin flounder and considered the king of flounders rarely caught around the Hokkaido and Akita.

And now with the proper translation, you might be more inclined to try out this piece of sushi!!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Homemade No Dairy Citrus Mango Tart

A no dairy diet doesn't quite go with most traditional dessert, in fact you will be hard pushed to pick any item from the dessert menu of most western restaurants. Mum tried baking a citrus tart from a Japanese recipe yesterday and came up trumps. Even though there wasn't even a drop of cream in the recipe, the citrus cream in the tart came out tasting like the real thing.

List of ingredients:
Orange Cream Tart Topping Fruits
Orange Juice - 250ml Plain Flour - 200g Orange Slices
Vanilla Pod Brown Sugar - 25g Ripe Mango
Egg Yolk - 3 Icing Sugar - 25g
Sugar - 60g Salt - 1/4tsp
Plain Flour - 15g Olive Oil - 60ml
Cornstarch - 10g Whole Egg - 1
Olive Oil - 50ml

Hokkaido 2012 - Furano Skiing 富良野 スキー

If you want powder snow and don't want to rub shoulder with tons of foreigners then you should try skiing in Furano. Don't take our word for it, you can check out this FT article on skiing in Hokkaido.

Hokkaido 2012 - Eating Out in Sapporo & Furano グルメ 札幌 富良野

As you probably know by now, vacation trip for mum and dad isn't quite complete without going out of their way to search for food. So lets just see what they had in Hokkaido.

Sashimi beef rice bowl (sukiyaki beef set behind)

Sashimi beef rice bowl 和牛刺身丼 from Kumagera くまげら in Furano. Slices of  locally raised beef over a bowl of hot rice topped with a small dollop of wasabi, this is the signature dish of this famous restaurant. Walked in from the freezing cold of below -10C, one bowl may not be quite enough. The melt-in-your-mouth beef is perfect complement to the slightly sweet rice.

You can develop a huge appetite after skiing from dawn till dusk. You might associate dull and tasteless offering with ski resorts' restaurants, but mum and dad just couldn't say enough good things about the restaurants within the New Furano Prince Hotel. You can see some of food they had there.

Furano beef steak rice bowl
Fried Tokachi Pork Cutlet rice bowl

炭焼処きたぐに - Sumiyaki Dokoro Kitaguni serves local produce in Izakaya style

Roast pork loin from upper Furano 上富良野ポークロース焼き

Roast Taraba Crab claws

Dim sum buffet lunch, a firm favorite with a lot of Furano locals
There are plenty of restaurants to sample in Hokkaido and if a restaurant is mentioned in one of the Hong Kong guidebooks then you shouldn't be surprised to see an even longer queue of people with quite a few Hongkongers waiting in line. That was definitely the case with Nemuro Hana Sushi in JR Stellar Place building.

Creamy swiss roll with soft ice cream inside Shiroi Koibito Coffee Shop

Botan ebi from Gourmet Tei in Sapporo Fish Market ボタン海老−北のグルメ亭

Mix seafood Chirashi again from the Sapporo Fish Market

A massive bowl of Ramen from Ichiryuan near Sapporo JR station - 一粒庵

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hokkaido 2012 - 63rd Sapporo Snow Festival 札幌雪祭り

After a 4-month hiatus, we finally get our acts together and start blogging again!! Life has been quiet and we got to spend a lot of time with mum and dad. That's until they decided to visit Hokkaido for skiing and the snow festival in Sapporo.

You might have noticed that the term "global warming" is no longer in vogue, instead the preferred term now is "global climate change". This may have a lot to do with the severe winter US experienced last year, and it wasn't easy for the media to conjure up the image of "warming" under such circumstances. This winter, it is North Asia's turn to experience such weather. Snow accumulation totals are measured in meters (4 meters along the north western coastal area) and a lot of places have double that of average.

Such conditions must be good for the snow festival!? But the first couple of days after the official start of the festival, the weather turned warmer and some of the snow sculptures were melting. It's then when one realized the painstaking steps not only to create the art works but the effort in keeping up.

Two ladies working on the snow castle with their bare hands
お城(野田市) - the most intricate of the small sculptures
Some of the exhibits were literally gigantic and their constructions involved industrial cranes and other heavy machinery.

Snow Aquarium at night 雪の水族館
Snow Aquarium (An US Navy band playing live) 雪の水族館
One Piece (A super popular, long running comic in Japan)
One Piece at night, the color spotlights brought more of the intricate features to life
鶴ヶ城 Tsuruga Castle - fine tuning the spotlights
Taj Mahal タージ.マハル

Tokyo Disneyland - Dreams come true!! 夢がかなう場所
National Palace Museum (Taiwan) 故宮博物院 

One often associates the Snow Festival with all the art pieces above, but it is almost like a carnival with stall selling everything from roasted chestnuts to Brazilian barbecue. On top of the multitude of food stalls, one could find queues of people waiting in line for free tastings from tofu to health drink. There was even a snowboard competition. You could easily spend a day walking along Odori Park to take everything in, especially when a lot of the exhibits looked completely different between day and night.

Snowboard Acrobatics
Free Tofu tasting - 10000 bowls of these were the target

Brazilian BBQ

Mum getting a bag of freshly roast chestnut from a pressure chamber roaster. Juicy, tasty, just yummy!!