Monday, February 21, 2011

Hong Kong: Tonkichi Tonkatsu

Arriving in Hong Kong from our 8AM flight, we got to Causeway Bay just in time for lunch. We immediately headed for Tonkichi Tonkatsu, a casual and reasonably priced restaurant that is just a stone’s throw away from our hotel. 
As the restaurant’s name hints at, Tonkatsu is the house specialty, and the menu comes with a short list of items on everything breaded and fried. 
Everyone is given sesame seeds arranged in a container with rigged sides, designed to crush the seeds.  Once they are pulverized, you can add the tonkatsu sauce. 
The kids and I are too hungry to be adventurous so we played safe and each one of us ordered the regular kind. The sidings of shredded cabbage can be refilled - with compliments.
Chris opted for the Curried version.
After tasting their version of tonkatsu, you will agree with me that from henceforth on there is tonkatsu - and then there is Tonkichi Tonkatsu:  crunchy batter on the outside, with thick (and I kid not when I say thick) and moist cutlets of tender pork on the inside. 

As if it is even possible to make this dining experience better than it already is, we found ourselves the lucky recipient of a $100 Tonkichi Tonkatsu gift certificate from a complete stranger who just happened to go into the restaurant looking for a table to give the expiring coupon to.  Lucky Us!
Tonkichi Tonkatsu Seafood 
Room 412, Podium 4
World Trade Centre
280 Gloucester Road
Causeway Bay

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cars, Trains and Other Things That Go! {Getting Around Hong Kong}

Traveling to any place always mean a LOT of walking.  If you are brave enough to bring your toddler and/or pre-schooler, may I suggest that you bring an extra BIG chunk of your humor, patience and forbearance as well.  

Before any trip, what I do is I impress upon my kids that traveling is for BIG kids who can walk on their own - because babies who need to be carried belong at home.  But I do remind myself to take small steps (keeping in mind that those little legs cannot keep up with mine) and I let them sit down for a break if we have been walking far too long.  So far, I have not succumbed to carrying any of my kids on any trip.  I warn you:  Once you give in, they won't stop asking.

Like the Philippines, Hong Kong is a collection of islands, an archipelago, divided into four main areas: Hong Kong Island; Kowloon and the New Territories (located on the peninsula attached to the China mainland); and the Outlying Islands.  Because of the geography, there is a plethora of transportation services available.

R, most especially, was fascinated by this.   For him it was like jumping into the pages of his favorite book on transportation…. ferries and junk boats that cross the harbor, escalators, moving sidewalks, cable cars that seem to hang on thin air, double-decker buses, trams and taxis.
excited na excited!
To take us to where we want to go, R always insists on taking Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (MTR).  The underground network of trains is the fastest way to get around the territory.  Although taking the train is usually the fastest way to get there, it doesn’t allow you to view the busy streets and neon lights of HK. 

The MTR shown in the above photo is the one that goes all the way to Disneyland.

At the end of the busy day, with our worn-out feet and fatigued bodies, taking a cab is always a good option.  Since there are 5 of us, the maximum number of occupants allowed inside a cab, taking a taxi also proved to be the most economical choice.

3Open-Air Double Decker Bus
What better way to see all that Hong Kong has to offer than from the top of a big bus?

4Century-old Tram
This narrow double-decker city tram also known in Cantonese as "ding ding" travels at the speed of a snail so you can make sure to see all of the views that HK has to offer.  With a flat fare of only $2, it's the cheapest sightseeing tour around.  Best seats are on the  upper deck.
5.  Peak Tram
image credit
6Cable Car
image credit
The cable car at Ocean Park is always full of people queuing up, inspite of the newly introduced underground train at the park.  This is still the best way to travel between the lower level and the upper level. 

Although we did not find time to visit, Ngong Ping 360 also offers a scenic cable car ride, and if you pay a little more, you can ride one with a glass bottom.   

7Star Ferry
The Star Ferry is a Hong Kong institution, having been around since the 1800’s.  Back in the day, the star ferry was the major connection between Hong Kong island and the Kowloon Peninsula.  It is suggested to take a night time cruise to enjoy the sights during the Symphony of Lights laser show, but if you are squeezed for time, a day time trip is just as good.

Phenomenal Tip:
~ If you are anticipating to make several trips, you can purchase the octopus card which can be used on all of HK's public transport system.
~ Make sure to have a good number of coins in your wallet when you commute as buses and trams request for the exact amount - and change is not given.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hong Kong: Where to Stay

Since summer is officially here, I am sure a lot of you are planning on where to take your family.  This post is still about our Hong Kong Christmas vacation... yeah, I am posting it this late.  But fortuitously, it is still a relevant topic for those of you wanting to visit HK this summer.

Should you opt for a hotel location that is diligently full of activity even up to the deep hours of the night, then Causeway Bay is for you.  The streets are well-lighted from all the neon store signs that as you step out of your hotel door near midnight, it would appear as if it’s daytime if you don’t look up at the night sky.  The Filipinos’ most often choose to reside at the Excelsior Hotel or at the ParkLane Hotel.

Because of the size of my family, the rooms at Parklane are more appropriate for us.  Our room has a stunning view of the harbour and Victoria Park.  You can choose between a queen or twin sized bed.  They have complimentary coffee and tea making facilities and complimentary one distilled water daily.  I am a creature of habit, and I often clean up as I go along.  The housekeeper thanks me for it, and she says so by leaving 3-5 bottles of water each day. :)  haha!
I love it that the bathroom has a see-through wall, all the better to see what the kids are up to... you know, if they scrubbed their bodies thoroughly, or brushed their teeth enough.  No worries, the drapes can be drawn, should the need for privacy arise. :)
If you make a reservation at this hotel, make sure to request for a room with the park/harbor view so you are greeted each morning with a view of the lovely Victoria Park.
Parklane is conveniently located right in the middle of a busy shopping and commercial district.  There are a lot of eateries, cafes and bakeries around.  Wellcome (a local grocery) is right beside it.  

Breakfast is almost always in-room. I wake up half and hour early to prepare an assortment of bread. We have different preferences; I enjoy the slightly bitter taste and chewy rustic texture of multi-grain bread, while the kids enjoy their croissants with Bonne Maman jams; all brought the night before from La Rose Noir Boulangerie (they have an outlet inside Wellcome) or DONQ Boulangerie (with a shop at the basement of Sogo).  What can be better than eating breakfast in your pajamas! 

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Nutrition Guidelines for Young Athletes

There are days when my kids have soccer tournaments and swim meets that are just days apart from each other.  The fast-paced schedule can take its toll on me as I bring them from one meet to the other.  What more the exhaustion it can result to in their active bodies. 
I try to take a more active part in their nutrition as I know it helps restore and properly nourish their fatigued body.  I try to follow whatever nutrition tips their coach gives, and do some more research on the Net on my own.  But the operative word is really TRY.  It is a struggle as I take on so many different roles…  

Far be it that proper nutrition can assure you that your young athlete will turn into a champion - No!  For only proper training and self-discipline can do that.  Taking care of your kids' nutritional needs mean, however, that you are raising a healthy child who has the FULL potential to develop into a confident and winning athlete.
With the team's trophy after her team was declared overall champion in the girls category

With some of her team mates

Here are some of the nutrition guidelines that I try to follow for my kids, which might also be useful for you: 

1.  Carbo load one week or least three days before the event. 
Carbohydrates are the starches and sugars that provide the energy our bodies need to function and grow.  There are two types of carbohydrates:  Simple and Complex. 

SIMPLE CARBOHYDRATES are commonly referred to as sugars.  Examples of these include fruits, honey, candies, and other processed sugars.  They are very easy to digest and get into the blood stream very quickly. This enables the body to benefit from a burst of energy as the body breaks down the sugar and pulls the nutrients out of itAthletes can benefit from moderate amounts of honey and fruits DURING the event day itself.

COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES are most commonly referred to as starch and fiber.  They are more difficult for the body to break down rapidly, which ensures a longer, more sustained supply of energy to the body.  For the purpose of Carbo-loading before an event, what we need to stock on is the COMPLEX kind. 

Our muscles normally store only small amounts of glycogen, and usually, this isn’t a problem. But if your kids start exercising at high intensity, such as when running or swimming, their muscles run out of glycogen which can result to diminished stamina and performance.

Taking in extra doses of carbo 3-5 days before the tournament will enable your kids to super-maximize the storage of glycogen muscle fuel prior to the competition. Indeed a pasta dinner the night before a competition is still a great idea, but it takes extra carbs for a few days before the tournament to effectively carbo load.

2.  Make them go to bed as early as possible, especially if they are getting up early
The night before a meet, my kids always sleep early.  If it means checking up on your kids' room constantly to make sure that they are asleep, then that's what you have to do.  No partying or movies the night before a big event.

3.  Eat well the morning of the event
The general advice for eating breakfast before a competition is to consume a carbohydrate-rich meal about 2–4 hours before the action begins. This will help top off the glycogen stores and ensure a steady supply of blood glucose during competition. 

4.  Recovery between events
After every event, your first priority is your kids’ recovery. Your window of opportunity for recovery starts as soon as their first event is over. Glycogen stores in their bodies need reloading, and fluid and sodium losses need to be replaced.

The waiting time between competitions will vary, so it’s wise to be prepared for any possibility. In addition, tournament and meet venues sometimes have limited access to food and fluids.  What could be worse than knowing that the food concessionares have ran out of food to serve.  So don’t just hope for the best: Plan ahead. That means packing your bag and cooler with the types of fluids and foods your kid will need to keep hydrated and fueled throughout the day.

If the competition happen to extend to lunch, a carbohydrate-rich meal with some lean protein is appropriate. Steer clear of slower-to-digest fried, fatty, or high-fiber foods.  A  few of the good choices are sandwiches, pastas, rice with a viand of lean meat.

If the interval between competitions is just short or uncertain, “grazing” is the best recovery strategy. Grazing involves consuming smaller portions of foods and beverages that are quickly and easily digested. Again, the focus should be mostly on carbs with some lean protein.   Examples are energy bars, sports drinks, yogurts, fruits.

In our case, I usually bring sports drinks, bananas, and honey.  You can experiment and try to come up with a combination on what works for your kids.  It is a general rule however to avoid products that are high in sugar during competition day.  The kids will get the sugar rush, followed by a second half crash! I find that using honey works well if they need that sugar pick me up.

5.  Maintain hydration
It’s also wise to make sure that they are well-hydrated.  I do this by reminding them to drink fluids as soon as they wake up and continuing to drink regularly during the course of the tournament - even if they do not feel thirsty.
Alaska Football Cup at the Ayala Alabang Football Field
here is what we usually have in our snack bag:
For snacking:  sports drink (Blue Bolt by Gatorade, but any brand will do), honey, banana
For Lunch: pasta salad

I will share with you our favorite pasta salad recipe.  My kids love it for the flavor, and I love it because it is nutritious and more importantly VERY EASY to prepare.  This is what I also usually serve them for breakfast on the day of a competition, since it is already a given that I do not favor waking up a minute earlier than necessary, and competitions usually require us to be at the event early in the morning.   I purposely steered clear of tomato-based sauce for fear of food spoilage. 

What you need:
  • Fusilli (but you can use any pasta of your choice)
  • 1 can of brined tuna chunks, drained
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • Several pieces of sliced Italian sausage
  • Sour cream or unflavored yogurt *
  • Japanese mayo
  • chunks of cheese torta (the fusion of tomato and the basil pesto makes ALL the difference in taste.  If you do not have this, fret not, just buy a bottled pesto sauce; it’ll do)
*the addition of sour cream or yogurt is totally optional.  I only put it in mine to make sure the salad stays hydrated without adding of too much of the fattening mayo; it's a PLUS that they get the benefits of the yogurt, too.

Layer all the ingredients in this order:  pasta, tuna, egg, sausage, cheese torta (click here for the recipe).  Bring the yogurt and Japanese mayo in their original container and pour when your child is ready to eat.  Pack everything inside a cooler.
As you can see, it is fuss-free and a complete meal in itself.  Pasta provides the carbo; eggs, tuna, cheese torta and yogurt gives protein; the Italian sausage could weakly pass for protein, I guess, but I added it primarily for flavor; Japanese mayo packs a ton of flavor and comes in a very handy transportable container.

Hope this post helps! 

You can also read up an earlier post with a similar topic, Nutrition and the Young Athlete.

reference materials:
Sports Nutrition For Young Athletes:  Vital to Victory
Fuel Your Young Athlete for Peak Performance
Eating Before & Between Athletic Events
U.S. Youth Soccer:  Athletic Nutrition for Young Athletes

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Christmas Eve Buffet Dinner

Allow me to start this post with an apology for the posting tardiness...  hence, while everyone is brewing over the latest AFP corruption scandal and the aftermath of Reyes' suicide,  here I am recollecting my Christmas Eve dinner....

Similar to our past Christmases in Hong Kong, we again started the Christmas Eve merriment as we partake of the Christmas Eve Buffet Dinner.   Christmas hotel buffets are so popular in Hong Kong that they often sell out, we had to book and pay for our table in advance - one-month advanced! 

The set-up is similar to the open-plan food theaters that line-up our local hotel buffet outlets.  
alaskan king crabs... yum!
The atmosphere is festive, with Santa going around handing out gifts for all the children.  All the tables are bedecked with all sorts of merrymaking equipment needed to ensure that a good time is had by all.
While a buffet dinner is always GRAND, I do not appreciate that the hotel buffets in Hong Kong are grouped into two sets – the first set goes in from 6pm – 8pm, followed by the second set at 8pm-10pm.  Dinner is practically timed with military precision, with a waiter going around to graciously inform you “there is only 30 minutes left.” Having shared that, a Hong Kong style buffet dinner is not recommend if you are dining with three kids - who need assistance in the following areas: getting food, going to the toilet, breaking a fight.  

As you can imagine, it was a choice of either taking heed to the instructions of the waiter who was breathing down on me to "finish in 30 minutes" or attending to the kids.  Clearly, the decision to finish the legs of those  Alaskan King crabs is the top priority! :)
The buffet is priced at HK$325 for the adults and HK$125 for the kids. 
Cafe One
1/F Parklane Hotel
310 Gloucester Road
Causeway Bay
Hong Kong

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Recipe for Sharing: Torta di Formaggio & Smoked Salmon and Caviar Pie

I am sharing with you the recipes I used for the canapes I served during New Year's Eve

The Cheese Torta which was present during my Italian-themed dinner last year is also good for food gift items. The recipe can be halved and put into smaller containers to accommodate several friends.  Trust me, this is one gift that won't get bounced around, it is that good!  It is ideally served as a spread, but I have also used it as a topping for a pasta salad.  You simply cannot do wrong with this recipe.

Sun-Dried Tomato and Pesto Torta di Formaggio / Cheese Torta 
4 garlic cloves
1 1/2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup pine nuts

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

2 cups cream cheese, room temperature (about 2 bars)

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/3 cups drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes

1/3 cup tomato paste

3/4 cup butter, room temperature

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

Fresh basil sprigs

Toasted pine nuts

Baguette slices, toasted

Finely chop garlic in processor. Add basil, 1/4 cup pine nuts, oil and lemon juice. Process until well blended. Add 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Using on/off turns, process just until blended. Transfer pesto to medium bowl.
Coarsely chop tomatoes in processor. Add tomato paste and process until mixture is almost smooth.
Using electric mixer, beat 2 cups cream cheese and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Season with salt and pepper.

Spray 6-cup soufflé dish with nonstick spray. Line with plastic wrap, extending plastic over sides. Spread 3/4 cup cream cheese-butter mixture evenly over bottom of prepared dish. Top with half of tomato mixture, then 1/2 cup cream cheese-butter mixture, then half of pesto mixture. Repeat layering with 1/2 cup cream cheese-butter mixture, remaining tomato mixture, 1/2 cup cream cheese-butter mixture and remaining pesto. Top with remaining cream cheese-butter mixture. Cover and chill overnight. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)
To serve, invert torta onto platter. Peel off plastic. Garnish with basil sprigs and toasted pine nuts. Serve with baguette slices.


    4 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
    2 tablespoons mayonnaise
    1 cup minced sweet onion
    6 ounces cream cheese, softened
    1/2 cup sour cream
    3 1/2 pounds black lumpfish roe
    2 lemons - cut into wedges, for garnish
    3 sprigs parsley, for garnish

    Line an 8 inch roun container with cling wrap or parchment paper and set aside. Stir together the hard-cooked eggs and mayonnaise. Evenly spread into the bottom of the container, and sprinkle the minced onion overtop. Stir together cream cheese and sour cream until smooth, and spread over the onion layer. Cover and chill at least 3 hours in the refrigerator.

    Once completely chilled, unwrap the container and invert the pie to a serving plate.  Spread the lumpfish roe overtop. Run a knife around the edge of the pie, then remove the side of the springform pan. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley sprigs before serving.


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