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January 04, 2008

Happy New Year - A Very Sweet Trip to Hong Kong

Macau_2

Happy (belated) New Year - I hope you all enjoyed the holidays and are looking forward to 2008 (well, as much as I can - it's raining cats and dogs in San Francisco today). Returning from sunny, tropical Hong Kong was quite a shock to the system!

This shock was due in no small part to the indulgences I partook in while on holiday: sleeping in, a parade of family activities (I saw some cousins I haven't seen in almost 10 years - my gosh we're all grown up!), shopping that easily tripled the contents of my suitcases (not that I'm a shopaholic - well, maybe a little - but it's hard not to be when it seems like 50% of Hong Kong is retail space), and of course the eating (that would be the other 50%).

I get asked often, "How do not gain weight when you go to Hong Kong and eat so much?" Well, I actually think the answer lies in the preponderance of stores and restaurants in the city. You basically follow this routine:

1. Go to mall/downtown/outside your hotel/anywhere and start shopping. Keep shopping until you realized you've probably walked several miles and are exhausted.

2. Go to nearby restaurant/cafe/street stall and eat.

3. Go back to shopping.

4. Repeat cycle.

Essentially you will spend so much time walking around and shopping that you will burn up all those delicious calories you've ingested. A beautifully efficient system, really.

Skyline_3

In all honesty, there are many other wonderful things to do in Hong Kong besides shopping and eating - the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens are but a handful of steps from my parents' flat in the Mid-Levels, giving us the unusual opportunity to be both close to the hyper-urban downtown Central district as well as a zoo. A little more strolling takes you to beautiful Hong Kong Park, which contains an amazing aviary and conservatory, as well as gorgeously landscaped grounds. As a bonus, it's a popular spot for newlyweds to get pictures taken, as the marriage registry is just outside the park: go on the weekend and you're likely to see a dozen beaming couples posing by the flowers or waterfalls.

Mandarin

You can also visit Macau, which is but a 45 minute hydrofoil ride away from Hong Kong. A former Portuguese colony, it maintains an old European charm in many parts of the islands that makes it an ideal getaway from the bustle of Hong Kong. However, it's no secret that the gaming industry in Macau is rising faster than a soufflé in an oven - and it's not likely to deflate anytime either. A walk down the Cotai Strip shows construction as far as the eye can see - construction of a Strip that will rival the one in Las Vegas (Macau's gaming revenue has already surpassed that of Sin City). My suggestion? Explore old Macau during the day  - the colonial architecture and narrow cobblestone streets will transport you to Europe - then visit the gaming tables at night for glittery hedonism at its most exciting.

All right, on to the part I'm sure you're most excited to read about - sweets in Hong Kong. What I love most about pastry in Hong Kong is the variety and innovation. You can buy a bag of eggettes (a kind of waffle) from a streetside vendor for a dollar or have high tea at the Peninsula Hong Kong. You can sample perfect French pastries or have classic Chinese dessert soups, perhaps on the same street. I also think that Hong Kong, like all major cosmopolitan cities, has a sort of ADD - the citizens are always on the lookout for the new and exciting, so stores constantly have to come up with new items to retain customers' interest. See some of the items I saw in the bakeries there:

Maxim

Holiday cakes from Maxim's, a popular bakery chain. The snowman was lovely - vanilla sponge cake on crispy feuilletine over a chocolate cake base. Surprisingly sophisticated and well done for a chain shop.

Cocoteddy

The variety of breads in even the humblest of bakeries is staggering. See the "Coco Teddy" bear shaped bun filled with chocolate. Coco Teddy, you were delicious - I love you!

I will also note that Beard Papa's and Krispy Kreme are part of the culinary landscape now as well - and even these chain shops were offering special holiday items like black sesame cream puffs and tree-shaped donuts - I really wish they would do things like that here in the U.S.!

My list of great places to get a sweet bite in Hong Kong:

Honeymoon

Hui Lau San

I've rhapsodized about this place before; the red-and-gold festooned shops are ubiquitous, which makes them the stop of choice when your feet are tired and you're thirsty. They are sort of like Starbucks, only everything is made from fruit so it's much healthier (and tastier, in my opinion). You can get anything from a bowl of fruit mixed with sago to aloe jelly with coconut juice. I always get something from the Mango Mania section, because Hong Kong residents can't seem to get enough of mango and neither can I. The mango jelly in mango and coconut juice is a favorite. The Hui Lau San I seem to frequent the most is the one in Causeway Bay, just across from Sogo and a block away from the Times Square mall - the height of convenience.

Honeymoon Dessert

Another popular series of dessert shops, this one centered around traditional Chinese desserts like walnut and black sesame soups, almond tea with tapioca, or thin crepes filled with red bean or mango. They also have items with durian, that olfactory menace of a fruit - try it but be prepared for your table companions to make a hasty departure! Honeymoon Dessert shops are scattered around Hong Kong; there's one in the ifc mall in Central and at the apm mall in Kwun Tong.

Petits

Dessert at Elements

I made a visit to Elements, the highly touted new mall in Tsim Sha Tsui (I am always amazed that they are always building new malls - the Hong Kong appetite for shopping is truly insatiable). It is elegant, modern, and occupied by every high end luxury brand you can imagine, from Armani to Versace. If your pocketbook is feeling a little light after your stops at Cartier, Fendi, and Valentino, you can get a little pick me up at PETiTs by Deschamps, offering the most couture of cupcakes, or at La Création De Gute, a swank little patisserie.

Dessert Buffet at the Tiffin, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong

Remember my dreamy experience there? Desserts with a French pedigree and an Asian flair - chestnut seemed to be the theme ingredient (I loved a chestnut and chocolate mousse) but there were many other delights to sample, from fruit tarts to cream cakes, homemade ice creams and sorbets, Belgian waffles made to order, chocolate fondue with skewers of marshmallows and fruit lined up like ornaments, sweet soups and fresh fruit. You can nibble on your plate of sweets while gazing out the floor to ceiling windows at the panorama that is the Hong Kong skyline - a true feast for all the senses.

Bambu

Bambu

I'll also mention a few favorite experiences in Macao: The Bambu at the Venetian offers an excellent Asian-themed buffet with an impressive selection of desserts, including homemade ice cream.

Almond

Pasteleria Koi Kei

Go to the old districts in Macau and you'll likely find shop selling Macau sweet specialties like peanut candy, seaweed wrapped wafers, and almond cookies. You can see the baker above making them; many pastry shops have demonstrations like this outside the shop and give samples away liberally, encouraging lookers to stay and buy. Koi Kei has some of the tastiest almond cookies, especially hot and freshly made.

That just about scratches the surface of what's available in Hong Kong. I look forward to my next visit...and discovering what has changed in my absence. Meanwhile, I'm excited to back home in my kitchen baking again!

Macau2

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reading your post makes me want to go back to Hong Kong. i went there when i was young certainly at an age which i didn't care if i tried some desserts or not. but how i wish i could fly now and tried the mango, coconut and mango jelly!

sigh, as if i don't miss home enough already. japanese and chinese bakeries, french desserts (oh, i miss the mont blanc!), patisseries, afternoon snacks ... i agree w/ u about the shopping and eating part; my parents just can't get me to gain much weight when i get back w/ all the walking.

anyway, i'm glad to hear that u enjoyed ur trip in HK. how i wish i was there to share the fun. happy 2008! i can't wait to see more new creations from u in the upcoming year. ;)

All these pictures are so wonderful,
I feel like I'm in HK now!

My family lived in Hong Kong in the early 80s and your talking about sweets brought a flood of yummy thoughts to mind. First - Lucalus Bakery in the Peninsula Hotel where I loved to get huits and truffles and black forest cake. Or egg balls and cream buns at a Chinese bakery on Queens Rd by Ice House Street. And the the goodies at dim sum (Jade Garden), like dan tats or perle de cocao and sesame bean paste buns. And strawberry cream cake at the Cafe Vogue in Lane Crawford department store. I could go on, but I won't. My family would love to go back to Hong Kong just to eat. Well we'd also like to go to Yue Hwa Chinese Products Emporium and Swindons book store.

Those pastries are adorable!

happy new year, anita!

i thoroughly enjoy reading your blog and the accompanying pictures are always so lovely.

i was never particularly interested in visiting hong kong until this fascinating entry. can hardly wait for a trip now!

looking forward to more gorgeous desserts! :)

HK sounds so deliciously exciting, oh and "ADD" is also here in Japan too.

You've got to love HKG bakeries! There are increasing numbers of HKG style bread shops here in Sydney.

i love your blog :)
and i love hk tooo.
mango stuff in hui lan san - best thing everr!

Welcome back Anita! And a happy new year to you too! It's been 10 years since I have been to HK and I really miss it. You are right. You will most likely burn off all those delicious meals by shopping.
I think I'll make a stop over in HK next time I make a trip home to the Philippines.

Hey Anita ...wonderful post on HK .... believe it or not i've been doing all these things ...went to Macau for new years and had a blast ....have been trying the nu,ber u gave me but it keeps saying wrong no. If u come to Elements again , call me , i live right above in Waterfront. Sadly i'm leaving tomorrow , so if by any chance u read this on sunday...call me ...98334821 ...i'm off Mon afternoon.And those cupcakes are divine are'nt they ???

Pasteleria Koi Kei also has the best Macanese egg tarts. They are best hot out of the little toaster ovens outside the store.

Such a discovery of dessert in HK! Give us more babe! lol!

What a great trip you had! The picture are awesome! Happy New Year to you!

I just came back from a trip to HK in November but seeing your photos and reading your comments make me miss it so very much! The food in HK is certainly great, and now, there are so many dessert/pastries places too! Too bad the theory of shopping burning all the calories doesn't seem to work too well for me... (I just cannot NOT put on weight whenever I'm back there) because I wish I could have tasted more and more of the many cake shops!

I know have such a strong desire to make coco teddy bear buns! Those are adorable!
I've never been to Hong Kong... maybe one day!

I keep these images and tips in a precious folder for when I visit the city.
Happy New Year to you Anita! I hope that adjusting back will be smooth.

Happy New Year Anita!

Glad you enjoyed your trip to HK. A family friend just brought back some of those almond cookies from Macau, and they are SOOO yummy!

Thank you, thank you!! I'll be in Hong Kong for 2 days in April -- not much time, but you've made it easier for me to choose where I should go!! Can't wait :).

Hey!
Thank you sooo much for sharing these shops! I'm going to travel in 12 days to Hong Kong! Will stay there for 3 weeks and wooow... I really want to visit all these shops! If you have any other tips, markets,..... I'm thankful for every tip :)
ann

Hi,

l am going HK with my family this Sun, 21 Sep. l want to go try the dessert buffet at Tiffin, Grand Hyatt. But may l know how much is the buffet per person?

I've been to Hong Kong a few times and love it. The shopping, the food and the culture are magnificent. I appreciate the pics and tips you've given on your site, cause I want to go back again soon.I am getting itchy feet *sigh*

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