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Where's Jonny? Care to dine with me? You would think that 11 years of daily food tasting for a living might put me off?......au contraire! Chomp away with me across 6 continents. Seduced like a bloodhound to the scent of good food, I anticipate the misty waft of steaming broths, the satisfying crunch of mudbugs and the vibrant aroma of freshly pulverised lemongrass. Buon appetito

A bad Hehir day

HONG KONG | Saturday, 3 March 2007 | Views [963]

There's a marketing term for the phenomenon.  Its when a consumer on a hot day at Wimbledon will pay aliterally any amount of money for a cold drink.  Less for the second and so on.  The fact is, I craved an English breakfast after 10 days of solid noodle eating.  It was however, to all go Pete Tong.....

Breakfast was at the YMCA - my serious-faced receptionist could only advise KFC or Macdonalds as serving an English breakfast in Hong Kong.

"The Lord is my Shepherd," played in the background as I forced down the worst example of scrambled eggs I have ever eaten, bacon with so little meat it was literally lard and toast with jam and......salted butter....noooooooooooooo.

It was a bad start and my experience made me more determined to find something worthy of heavenly worship.

Back to the underground and my heart was given small defibilerative shocks as people appeared from below wearing green masks.  "Was there a Sars outbreak? ........Maybe, its just the pollution." I thought trying to remain calm.  It was becoming a very hot day indeed, both sunny and subtropically humid.

My anxiety though intensified when posters appeared within the tube station warning of mosquito borne diseases such as Japanese C Encephalitis and Dengue fever.  "Act now!" they proclaimed.  There was no whatsoever, just a phone number. 

As I reached the surface the heat had well and truly set in and the invisible waft of raw effluent from the drains was everywhere.  It mixed happily in the air with a hundred outdoor stalls selling piles of dried fish, medicinal roots and other unidentifiable dried things.  The stench lingered in the throat, refusing to go.

As I walked, dusty construction workers used noisy machines to drill away whilst hanging precariously above on bamboo scaffolding.  I watched an ugly, bloated, goateed American with an impossibly petite (presumably internet) date as I reached the Park.

By 3pm I was searching for what I had read was a Hong Kong ritual.  It was tea, which came with various Dim Sum and famous eggy tartes. mmmmm

At Wan Chai, driven by hunger, I settled for a unremarkable restaurant having walked round the blocks for 30mins no wiser as to which one was actually a tea room.

Something was wrong as soon as I had sat down and opened the menu.  There were no dim sum and no meat dishes.  There were no egg tartes.

Ordering a simple dish of fried prawns thinking that nothing could possibly go wrong, a dish of shocking ineptitude arrived at my table.  In Hong Kong its not just Gucci, Burberry and Rolex that are ripped off.  No.  This fraudulent operator had forged my prawns!!!!  Hiding inside the thickest, greasiest batter imaginable were anaemic shapes of tastelessness.  Their "backs" were marked by some prawn-like stripes (probably the owner's son with an orange felt-tip pen.

I had been duped. 

Trudging back through a sun drenched Kowloon park I noticed the quiet.  Several sections of the park were shut off due to avian flu and all the birds had been taken away to a secure location - "the crematorium?" I pondered.

There were some beneficiaries of the days thermals - sharp outlines of resident eagles circled effortlessly above at alternating heights.  Sometimes there were up to twelve birds gently curving away and occasionally jostling for position if they came to close to each other.

Ancient people practised Tai Chi under equally ancient trees - some reminded me of the zombies from Michael Jacksons "Thriller," such were their rickety movements.

I took my best friend, Mr C. Amera to the Canon centre for repairs.  The previous evening, right in the middle of the Hong Kong display of lights he had decided to shut himself down and had not spoken since.

100 floors of vertical, vertigo-inducing skyscraper made my prawn shapes jump around inside my tummy wanting to be released the way they entered.

By 8pm and having walked all day I felt anger for the first time.  It pulsed inside my arms and head like a garden hose under pressure.  My pace quickened as I moved with urgency for a place to eat and redeem a day of miseries.

Maybe it was the need to satisfy my earlier unfulfilled craving for breakfast or the disappointment of lunch - I had to find somewhere.

My mouth went dry as I entered the Lang Kwai Fong area.  This was a busy part of the city especially as it was a Friday night.  People in suits chatted noisily beneath the neon glow whilst a man danced camply in full a latex Batman suit vainly attempting to woo visitors to his bar.  On another occasion I had seen his friend Spiderman outside a rival bar.

The city by now was full of predicatable roast duck and pork aromas and I decided on a quick beer to satiate my thirst and perhaps calm my tenseness at having had such bad luck.

"San Miguel please," I asked the barman in the buy bar.  I knew this was brewed in Hong Kong, tasted ok and was likely to be cheap.             "50 dollars," (4 quid) the barman said passing me the open bottle and looking at me in expectation of a tip.  I was more bitter than the yeasty liquid in the bottle.

Drinking quickly from the bottle I hardly enjopyed its coldness.

Moving from the crowded bar and onto the packed streets, dodging endless lines of honking red Toyota taxis I suddenly saw a familiar facade.  Yes, it was the McDonalddy place witht he uncomfortable chairs but the comforting food.    "At least I'll get something decent in there," I thought, licking my lips in anticipation.

Having been seated I opted quickly as I was hungry and weary in so many ways.  My nerves were at rock bottom.  "Errrm, lamb chops with Singapore curry," I blurted, "and a beer please."

Now as a foodie I should have immediately known better.  New Zealand lamb chops are delicious if treated simply.  Middle Eastern people are the kings at this. Barbecued simply, served pink and seasoned to perfection.  The Spanish cook lamb well too, a drizzle of olive oil, seasoning and on to the plancha. 

Did my urge for good food render my ability to choose wisely redundant? 

Out it came.  Ten tons of white sticky rice, curry as yellow and rounded as any chip shop in England, and my chops stacked on top.  As suspected, I could taste nothing over the flavours of the curry.

As my Chinese tea went cold in my hand I reflected on what was known in latin as a culinarium disasterous horribilus.

This was one day in my year of discovery and there were many, many more to come.


to be continued.......


Tags: Food & eating

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