These feasts, often buffets, typically unfold over a few hours in posh hotels — all the better if they’re of the colonial variety such as the country’s fabled Raffles — and feature heaping tables of sweets (scones, clotted cream, jam, tiny tarts) as well as hearty servings of local savory dishes such as curry, noodles, steamed Chinese buns and more.
I always look forward to the scones, cakes and tarts — what proper post-Colonial Anglophile wouldn’t? But it’s often the dainty finger sandwiches that I covet first. Cucumber, sweet curried chicken — I can never get enough.
So when my monthly virtual lunch-group, the Let’s Lunch bunch, decided on doing high tea for October, little sandwiches immediately went on my docket …
My dear friend Jeanette and I — two women who have been driven by our stomachs in the 20 years that we have been the best of friends — we wake up in the cool grayness of Hong Kong bleary-eyed and starving.
Even in the fog of sleepiness, our mission is clear — we stumble out into the dusty bustle of mid-morning Hong Kong and make our way toward Central. On a corner of narrow Wellington Street lies our destination: Lin Heung Tea House, a dim sum place that has been around since 1928 and is packed most mornings with regulars who head there for a morning dumpling fix, strong pu erh (or po lei as it is known in these parts) and some quality time with the day's newspaper …
My mother called the other day, saying she’d been thinking it was time for a change.
There were protestations, of course — the Germans were doing well in this year’s World Cup. They might win it all again! Why jinx things by folding up my precious flag?
That point, of course, is moot right now. After getting trounced by the Spanish earlier this week, the Germans take to the field today — not to fight for the World Cup. Instead, third place is theirs — if they’re lucky.
Now, when I’m stressed or depressed, I tend to storm the kitchen. So, what to make for this occasion?
“Time to write about some octopus recipes!” my friend Kevin suggested. (Given that I don’t sanction the rallying cry to grill Paul the Psychic Octopus, who predicted, to his German aquarium’s dismay, that Spain would knock Germany out of the semi-finals, I decided to ignore this.)
Something more humane, perhaps. Cookies, for example, seemed harmless enough.
And Martha Stewart had just the recipe …
When done well, soup kambing, as it’s called, is a hefty flavor bomb that’s hard to forget. It comes infused with coriander, cumin, cardamom, turmeric, nutmeg and star anise (among other spices) and dotted with crispy fried shallots and soft onion chunks.
This, no doubt, is the Chanel of soups.
When to have it, however, turned out to be something to consider.
“You can’t have soup kambing now lah,” said my friend Basil, who had told me about Yassin, prompting me to immediately suggest heading there for dinner. ”It’s mabuk food.”
Ahh, drunk food — the dishes that are the perfect panacea when you’re leaving a bar at 2 a.m. and looking for something to quell your hunger and sober you up. In the case of soup kambing, this heady concoction of spices does an especially efficient job of clearing your head and helping you wade out of your Chivas fog.
I didn’t want to have to get drunk in order to try Yassin’s though. So after some persuading, we were on our way.
It began with three women — one in New York, one in Paris, one in San Diego.
Although they lived far, far apart and had never met, they had one thing in common: a deep love for bacon.
“I was just thinking how nice a BLT would be. I only have the L & T, however,” lamented Ellise in Paris.
“And I have the B but not the L and T. Come on over-we’ll combine them … ” I, the New Yorker, said.
“You know, I already bought bacon and tomatoes and was planning on a BLT soon for lunch!” said Nicole in San Diego.
And that, folks, was how our intercontinental BLT lunchdate was hatched.