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Musings on Travel, Fashion & Fun


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A Taste of Handmade Tradition – Kim Hock Seng bak kwa 金福成肉干

Kim Hock Seng bak kwaThis Chinese New Year, I opted to skip the horrendous queue at Lim Chee Guan (a friend queued 6 hours) and try a different house of bak kwa (barbequed pork), one who doesn’t believe in making their customers queue for their candied meat (yes I am that extreme lol).

Kim Hock Seng Bak Kwa

Mr Ong Geok Hoo, 64 has been running his bak kwa business with this wife for more than 40 years. They prepare their bak kwa from scratch in their shop. In a media interview, he said “My bak kwa packaging has never changed, my recipe has never changed. My white singlet and white shorts have also not changed.

The shop is famous for its Original Barbecued Pork Slices and Bacon Bak Kwa (not available during Chinese New Year; I am so coming back to try this). Mr Ong encourages his customers to call and place an advance order at least three days before so they can just come to the shop to collect-and-go. His order chits stuck on the shop’s wall are so plenty they can masquerade as wallpaper. Traditional red boxes are piled high around the shop while trays of cooled bak kwa are ready to be packed for the next day’s orders. It’s definitely hard work, but Mr Ong is adamant about carrying on his craft for at least 10 more years. Expectedly, his 3 children have no intention to carry on the business.

Kim Hock Seng bak kwa
Kim Hock Seng’s bak kwa are less vibrant in colour and much thicker than those I have tried before, but they are tender to the bite with little fat. In fact, I meant to take the box of bak kwa out just to take one photo, but by the time I put it back, it was 500 grams lighter. In just 10 minutes. Oops.

Kim Hock Seng (Seng Kee) 金福成
Address: 34 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089141
Tel: (65) 6221 4882
Opening Hours: 11:00AM to 10:00PM (Mondays to Saturdays); 3:00PM to 10:00PM (Sundays)

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Taiwan – Living in History at 銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

欢迎来到銃樓民宿 Welcome to Chong Lou Minsu!

When visiting heritage-rich Kinmen, there is nowhere better to stay than a historical resident house. These traditional southern Fujianese 闽南 buildings often came with a rich history and heartening stories as Kinmen was the site of fierce fighting between Communist and Nationalist forces when the latter withdrew from the mainland in 1949. I stayed at Chong Lou Minsu 銃樓民宿 located in the Shuitou village cluster.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

One of the most distinguishing cultural characteristics of Kinmen would be the red-bricked Min-Nan style architecture and villages, mirroring those found in Zhangzhou and Quanzhou where most Kinmenese immigrants came from.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Shuitou in Jinchen Town was a community inhabited mostly by the Huang clan. The 18-house complex of the Huang clan, constructed during the Qian-lung reign is characterized by its lower gates and walls, wide roofs, smooth and flat stone plates in the yards, and alleys between houses leading to narrow passes.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Spotting the signage for our minsu

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Chong Lou Minsu was the movie setting for a Taiwanese idol drama Summer Fever 戀夏38℃. It was the home of the main actor Ah Kuan 阿宽。This signage at the entrance was left untouched after the movie was completed. It’s also easier for us to identify which is our minsu out of the umpteen houses along the row!

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Poster of Summer Fever proudly displayed in the minsu

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

这不是阿宽,是阿凯 This is not Ah Kuan, but Ah Kai who loves to get into my camera frame lol. Scoot! :D

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Looking at the western-style Quanzhou white stone wall house built in 1934, I felt like I stepped back into history. Nice.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Shuitou villagers mostly engaged in agriculture or fishery, which may explain the use of fishes to adorn the house exterior. Fishes also mean abundance “鱼=余” in Chinese so it’s a prosperity symbol.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

OMG, this is the first time I am seeing a hand-drawn well pump, and it works! Someone quick pass me a bucket of clothes to wash haha!

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

I may be living in history, but I still have wifi to link me back to civilization! Phew, and I was just about to hunt for carrier pigeons ☺

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

An air of serenity greeted me at Kinmen; everything just slowed down and bade me to enjoy the calmness…a hard-earned one considering the years of war the island had gone through.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Say ni hao to the minsu owner Sister Li. She is a burst of energy and so friendly! She used to drive a 小蜜蜂 or Little Bee, which is a truck selling snacks and everything you can think of to the army boys around Kinmen. Maybe that’s why she has a motherly feel about her, and very huggable haha!

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

The main hall of the minsu decorated with cultural momentos and memorabilia

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

The wind-lion god 風獅爺 is something very symbolic of Kinmen. Seen here as part of a chess set.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Side hall

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Little courtyard perfect for a little chat or intimate meal gatherings

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Kitchen

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Chong Lou has rooms that can accommodate 1 to 8 people. They come with the essential basic amenities such as air-con, TV, wifi and ensuite bathroom.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Exploring the rooms upstairs

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Large enough for the whole family or a group of friends

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

I was intrigued by the stairwell with an iron grille. In the past, residents would lock up this stairwell when they slept at night to prevent pirates from sneaking in and kidnapping them. Of course, there is no need for that now.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

And here’s my cosy little room! Shucks I should have brought my cheongsam to match the ambience lol

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Toilet equipped with bath towels and shampoo/bath gel. And flushing system :D

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

It’s a nice, sunny day to explore Chong Lou’s surroundings!

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Most of the Min Nan style houses here are relatively well-preserved. I was soaking in the atmosphere with much enthusiasm, and couldn’t stop taking photos.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Jinshui Elementary School
The building of Jinshui Elementary School in 1931 at the sponsorship of overseas Shuitou natives marked the beginning of new-style school architecture in Kinmen. During the Japanese occupation, the school had served as a wartime makeshift hospital. It was later transformed into an elementary school.

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

A very important place to note just opposite the school – food! :D

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Look what I spotted growing just beside Deyue Tower 得月楼 – a tree full of longans! Yumz!!

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

All in a day’s work

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

The minsu provides a hearty breakfast. Just come eat with the rest of the guests at the communal dining hall, very village-feeling indeed. And a great way to make friends :)

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

This Cantonese porridge, a Kinmen delicacy, was chockful of ingredients and delish to the max! And I am still thinking of it…

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

Bon Appetite!

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

A group photo of us all from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore
We may come from different parts of Asia, but we are one happy big family in Kinmen!

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu, Kinmen 金门

And the 2 monkeys showing how much they enjoyed Kinmen :D

銃樓民宿 Chong Lou Minsu
金門鎮金城鎮前水頭84號
Tel: 0980 988 077 / 0919 761 231 (Look for 李碧玉 Li-jie/Sister Li)
Website: www.5657.com.tw/baewan
Email: libe03@yahoo.com.tw

Getting to Kinmen
You can reach Kinmen by domestic flight in approximately 1 hour. Flights are aplenty daily from 3 domestic carriers from Kao Hsiung, Taipei, Taichung or Tainan. You will fly to Kinmen Airport金門尚義機場。

Another way to get to Kinmen is via Xiamen International Ferry Terminal or just from Wutong port which is close to Xiamen airport (around 30 mins). Another way is from Quanzhou Shijin port which takes about one hour (Taiwan passport only).

When to go Kinmen?
Kinmen worth visiting all year round. The annual average temperature is around 21 degrees Celsius, though it can get quite hot in summer (hats and sunscreen are a must unless you are aiming for aboriginal-worthy tan skin). There are northeasterly winds during the winter and the rainy season runs from April through to September. Travel between Taiwan and Kinmen is often affected by heavy fog during early Spring.

In spring, admire the golden sea of rapeseed flowers. In summer, hang out on the beach. Autumn is the best season to feast on fat yellow fish and crabs. Come winter, migratory birds make for an impressive sight.

Map of Kinmen: bit.ly/KinmenMap

Getting to Chong Lou Minsu
Map:
http://www.5657.com.tw/baewan/p04.htm
Public Transport: Take the public bus from Kinmen Shang Yi airport to Jincheng Bus Station金城車站, change to Bus 7 towards Shuitou Village水頭村莊. Alight at Li Gong Suo Zhan 里公所站, turn left and walk 1 minute to the minsu.

Pick-up from airport or car rental (with GPS navigation) can be arranged by the minsu, contact Sister Li via mobile or email for more details. You can ask the minsu to help arrange for sight-seeing activities as well. I would recommend getting a driver/self-drive if you can so as to save travelling time and see more attractions. It’s pretty affordable.

Read more posts on Kinmen
Explore Taiwan with Spunktitud3!

Photography – Cuttlefish Crisp

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Making Cuttlefish

I enjoy snacking on cuttlefish crisps, but this was the first time I saw it being freshly prepared in front of my eyes at Chai Wee Cuttlefish, Chinatown Complex #02-59/65…how very interesting. They make pig ear biscuits on-the-spot too…a pity it wasn’t made on that day. I was so desperate to try some of their pig ear biscuits – I begged the owner to give me some to try. The amused lady gave me half a packet from her own stash. How embarrassing, lol.Am glad I found this stall, in our race to automate everything we can (other than giving birth via robots), we have lost the human touch that everything feels emotionless, cold. So it’s great to see how my cuttlefish crisps are receiving much loving attention – and it’s so worth the extra carbs, burrrrp! :)


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Hong Kong – Star Café 星座冰室: Eat a bowl of culture

Star Cafe 星座冰室

Eat a bowl of Hong Kong…in tomato broth
As I set out to document Hong Kong’s authentic eats, I came across this bowl of broth made with fresh tomatoes and eggs. It wasn’t easy to find at all, and I found the place only when my Hong Kong friend brought me there.

Sun Kee Cheese Noodles 新記餐廳

Located in the same nondescript building as another famous eat Sun Kee Cheese Noodles, Star Cafe is even more hidden as it is located underground, known only to the locals.

Sun Kee Cheese Noodles 新記餐廳

Look out for Dadol Hotel’s sign and turn right into the flight of downward staircase. I hope the hotel never closes down, else I will have to find a new sign marker LOL

Star Cafe 星座冰室

Go right down the flight of stairs with the “Moon Spring Foot Massage” sign above. You will see 星座冰室, the Chinese name for Star Cafe.

Star Cafe 星座冰室

Welcome to a piece of Hong Kong’s local culture :)
Started in 1966, Star Cafe is part of a unique Hong Kong dining culture called bing sutt (冰室) popularized around the 1950s as a result of the convergence of cultures. After the 2nd World War, Western food became increasingly popular in Hong Kong with the British colonization. However, such food remained beyond the financial reach of many people. Local diners started offering dishes with Western influences at affordable prices (this must be one of the earliest versions of fusion food).

Star Cafe 星座冰室

This type of fusion cuisine or “soy sauce Western 豉油西餐” (adding of Chinese ingredients into Western dishes) started the trend for cha chan teng 茶餐厅 and bing sutt 冰室 (smaller menu than 茶餐厅), serving localized versions of Western comfort food as well as iced drinks, coffee, and tea. Such places are no-frills, low-priced and operate round-the-clock. The perennial air of boisterousness is characteristic in such places.

Star Cafe 星座冰室

Star Cafe is so well-known for its tomato noodles that a large portion of their menu is dedicated to it
It is one of the few places which use fresh tomatoes to make their special broth while most others use Campbell soup.You have a choice of macaroni, instant noodles, vermicelli or spaghetti, as well as to add ingredients such as beef/chicken, luncheon meat, vegetables, etc.

Star Cafe 星座冰室

At HK28 (USD3.60) a bowl, it is an affordable eat for anyone

Star Cafe 星座冰室

I had my fave Nissin instant noodles with pork chop and luncheon meat
Funny how the humble instant noodles tastes so good in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong - Star Cafe

Star Cafe 星座冰室

The spaghetti version – eaten with chopsticks
Don’t let the gooey appearance of the broth put you off – tuck in and slurp it all up! The taste is light without a presence of sourness from the tomatoes.

Star Cafe 星座冰室

Hong Kong-style milk tea or Si mutt lai cha 絲襪奶茶 (served hot/cold)
This iconic drink made from a mixture of strong black tea and a lot of evaporated/condensed milk and sugar (added by the customer), is also called ‘silk stocking tea’ after the shape of the sackcloth bag used to filter the tea leaves. The smoothness of its taste, or how creamy and full-bodied it is (香滑), distinguishes a good cup of tea.This beverage is very much ingrained in Hong Kong’s culture – Hong Kongers consume a total of 900 million cups a year, and rank it No. 4 of representative Hong Kong cuisine (Top Eat 100, Feb 2012). 

Star Cafe 星座冰室

Bon appetite! :)

Star Café 星座冰室
Shop No. 36, Champagne Court, 16-20 Kimberley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
尖沙咀金巴利道16-20號香檳大廈地庫36號舖
Tel: +852 2724 4408
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 8:00AM – 9:30PM
Nearest Train Station: Tsim Sha Tsui station (red line) Exit B1 or B2 (5 mins walk)