One hundred fifteen

Saturday 2 February 2013, 11.43pm HKT

1.47am local time, 21°C (70°F), warm

TODAY is the 115th birthday of my printing company.

Whenever I can, I make a point of publicising this. I do this because:—

  1. it’s grandma’s brother’s business originally, founded in 1898
  2. grandma took over the business when grand uncle died without issue
  3. grandma had always wanted to leave it to me
  4. it’s a comeback to some other relatives with their MBAs, high-end corporate experience, etc, who took over the firm at various points in time in the past and made an unholy hash of things with their MBAs, high-end blah-blah, etc

Four good reasons to mark the firm’s birthday, dontcha think?

For security reasons, I can’t show pictures of my firm or my colleagues there, so sorry about that. Best I could do, I’ll try an outside shot of the building next time.

To mark this day, I’ll instead show you a simple meal in honour of grannie’s firm.

duck meal 2013 0202 CIMG0075

Marinated duck breast on peanuts, HK$19 (US$2.45 or £1.56)

Za’atar (Zahatar) pita bread, bag of 10s, HK$22 (US$2.84 or £1.80)

Skittles Riddles, 2 packets for HK$10 (US$1.29 or 82p)

China-made cheapo beer with German name, 12 per box, HK$27 (US$3.48 or £2.21)

Total cost HK$53.25 (US$6.87 or £4.37)

I ran out of wine, so had to make do with the ultra-cheapo Chinese beer with the pretend German name. But it did taste genuinely German, that much is true.

duck meal 2013 0202 CIMG0078

Solid, solid meat in every bite

This specimen was bought by Ratta from the Japanese chainstore she worked for (but from another branch). It was cooked to perfection, with just the right amount of herbs in the marinate. It didn’t look much but it weighed 350 grammes (12 oz). It was a good deal even if it were at its regular price of HK$21.

Why duck?

Normally in Chinese culture (particularly northern Chinese culture), the traditional festive food is soy sauce seasoned duck (醬鴨 Mandarin ‘jiang ya,’ Cantonese ‘cheung ngaap’ : ‘sauced canard’). Although duck is more in line with the Midautumn Festival, it isn’t off-colour to serve duck for company celebrations or events close to the Chinese Lunar New Year like now.

Duck and goose are safe choices for celebrations anyway. Chicken sends a bad message — people who are going to get fired or be made redundant are traditionally served the 無情雞 (‘no sympathy chicken’ : Mandarin ‘wú ch’íng jī,’ Cantonese ‘moh ching gaie’).

However, the Cantonese tends to serve chicken more usually (mainly because chickens are more plentiful down south of China), so draw your own conclusions.

So now you know. Don’t make that chickenshite mistake, peeps.

zahatar pita 2013 0202 CIMG0079

Za’atar (or Zahatar) pita bread

Alright, I’m 80% renegade used-car salesman (just like Dad was) in food culture — I’m irredeemably corrupted by European and/or Levantine ways. Therefore, the pita.

(I also make a concession to American popular culture with Skittles, but that’s another story.)

Actually, this Mediterranean staple doesn’t look at all thrilling from the outside. It resembles some Babylonian clay tablet with cuneiform writing covered in ancient soot after being dropped on the floor. One bite, and I promise you, you won’t be able to stop eating.

Read about za’atar on Wikipedia.


THERE is meaning behind the meal combinations. I wasn’t going to write about it because it would sound so superstitious, but what the hell…

Duck, because it signifies the ability to migrate to better climes and better feeding grounds. Good omen for business, no?

Za’atar pita, because the Levantines traditionally serve this to children to increase their mental faculties just before an exam or homework. Good omen in these tough business conditions, no?

Skittles Riddles, because “the colours don’t match the taste” (so it says on the packet) and that could be taken to mean not stuck in one view or flavour. Good omen, no?

Beer, because the German proverb has it that one finds strength in beer. Good omen, no?



© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2013. All images by author. (B13041)

Disgusting food I eat, enjoyably so

Saturday 28 January 2012, 1.27am HKT

9.33pm local time / 15°C (59°F) at 91% relative humidity

SOME OF YOU have a penchant for being nosey knowing what my meals are like.

As a glutton — err, I mean — foodie, I can relate to why you’d be interested.

Truth is, I eat and drink anything under the sun.

One of the more brain-damaged aspects about me is that I really enjoy that almost-mediaeval English partiality to boiled meats.

“Eeew! Boiled meats?! What the—?” you say with face a-grimacing and your actual body recoiling back in disgust and horror.

Obviously I’m not going to just eat disintegrating pieces of bland, tasteless body parts floating half-dead in tepid water. Eeew, that’s absolutely revolting…

No, my boiled meats are stewed in flavourful broth and dipped in savoury sauce before being gobbled.

As the pictures below will show.

Last night’s dinner. TV remotes not part of the gig.

I only managed to retrieve these photos from the memory card just now because my camera went on the fritz the day before.

Pork on the bone, carrots and ‘snow ear’ (雪耳 shuet yee), all cooked in pork broth.

The vino tinto de España isn’t visible because I woz drinkin’ it.

Mediaeval fare in a modern world.

Too bad I couldn’t retrieve the shuet yee picture for you.

(‘Shuet’ is pronounced in Cantonese like the German word ‘schüt’. The Mandarin name for snow ear is xuě ěr.)

Shuet yee is a kind of edible Chinese fungus often used in soups. It’s semi-transparent, slightly yellowish in colour, and resembles those really wide rubberbands that post offices use on parcels, but more wrinkly and more delicate. Its English common names are snow fungus, silver ear fungus or white jelly mushroom. The scientific name is Tremella fuciformis.

Shuet yee itself is tasteless and odorless, but it brings out the flavour of everything it touches. It looks a lot like that stuff called bird’s nest (which are in fact congealed bird saliva — but that’s another stomach-churning story).

The dip makes all the difference.

The dipping sauce was made from soy sauce, a teaspoon or two of sesame oil, and a liberal lacing of white pepper powder (the kind you use in salt and pepper shakers). Done!

Before you pump a couple of shotgun rounds into your local grocer for not stocking sesame oil, you can replace it with any other kind of vegetable oil (but not olive oil). Just cook your replacement vegetable oil for a few minutes on low heat, bring to hot (not boiling) — done!



The common (or generic) name for soy sauce is si yau (豉油) in Cantonese, jiàng yóu (醬油) in Mandarin, or shōyu in Japanese. There are two types — know the difference, or your meal’s a goner.

1. That light (or ‘fresh’) soy sauce is called saang chau (生抽) in Cantonese, or jiàng ch’ing (酱清) in Mandarin. This is the ‘brewed’ (i.e. original) soy sauce made directly from soybeans. Saang chau is used for seasoning because of its saltier taste and less noticeable colour (lighter brown).

2. That really dark-coloured soy sauce (sometimes seen in big bottles) is called lo chau (老抽 : ‘old sauce’) in Cantonese, or lǎo chōu in Mandarin. This is ‘blended’ soy sauce made from the first type, with caramel and molasses added so it’s slightly thicker, slightly sweeter and less salty in flavour. Lo chau is used for cooking to obtain ‘colour.’

If you’re not thoroughly confused by now, just skip the hassle of figuring out which is which and buy the Kikkoman brand from Japan. You’re always safe with Kikkoman because it’s chiefly for seasoning but good as well for cooking.

Caution: If you have coeliac disease or are gluten-intolerant, stick to Chinese soy sauce. Japanese soy sauce is 50% wheat-containing (the Chinese version contains much less).



Know the basic taste sensations?

Bitterness, saltiness, sourness, sweetness, umami, piquance, astringency and fattiness (eight in all).

Come again?

Umami (旨味) is the scientific term (from Japanese) for that pleasant savoury taste usually associated with meat. Umami was identified in 1908 by Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda (discoverer of monosodium glutamate). Soy sauce is the prime example of umami taste.

Piquance (raciness or spiciness or hot spicy) is a traditional Asian basic taste — and it makes sense because the ‘traditional’ four-taste theory got stuck for a long time trying to explain piquance.

Astringency (tartness) is a traditional Indian basic taste specification. That’s the dry, puckering mouthfeel we get from young red wines, tea, vinegar and tannin-containing fruits such as sloe berries (a kind of plum), quince (cousin to the apple and pear), persimmon and banana skins.

The tongue taste map is a myth and complete bollocks. Different regions of the tongue DON’T specialise in different tastes. In fact all taste sensations come from all regions of the tongue. And you’d know this to be true if you ever did histology.

The whole myth (that is, a small number of ‘basic tastes’ giving rise to numerous complex tastes) ultimately came from some moron(s) treating taste like primary colours (that is, three or four light wavelengths combining to form a spectrum of colours). And people still believe in this taste-map nonsense, and it’s still being taught in school. It’s so completely bollocks. Srsly.

(Truth is, the tongue-taste map myth was political propaganda. Around the time of the First World War, governments propagated the myth in order to reserve meat and other foodstuffs while trying to avoid all-out civilian rationing. The spiel was that, since all other tastes came from just four tastes, there’s no need to have ‘rich’ foods and one could just mix and match basic flavours to achieve the desired taste. It’s the same story with the drinking hours in the United Kingdom.)

Fact is, 75 years’ worth of food and health research have shown there are more than four or five ‘basic’ taste sensations. There is some evidence for a sixth basic taste that senses fatty substances.


Yes, yes, yes, I know you’re wondering about that since the first picture.

Relax, it’s a pig’s tail.

No, it’s not the outcome of a kitchen accident.

Hey, c’mon, peep’l, we have oxtail and stuff, so why not pig’s tail? I mean, there’s pig’s tail, horsemeat, catmeat and animal skin in our McBongo burgers, and we don’t complain.

I must admit it would make a darn good prank on the uninitiated.

© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. All photos by me. Kikkoman soy sauce via Wikipedia.

English Legal History

Making English Legal History easy and enjoyable to digest.

Diary of a Psychokiller

take a trip with me to the darkside

Lipsync Lawyer

Stop bitching and know your law differently

Daring Fireball

Hearing ordinary lives talk

An English Man In SF

a diary of life as an immigrant

MB Forde

Ghosts, Legends, Folklore and Writing

Motorcycling in Hong Kong

On two wheels in Asia's World City


Making her way back to Neverland one day at a time...

The Naked Listener's Weblog

Hearing ordinary lives talk

Basti in China


Making Maps: DIY Cartography

Resources and Ideas for Making Maps

Pointless Diagrams

A new, meaningless diagram drawn daily, just 'cause.

The London Column

Reports from the life of a city, from 1951 to now, compiled by David Secombe

Vintagerock's Weblog.

Just another weblog

Shirley Chuk

Chuk Yin-yuk 祝燕玉 of Hong Kong

%d bloggers like this: