See Ya Later, Hong Kong

After being on the road for a month through Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Ho Chi Minh, and Bangkok we were almost ready for a break from the heat and a return to the notion of getting back to our life in Canada. I have to say we were good, resisting any Western food and only choosing the foods of each host country. And we loved it.

Yet, getting back to Hong Kong brought the spin cycle of constant travel back into focus, we were heading home and there were Western reminders everywhere; lots of foreigners, plenty of international foods and a growing interest in those things by Hong Kong at large. Of course, HK has long been a cosmopolitan city, on the edge in many ways but we were here just 4 years ago and it seemed different. There were influences in it becoming more Chinese, as mainland is taking on a bigger role politically and culturally but then there seemed to be more demand in also appearing Western. So many young people seemed more interested in those places offering anything but traditional Cantonese foods.

the average age in this Dim Sum house was 65+

And we found ourselves craving things like potatoes, boneless chicken and simple green vegetables. Anna and I honestly looked at each other and said, “oh come on, we’re not exactly cheating by eating a pizza” – of course, up until now we would have felt silly by to enjoying local foods but it just seemed like the time was up. Sad to say but the dim sum was expensive, not the most tasty and we thought, man – we could get better in Mississauga.

we ate take-away French roast chicken on the counter with a knife and fork!
I looked at the kitchen of this full service restaurant and thought “that would be great in an apartment”
Tapas in HK – zucchini flowers filled with goat’s cheese, fried and drizzled with honey + jamon croquettes
the life saving power of pizza
coffee culture and French pastry is everywhere

I suppose this is just another reality of the time we live in, globalization is shrinking the food world, streamlining so many things and making every thing available everywhere. We really shop while traveling any longer as you can likely find those same things at home. Sad, really.

shopping for gifts, I had to buy the “monkey pick” tea
even in this ultra modern city, people cling to the past – bamboo scaffolding goes up 30 stories

It is fun, however to appreciate those differences, like the incredible capacity to handle being shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of thousands of people. I had to laugh out loud thinking of young people coming to Canada, especially to Niagara to attend college or university and looking around on day 2, thinking “omigod, where IS everyone? What have I done?” ha ha

cold brew coffee, in kegs and powered by NO2 is what the cool kids are having
French smoked meat was like carpaccio meets pastrami – and with peppery Taggiasca olive oil – zoinks! so good
simple, silky carrot puree soup with ginger, like a cooking school classic

I also thought a lot about looking at travel, especially when young, as a true form of education. Being able to walk the streets, smell the air and taste the food while learning about someone’s culture is just so powerful. I know that when I return to Niagara College, I will more that ever encourage young people to get off their can and figure out how to see the world. I met a young French chef working at a company that had two restaurants back in France, one in Manila and one in Hong Kong. He was, like so many, completely into his work and proud of the food served, obviously well trained as the stuff was delicious but I also thought about just how much he was taking in, lessons that would shape the rest of his career and life.

Thibault is seeing the world from kitchens, I wondered how many of us got into cooking because we were interested in travel but never actually did it
it was so French
it was so British
it was so Canadian!

We’ll be back in July to see the wonders of SE Asia, eager to meet new friends and learn more about food. Now it’s time to put my head down and practice and reflect on what I’ve seen. And buy some pea meal bacon, and hear The Tragically Hip on the car radio, and put salt on the sidewalk and …

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