celebrating mid-autumn festival the right way.
Eclipsed by the formidable Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival (Zung Cau Zit) largely goes unnoticed in the UK, silently slipping by western consciousness. I have vague recollections as a child of going to my local Chinese/Asian community centre to celebrate, lighting lanterns and eating moon-cake. Nowadays, the only time I know it’s Mid-Autumn Festival is by the appearance of a box of moon-cakes on the kitchen table. Similarly in Hong Kong, the deluge of advertisements showcasing the new, exciting types of mooncake notify me ‘tis the season. Embarrassingly enough, if you asked me last week, I wouldn’t be able to explain the story behind the celebrations (disgraceful really).
Now, let me attempt to redeem myself and share my recently acquired knowledge of the origin story behind this national holiday. *Ahem* In ancient times there were 10 suns (global warming ain’t got nothing on this), making life quite terrible for the people of earth. Cue the hero Hou Yi, who shot down all but one sun and made life bearable again, yay! Impressed by his actions, the immortal Wangmu gave him an elixir granting immortality. Not wanting to leave his wife Chang’e, Hou Yi gave the potion to her for safekeeping. However, knowledge of this potion was soon discovered by one of his apprentices (!!), who attempted to obtain it for himself. Knowing she would be overpowered, Chang’e drank the potion, becoming immortal and choosing the moon as residence to be near her husband. Upon hearing his wife’s fate, Hou Yi took her favourite fruit and food to be offered as sacrifice, which was in turn adopted by the people who heard this tragic tale.
Cut to modern times and Mid-Autumn celebrations are in abundance in Hong Kong, with lantern displays at Victoria Park or TST. Moon-cakes, starfruit and persimmons were generously provided by one of my teachers in class – getting the biggest piece of egg yolk in your slice of moon-cake signals good fortune for you! An attempt to view the festivities in Causeway Bay on Saturday was thwarted by a sudden downpour of rain (shakes fist at sky). Luckily, nicer weather was to be had on Sunday, where we saw a lovely display at TST and later headed down to Repulse Bay – perfect for a more chilled out celebration away from the crowds.
Is there more to life than food?
In the entirety of a month, all I’ve ‘cooked’ so far are as follows: instant ramen, cereal, salad and pasta. There’s something so unappealing about cooking when you’re given a tiny kitchen, a hot plate with settings such as ‘roast’ and ‘warm milk’ as well as having to start from scratch with usual cupboard essentials. Although I do expect (and plan) to cook on a more regular basis, let me kick off a series whereby I can somewhat justify eating out over making my own meals.
小籠包 (sui long bao/xiao long bao)
Not a traditional HK delicacy, having originated from Shanghai, but delicious nonetheless! So, what are they? ‘Little-basket-buns’ is the literal translation, but to be slightly more descriptive, they’re really just steamed pork dumplings filled with soup. Good chopstick skills come in handy when picking up a dumpling – be careful not to tear the pastry, lest your joy be dashed away in one swift trickle of soup T-T If you’re feeling reckless, you can eat it all in one and be burnt by the scalding soup filling inside, or to be proper, pierce the dumpling, drink the soup and then eat (adding chilli oil/black vinegar/ginger to taste).
- Paradise Dynasty
6/F, Lee Theatre Plaza, 99 Percival Street, Causeway Bay
Not gonna lie, but the sheer novelty of the multi-coloured sui long bao was the main only factor leading me to try this place. With eight exciting colours come eight… intriguing flavours: original, ginseng, foie gras, cheese, garlic, black truffle, crab roe and Szechuan. I snagged the Szechuan and garlic, which despite my initial trepidation were so good! The other dishes we ordered (two noodle dishes + 20 original dumplings) also did not disappoint so by the end of the meal, we left satisfied and most importantly not out of pocket (£10pp)!
Unfortunately study beckons, thus here ends my post, but not my food odyssey – more next time!
Oh and these places ain’t so bad either:
- Crystal Jade | La Main Xiao Long Bao
4/F, World Trade Centre, 280 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay
- The Dining Room
4A/F, Langham Place, 8 Argyle Street, Mong Kok
Aside from wading through the hordes of people hammering to get home during rush hour, life in Hong Kong could not be more different from living in the UK – apocalypse or not. So, having been inspired by the influx of study abroad blogs I see on my newsfeed and wanting to satiate that restless nagging in me to do something more…proactive?? (reflective???) during my time abroad, I have decided to join the crowd and document my own little journey!
To be very succinct; so far, so good! Pre-departure briefings and orientations from both Nottingham and HKU really instilled in me the fear of homesickness and culture shock for the first leg of the study abroad period. Thus, it surprised me how quickly I found myself settling into living in an entirely new environment. That’s not to say it hasn’t been challenging; from navigating around the densely packed city, (don’t even mention the labyrinth that is HKU’s campus), to trying to conquer the language barrier (my spoken Cantonese is so terrible it might as well be nonexistent), it’s been quite a rapid learning slope. As yet, I’ve gotten to know little pockets around Hong Kong quite well, utilised a smidgen of Cantonese here and there, as well as getting to grips with differences in university teaching (there’s a plethora of different assessment methods o.o).
With orientation activities organised by the university, meeting new people, exploring the city and eating SO MUCH food, the weeks have gone by in such a blur. Becoming so familiar and comfortable with the city, it feels strange to realise that I’ve only been here a month and foreign to realise I’m here to actually study…
As I live blissfully in the honeymoon phase, casually brushing off the culture-shock paranoia (it’s gotta affect me soon, right?), I aim to document my travels on a regularish basis. Stay tuned for more? If not, at least it’s something for my mum to read.