Old Fashioned Tofu at Kung Woo Beancurd

Tofu pudding, silken tofu, firm tofu, golden tofu puffs, folded tofu skins, spindly white soy bean sprouts, hot sweet soy milk,  red fermented tofu, tofu knots.  
 
Kung Woo Beancurd in Sham Shui Po illustrated the soy bean in all its manifest expressions. 
After I learned to make soy milk in the traditional way with a grindstone, and then learned (often disastrously) what was involved in making tofu at home, I was fascinated to search out places in China still making old fashioned tofu. You know, the kind that’s made for taste; not for shelf life or low cost, using beans, water, a grindstone, and wooden molds that impart the faintest flavour to the curd.
What I have discovered is there aren’t many of them left – traditional tofu makers are a threatened species and the last are disappearing fast.
So when I heard about Kung Woo Beancurd from Hong Kong food writer e_ting I knew I had to visit on my recent trip to Hong Kong.

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Eating Michelin with Kids: Le Parc les Crayères

Is it wrong to take children to a Michelin-starred restaurant? And exactly when is it too early to introduce a child to the delights of really, really good cooking?
I’m expecting this post to generate a very healthy and vigorous debate, if my web search for ‘children in restaurants’ is anything to go by. The topic appears to polarise everyone.
There are those who think parents are the problem:
“If you say your kids are angels, that they never get up and run around, never throw French fries, never talk loud, never spill Cheerios, you’re lying.” (New York restaurant owner Christian Pappanicholas)
“Let me make it clear – if your kid is a jerk in public and you do nothing about it, then you’re a bigger jerk and I hope your kid vomits in the car on the way home” (Guardian writer and parent Ben Pobjie, who later in his piece about children in restaurants argues that banning kids from restaurants just means they will never learn how to behave in one).

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Nanchang Lu Abroad: The Most Macabre Place in Paris

Stop! Here is the Empire of Death!
So reads the ominous sign as you enter the Paris Catacombes, two hundred metres below ground.
The catacombs are a relic of Paris’ past, some two hundred miles of underground passageways and limestone quarry tunnels that originally date back to Roman times and occupy huge areas of the Left Bank. They lay abandoned for many centuries, a honeycomb labyrinth of caves and passages.

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Nanchang Lu Abroad: Swooning for Macarons at Ladurée, Paris

Macarons. Pink like kisses, pale pistachio green, golden like honey, rows and rows of small meringue discs sandwiched together with ganache to make a macaron, the world’s most decadent mouthful, with love from Paris.
Macarons have been around for longer than sliced bread – since 791 in fact, and the most famous macaroni house of all is Ladurée, founded in 1862 by Louis-Ernest Ladurée with a shop on the Rue Royale in Paris. It was his wife Jeanne’s idea to combine the pâtisserie with a café and thus establish one of Paris’ first tea salons, a place where women could meet (at the time cafés were for men only).
At that time macaroons were just a single disc of meringue cooked with almond meal. It took Ladurée’s grandson Pierre Desfontaine to think of sandwiching two macarons together with ganache in the way we eat them today, taking Paris by storm.

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Nanchang Lu Abroad: The Museum of Hunting and Nature, Paris


What I like so much about the French is that they are unapologetic about the past.

Take hunting. Three hundred years ago every French aristocrat hunted, for sport. They glorified hunting. Famous artists painted portraits of them standing over their quarry, puffed with pride and lace cravats. They collected hunting horns and muskets and the heads of their prey, mounted on walls.

That was then. But rather than bow to modern social mores and pretend it was an embarrassing aspect of their history best forgotten, they have built a shrine to hunting and its glorious past in Paris.

It’s one of the best small museums in the world, and if you’re in Paris, make sure you go. Continue reading “Nanchang Lu Abroad: The Museum of Hunting and Nature, Paris”

Nanchang Lu Abroad in Paris

Paris. A city that lives as much in the world’s collective imagination as it does in reality.
For me, it was even better than I remembered. Long sunny days, glorious twilights, glittering nights, wonderful food. For a week we lived in an apartment, slept late, ate croissants like they were, in fact, good for us, and drank glasses of chilled rosé sitting on the terraces of tiny restaurants. It was glorious.
The occasion? Twenty-five years ago I met my wonderful husband Matt, and it felt like a great reason to celebrate given that we are still together, despite putting ourselves through a major relationship test of six months driving around China together in a camper van.
As with all important decisions in our family, the destination of the celebrations (coinciding with school holidays) was put to a vote.
“Where shall we go for our anniversary holidays?” I asked.

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Nanchang Lu Abroad in Hong Kong: An Eating Tour of Sheung Wan

Nanchang Lu is abroad, and my first stop is Hong Kong! (en route to Paris, London, Scotland and then Champagne)
I love Hong Kong. I love the noise, the vibrant colours, the smells, the heat and humidity. And above all – the food. Oh, the glorious, abundant food!
Thanks to the handy timing of a medical conference, my friend Doctor S. and I spent a whole week in Hong Kong staying in Sheung Wan District on Hong Kong Island, eating our way around the area each morning and evening.
Sheung Wan is just one stop west of Central on the MTR, but it feels like a regular Hong Kong neighbourhood with its local wet market and dried seafood purveyors lining Des Voeux Street West. The eats are much more local too, with fewer fancy restaurants and lots of small wonton noodle shops and old style Hong Kong eateries.
Here’s a whistle stop tour of my five favourite spots:

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The Shanghai Watch Factory 上海手表厂

Imagine yourself on a wet Sunday, walking Shanghai’s streets through the kind of persistent rain that, despite an umbrella, works its way in drips into the inside of your jacket and runs across your collarbone.

It was a rainy day like this when I visited the site of what was once the Shanghai Watch Factory (Shanghai Shoubiao Chang 上海手表厂)

The Shanghai Watch Factory was the very first in China, founded in 1958. Watches became important status symbols, one of the ‘Three Bigs’ (san da jian 三大件) necessary for a groom to bring to a marriage. The evolution of the ‘Three Bigs’ over time is a telling narrative on the startling development of China’s market economy and the sophistication of its consumers. In the 1970s the three desirables were a watch, a sewing machine (or radio), and a bicycle. In the 1980s this became a watch, a television, and a refrigerator, and in the 1990s a television, a refrigerator and a car. By the 2000s a wedding in Shanghai was unlikely to proceed unless the groom could deliver a car, an apartment and a computer. Continue reading “The Shanghai Watch Factory 上海手表厂”

Shanghai Street Food #36 Wonton Soup: Huntun Tang 馄饨汤

“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” So goes advice for a long life from American writer and nutritionist Adelle Davis (1904-1974).

It’s a guilty pleasure of mine, to dine out often for breakfast, and I always think of Adelle’s quote as I do so, tucking into a steamer basket full of dumplings, or scrambled eggs and hot tea. If it’s a cold day or I’m very hungry, I usually have a bowl of comforting wonton soup at the breakfast shop Fujian Dumpling Soup King on Xiangyang Lu. I like Dumpling Soup King because it has proper tables and chairs and sometimes I just want to sit for breakfast, rather than standing and walking with my food. Can you imagine trying to eat a bowl of wonton soup while walking? Messy.

The other nice thing about Dumpling Soup King is they don’t mind if you bring food from any of the other breakfast shops alongside. Many customers like to eat something with crunch (like youtiao fried dough sticks, or crispy rice squares, or crisp-bottomed shengjianbao dumplings) with their soft, slippery soup. Continue reading “Shanghai Street Food #36 Wonton Soup: Huntun Tang 馄饨汤”

Photoessay: A Feast for the Eyes – The Incredible Spectacle of the Ten Miao Parade

As part of the Sister’s Meal Festival Celebrations, the Ten Miao Parade takes place in Taijiang, Guizhou. Miao groups from ten different village areas – women, men and children, all in their best festival dress – dance and march through the streets to the town square. It is simply the most rich, colourful, and spectacular display of ethnic dress I have ever witnessed.
Feast your eyes.

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