Saturday, July 30, 2011

Strawberry Jam

From the Farmer's Market: Strawberries in Pints

A highlight of summer's arrival is the return of strawberries to the farmers' markets in the area. These fruits are great to eat as is; fresh from the farmer's market, they are bright and sweet like candy. However, strawberries can be used in other applications-- they can be a fresh fruit topping for a sweet item, or a sauce for a dessert.

Strawberry Jam

We were inspired to make strawberry jam after we saw Ina Garten making strawberry jam in two episodes of Barefoot Contessa. She stated that the process is really simple, and it really is! Our version of strawberry only has three ingredients--lemon, rock sugar, and strawberries--and the whole process can be done in less than an hour. Personally we like to use rock sugar for the clean, cool sweetness that it provides, but feel free to experiment with various types of sugars, as substituting different sugars will result in jams with a different flavor profile.The lemon provides a brightness to the taste of the jam that helps accentuate the strawberries' flavor.

The ability to control the texture and the sweetness of the jam is a fabulous reason to make jam at home; although store-bought jams may be convenient, homemade jams can be made exactly to the individual's liking. It takes only one hour to have a product that captures summer in one bite! We have already made this jam recipe twice and have really enjoyed the fruits of our labor.

Strawberry Jam
(makes approximately 35 ounces of jam)

3 pints fresh strawberries
1/4-1/2 cup rock sugar (the amount depends on your taste, so try the jam while making it)
Juice of one lemon (optional- add for a slightly sour/bright component to the jam)


1. Prepare the strawberries. Clean the strawberries and let dry. After, stem the strawberries and cut larger strawberries into halves/fourths. Miniscule strawberries can be left whole.

Strawberries in the Pot

2. Place the prepared strawberries into a pot, and set the heat to medium. No water is necessary, as the strawberries will begin to release water as they heat up.

Strawberries and Rock Sugar

3. Place the rock sugar into the pot, and stir the strawberries so that the rock sugar is combined.

Boiling Strawberries

4. Turn down the heat to between medium and low when liquid starts to seep from the strawberries. Cook for approximately 20 minutes. Stir the mixture every minute or so, and when the sugar has completely melted, try the liquid to see if it is sweet enough; if necessary, add additional amounts of sugar. Around the last five minutes of cooking, add the lemon juice. The lemon juice will help thicken the mixture and will also provide some brightness to the jam's taste.

Strawberry Jam

5. After cooking, remove the layer of foam from the top of the jam. Although it is edible (feel free to put the foam on a piece of bread and enjoy), when cooled, the foam does not meld in to the jam.

Strawberry + Strawberry Jam + Fresh and Easy Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
 (Strawberry + Strawberry Jam + Two Scoops of Fresh and Easy's Vanilla Bean Ice Cream = A Tasty Treat)

6. Enjoy! Have fun tasting the jam by itself and using it on toast or mixing it with vanilla ice cream to make strawberry ice cream.

You can store the jam by putting the jam into sterilized containers; it serves as a great gift for friends!

P.S. If you do not know how rock sugar looks like, here is an image of a piece of rock sugar:

Rock Sugar

You can find rock sugar typically in your local Asian supermarket. It is usually packaged in boxes.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 6: Walking Around Wan Chai- Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Yoshinoya

Hong Kong Food Festival

With the holidays comes a plethora of various expos in Hong Kong, and so after breakfast we decided to head towards the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) to visit the game expo. There, we found out there was not only just the game expo, but also lots of other festivals/expos like the Hong Kong Food Festvial.

Construction/ Victoria Harbour
Construction/ Victoria Harbour

The expos however were already quite full; there were plenty of attendees-- a wide variety of cosplay donned on some people, and cameras on other people like yours truly. Instead of attending an expo like we had planned, we instead decided to walk around and explore the area.

Golden Bahunia with HKCEC- Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Golden Bahunia with HKCEC- Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Golden Bahunia with China and Hong Kong Flags- Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Right outside HKCEC is Golden Bahunia Square/Expo Promenade, where the Golden Bahunia is located. This sculpture commemorates the return of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China and the formation of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; but other than that, it's a beautiful piece of architecture to look at and to take pictures of! Seemingly popular these days, there are now photographers in Hong Kong waiting at the Golden Bahunia who are trying to earn their living by asking people to pay for pictures that they take of them on the spot.

I highly suggest that you be careful when visiting of your belongings as there are plenty of people there; I could hardly get a picture of the entire Golden Bahunia without anyone in the background! There were also at least three people with the same camera and lens that I had while visiting; don't accidentally get your camera switched!

Black and White- Kowloon, Hong Kong

The location of the Golden Bahunia is also perfect for a view of Kowloon and the ships in Victoria Harbour. For a better view of the Hong Kong Island however, you should go across the harbour to the Avenue of Stars; the large walkway allows for ample space for taking pictures!

Star Ferry and First Ferry Passing Kowloon (East Tsim Sha Tsui)
(Star Ferry/ First Ferry with East Tsim Sha Tsui in the background)

Star Ferry and The Peninsula/ Kowloon- Hong Kong
(Star Ferry/ Peninsula/ Sheraton/ The One/ part of the Hyatt Regency Tsim Sha Tsui)

There is also plenty of activity in terms of passenger ships; the Star Ferry (in green) and ships to Macau and China are numerous!

International Commerce Centre- Hong Kong

Here is the International Commerce Centre, which houses the Ritz Carlton as well as plenty of office space; it additionally is the tallest building in Hong Kong. Last time I visited Hong Kong, this building was not complete, but now it is and is ready for business!

Hong Kong Island
(Fortress Hill/North Point in the background)

I certainly enjoyed the fact that winter in Hong Kong can be quite enjoyable; feeling the breeze while watching the view was very relaxing!

Conrad and Island Shangri-la from Wan Chai, Hong Kong

One can also watch most of Hong Kong Island's skyscrapers from the HKCEC area; with this picture, you can see Central/Admiralty with Pacific Place.

Flags versus HKCEC
Flags- Hong Kong, China, HKCEC at HKCEC

Facing the ocean are three sets of flags- one for Hong Kong, China, and the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre respectively. Near the flags, one can really get an amazing angle of the HKCEC; it is as if the HKCEC is a ship heading out to the ocean with the flags in front.

Expo Promenade- Reunification Monument

On the other side of the Golden Bahunia is the Reunification Monument; getting closer to the monument reveals many intricate details that make it quite interesting.

Hong Kong Food Festival

Back inside, we met another long queue for the Hong Kong Food Festival; be prepared to wait in such lines to get tickets to various expos if you don't head out early in the morning! 

Poles- HKCEC, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Movement- HKCEC, Wan Chai, Hong Kong

We eventually left the HKCEC, of which we only met more people coming in than we did earlier. Afternoons are busy hours for festivals and expos, so take notice when planning your day for such activities!

Grand Hyatt Hong Kong Lobby
Grand Hyatt Hong Kong

Adjacent to the HKCEC is the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, so we decided to visit it as well. Actually viewing the hotel in real life is quite different from the stock photos provided by the hotel; the lobby was extremely dark with sunlight providing most of the light, and other portions of the hotel seemed quite dated.

Landscape and Construction

In an effort to find lunch, we decided to walk in the direction towards the hotel, of which we went through quite a lot of buildings and streets. Right next to the Grand Hyatt was a landscaped area; it was quiet and pleasant, yet the crane in the back was a stark contradiction.

Hong Kong Arts Centre

We also passed through the Hong Kong Arts Centre; it housed plenty of photographs and paintings by various artists-- check it out if you like art galleries and happen to be in Wan Chai!

Hong Kong Police- Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Shell Gas Station- Wan Chai, Hong Kong

Surprisingly enough, our walk led us back to Pacific Place! The Wan Chai Police Station and this Shell Gas sign are ones typically seen when taxis head out from Pacific Place. Walking is a great option in Hong Kong if you are not in a hurry; instead of paying for transportation, you can get some exercise if you walk and see the streets of Hong Kong.

Yoshinoya, Hong Kong Napkin

Since there happens to be a Yoshinoya nearby Pacific Place, we decided to eat there. In Hong Kong, there's more variety in terms of the options offered; not only are there rice bowls, but there are noodle bowls as well and special offers!

Special Italian Tomato Sauce with Beef Bowl- Yoshinoya, Hong Kong

One of my companions ordered one of these specials- a beef bowl but with a tomato sauce on top. The tomato sauce was nothing special- it seemed as if it was canned- but was an interesting addition to the usual beef bowl.

As you may have noticed already, these bowls are disposable styrofoam bowls but instead are reusable bowls with plenty of heft and designs. I wonder why Yoshinoya does not use these types of bowls in the United States.

Beef Bowl- Yoshinoya, Hong Kong

I ordered the regular beef bowl, of which tasted like typical Yoshinoya-- thin fatty beef slices with hints of wine, soy sauce, and onion over a bed of short grain white rice. The rice seemed to be more chewy in Hong Kong though, and the beef was fresh-- no awkward shimmering bluish colors that can be seen when beef slices are left out too long. 

Beef Udon- Yoshinoya, Hong Kong

We also tried out Yoshinoya's Beef udon, which was a very decent bowl of udon. There were fishcake slices and seaweed in addition to the beef, and the udon noodles were chewy and slippery. The broth was special as well; it was not just flavored by a soy sauce base but also stock.

Overall we enjoyed our visit at a Hong Kong Yoshinoya; the slightly lower prices for the items compared to the United States also makes it a good option for a quick lunch. All the items were around 20 HKD.

Thank You for Visiting Wan Chai- Wan Chai, Hong Kong
JW Marriott/ Swire- Admiralty/Central, Hong Kong

And back to Pacific Place we went for a quick rest.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Day 6: Breakfast at cafe TOO in Island Shangri-La- Central, Hong Kong

Island Shangri-La Cafe Too: Logo

After a few days everyone felt better and as a result we all went to cafe TOO for breakfast.

Cafe Too Breakfast

This breakfast was quite special; there were items that we had never seen at cafe TOO in the past-- baked cha siu/barbequed pork buns, chicken egg drop soup, and some "cat ears." Maybe cafe TOO featured these items since it was Christmas Eve, but either way we enjoyed this meal quite a lot.

All of the items as usual were a delight to eat; the baked barbequed pork bun was definitely freshly made if not a bit on the sweet side, and the chicken and corn egg drop soup had minced corn in addition to the minced chicken. Along with a cup of green tea, this breakfast was a great start to a finally more eventful day on the trip. It took long enough!

cafe TOO at Island Shangri-La
Pacific Place
Supreme Court Road
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2820 8571

Hong Kong- The Peak: Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm at 105mm
Hong Kong- The Peak: Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm at 300mm

After breakfast I tried a new lens-- the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR. I did not take it out onto the streets as I should have done, but testing inside the hotel room, some of the advantages of the lens were already evident. If you have been reading for a while, you have already seen some of the pictures I have taken with this 28-300; it is really quite versatile, and the color rendition is more vivid than the 18-105. A new zoom range for me also means more possibilities in terms of capturing various moments!

Pacific Place Christmas Dance 1
Pacific Place Christmas Dance 2

Downstairs, there was plenty of activity at Pacific Place, with different dances and activities to entertain the crowd. There was a large crowd of not only families but couples taking pictures and enjoying the day.

Pacific Place Elevator
(New elevators at Pacific Place)

And soon we were off to the city!

Next post in this series: The Golden Bahunia Square, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, and Yoshinoya in Hong Kong.

Find the rest of the posts in this series at this trip's TRIP INDEX. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Tea Station- Temple City

Tea Station- Temple City

After dinner at Hong Kong Kitchen- San Gabriel, we thought it would be pleasant to have some sort of dessert. So, we visited Tea Station, a recently opened tea shop in Temple City that takes the location of a clothing store.

Green Tea Boba

There we decided to only order one or two items to share, but found out that every person has to order one item for dine-in service. One of my companions decided on a glass of bubble green tea with tapioca pearls/boba. Out of all the places we have tried, Tea Station (or any Tea Ren place) seems to retain most of the tea's flavor and fragrance. Although we like the chewy, tender tapioca pearls and the overall quality of the tea, the bubble green tea is on the sweeter side for our preferences. Asking for half of the amount of sugar will allow the tea to stand out more.
Fruit Tea

Another companion ordered the Caribbean fruit tea, which happened to be on a discount at 3.99 USD during our visit. This tea is also on the sweeter side, but has plenty of fragrance and rich fruity flavors to compensate. There were however no refills, so the little teapot was it for this drink.

Pineapple Yogurt Slush

Also on the discounts placard was the pineapple coconut yogurt snow ice (2.99 USD). Basically, this is a form of pina colada, but the fresh pineapple or coconut milk is not very evident. The basic flavor of a pina colada is there, but the fresh pineapple taste and rich coconut flavor is not.
Taro Tea with Taro Balls and Red Bean

I ordered a bowl of taro soup with red beans and taro balls. Although the taro balls and red beans were tasty, the taro powder soup tasted quite awkward.

If we visit ever again, we'll stick with the tea options. After all, this place is called Tea Station, and it is quite evident that they do items that involve tea very well!

Tea Station
9578 Las Tunas Dr.
Temple City, CA 91780
Tel: (626) 291-5688

Tea Station on Urbanspoon