at home in... w| Gerald Zhang-Schmidt

Look Closer, Learn More, #GetAtHome In This World

Tag: food (Page 1 of 2)

Lung King Heen (view from entrance)

Lung King Heen: 3-Star Chinese Family Eating

Foodies are still made fun of, but food is one of the great pleasures (and mere necessities) of life.

This alone would make it something to consider – and try – in any attempt to learn to be at home in this world, and at home in distinct places.

But then, there’s even more when an “Other” and the different ecology of a different place – as also reflected in the local markets – come into play.

When power dynamics and psychology make something both strange and simple, less-than-fancy… or luxurious…

Street Food, Sensory Overload

Street food, and the whole culture surrounding it, may easily be one of those things that make East Asia so particularly fascinating.

It is diverse, it makes for quite an assault on the senses (sometimes even just from the lights), it is oh-so-different.

Sure, sometimes you’ll catch a bug or outright food poisoning, some of the conditions in which the food is prepared – and some of the foods themselves – may not be so particularly appealing, but that just makes it all the more interesting.

We focus so much on those exotic things and potential problems, though.

If one picks well, however, chances are that street food will be safer than quite a lot of restaurant food; at least you can see for yourself how it is prepared.

Trends and Value

Street food has also become a (foodie / hipster) trend in ‘the West’, as well.
And in East Asia, some street food even gets good enough to warrant a Michelin star…

Still, we tend to focus on the strange, exotic, and potentially dangerous, just to – knowingly or unknowingly – keep in line with the view that sees Chinese food as cheap, lower-class fare.

Japanese food may be easy to find and comparatively cheap nowadays; you may still find some people who declare raw fish nothing but appalling, but Japanese has established itself as great and worthy of high prices.

Saying “French” will not even let you think of mere food, but of cuisine.

Chinese, though?

Chinese is greasy take-out, sketchy street food, Cantonese will eat anything.

As Krishnendu Ray points out in “The Ethnic Restaurateur,” China has not yet seen enough of a rise (in power and status) to change the perception of its food/cuisine.

Lung King Heen (view from entrance)

Lung King Heen (view from entrance)

Lung King Heen

And then, there’s something else entirely.

Lung King Heen, the world’s first Cantonese restaurant to be awarded 3 Michelin Stars (which is the best rating there is), one of the world’s very best restaurants

Unsurprisingly, the experience here is very different; elegant, calm, and unobtrusively cared-for. Luxurious, in other words.

Reservation

I tried to visit for lunch, when they have Dim Sum on the menu.

However, when I tried to reserve a table, only one in the middle of the week (on our very first day in Hong Kong) and for dinner was available for online reservation.

It was some two months in advance…

(They might well have had tables, anyways, but I just didn’t want to short-term try this.)

So, reserve well in advance, if you can.

Changing to come in a party of three rather than two people, and back again because our #3 couldn’t come, after all, would not have been any issue, though. And they make sure to send reminders and ask if everything will work out as planned.

Location

Hong Kong’s ifc mall is well-known and popular – and fancy – enough to be part of a visit to the city, and you can get right into the Four Season’s Hotel through that mall.

Lung King Heen is one of the restaurants in this hotel, officially at 8 Finance St. (but best reached going to Hong Kong or Central stations and walking the covered walkways into the mall, then following the signs to the hotel adjacent to it – or basically, in there).

The view offered is very nice, out away from Victoria Harbor, towards the west; the décor is elegant as one would expect, without overdoing it towards the kitschy or the cold.

The Food

The main theme of a restaurant, of course, should better be what you get to eat.

Presentation has become the name of the game in many 3-Star restaurants, to the detriment of actual food. Sure, the experience and the taste sensations are what is meant to count; if you just want to stuff yourself, you can go to any fast-food place.

Here, Lung King Heen was able to shine.

We ordered the (smaller) Chef’s Choice Appetizer Selection, including jellyfish which was quite tasty (and something to mention on the theme of trying things),

Lung King Heen Chef's Appetizer Selection

grilled eel (quite sweet from the sauce, but nice; very different from the Hunan home-style eel we’ve eaten quite often),

Lung King Heen Grilled Eel

lobster and sea urchin rolls (which were fine to my wife but too rich for me, in the sea food / fat / sea -way of the urchin),

Lung King Heen Lobster and Sea Urchin Rolls

which were brought out as first course.

Yes, we managed to overdo it there, already.

For a refresher in between, we had a hot-and-sour soup…

Lung King Heen Hot-and-Sour Soup

… which had a pretty strong flavor, but with nuance as well. Good choice, I think, for something quite typically Cantonese and in-between other courses.

Main course was decided to be Sichuan-style pork, which was too chewy for my taste (even if my wife says it’s as it should be), but very nicely aromatized in a distinctly Sichuan-style way that is, for once, not overdoing it with the typical spices, but elegant.

Lung King Heen Sichuan-Style Pork

Second main course-dish were wok-fried spicy prawns, with the perfect kind of spice and wok-flavor.

Lung King Heen Spicy Wok-Fried Prawns

These were quite a revelation to me; I enjoyed them immensely and am still waiting for more chile pepper use in more of the great restaurants, of which they were a fantastic example.

But, by this point, we couldn’t really eat anything anymore.

It was all simply but elegantly presented, and it was all not so little. Not like in some avantgarde restaurants, where the amount of food seems to correlate inversely with the price to be paid…

Our waiter only told us at the finish, and that sums up the approach there pretty well, that “We consider ourselves a fine family dining restaurant.

Indeed, there was a family eating at the next table; and we wished we’d had our friend (who hadn’t been able to come) accompany us and help finish off all the food. (Although for three people, we might have ordered even more.)

Taking out left-overs, as it turned out, is acceptable even here. Part of the family thing ;)

The Service

Perhaps the most noticeable difference to any other, cheaper and simpler, place to eat was with the way the guests are treated.

Of course.

As we’d also experience on the last leg of our flight home, happening to get upgraded to business class, unobtrusive pampering is the luxury you get if you have the money.

Tim Ho Wan’s 1-star may be alright for the food; I’d have no problem comparing my mother-in-law’s cooking to that even of Lung King Heen (Hey, I like it!), but the atmosphere and the service do set it all apart. A lot.

The waiters give their recommendations when and if appropriate, explain what it is they brought, are there should you look like you need them, but are unobtrusive otherwise.

Hardly do you even notice when the tea pot or your glass is refilled, but you won’t ever have to wait long for that – and the jasmine tea we had was one of the best we ever tasted, by the way.

The Price

Of course, there’s the question of expense.

3-star eating doesn’t come cheap, and all I want to say is that we’d ordinarily live off the money we left there for one to two months of buying groceries.

Here, though, I do find that “you should spend your money on experiences, not things” does work out (which I do not think does as unequivocally as often presented), as it was a memorable experience, and something quite different from our experiences so far.

Hot on the heels of finally having celebrated our wedding in China, it was more than just worth it (and in that context, it was also nice that it was just my wife and me).

Their website: http://www.fourseasons.com/hongkong/

Sichuan Hotpot - with Frog

Try This! New Foods, Changing Tastes, Personal Growth

Chasing happiness and trying to feel better, many people nowadays follow one or the other moral or ‘medical’ argument and stop eating certain foods.

Even where there is less thought of what to eat, there seems to have always been a tendency for people to become set in their tastes and refuse to try much of anything new.

Even in personal development circles, recent trends turn towards restriction.

You may learn to cook in order to learn to learn, but you have to make it low-carb, slow-carb, the same breakfast every day so you don’t have to think about it.

Get boxes of Soylent and you never have to worry again…

There is a challenge and a misunderstanding behind that, though:

One, the likelihood that you miss experiences you would really like, especially in social contexts,.

Two, the changing tastes we all have and may well profit from, for our health and happiness.

The Challenge (and Chance) of ‘Other’ Food

Food that is not your usual fare can be a challenge in a whole variety of ways, but the experiences to be had could also be manifold.

In an intercultural context, in particular, both aspects are strong.

You will probably find things you’d very much prefer not to have to try – and you’d probably very much like to be a part of the groups of people you are eating with.

After all, sharing a meal is one of the major ways we come together.

In China, these aspects are particularly strong.

The country’s various cuisines are tremendously varied and offer taste experiences it would be a pity to miss.

Not only that, “food is heaven” and the social glue that brings people together around a shared table.

And there are not so few foods and ways of preparing them that someone who has not grown up with them would much rather not even see: chicken feet and dog meat, jellyfish and thousand-year egg, duck blood and pig innards…

Here’s the thing, though: These foods are few and far between. Often, you can join in a meal, become a part of a new social group, yet avoid some things as well.

Seafood Meal

The meal on Hainan which made me write about this here theme. All seafood which “I don’t like” – until I was urged to try it all, and I realized I did in fact like a lot of it…

You will not be able to avoid everything, nor should you even try to, though.

Instead, try it.

That way, you won’t be the stranger who just refuses everything, making everyone uncomfortable. Instead, you’ll be the adventurous and open person you wanted to be, who makes others proud – and you may find new things you like.

And here, the other aspect of our relation to ‘other’ food comes into play…

Our Changing Taste

We keep on defining ourselves as who we are, by what we eat, as if these things were fixed.

“I like sweets, I can’t stand bitter.”
“I don’t like sweet things, I’d rather have it savory.”
“I’m a carnivore” or “I don’t eat animal products.”

In light of the way food connects even strangers, you may really want to reconsider restricting yourself – and if you orient yourself on social connections as mattering more than you yourself, then that is you restricting yourself only, indeed.

As much as we hear about dedicated vegans nowadays, most people eat “normally”, anyways. And they, too, have things they just don’t (want to) eat, just because they don’t eat them.

You know what I mean.

“I don’t like broccoli.”

Brussels Sprouts for Dinner

Even worse than broccoli: brussels sprouts. Or maybe you just need to try another recipe. (Well fried, with something fatty like bacon aside, they are nice. Still bitter, but that’s also healthy.

“Veggies aren’t for me.”
“Gimme a steak, not salad.”
“Whoa, that’s just too fatty!”

Except, they may well be wrong.

In defining ourselves as someone who eats, and does not eat, certain things, we may get something about our likes right.

If you do or don’t like sweet or savory, you do have that preference, sure.
(If you can’t handle the heat of the chile peppers, even more so…)

We may also, however, overlook how much our tastes have changed already and will continue to change.

Most people do not like the flavor of coffee or beer or wine on their first try, but they come to like them all.

Similarly, you may not have liked the bitter tastes of broccoli or bitter gourd, and you may not even like the idea of eating frog or shellfish or many other foods.

You may actually like them, by now or in the near future, though.

Me, I was a picky eater as a child.

When my mom made minced meat patties, which are made with onion cubes here in Austria, I tried to pick out all the small pieces of onion because I hated them.

Now, I can fry up onions with some chile pepper, salt and soy sauce and eat them as a vegetable dish accompanying a bowl of rice.

I was sure I would not want to eat frog or most kinds of shellfish, but having been all but forced to try them on recent trips to China, they turned out quite edible. If not outright delicious.

Sichuan Hotpot - with Frog

Sichuan Hotpot – with Frog

Frog Legs

Guess that’s it for calling (out) French as frog-eaters…

Dog is nothing I find edible, but I’ve tried even that.

Chicken feet, I have to admit, I still refused. We all have our limits.

The aim is not to completely forget about any and all restrictions we may feel, but to push against our limits and make ourselves more at home in this world, anyways.

And yes, we do make ourselves at home like that.

Socially, because we also eat like others do, and together with them. And materially, in what we eat.

And with that, more experiences will come; sensory adventures and delights await.

Or you will gain an understanding of things you really can’t handle, that don’t do you good.

But at least you will know because you tried, not just because you imagine you can’t eat them because you let your fears of the unknown hold you back.

There’s a lesson in that, I’d say.

Stormy Sunset

Adventuring around Arche Noah, Schiltern

May 1 has been a while ago, but with an annual activity in a not-prominent but interesting place, I’m still thinking of the little at-home-making adventuring I did around that time.

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Eating Realities

Eating is one of the most basic of activities for any animal – and it is one of the most complex things for us. All too often, unfortunately, it’s also one of the activities that are most ‘virtualized,’ at a remove from reality.

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Chinese Mise-en-Place

Everyday Fitness: The Perfect Diet

Diet, one’s way of eating, is a major factor of everyday enjoyment, everyday fitness, the everyday ecology of our living at home in this world – and oh-so-many of the problems we increasingly face, in terms of the world’s ecological functioning for us as well as our own health and well-being.

The more important clear paths would be, the more we’ve been making the topic into a veritable jungle.

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Salt, Sugar, Fat: Processed Foods and the Body’s Intelligence

Salt Sugar FatJust finished reading Michael Moss’ “Salt, Sugar, Fat” recently. Fascinating book, that.

It’s basically a story of people doing what they found themselves having an interest in and getting hired for: to understand the appeal of foods and create better food products.

“Better,” however, as in “more attractive to the consumer in both convenience and appeal, therefore selling more, and preferably costing less in the production, and thus making higher profits.”

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Refuelling to Run Life

Of course we eat, whether we run or not. You live, you eat.

Running and eating, however, often seem to run counter to each other, even while these two sides of life could just as well run in tandem and make for better living. [Sorry about the running gags, can’t resist.]

After all, for all too many a person, running is like so many a type of exercise. It is just taken up in order to lose weight or keep the pounds off. Having weight issues or not, the runner’s life is attractive to them just because of the calories it burns and the indulgences that it allows.

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Everyday Fitness: Putting Pop in Its Proper Place

Soda pop – carbonated soft drinks – have become so common, so normal a part of life, as to be of little notice. They are, however, a rather recent invention – and one that is a highly relevant element in itself, and a great symbol, of the problems with modern diets. (As has, since the first draft of this story was written, become rather obvious thanks to all the raised voices caused by New York City’s ban of the “big gulp”…)

A History of Human Drinking

At the beginning, there was water. (Of course, it still is the one substance we need to drink.)

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Everyday Fitness: Dealing with Diet

There could not possibly have been a time when eating was as “unnatural” a matter as it is today.

Food Just Is

After all, for the longest time, having any food at all was a rather stronger concern than what particular food would be particularly good for you. Therefore, “You’ll eat what’s put on the table” was the usual attitude – and it must have been, since it was, for the vast majority of people, that you either ate what was available to you, or you starved.

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