Tea for Twenty

Continuing on Day 1 of our fantastic culinary tour of Hong Kong, a little before noon, we headed over to Pearl’s uncle’s house. He was the father of the groom, and they were holding the traditional pre-wedding ceremony.

In this ceremony, the bride and groom serve tea to their parents, and then in turn to each of the elder family members present. Pearl and I weren’t personally served, as Pearl is only a cousin of the groom, but her parents were. It was a bit awkward for me (there are several pictures of me as the only non-Chinese in the very crowded condo).

While we were waiting for the Bride and Groom to show up (they were at the Bride’s parents’ going through the same ceremony) we had plenty of snacks and appetizers. At this point, I was going on only about 2 hours of sleep in the last 40+, so you’ll have to forgive me for not capturing everything.

There were some wonderful pecan cookies, a bit more like shortbread than you usually find here in the US:

Pecan Cookies

As well as these great lotus seed pastries. Lotus seed is a very common filling for cakes and sweets in Hong Kong. It is very sweet, and has the texture of a hard-boiled egg yolk.

Lotus Seed Pastries
Lotus Seed Pastries

And my personal favorite is these sesame seed balls. They are white rice-dough, almost the same texture as mochi. The centers are filled with a sweet black sesame-seed paste. They’re boiled in water, sometimes with sugar and some ginger, making a very light broth, and served warm. I have some in the freezer that I think I’m going to have to pull out now….

Sesame Seed Balls
Sesame Seed Balls

Lick it up

Growing up as a kid, I always loved the Sunday mornings when we would stop by the local doughnut shop on the way home from church. It was steaming hot sugary bliss that was sure to leave my brother and I hyperactive for hours.

Along with the steaming bowls of congee that so pleasantly woke me up, my mother-in-law triggered these fond childhood memories with this delectable pastry that I could eat for breakfast any day of the week.

Ngau Lay Soh or “Cow Tongue Pastry” is so called because it looks somewhat like a bovine tongue, but luckily has neither the same taste or texture. Instead, it tastes like a typical American doughnut, but without any kind of topping or glaze. Eat it plain, or dip it into your congee. The slight sweetness and fluffy texture are sure to put a smile on your face.

Outside of Hong Kong, so far I’ve only been able to find this in New York and London. If anyone knows where to get it in Los Angeles, I’d love to know.

Comfort Food

A dreary, chilly November morning in Hong Kong. After a 16 hour flight and only 45 minutes of nap on a hotel bed, what I really need is comfort food. Just as I’m about to jump in the shower, my mother in law enters the room with several steaming bowls of congee.

Congee with Beef Meatballs
Congee with Beef Meatballs

Congee is the ultimate in comfort cuisine. A simple rice porridge, it takes on the flavors of whatever is added. It’s a truly heartwarming dish that sticks to your bones. In this case, it had beef meatballs along with the traditional scallions and white pepper. But what truly set it apart from anything I’ve had in the states was the ginger slivers. This added a wonderful flavor to the dish that helped me wake up feeling refreshed. Needless to say, I gobbled it all down.