Toronto- St. Lawrence Market

So… to continue my little love affair with markets…

I will tell you about one that I absolutely must visit every time I go to Toronto.

St. Lawrence Market.

St. Lawrence Market not only has a variety of excellent vendors, its a market that holds dear to my heart since it brings back many nostalgic memories. I used to come here after my morning volunteering sessions with a fellow foodie friend, who, during those days was known as ‘the bottomless pit’. She seemed to have an endless capability to gorge down food (and still remain trim). Eating with her is a serious food marathon, reminding me of the one time we had two dinners one evening with a dessert each afterwards. I got home that night and immediately succumbed to the longest food coma I had ever experienced.
But, back to St. Lawrence market. It was also the market my family would come to for buying goods if we had a special celebratory meal in mind.

So, let me take you through a tour of this wonderful market :)
The walk of anticipation leading up to the goodies awaiting ahead.
DSC02030
I usually sprint right towards one of my favourite booths…. the St Lawrence Pizza and Pasta stall.
DSC02031
Pasta is freshly churned out in front of your very own eyes with free tastings. Obviously one, two, three or even… four pasta pieces to sample weren’t enough.
DSC02054

Maybe a carb feast isn’t enticing for you. Then you must must try the bbq ham. It tastes like the Canadian version of a Char Siu. I also usually buy a couple of slices to bring home to enjoy.
DSC02041

Hmmmm
DSC02042

DSC02043

Carousel Bakery apparently serves the best peameal bacon bun in the city. Unfortunately I have not tried it yet despite all my visits!
DSC02033

Or maybe if you don’t fancy any of the above, Buster Seacove serves up fresh seafood ranging from traditional good old fish n chips (with their famous shoe string fries) to a swordfish sandwich grilled to perfection (unfortunately devoured before the photos were taken… oops)
DSC02036

All prepped for service
DSC02037

If you are one that likes a little taste of everything, Kozlik’s mustard (aka Mustard Emporium) is definitely worth a browse. With over 20 different types of mustard – and unlimited self-serve pretzel samples, you know your tummy and taste buds will be happy.
DSC02044

More feast for the eyes:
Future Bakery
DSC02040

DSC02035
The StoneMill Bakehouse
DSC02048
the lovely St. Urbain Bagels which I had blogged about earlier
DSC02051
my favourite thick, chewy, North American chocolate chip cookies from Eve’s Temptations and
DSC02050
Rube’s Rice
DSC02049
Schefflers for antipasta
DSC02047

With over 120 vendors, I’ve only scratched the surface in this post with what St. Lawrence Market has to offer. So if in Toronto, this gem is a must visit. Although, there is a catch to the wonderful food haven. The best time is to go on Saturday where all the stalls are open.

St. Lawrence Market- 95 Front St E, Toronto, ON M5E 1C3, Canada

St Lawrence Pasta on Urbanspoon

Future Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Buster's Sea Cove on Urbanspoon

Eve's Temptations on Urbanspoon

Island East Markets in Hong Kong

Hello!

Apologies for the slightly more serious post ‘Change’ that I had left off from in March. Yet April has been a month of change and I’m planning to stick to it, to rebuild myself and become a better person in the process. This means… alot reflecting, replanning, coffee shop time, and hopefully a bit more blogging!

As the ‘April showers’ weather finally took a day off over the weekend, we utilized the sunny day to explore Island East Markets in Hong Kong located near Quarry Bay MTR station. From all my previous posts, you may or may not have noticed that I have a slight love affair for… markets. Why? I find at markets you find people who are truly passionate about their craft.
DSC02955

Island East is a good spot to buy unique one of a kind items and produce that you may not necessarily find anywhere else in Hong Kong. Here’s a glimpse of what they have to offer:

Beautiful organic produce
DSC02947
DSC02945
DSC02949
Sweets to snack on during the stroll
DSC02951
Artisanal bread
DSC02962
DSC02963
Unique gift ideas
DSC02952
DSC02957
DSC02954
DSC02961
This canvas shoe shop was a standout stall for me – the montage seen on the shoe is hand painted!
DSC02956

Island East Markets provides a fresh take on markets that are still unfamiliar to the Hong Kong scene which is a good alternative option other than walking through crowded shopping malls on a Sunday. I would definitely like to return, especially for their fresh produce and the relaxing ambience it offers!

Change.

As you may have noticed, February was a month of blogging explosion. I had the privilege to go home but now I am back in the UK again and lets just say life has not been as… exciting. Apologies for the ambiguity, but April onwards will be a month of change. Not only is it going to be a change in season- I ‘m taking a huge step in life in general, making changes I should have done a long time ago and undoing all the bad habits that have accumulated the past year since I’ve started my job.  I know this is intended as a food blog but as I was writing my posts in February, I realized it was so much more than just that!  It was a way to document experiences- a virtual diary- in which I hope in a couple of years time I can look back, read, and laugh (also at my stupidity and awful writing skills)

So this is why this post comes in.  I’m ready to really smile again for the long haul :) – I want to stop binging on junk food after a stressful on-call day as a means to be ‘happy’ to save quota for stuff like this which I can share with those I love
mouth watering roasts at Joy Hing in Hong Kong Wan Chai
DSC02940

My mom’s delicious honeycomb sponge
DSC_0795

I want to set new challenges for myself which I want to conquer.
DSC_0679

Such as… climbing a mountain- the Lantau Peak
DSC_0683

Immersing myself again in things I love doing: Travel
Bruges station
DSC_0256

Santorini
IMG_6172
culture – An abandoned amphitheatre in Greece
IMG_5699

running and exercising
DSC_0344

All in all I guess this is a much more personalized post than all the ones I had in the past but I am taking that big leap of faith…
IMG_6170

and I am quitting my job. I realized I lost myself in the midst of stress, breakdowns and despite my best attempts to cope, I just cannot not do it for now. I am ready to wish, to dream…
DSC_1039

and replan from the mistakes I’ve learned to be happy and to be me again.
545

A four month delayed new years resolution, however…. I am ready for the change!

Dim sum on top of the world (in Hong Kong)

On this trip to Hong Kong, I found myself much more interested in rustic Chinese eateries rather than visiting the more modern and hyped up restaurants.

Looking for a unique dining experience, we travelled to Hong Kong’s tallest mountain: Tai mo Shan – not for hiking, but for dim sum.
DSC02917

Choi Lung Restaurant is located at the mountain’s mid-levels providing a resting sanctuary and fuel-up for hikers before they continue their ascent up the steep slopes.  The restaurant is very old-school.
DSC02915

You go up to a counter and essentially serve everything yourself.
DSC02886

Down to the pots of tea. Selection of tea leaves
DSC02889

Rinsing the tea pot And the cutlery
DSC02892

Selection of goods to choose from- you pick and point
DSC02897

DSC02898

Hmm rows and stacks of fresh dim sum waiting to be devoured!
DSC02896

Freshly made Cheung Fun on the spot!
DSC02899

DSC02911

Excited by the novelty and experience at the restaurant, we definitely over ordered. Cheung Fun with soya sauce – fresh but the cheung fun lacked elasticity and a firm texture
DSC02900

My staple Chiu Chow dumpling- not very good since the skin was not chewy and skin not as transluscent
DSC02908

Siu Mai
DSC02905

Beef Ball
DSC02903

Pan Fried Aubergine with Fish paste
DSC02909

Steamed rice with chicken feet and ribs.
DSC02910
Cow tripe – as I said everything was fresh.  See all that steam coming out!
DSC02904

Ma Lai Gao – this was really yummy- the brown sugar used really made the cake flavours stand out.
DSC02902

Sesame roll- As a child, I always used to call these film- rolls.   The most fun way to have them is unravelling the roll and eating them like a fruit roll up.
DSC02912

Since you are dining in the mountains, FAR from any supermarkets, the vegetables are literally picked straight from a neighbours garden that day.  Hence a plate of veges was a must order. Fresh vegetables are much sweeter in taste and have a crisper texture.  I couldn’t stop munching away on this!
DSC02913

After the extremely filling dim sum meal we took a stroll around the area. Since we were up near the peak, the air was extremely refreshing in contrast to the city polluted air I consume day to day living in Hong Kong, and London. To our surprise, we encountered a small group of goats snuggling up beside a black car! (making us laugh at the thought whether goats have mistaken the car for a big mama goat…)
DSC02926

I recommend for anyone visiting Hong Kong to try this novel dim sum experience. Although Choi Lung isn’t the easiest place to reach (apparently you have to take a bus from Tsuen Wan or the other option is to hike) its definitely worth the trek for the amazing views,

Going around the world in Toronto

Wow.
we are going around the world now aren’t we? – enough of Hong Kong for now again and travelling back to Canada! (by the way, gold at Sochi! – can’t take that Canadian pride away now can we?)
DSC02029

What I love about Canada is the diverse culture. Even though we lived in the Korea town of Yonge and Finch- literally one block down you feel like you have travelled to another continent – hitting countries such as Turkey, and Lebanon.
298
That morning, in search of breakfast food, we explored some of the Middle Eastern supermarkets heading further north up Yonge street. These supermarkets have aaaaamazing bakeries- especially the one at Khorak and Arz.
Endless of nibbles and cookies
292

293

299

Endless varieties of nuts.
294

295

Oh wow. more nuts!- this shop is called Samora nuts302

303
Many supermarkets had an instore bakery. Khorak supermarket had huge flat breads flying off hot from the shelves.
296

Its so interesting how they let the bread cool (note they are hung like clothing!)
297

we bought one out of curiousity AND THEY WERE HUUUUGE! (photo reference for size)
301

since they were so fresh, we nibbled away at this on the drove to another supermarket
and spotted another bakery delicacy.
304
These were dense, sweet and filled with chestnuts. amazing with a cup of coffee.
and you know what, that same day for lunch we whisked off to Japan. We visited Fukui sushi for a bargain bento box lunch meal. Only 8.99 for all the stuff below!

A tempera bento
306

Teriyaki chicken
308

not as amazing as my meal at Gokoyama but 8.99 is such a bargain for the quality you get.
and then you are back to North America. Big fat cinnabon for an afternoon snack? Although there are numerous outlets posted around Toronto any Cinnabon stand is hard to resist. The waft of sugar and cinnamon is so alluring that you just have to buy one. or two. or … (in my brother’s case), a dozen.
195

I know its alot of exclamation marks in one post.
That’s how excited I am at the prospect of heading to Canada again for the summer. (even though… summer is still four months away….)

Khorak Supermarket 6125 Yonge, North York, ON M2M 3W8, Canada

Arz Bakery on Urbanspoon

Fukui Sushi on Urbanspoon

Cinnabon on Urbanspoon

Old school bakery charm at 明華餅

In MongKok after the Kam Wah pineapple bun feast- just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better we stumbled upon a small traditional cake shop located by the MongKok wet food market called 明華餅 (Ming Wah). Seeing a crowd forming by this small outpost, curiosity drew me in. It was sad to see that I was the ONLY perhaps twenty something customer so enthusiastically browsing the shop on a late Friday afternoon. On a side note, that same Friday afternoon, I saw long line ups mainly consisting of Hong Kong’s younger generation all clamouring at Pierre Herme for macarons. Such contrast suggests that these humble old-school Chinese cake shops are sadly being slowly phased out in favour for my ‘hip’, ‘trendy’ and ‘modern’ bakeries that are dominating the bakery scene in Hong Kong.

Initially I was apprehensive of taking photos. Not everyone welcomes phototaking of their food especially near a wet market (lesson learnt from my Sai Kung trip). However, the male owner to this shop enthusiastically encouraged me to take more photos and even provided photography tips! ( a comedic character really with him kindly posing in the background with a V- sign)
DSC02874
From my initial image of these amazingly delicious glutinous rice cakes
DSC02866
He offered some food styling to change the composition to this. (he said the photo needed the sign for completion)
DSC02867
Thank you Mr. Owner.

明華餅 is most famous for their rice cakes. Despite being full from lunch, I couldn’t resist.
DSC02875
The cake was chewy and springy with a good ratio of red bean to cake filling. The cherry on the icing was that it was served hot. Yum.
DSC02876
My mom grew up eating coconut tarts and was nostalgic when she saw them coming straight out from the oven.
DSC02871
One please.
DSC02878
The tart was like a cocktail bun + coconut macaron + egg tart hybrid.
Alot of people were also snatching up these cookies which only consisted of egg, sugar, and flour
One of that too.
DSC02877
As an avid cookie eater, these were yummy as a light snack and complemented nicely with a cup of tea or coffee. It felt like I was eating a marshmallow with a cookie texture.

There are so many other goodies on offer including a chewy banana flavoured snack, various biscuits and cakes,
DSC02868
‘chicken biscuits’ were also wildly popular-sweet and a bit savoury with a filling consisting of… well, unhealthy but good, scrumptious stuff.
DSC02870

Who knows if these old bakeries will still be around in the next two decades or so. I hope it won’t be the case of: ‘You won’t know what you got till its gone’ for Hong Kong. But it seems it may be the case. More and more old, local eateries are shutting down. Traditional wet markets- one of the roots of a Hong Kong culinary experience are being ousted in favour of developers. The Central wet market appears to be the next victim in line. I highly recommend coming to 明華餅….. while its still around.
DSC02873

明華餅- 1-3D Yin Cheong Street, Mong Kok

How not to eat a pineapple bun.

Hong Kong Cha Chaan tengs are the equivalent of diners in North America; greasy spoons in the UK.
The old school Cha Chaan tengs usually serve better food compared to the newer and modernized ones that seem to be popping up to cater for the younger generation of Hong Kongers. Sadly, these old school Cha Chaan tengs are now closing down one by one either due to extortionate rental prices or the lack of younger staff to take over the business. In a city that thrives on making money as fast as you can through business, stocks, property investment etc. , who really wants to maintain a Cha Chaan teng for a living?

I had previously blogged about Honolulu Cafe and Kam Fung  in my Hong Kong breakfast post  and I believe that the best Cha Chaan Tengs are ones that also have a bakery attached.
DSC01685

Before I start my pineapple bun essay there is a Cha Chaan teng called美食園林餐廳 by Lockhart Road in Causeway bay  where we enjoyed a pineapple bun with milk tea (FYI the buttery crusty top is supposed to resemble a pineapple!)

20140208_144134

Coconut Roll- an equivalent of a cinammon roll but with coconut flakes instead
20140208_144129
and a heart-warming macaroni in chicken broth- I know its a very easy dish to make at home but its all about the experience of having it in an old cha chaan teng!

Now the pineapple spiel begins at Kam Wah Cafe in Mong Kok. Reputed for serving the city’s BEST pineapple buns, I cannot believe I hadn’t come to this place earlier in all my years visiting Hong Kong and being a pineapple bun fan!

Pineapple bun in all its glory- literally FRESH OUT OF THE OVEN. IT REALLY DOESN’T GET BETTER THAN THIS. you can also clearly see the difference between pineapple bun specimen 1 above and specimen 2 below.
DSC02797

Look at that amazing crust.
DSC02859

Pineapple bun fanatics will probably call me a fake considering I disregard all the rules in eating a pineapple bun. (Kam Wah encore on Valentines day!)
DSC02858

Rule 1- the ‘best’ way to eat a pineapple bun is to have it with a thick slab of butter in the middle which would have it aptly renamed as Bolo yau
how I eat it- I like it plain and simple.  Skip the butter.

Rule 2 – two methods of approaching the bun:
a- ensure your bite captures the bread + crust together. (hint a good bun should be able to keep the topping with the bread together after each bite)
DSC02861
b- if your mouth is simply not big enough to accomplish (a), I have seen locals squish their bun  with a fork to a size which can match their jaws.
how I eat it- I save the crust for last, eating from bottom to top but ensuring at least some remnant of bread is attached to the crust to still enjoy the combo of the two

Rule 3- best enjoyed with a hot drink, preferably milk tea (we also ordered an ovaltine oo)
DSC02862
how I eat it- I partly obey this rule… however during the bit where I eat from bottom up to the top of the bun, I enjoy dunking my bun in the milk tea giving me slightly soggy bread which reminds me of eating bread pudding!
DSC02863

Apart from the pineapple bun, we also ordered eggtarts fresh piping hot as well
DSC02791
A cocktail bun
DSC02794
filled with coconut flakes
DSC02795
Steamed pork rice with soup – steamed rice gives a unique texture different from ones you get from a rice cooker.
DSC02793
Oatmeal with condensed milk- creamy with added indulgence from the condensed milk drizzled on top. too much condensed milk though…
DSC02796
2nd time visiting – macaroni soup with preserved cabbage and pork; unfortunately this was poorly executed :( but the bun was more than enough to make up for it!
DSC02864

I recommend Kam Wah for their buns but perhaps the hot foods are worth having elsewhere. Missing the pineapple bun already.

Kam Wah – 47 Bute Street, Mong Kok
美食園林餐廳- 426-430 Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay