Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Fresh Mint Stracciatella Ice Cream with Chocolate Leaves - Without an Ice Cream Machine!

I've added a fourth meal to my days: ice cream. Yes, ice cream as a meal. Can be eaten at any time, though usually between lunch and dinner, or after dinner. Or both.

The days are so hot now that I feel like air-conditioning or going to the pool or wearing nothing wearing less is just not doing anything to cool me down. Ice cream, though, seems to do the trick. ;)

Fresh mint leaves | Svelte Salivations

So when our neighbour kindly gave us some home-grown fresh mint leaves, I decided to make some fresh mint ice cream, with dark chocolate strewn throughout!

Only, I don't have an ice cream machine! I've been longing for one for ages, but it's not an investment I'm able to make currently, so I read up on ice cream making without a machine. And as with everything, there's loads of advice out there on the internet about how to go about doing so! This post from The Kitchn summarises much of the information out there.

Fresh Mint Stracciatella Ice Cream with chocolate leaves | Svelte Salivations

I think the mint leaves I have here a spearmint leaves. They smelt amazing and were so herby and fresh, so unlike the artificial in-your-face mint flavour that gum / toothpaste / cheap ice cream has. 

To get the most out of the flavour, I blitzed them up with some milk in a blender until the pieces were extremely fine. This turned the milk a funny yellow green colour at first, but then when I heated it up with the rest of the milk and cream, the colour developed into a beautiful pastel mint! Natural food colouring! I then let it sit in the hot milk/cream mixture until cooled - a bit like steeping tea, trying to slowly and delicately draw the flavour out. 

Fresh Mint Stracciatella Ice Cream with chocolate leaves | Svelte Salivations

I chose this method found on The Kitchn to make my ice cream, with a bit of modification to suit my needs. It's instructions on how to freeze and churn the ice cream, rather than the ice cream mixture itself. The method basically involves using an electric mixer to smash out any ice crystals that form between bouts in the freezer, and also 'churning' the mix while freezing (as the mixture bowl is nestled in ice).

The results were not bad - my ice cream didn't turn out creamy and smooth, but it was definitely scoopable and not a solid block of ice! Though part of this may be to do with my choice of a lower-fat recipe, I think this method of making ice cream without a machine may not be suitable for a hot place like Hong Kong. 

As soon as I took the ice cream mixture out of the freezer to mix and churn, it started to melt again, even though I made a nice ice bath for it! It was like one step forward, two steps back... I struggled to get it to a soft serve consistency, and then when I did, it melted into liquid again as soon the electric mixer hit it!

Fresh Mint Stracciatella Ice Cream with chocolate leaves | Svelte Salivations

The resultant consistency was a compromise between ice cream and sorbet. There ice crystals in it, but only very fine crystals that actually contribute to the unbelievably cool minty freshness that this ice cream is. 

Fresh Mint Stracciatella Ice Cream with chocolate leaves | Svelte Salivations

I drizzled melted chocolate during the last churning to make stracciatella, because nothing goes better with mint than dark bittersweet chocolate

Then with the last bits of leftover melted chocolate, I painted over the back of some mint leaves to make intricate chocolate leaves. Decoration that's edible, is the best type of decoration!

Fresh Mint Stracciatella Ice Cream with chocolate leaves | Svelte Salivations

Try out this fresh minty ice cream to cool you down this summer, and let me know what you think. It's definitely worth the effort. Alternatively, you could chuck a bucket of ice over your head (#ALSIceBucketChallenge, anyone?)!

Full recipe -->

Monday, 18 August 2014

Islam Food 清真牛肉館

Have you heard of Chinese Islam food before? I certainly hadn't before trying this place out! For some reason, my first thoughts of what to expect were along the lines of sweet and sour falafels, kebab meat wrapped in Peking duck pancakes, or maybe... Yeung Chow fried couscous?

The restaurant, simply called Islam Food (the Chinese name 清真牛肉館 is a lil more descriptive - Halal beef restaurant), has been around since 1950, and essentially sells Chinese food with Halal meat. So, no, none of my imaginative concoctions were cooked up.

A lot of the food is done in Northern Chinese style - think Shanghai food with their xiao long baos, noodles, rice cakes etc, but there are also Pakistani-style curries and sweet and sour dishes (Cantonese food). 

There's more on their story here at www.islamfood.com.hk.

Veal Goulash at Islam Food, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

Veal Goulash is probably their most famous dish. It's a juicy beef burger patty, enclosed by a layer of dough that is somewhere between naan bread or pitta bread, and dumpling wrapper pastry, which is then fried until crispy! 

As tempting as it looks, do not pick it up and take a massive bite as soon as the waiter sets it down on the table! The scalding hot beef juices WILL burn your tongue and your taste buds will no longer be in top form to taste the rest of the dishes to come. So be careful, and daintily bite into this beefy delicacy only when its cooled a little. You have been warned!

Veal Goulash at Islam Food, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

Here at Islam Food, they have a extra high ratio of beef and lamb foods. This may be to compensate for the lack of pork dishes? Whatever the reason, I'm not complaining! Lamb, and then beef are definitely my favourite types of meat, so the menu suits me well.

Lamb Jello at Islam Food, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

This cold dish is Lamb Jello. It is some lamb chunks sitting in 'jelly'. I'm not sure what exactly the jelly is, but probably consists of lamb juices and gelatine cooked from bones/cartilage that means that it sets when cool enough. As soon as it enters the warmth of your mouth though, it melts into a lovely aroma that is surprisingly not oily.

Beef dumplings at Islam Food, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

Beef dumplings in soup. I liked how these are round in shape, and they contain yummy juicy beef inside! Again, hot liquid is encased in these little bite-size parcels!

Lamb noodles at Islam Food, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

Lamb noodles! A lot of the food here can be done with different kinds of meat, so if lamb is not your thing, choose beef. Easy!

Lamb noodles at Islam Food, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

These noodles are delicious! Okay, so maybe the noodles themselves are a lil overcooked, but the lamb broth is sooooo good! It's rich and has that lovely lamby-ness that lamb lovers love.

Lamb jiazo at Islam Food, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

Okay, so maybe I should mention that this post centres heavily around lamb... If you haven't noticed =P

These are lamb jiaozi 餃子, which are dumplings that have been pan-fried. The filling is bursting with goodness, but the pastry is a little doughy... I prefer the lamb xiaolongbao 小籠包 which tastes amazing and is steamed instead (no photo unfortunately!)

Curry Mutton with vermicelli at Islam Food, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

Their curries are another thing to try! They are done in Pakistani style and are the soupy type (as opposed to thick saucy type). I found it to be hot and spicy, so it's definitely got a kick to it! 

Spring rolls at Islam Food, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

Spring rolls! These are crispy crispy crispy, and brilliantly light. 

Spring rolls at Islam Food, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

And a final lamb dish to rave about: Boneless lamb chops which have been deep fried. They are served with a bowl of rich and concentrated lamb soup for dipping. The meat is tender, though not for the faint-hearted, as its a fatty cut - that's probably why it tastes so good!

Boneless lamb chops at Islam Food, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

Final thing to mention about Islam Food is that there are two branches. Both are in Kowloon City, and the branch shop is just a street or two down from the main shop. A lot of people insist on going to the 'original' but really, its the branch shop you want to go to!

Not only is the branch shop bigger, more spacious and cleaner (at least it feels that way), but their menu is also more extensive! Some dishes are only available at this second store, oddly enough, not the other way around. And, less people know about this store (or choose not to go), so there's less chance you'll have to queue for ages. Win-win!

Islam Food // 清真牛肉館
總店: 九龍城龍崗道1號地下 // Main Branch: 1 Lung Kong Road, Kowloon City
分店: 九龍城打鼓嶺道33-35號地下 // Second Branch: 33-35 Tak Ku Ling Road, Kowloon City

More info on their website
About HK$50-$100 per person

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Stunning Nan Lian Garden 南蓮園池

Sometimes the most beautiful places are on your doorstep and you don't even know it. I pass by Nan Lian Garden almost every single day when I'm in Hong Kong,  yet I've never stepped foot inside.

Turns out, it's a real gem of a place, located in Diamond Hill, close by the MTR station.

Nan Lian Garden, Diamond Hill, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

I've been seeing more and more tourists clutching their guide books around this area, and wondered how on earth they managed to get so lost that they've ended up here! I had no idea that this was a top spot to see around and about Hong Kong.

There's two parts to the gardens, Nan Lian Garden 南蓮園池 on one side of the road, and Chi Lin Nunner志蓮淨苑 on the other side, accessible by a footbridge.

The main entrance brings you into the gardens first, and the scenery is absolutely wowing. It's like stepping into a different place, out of Hong Kong's hustle and bustle altogether!

Nan Lian Garden, Diamond Hill, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

The gardens are modelled after those of the Tang Dynasty era. There are lots of trees, bushes and shrubs that are meticulously trimmed and groomed, fish ponds and waterfall displays.

Though not all the paths are open to public all the time, you can walk through most of Nan Lian Garden and appreciate its beauty

Nan Lian Garden, Diamond Hill, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

The architecture is also worth a mention. Although there are only a few main buildings, every piece of infrastructure in Nan Lian Garden has been built without using nails or glue or other 'adhesive'-type things. 

One of the buildings showcases an exhibition of miniature versions of buildings built in this style. The design of the buildings allows everything to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, so when assembled, no extra nails or glue is necessary to keep it secure! 

Nan Lian Garden, Diamond Hill, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

Nan Lian Garden, Diamond Hill, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

The place is calm and peaceful, and looks spectacular on sunny days, like when we went. However, the heat can be overwhelming! There's a cafe inside the gardens, so refreshments are available (and probably necessary!)

Chi Lin Nunnery, Diamond Hill, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

Chi Lin Nunnery across the footbridge has less greenery, and less of it is open to the public. There's the lily pond in the courtyard and the building is open and surrounds it. 

The place lacks the extravagance of more famous Chinese architecture, as it is a newly built site, and also not one of royalty, but it still has elegance in its simplicity, and there are delicate details if you care to take note.

Chi Lin Nunnery, Diamond Hill, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

Within the nunnery, there are places of religious worship: different temple areas are dedicated to different Buddhist divinities.

Even if you have no religious beliefs though, the gold, clay and wooden statues are still worth admiring!

Chi Lin Nunnery, Diamond Hill, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

It's an amazing find for me, and I can't believe I've passed by without a second thought all these years! Definitely worth the visit, despite its slightly out of the way location (but still easily accessed by MTR).

Chi Lin Nunnery, Diamond Hill, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden // 志蓮淨苑、南蓮園池
5 minutes from Diamond Hill MTR Exit C2 // 港鐵鑽石山站C2出口

Open daily
Free admission
More details here www.chilin.org and www.nanliangarden.org

Great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, visit Nan Lian Garden and Chi Lin Nunnery for a relaxing and soothing time amongst beautiful, natural greenery.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Best Beef Brisket Noodles at Kau Kee Restaurant 九記牛腩

The first restaurant review I'm doing on the blog is on a long time favourite of mine. It's a good one (obviously!), but also a very controversial one.

Kau Kee Restaurant in Central, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

Kau Kee Restaurant (九記牛腩) is a place I make a point of visiting every time I go back to Hong Kong. Their specialty, as the shop name in Chinese suggests, is beef brisket. In fact, they only sell beef brisket.

The controversy lies in that there are very varied opinions on the quality of food here... I absolutely love the food here, and would say that these are the best beef brisket noodles I've ever had in my 22 years of life. Yet, there are plenty of people who cannot understand why anyone would return, and bravely declares that anyone who praises them clearly knows not a thing about good food!

Ho Fun Beef Brisket Noodles at Kau Kee Restaurant | Svelte Salivations

Their menu is basically either beef brisket and noodles in clear soup or curry beef brisket and noodles. There's also all the variations in between - just beef brisket, just noodles, just soup, different noodles, some really expensive cuts of beef (tendon?! maybe), vegetables...

Back to the beef brisket. If you've ever bought beef brisket and cooked it yourself, you'll know that its not the easiest cut of beef to work with. It'll turn out too chewy, too tough, too dry, too tasteless... That's why I truly appreciate the food here. The beef brisket is flavourful and tender, not at all dried out. It really melts in your mouth, yet doesn't feel oily.

E-fu Beef Brisket Noodles at Kau Kee Restaurant | Svelte Salivations

There are a few different types of noodles to choose from. The white ones in the white bowl are called 河粉 (ho fun in Cantonese) and are flat rice noodles. These noodles soak up the soup like crazy and therefore taste really good. (Although they do tend to be overcooked and 'soggy'...) 

The yellow noodles in the black bowl are 伊麵 (e-fu noodles). These noodles are fried egg noodles, and tend to be chewier. They don't absorb the soup as much, but this means the soup in your bowl is left a bit saltier and tastier.

E-fu Noodle Patties at Kau Kee Restaurant | Svelte Salivations

I've mentioned the soup, and that's probably the ultimate reason for visiting. The soup is a clear broth that they (assumedly) cook the beef brisket and beef tendon and other beef bits in, and is delicious! It's rich in beef flavour and tasty and savoury (salty just isn't the right word). I always want more and more of it, but unlike many lip-licking dishes in Hong Kong, doesn't leave you thirsty at all afterwards.

Ho Fun Beef Brisket Noodles at Kau Kee Restaurant | Svelte Salivations

The curry beef brisket noodles (not pictured) are worth a try too, especially since the portion sizes are on the small side. A curry sauce replaces the broth. It's surprisingly light yet still rich and flavourful. 

In terms of price, these bowls of noodles have risen in value loads over the years, and now stand at around HK$40. Ordering beef brisket on its own will set you back about HK$100. However, I still think it's money well spent. =)

Beef Brisket Noodles at Kau Kee Restaurant | Svelte Salivations

Now that the important things have been discussed, a little note about the place itself: It's crowded. Super cramped. You'll have to share tables with strangers. Expect 9 people to fit around a table that's meant for 4-6. Don't get comfy on the plastic stools (not that anyone would want to...) because you sit, order, eat, leave (and pay at the door) pronto. 

Remember, Kau Kee is a local neighbourhood noodle shop that caters to the busy Hong Kong locals on their 45 minute lunch break. So don't get offended when the waiters breathe down your neck waiting for you to order, or less than politely point you in direction of the door as soon as you slurp up the last of your soup.

Queue at Kau Kee Restaurant in Central, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

If you tolerate the mediocre (and that's on good day!) service, and 30 minutes in the sweltering heat while queueing, then you're in for a treat at Kau Kee.

Kau Kee Restaurant in Central, Hong Kong | Svelte Salivations

Kau Kee Restaurant // 九記牛腩
21 Gough Street, Central // 中環歌賦街21號地下

Closed Sundays and public holidays
Under HK$50 per person

This noodle shop is great for (and only serves) beef brisket noodles that are loved by both locals and tourists. The key to a good experience here is to be aware of the terse attitude of the staff, rushed atmosphere of the place beforehand, and just focus on the delicious food served rather than those serving it!