I'm thrilled to announce that I'm featured in the South China Morning Post (SCMP) today in the Food/Drink Section. I've shared my favorite places to eat in Hong Kong and during my travels. You can read the article at this link. They had to shorten my original interview by a lot because I just had too many places I wanted share! I've included my original responses to the interview below.
Tell us about yourself
I am a US patent attorney and Vice President & Principal at Eagle IP, a patent firm headquartered in HK with offices in the GBA. I am also a food + travel writer, founder of Tiny Urban Kitchen, a food + travel website/blog that I’ve been writing for over 10 years. I moved to Hong Kong 6 years ago after spending most of my adult life in Boston, MA (USA), where I went to school. I am a second generation Asian American, and grew up in Toledo, Ohio to Taiwanese parents. I also love music and play guitar in my church band.
What did you grow up eating?
In Ohio back then, we didn’t have much access to Asian ingredients, so my mom was really, really creative and resourceful. She loves to cook and try new things, so growing up I actually ate a lot of home cooked Taiwanese foods, such as braised meat sauce over rice 滷肉飯，dried radish omelette 菜餔蛋，tea eggs 茶葉蛋，beef noodle soup 牛肉麵，egg crepe 蛋餅, steamed rice cake in a bowl 碗糕 (“wah guay”), and much much more.
She often modified traditional Taiwanese recipes using US supermarket ingredients. For example, did you know you can make an easy 饅頭 (steamed bun) by using Pilsbury dough? She always cooked from scratch, and every dinner involved 3+1 . . . three dishes and a soup. I still sort of hold myself to the same standard today, though it’s quite challenging to do it every day. I’m not sure how my mom was able to do it AND take care of her work, her aging parents, and us!
I also loved ice cream (I get that from my Dad) and fresh corn (Ohio grows TONS of corn). One particular food memory I have is my mom making her famous grilled Taiwanese street corn while we were at the beach.
What kind of food person are you?
I’ve eaten all kinds of food: slow food, fast food, street food, Michelin meals. I’ve dined at 3-Michelin starred restaurants in Paris, crunched on fried insects in Yunnan, hunted for white truffles in Alba, chewed on snake skin in Hunan, eaten nigiri sushi from the hands of Jiro himself, and the list goes on and on.
After all that, though, I think I actually go back to the basics. Perhaps it’s due to my simple upbringing. Perhaps it has something to do with my slight obsession with health and fitness. I love fresh produce, prepared simply so you can taste their original flavors.
When I’m at home, I am perfectly content just stir-frying or even just steaming or blanching fresh vegetables and eating them with just a bit of flavor. I’m totally OK not having meat, though I do love seafood, and occasionally a really good steak or Iberico pork chop. I also love dumplings of any kind (gyoza, 餃子), raw fish (sashimi, crudo, ceviche, etc.), and milk products, such as cheese, yogurt, and of course ice cream!
I do love cooking, and when I have time I totally get into learning how to make new dishes and acquiring new skills. I won a food blog competition in 2009 where in one of the rounds I learned how to make hand-pulled noodles and produced a video teaching it . . . all in 2 weeks!
If I had to pick a favorite cuisine, it would probably be Japanese, though I also love Chinese, Italian, Spanish, Mediterranean, Thai, and many many more. All cuisines have their unique special elements, and I enjoy many aspects of most cuisines.
In Hong Kong, what are some of your favourite restaurants and why?
I told you I love dumplings, and I also love black truffle. Din Tai Fung is one of my favorite restaurants for any meal, including lunch. During the pandemic, I was so thankful that we lived close enough to get delivery of DTF dumplings. My favorites are the black truffle and the pork soup dumplings ( 小籠湯包), pork and vegetable steamed dumpling*, 香干馬蘭頭 dried bean curd + Indian Kalimeris vegetable, and taro dumpling for dessert.
Yardbird, a yakitori restaurant that started in Hong Kong, is one of my favorite restaurants in Hong Kong (and probably the one I frequent most regularly). My favorite is by far the skin, but I also love the chicken oyster, meatball, and wing tip. The fruit tomato salad with yuba is fantastic, and the corn tempura is really special. The chicken + egg rice is a great way to end the meal.
For good Cantonese food, I like Kin’s Kitchen. Definitely get their signature smoked chicken and the handmade egg noodles with scallion oil and soy sauce, which are excellent. In Hong Kong, trying steamed garoupa is a must, and I usually like to get the stunning bright green vegetable soup with crab.
For higher end, I really enjoy Simon Rogan’s Roganic. I really like the artful and creative way Chef Rogan showcases vegetables. I also appreciate how the restaurant prioritizes sustainability and supports local farms.
For dessert or coffee, Shari Shari for Japanese kakigori (shaved ice) or Via Tokyo for their delicious matcha ice cream are some of my go-to places. I also love Omotesando Koffee, which I first discovered in Japan over 10 years ago!
Where would you take a new visitor to the city for lunch or dinner?
I’d definitely showcase one of Hong Kong’s most famous cuisines: dim sum! I usually try to book Lei Garden if I can. The food is high quality and consistent, the service is efficient, and the cost is reasonable. Tim Ho Wan is another fun one to visit, but it takes a bit more planning since they don’t take reservations and the lines can get long.
I always take out-of-town guests to one of my favorite egg tart places, Tai Cheong Bakery, to try both types of egg tarts, flaky pastry crust and cookie crust. Honolulu Bakery in Wan Chai also makes an amazing flaky crust version.
Finally, If there’s time, I would take the ferry to Lamma Island and hike from Yung Shue Wan to Sok Kwu Wan, where we’d enjoy Hong Kong seafood specialties at Lamma Rainbow.
For a local “hidden spot”, I might take them to Wong Kee 旺記打冷小菜館, a buzzing Chiu Chow place in Wan Chai that is super local, (menu is only in Chinese!) and makes great Chiu Chow classics like sliced marinated goose, oyster omelette, and many other dishes at super reasonable prices.
I have a soft spot for 1963 Tree 木十豆寸, a Taiwanese eatery hidden away on an upper floor of a nondescript building in Wan Chai. They serve interesting vegetables that are unique to Taiwan, and their Oolong tea smoked chicken is really good. The comfort dishes, like 滷肉飯 （braised meat sauce over rice), also make me think of my family.
Finally, one must try local milk tea. My favorite is Lan Fong Yuen in Central, right next to the escalators. The tea, still made with a sock using the traditional method, is intense, strong, and works great with milk. If there’s time, it’s fun to have a very traditional, local HK breakfast inside.
What is your splurge or celebration preference?
Sushi Shikon is my favorite high-end restaurant in Hong Kong, and I have gone there many times to celebrate a birthday or anniversary. The meals never disappoint and I do feel like I’m transported to Japan for a few hours, yet with a chef who can speak perfect English (Chef Kaki-san lived in the US for some time) and greets us with such warmth each time we come.
In terms of travel, where do you enjoy going for food?
Japan is hands down my favorite destination for food, and I’ve traveled there over a dozen times. One particularly favorite memory is my meal at Shoraian/Syourian, a tofu restaurant located on the edge of a mountain in the bamboo forest of Arashiyama in Western Kyoto. You need to hike a bit to get to the restaurant, but it’s so worth it. We had a fantastic multi-course menu focused just on tofu prepared so many different ways, even ending with a tofu ice cream!
Spain is another favorite destination. The country is cutting edge on the high-end scene, and their local food is also fabulous. One of my favorite food memories is eating grilled turbot from Kaia Kaipe, a seafood restaurant in a tiny fishing town called Getaria (not far from San Sebastian). Even though we couldn’t get a reservation at its more famous cousin Elkano, we loved our meal and vowed to come back to San Sebastian again in 2020 . . . (which never happened due to this thing called the Pandemic).
I travel to Boston at lot. It’s the city where I lived for 20+ years before moving to Hong Kong, and I still have a lot of family and friends there. In terms of food, whenever I’m in Boston I seek out raw oysters, lobster, and local beer. One of my favorite off-the-beaten-path places is a tiny shack in Cambridge called Alive and Kicking Lobsters. They make a great lobster sandwich (don’t call it a lobster roll, they’ll correct you!) that you can eat on picnic benches right outside the shack. I also like going to Row 34, where I can get a hot buttered lobster roll, raw New England oysters on the half shell, and a fantastic selection of local New England beers all at one place.
*as far as I know, this version is only available in Asia. In the US, Din Tai Fung used to serve the version I like, but then one year started warning guests that the pork and vegetable dumpling was 90% vegetable. They eventually gave up and switched to a version that had more meat (which I don’t like as much). I guess even Din Tai Fung had to “localize” their dumplings for the American palate!