Category Archives: Food and drink

Only 50ml more to England

Supply and demand.

A fairly frequent topic on this blog has been supply and demand with Chinese characteristics. When there’s a demand, there’s no supply, and when there’s a supply, there’s no demand. (It seems to be true when I’m the customer.)

Thus I’ve bought products which have vanished from the shelves, apparently for good, only for them to reappear sometime later with a substantial gap between the two points. I don’t know whether the coffee I used to buy is still available, and I know that Smoovlatté, which may be in evidence at the moment, could vanish next week.

A recent reappearance was Tim-Tams, which are now back in Walmart after a long absence. Why? Who knows?

The exception to the rule would appear to be Weetabix, which have been coming and going, and have now gone because of the poor wheat harvest in the UK. In this case, the absence of Weetabix products has nothing to do with local quirkiness.

The Lipton’s Italian-style lemon tea has been coming and going on a short cycle. One moment it was in the Far Eastern; the next it was gone; then it was back; then it was gone again; and so on. About a month ago, it was back, but didn’t last long. Then, about a week ago, I spotted something which seemed to be the same, but was now called English-style lemon tea, which came in a different-shaped bottle. The stuff seemed to be the same.

When I was in Walmart looking for some lemon tea, I found that far from the English-style one being a replacement for the Italian-style one, they were both on the shelves. In addition to the name and shape of the bottle, the former is 50ml larger than the latter.

I don’t suppose that I’ll ever know why the supply of most goods here is so ca­pric­ious.

Salt-and-vinegar crisps: special edition

Gone one day, there the next.

This is another tale of China’s obtuse supply chain. In 远东百货 or Carrefour, product X suddenly appears on the shelves. Expats like product X, which vanishes reasonably quickly. This particular item then vanishes altogether for weeks or months on end even although anyone with half a brain can see that it’s going to fly off the shelves even faster than a banker can smell an undeserved bonus.

The salt-and-vinegar crisps had long since vanished from the shelves of 远东百货, and as usual, it seemed reasonable to conclude that quite a lot of time might pass before we saw any more of them. Not so, it seems.

I went into 远东百货 this afternoon and spotted a display of them, on sale, but not in the usual place.

The attitude of retailers in China seems to be that if they’re selling it, the customer must want it, and when it’s all gone, the customer no longer wants it. I’m hoping there’s a sensible reason for this state of affairs, but I can’t help but suspect it’s a manifestation of chicken-coop mentality in China, viz. everyone is a petty tyrant in the Great Pecking Order, and those in inferior positions must put up and shut up.

It’s not just salt-and-vinegar crisps and Nutella, but all sorts of things which I wouldn’t normally go near which are affected by this odd culture of supplying people on a whim.

The one item which is currently missing from Carrefour is red pens for adults (and even Walmart had none the last time I looked). For example, you can’t buy the red equivalent of the M&G R1 for love or money, and even the red version of any other brand has disappeared from the shelves. There are some red pens, but these are the sort of thing which only appeal to shallow-witted people. In this case, demand far exceeds supply.

In which Mr Bamboo eats a rice burger

Yes, a rice burger.

After Yamazaki let me down today, I thought I’d go to Mos Burger, which is the new eatery downstairs in 远东百货. I queued up and got my tray, iced tea (just the thing for this time of year), and my number, and went to find a table. That wasn’t so difficult, but finding a table which had been cleared of the mess left by the previous occupants was more difficult. Unlike KFC where they swoop in and remove the tray before the chicken has even stopped clucking, the staff in Mos Burger were somewhat tardy about tidying up. Probably they need more people on duty.

The atmosphere was typical of your average Chinese restaurant – loud and grating. I tried to listen to some music on my phone, but instantly gave up because I couldn’t hear anything without turning the volume up to deafening levels.

Since the place was quite busy, I wasn’t expecting instant service and probably got my meal about five to ten minutes later. This consisted of a deep-fried chicken leg, which was rather hot, but came in a bag which allowed me to hold it, and the burger itself, which was nicely wrapped up.

The latter was a rice burger. In affect, it’s a kind of open burger where the rice is like the bun. In fact, it’s really just a rice dish folded in half. However, I didn’t realise that it was a rice burger until it started falling apart when I started eating it. The burger was in the corner of the envelope and if there’s a technique to eating one of these things without making a mess, I didn’t discover it. Actually, chopsticks should be supplied as standard. This isn’t a hold-in-your-hand meal.

I had the pork burger. It was, I’ll be honest, nothing special.

I happened to go past Yamazaki on the way out. There, to my annoyance, was my usual lunch, but by then it was too late.

Harmonising KFC?

Or just pandering to the Mainlanders?

When I first went to Hong Kong, I found that the menu at KFC was different from the one on the Mainland. They had cross-cut chips and teriyaki chicken burgers, and I wished that such things would find their way to the other side of the border. The exception, as I believe I mentioned in an entry several years ago, was a KFC in Kowloon City, which had the Mainland menu. Three or four years ago when I was back in Hong Kong, I went to one of the KFCs in Kowloon, either the one on Cameron Road or the one near the Peninsula Centre on the other side of Chatham Road South. I fancied a teriyaki chicken burger, but, alas! got a Mainland menu instead.

At the time I thought the menu had been harmonised for the sake of convenience. But I was thinking about this this morning in the light of having read a blog or two about Hong Kong in recent days, which mentioned the vast number of tourists flooding in from the Mainland, and wondered whether this change was to cater to Mainland tastes. On the other hand, I haven’t been to one of the more outlying KFCs in the Territory in quite some time, and thus can’t say whether this has only affected branches in the Kowloon tourist trap.

But even here there’s been a shift in the menu, which has started to include traditional-style rice dishes similar to the sort of fare that Linda and I would have at CFC in Chengdu now and then. It doesn’t appear that the standard menu is about to vanish any time soon or that KFC was worried about losing market share to 永和大王. (At certain times of the day, it’s better to 袋走 [das stimmt?] than it is to try and find a seat.) I have tried one of these new additions to the menu, but I found the quantity too much, and if I remember correctly, the dish was ultimately nothing special.

Four words I never thought I’d use in the same sentence

Carrefour, priced, reasonably, wine.

I went to Carrefour yesterday to buy a couple of things, including some wine. Much to my surprise, when I got to the wines, there was a Carrefour own-brand section with prices starting at ¥39. Apart from the Vistamar at ¥69 and one or two others, prices for wine from Carrefour normally start at around ¥80 and rise to ridiculous levels from there. The range is small, but there is some variety.

I opted to try the Syrah and the Grenache Noir with some trepidation because it’s been a long time since I’ve drunk any cheap wine. However, I can report that the Grenache Noir is a reminder that a decent wine doesn’t have to cost indecent amounts of money. In fact, one of the worst wines I’ve had was a Jean Jean Syrah for about ¥89, which was like bottled heartburn.

It’s nice to see something more reasonably priced for once because I’ve long thought that Carrefour ought to offer more affordable wines and get away from the tyranny of luxury brands.

Uton herian

Real bread.

While the supermarket in the basement of the Far Eastern Department Store (远东广场) is a little ho-hum, next to it is a Japanese bakery called Yamazaki, which sells real bread, and if you go there at the right time, it’s really fresh as well.

When I first arrived in the Empire, bread seemed like a safe choice as something light for lunch, but like most foreigners, I instantly discovered that I was eating a concentrated sugar delivery system disguised as bread. Worse still, all the bread rolls, which seemed to be free of sugar, had some ghastly paste hidden inside them. You can smell the sugar which suffuses the bread, but you can’t smell the paste.

Perhaps there was a good side to this. I like (real) bread, but if I’d had ready access to it over the years, I fear that I’d be enormously fat by now, or would’ve turned into a massive loaf of bread myself.

Anyway, real bread is something I can have as a treat on Sundays. Besides, the Meadowlea spread and acacia honey cost enough, and need to get used.

The guest of honour

Mr Bamboo, of course.
 
You might recall me mentioning that I’d been invited to High Fly’s 9th birthday celebrations and that there’d be cake. It seems that I’m such a regular that I wasn’t just some mere guest but was asked to light the candles, say a few words (not my most rhetorical moment, but I wasn’t expecting to be doing this), blow the candles out, and cut the cake. If that wasn’t enough, I was also given a pair of rather nice bone china cups and saucers; and the meal was free. The cake was rather nice as well.

Sabrina’s

Again.

I’ve only ever been to Sabrina’s on 科华北路 once before, and that was during the Great Vanilla Coke Hunt of Summer 2007. Disappointingly, the shop, which deals in imported foodstuffs, didn’t have any at the time. Cherry Coke, yes; Vanilla Coke, no. Anyway, I mentioned Sabrina’s to Quincy the other day and we took a little trip out there this afternoon with his girlfriend, Stella, and Brian. I can confirm that the shop now has Vanilla Coke, but that one can is ¥10.80. (Ridiculous of course, because this stuff is available in other places on the Mainland at the usual sort of prices.) The place also had salt and vinegar crisps. Were they there the last time I went? The only place in China I’ve been able to get them previously is various branches of Wellcome in Hong Kong. All right – two: the one on Hankow Road, and one in Tin Hau.

Time to watch another DVD and eat some crisps.

18.06.13. Edited formatting and added tags. I note that Vanilla Coke is available in the Far Eastern for ¥11.00.

Too much food

And just enough drink.
 
I met up with Brigid this morning and we went to Jaspa’s in Sai Kung for lunch. The town is north-east of Kowloon, but the other side of the hill from Sha Tin. Since the word for "fish" in Chinese has some fortuitous meaning, the fish restaurants were busy. The range of sealife was quite broad and included horseshoe crabs, sea urchins, and various fish I can’t name. One restaurant had a huge tank at the front which included a massive fish which looked like a grouper. It was also unwell, since it was shedding scales in patches. Some of the restaurants allegedly have connections with the Triads. Whether this is relevant, I don’t know, but I spotted a car with a small Nazi-era flag sticker on the back. The swastika was, I believe, back to front. I assume the owner was not one of the numerous ex-pats, but some clueless local.
 
Lunch was excellent. I had Norwegian salmon. Yes, I know I ought to be having Chinese [insert name of fish here], but they didn’t offer any. Anyway, that’s the first time I’ve had salmon since I don’t know when. Afterwards, we went for a wander round the headland, but it was colder than yesterday and there wasn’t much to see. We took the bus back to Brigid’s and watched 2 Days in Paris in which Julie Delpy takes her neurotic American boyfriend played by Adam Goldberg home to Paris. Things don’t go so well in the end. It was quite amusing, especially the scenes with the opinionated Parisian taxi drivers.
 
We then went to Kowloon Tong and had tea at that Italian restaurant where Brigid, Alison and I dined some time last year. Kept it light because after a substantial lunch I didn’t feel like eating all that much. We had a nose around Hong Kong Records and then returned to Brigid’s to watch another film, this time the hilarious and utterly OTT Shoot ‘Em Up starring Clive Owen as a modern day Man with No Name. Wait till you see what he does with carrots.
 
And that marked the end of today’s fun and games.

No room at the inn

Restaurants, restaurants everywhere and not a place to sit.
 
I went out to have something to eat a little later last night, thinking that the rush should largely be over. Wrong. I wandered around locally, but had no luck. I went to Causeway Bay because I thought I might have more luck there. Time Square was packed with people. There was some Xbox demo outside, although it wasn’t exactly attracting a large crowd. I wandered around and had no more luck than I’d had earlier. I went into Yoshinoya, but there was a queue; I spotted Pizza Hut, but knew there’d be a queue, and had no desire to go there. Other places – small Chinese restaurants – had queues outside them. In the end, I went to Citysuper in Time Square and bought sushi, although they didn’t have much of a selection left. Eel or eel, and that was about it.
 
I went into Parknshop afterwards for additional supplies. There was an in-store commentary outlining Spring Festival customs for visitors to Hong Kong. I was instructed to wear a new pair of red underpants, which merely reminds me that I should go to M&S while I’m here and buy some new pairs. Whether they’re red is another matter.