Architectural masterpieces of KL: The Railway Administration Building

28 12 2010

These days most would associate Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, affectionately referred to as KL, with some of the modern landmarks that have risen in a city that itself rose out of the confluence of the muddy Gombak and the Klang Rivers. KL is a city that I have been very fond of, visiting it on an annual basis since the 1970s when it took six hours on the old trunk road in the back of my father’s car. It is a city that I have long associated with food and shopping, usually ending up staying in budget accommodation off the main shopping belt of Bukit Bintang which also gave access to the wonderful street food in the Jalan Alor and Tong Shin Terrace areas.

Kuala Lumpur features some magnificent architectural masterpieces from the turn of the 20th Century including the Railway Administration Building which was completed in 1917, which is sadly now overshadowed by the new icons such as the Petronas Twin Towers.

It wasn’t until perhaps the 1990s that I started to notice some of the wonderful architectural masterpieces from the turn of the 20th Century, having had the independence to wander around some of its streets, such as the beautiful Sultan Abdul Samad building and Masjid Jamek, and using the trains as a means to travel to KL, who could not but notice the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station and the magnificent Railway Administration Building just across Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin from the station.

One architectural masterpeice, the KL Railway Station, seen through the arches of another, the Railway Administration Building (now the KTMB HQ) across Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin. Both buildings feature Morrish influences and were designed by A.B. Hubback.

With much of the focus on the new icons of KL, less attention is now placed on these mainly Moorish architecture inspired buildings – the work of the Public Works Department, the PWD (which was incidentally led by the very able Mr Charles Edwin Spooner at the end of 19th Century, before he was appointed the General Manager of the FMS Railways in 1901 – thus having a hand in the Railway Buildings as well). The Masjid Jamek, as well as the two Railway Buildings built in the early part of the 20th Century were designed by an architect with the PWD, a Arthur Benison Hubback, who incidentally rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the British Army during the First World War, and had the good fortune of working under the architect of Sultan Abdul Samad Building, Arthur Charles Alfred Norman. Besides being responsible for some of the iconic architecture of KL Hubback also was responsible for works such as the Ipoh Railway Station and work in the sister colony of Hong Kong, the most notable work being the terminal station of the Kowloon to Canton Railway at Tsim Sha Tsui (which sadly was demolished in 1977, leaving only the Clock Tower, which now serves as a landmark in Tsim Sha Tsui, behind).

The former Kowloon Railway seen during construction in 1914. It was demolished in 1977 with only the Clock Tower, now a landmark in Tsim Sha Tsui, remaining. The station was designed by an architect with the Selangor PWD, A.B. Hubback who was responsible for some of the iconic buildings of Kuala Lumpur (source Wikipedia).

Tsim Sha Tsui's historic clock tower (1915) ... the last remnant of the Kowloon Railway Station.

The Railway Administration Building, now the Headquarters of KTM Berhad (KTMB), has been one that I had longed to visit for a long time, but somehow never got to in all those years passing through the Railway Station. It was one that I would always hold in awe, with its age browned façade dominated by moorish styled arches and domes. Based on the information plaque at the entrance to the compound, the building is a “fine example of Moorish architecture reflecting the Ottoman and Moghul glory of the 13th and 14th Centuries blended with Gothic and ancient Greek designs of the 14th Century. The ground floor is adorned with 97 large frontal Gothic arches and 4 smaller arches. The high and wide verandahs skirting the building create a cooling effect and are suitable for the constant high climatic temperatures in Malaysia. The first floor has 94 large arched windows of Gothic design and 4 circular arches of smaller size. The second floor has 171 Gothic arches and 4 large and 12 smaller circular arches. Five domes sit majestically on top of the building, each surrounded at four corners entwined columns. They are of orthodox Greek design typical in the 14th century. This historical building suffered serious damage twice in its lifetime, firstly during the Second World War when its North wing was bombed and secondly when the same wing on the second floor was gutted by fire in 14 November 1968.

The moorish inspired age-browned façade and the main central dome of the Railway Administration Building in KL.

Another view of the age-browned façade of the Railway Administration Building through one of the arches.

Stepping into the building for the very first time, I could not but be amazed by the sheer splendour of its Moorish inspired design. As the information plaque rightly describes the verandas, they are indeed cool and airy, and dominated by a wonderful row of Gothic styled arches that brings to mind those of the interiors of some of the magnificent Gothic cathedrals and churches of Europe and perhaps the Mosque of the Caliphs in Cordoba and to an extent CHIJMES in Singapore. Unfortunately, the upper floors of the building are out of bounds, being where the offices of KTMB are located and my exploration of the building was confined to the ground floor. One of the features that can be appreciated from the ground floor at the main entrance lobby of the building is the beautiful central staircase which spirals below the central dome of the building, featuring some wonderful wrought iron work on its banisters for which a visit to the building is certainly worthy of. If you are ever in KL, do take the time to visit this magnificent building, one that is often passed over for some of the more modern icons of a city that is in fact blessed with some wonderful architectural masterpieces, particularly those given by those highly talented colonial architects who played a big part in the infrastructure development not just of KL but in some of the other British colonies at the turn of the 20th century.

The central staircase below the central dome provides access to the upper floors of the building (which is out of bounds).

The central staircase.

A photograph in the hallway showing the building and the railway station.

The building also features some beautiful ironwork.

A window seen through one of the frontal arches.

A view across Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin through one of the arches.

Magnificent gothic arches from the exterior corridors of the building.

A view of the Gothic arched corridor at the back of the building.

A broken part of the buildings cornice lying at the side of the building.

A view of the staircase at the wing of the building.

A semi-circular flight of steps at the wing of the building.

An old signal post on display at the front of the building.

The frontal arches.

In the gardens in front of the building.





Gimme that Bling Thing!

24 08 2010

One of the delightful things about Hong Kong is that there are many surprises that await as one wanders through the maze of streets and back alleys. There is much to savour, from the sights and sounds presented by the colourful streets, to the sumptous smells wafting out of the many eating places, and also to the many tempting objects on offer at the glittering retail outlets all around. There is quite an interesting mix of just about anything one may desire in the many shops, from items of luxury to items that would appeal to the young and trendy. It is in the latter that Hong Kong does offer a host of surprises. Chic is not just everywhere and anywhere. It is in many ways a way of life in some of the more interesting streets of Hong Kong.

Shops that surprise are very much in evidence on the streets of Hong Kong.

A fashion outlet with a South Asian theme in Central being one.

One such area where there is a concentration of hip, is in Tsim Sha Tsui. Nestled in what appears to be a back lane off an area which had once been associated with the affordable fashion of the many factory outlets that once dominated the area, Granville Road, Granville Circuit offers just about anything the young and trendy could desire … and at prices are not far off from what one might have expected at the factory outlets that had once dominated the area.

A large concentration of trendy outlets and lots of Bling Bling ones can be found around Granville Road and Granville Circuit.


Scenes along Granville Road. The shops offer a little more than the lingerie shops that seem to dominate the road.

Walking along Granville Road, the countless lingerie shops as well as what is apparently one of Hong Kong’s most haunted buildings, may serve as a distraction, and one could be forgiven for thinking that by turning off the main street to Granville Circuit, one would be led to a seedy back alley. At first glance, it did resemble one of the back streets of London’s Soho. Walking down the street, the illuminations provided by the bright neon signs of an entertainment outlet that one might associate with London’s Soho, casts a glow on a row of shops to be discovered – there are many little boutiques and outlets for the young: clothes, shoes, accessories, and lots of bling things that have hip written all over them. That apparently I was to find, was only the tip of the iceberg. Much more of these were to be discovered in a nondescript and somewhat tired looking shopping arcade off Granville Circuit, the Rise Shopping Arcade. Walking through the somewhat run down entrance, one is seemingly transported into a time warp. The shopping arcade looking as if it would have been more at home in the 1960s and 1970s, than something that exists in the 21st Century. But the archaic looking entrance and stairwell had masked what had awaited … taking the escalator up to the three floors of small outlets, I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer quantity of small but very hip outlets, each independently run by the many young and aspiring designers that have populated the shopping arcade.



Set amongst the back lanes off Granville Road, Granville Circuit is a mecca of street fashion waiting to be discovered.

Granville Circuit offers a glimpse into the hip in fashion on the streets of Hong Kong ...

The lights of an entertainment outlet being reflected off a windscreen on Granville Circuit. Set amongst some rather dark alleyways that perhaps resemble the back streets of London

Shop fronts on Granville Circuit ...


More shops on Granville Circuit.

Geck Geck spent hours browsing through the shops along Granville Circuit and in the Rise Shopping Arcade.

The glitter on Granville Circuit is in a rather old shopping arcade named Rise.

Stepping into the Rise Shopping Arcade transports one back in time ...

For some of the younger and more trendy, Geck Geck being one, wandering around Granville Circuit and Rise, offered hours of wonderment (those who accompanied her would testify to that). Rise had also offered some of the more mature something as well – very bling bling silver pieces that caught the eye of not just Catherine, but also Pete, who wanted to get his wife a pair of earings (how sweet!). For me, not be terribly into bling, wandering around offered me an opportunity to satisfy my curiosity, and perhaps to discover what Hong Kong has in store for the young, chic and bling.

Even Pete was taken by some of the bling things on offer.

Another view inside Rise Shopping Arcade.


On the Rise, inside the Rise ...

The lights in the shops in the Rise and along Granville Circuit, I was told, remain on well into the wee hours of the morning ...


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy My Hong Kong Travel Blog site. Please visit the My Hong Kong Travel Blog where you can vote for you favourite blogger and stand a chance to win a trip to Hong Kong. Details would be provided at the voting page.





Even mum knows who Alexander is!

21 08 2010

Caught up in the screams of anticipation that emanated from the sea of adolescent girls gathered at the Urban Council Centenary Garden, as we got through to the cordoned media area for the opening of the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival, some of us might be forgiven for thinking we might have been the object at which the screams were directed at. Admittedly, there were some of us who did feel like stars – one of us in particular, as we would soon discover, certainly had that a penchant for media attention, revealing the lengths that he would go to get the attention of the media during the now infamous bath tub race. The numerous placards being held up by the screaming girls with the words “U-KISS” might also have given some the idea that the screaming fans were asking for a kiss from whomever they were directing their screams to.

Arriving to the screams of excited adolescent girls at the 2010 Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival, some of us might have thought we were amongst HK's hottest!

It might not have been hard to be under the impression that the crowds of adolescent girls had gathered to welcome us ...

... and perhaps even wanting to kiss some of us!

Unfortunately for those of us who might have harboured such thoughts, the overwhelming evidence provided by the numerous placards bearing the name Alexander or Xander was that most of the screaming girls were clamouring for a certain person with that name. Without any inkling as to whom this Xander might be, I somehow felt a little lost in the sea of teenagers as the opening ceremony began with a bang – literally, with the beating of drums. With the opening ceremony out of the way, a concert followed. The cantopop duo that appeared on stage did not provide any clues as to who the mysterious Xander might be. I had somehow anticipated that we would have two men on stage, but one of the duo, Sherman actually turned out to be quite a pretty lady, which for a moment, did cast some doubts as to the gender of this certain Xander. But I guess, the make-up of the adoring fans erased those doubts almost immediately ….

What was apparent was that most were actually there to greet a certain Alexander ...

or Xander, in short ...

I had expected Sherman on the basis of the name to be of a different gender ...

but Sherman Chung turned out to be quite a pretty lady ....

and with quite a silky voice too ...

After quite a lengthy routine from the talented Sherman, the burst of euphoric and excited screams announced that the long awaited moment had arrived! Out pops this slim guy with handsomely boyish features who was introduced as a member of what was apparently a Korean boy band U-KISS. This was the Alexander or Xander that was the main object of the excitement that we had been caught up in. Well, at that point, even with the appearance of Xander, I still wasn’t very enlightened. Xander somehow didn’t look quite Korean or for that matter someone who would be delivering his opening lines in fluent Cantonese!

The frenzy that accompanied Alexander's appearance.

Alexander finally makes an appearance ... and ...

... it was only after the introduction that I found out that he was a member of a Korean boy band, U-KISS.

He certainly seemed to be the most popular with the crowd ...

Each move was accompanied by loud excited screams from the crowd.

Scream!

Scream!

More screams!!!

The cameras were doing overtime ...

as those with the pointy things sought the highest points to catch a good shot of Alexander ....

More screams yet!

... even the appearance of other Korean members of the Dream Team didn't take attention away from Alexander!

With only the pretty Sherman taking some of the spotlight away from Alexander.

The crowds of girls were out for the one and only Alexander!

It was only much later that I was able to gain more information on U-KISS and Alexander, and I was to discover that his linguistic ability was aided by a mixed parentage, apparently having a Chinese-Portuguese father and a Korean mother, and him spending his childhood in Macau and Hong Kong. I guess, not being one who keeps tabs on Korean boy bands, I could be excused for my ignorance, but I was to discover that U-KISS and Alexander had a following in Singapore as well, and even my mother who turns 70 this year, perhaps from her being an avid fan of Korean television, could provide all that I might have wanted to know not just about U-KISS and Alexander, but on some of the other mysterious markings on some of the placards such as 2PM, 2AM and FCuz!

Alexander made an appearance at the Dragon Boat races as well.

And was all smiles as part of the KBS Dream Team that won the Most Eye Catching Award.


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy My Hong Kong Travel Blog site. If you like this post, please visit the My Hong Kong Travel Blog voting page where you can cast a vote for B9: Jerome and stand a chance to win a trip to Hong Kong. Hurry, last day for voting is 31 August 2010! Thanks! 😀





The signs are out on the streets of Hong Kong!

18 08 2010

One of the things that never fails to catch my attention wherever I am, are signs, posters and banners. Signs, posters and banners can often provide a perspective on a place beyond the sights and certainly beyond what the guidebooks tell you. They can sometimes show the lighter side of a place, or can be just plain fun to look at. Hong Kong I guess provides that as well. There is in Hong Kong, without any about, an abundance of signs that certainly won’t fail to catch one’s attention. But beyond that, there is much more to see and look at from the perspective of the signs that perhaps show some of the lighter side of Hong Kong, those that make Hong Kong, Hong Kong, and those that seem to be everywhere in the non-English speaking world … signs with English translations that somehow go wrong …

Hong Kong certainly has no shortage of signs to look at!

On the lighter side …

The lighter side of Hong Kong seen on a poster.

A burger shop on the obviously naughtier side of town.

I don't quite believe that this is an effective deterrent!

This is one that has to be left to the imagination!

Acceptable bullying: Bully your stains away with Bully stain removing detergent!

Lost in translation …

Translations to English that somehow go wrong are very much in evidence.

The vehicle will have its day in court!

Life in Hong Kong …

It does look that Hong Kong is as much a "fine city" as Singapore is!

A city that never sleeps especially when it comes to construction and improvement activity.

Certain to have attention drawn to it. A bin for dog poo stands out in the shadows. There also seems to be as much a dependence on foreign domestic help as there is in Singapore.

It's a dog's life! The dogs certainly have it in Hong Kong!

A bus route through a narrow alleyway between old buildings.

The advanced and wired-up society that Hong Kong very much is today: WiFi on the buses!

The creative side of Hong Kong in a shop

I am always amazed by the creativity in first names that Hong Kong has: a very "faddy" name indeed!

Even the signs we normally see in plastic has an upmarket feel in the very upmarket 1881 Heritage.

A unfortunate combination of signs: Beware! Buying fresh meat might lead you down a slippery slope!

Signs are ignored as much as they are in Singapore!

Rats! Rat poison is used extensively on the streets.


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy My Hong Kong Travel Blog site. Please visit the My Hong Kong Travel Blog where you can vote for you favourite blogger and stand a chance to win a trip to Hong Kong. Details would be provided at the voting page.





The celebration of light, colour and texture that is Hong Kong

13 08 2010

Besides the wonderful itinerary put up by the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), and the fabulous company provided by the nine very interesting bloggers, the three members of the omy team, and the HKTB representatives, what I really enjoyed about the recent trip with I made to Hong Kong was the treat that Hong Kong provided from a sensory perspective. Hong Kong I guess is one of the places where the joie de vivre is celebrated with an unabashed gusto, and the evidence of that is out there on the streets coming out in a joyous feast of light, colour and texture. You will find it on its streets, crowded with a daily rush of humanity; in its glow of neon, casting a gaudy radiance in the evening light; in the busy cafés and restaurants that offer a luscious menu to satisfy the taste buds; in the glittering shops filled with anything the heart might desire … it is indeed everywhere around, put on the huge platter that is Hong Kong to nourish our senses in a most delightful way. It was certainly a joy for me to wander around to savour and revel in what was all around me, and for me, it was perhaps the icing on the cake for what had been a thoroughly enjoyable experience in the Fragrant Harbour.

Colour and Light

Changing hues of a shop front in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Passageway in the Mira Hotel.

Wine rack at Yamm as seen from the lobby of the Mira Hotel.

Yin and Yang, Light and Darkness at Yin Yang in Wan Chai.

Incandescent glows

Paper lamps in a private room in busy suzie.

A Japanese Restaurant along Nathan Road.

A bamboo panel at busy suzie.

Wall decoration at the Mira Hotel entrance.

Lamps in a trendy furniture shop in Wan Chai.

Elemental textures

Extrusions at a hardware store.

Reflection of steel on a glass façade.

A stone wall in Tsim Sha Tsui.

A collapsible metal gate in SoHo.

Plastic hoses used in a shop's signboard in Central.

Movable lead type at the Wai Che Printing Co. in Wing Lee Street.

Close-up of wooden rack at Wai Che Printing Co.

Earthly hues

Green vegetables on display at Nelson Street market.

Bitter gourd on display at Nelson Street market.

Green chillies at Yin Yang.

Dough fritters at Nelson Street.

Feet of salt baked chicken outside a restaurant near Nelson Street.

Dim sum steamers on Argyle Street.

The joy of just about anything

Security passes at the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival.

Plastic tubing being loaded onto a truck.

Tree roots exerting a tight grip on a wall on the slopes of Sheung Wan.

Another stairway to heaven ... the heavenly delights that await in the dining room of Yin Yang.

A maze made out of hedges in Kowloon Park as seen from the window of the hotel room.

Incense coils at the Man Mo temple.


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy My Hong Kong Travel Blog site. Please visit the My Hong Kong Travel Blog where you can vote for you favourite blogger and stand a chance to win a trip to Hong Kong. Details would be provided at the voting page.





The amazing “scarefolding” of Hong Kong

10 08 2010

One of the observations I made during the trip to Hong Kong is that it is a city that is very much in transformation as the new replaces the old at a relentless pace. I suppose that this isn’t very different from where we are in Singapore, where very much the same is happening. As is the case with Singapore, this change does sometimes take place at too rapidly for most to realise all too late that old and familiar places have suddenly vanished. What is certainly nice to see in Hong Kong is that there have been some attempts to retain some of the delightful older places, Wing Lee Street in Sheung Wan being one of them. This certainly provides the visitor to Hong Kong with an opportunity to have an experience of the Hong Kong that most don’t know about, a Hong Kong beyond colourful streets, towering skyscrapers, glorious food and limitless opportunities for shopping.

Much of Hong Kong is very much work in progress.

Construction activity is everywhere in Hong Kong.

A reflection of Hong Kong ... a reflection of the older buildings that would be replaced with the new that they are being reflected off.

Amidst all the construction activity, there is actually another bit of old Hong Kong that probably catches the eye … an old practice that is perhaps reminiscent of that in Singapore when I was growing up. It is something that one sees everywhere, being particularly hard to miss on the busy streets … bamboo scaffolding. This very old method of erecting scaffolding is used in much of the construction activity going on around Hong Kong, as well as in maintenance work on the exteriors of buildings and on the signboards that stick out from the buildings. These are also used in the construction of skyscrapers – something that seems unimaginable when observing the somewhat slow and primitive practice of scaffolding erection in which every joint is tied with a piece of twine, that seems out of place next to a modern skyscraper. Looking at how it is done, reminded me of a similar method of erecting scaffolding employed in Singapore when I was growing up. Back then, we used wooden poles which seems a lot sturdier than bamboo somehow, but tied using rattan twine in very much the same way. I distinctly remember how this type of scaffolding went up on the exterior of the block of flats that I lived in (all 20 floors of it) for a fresh coat of paint in the dressing up that was done for the visit of Queen Elizabeth II, having observed the men at work. Being the mischievous boy that I was, I even attempted to climb over from the parapet to the scaffolding on one of the lower floors, losing my nerve as I was about to. I did manage an attempt at climbing up on it from the ground floor though, managing to get up one floor before deciding that it was a little too “scary” for me to attempt getting any higher. I would refer to the scaffolding as “scarefolding” then and I couldn’t see how anyone would want to work on them perched twenty floors up, let alone try to put them up and always thought that the painters and scaffolding workers must have been fearless.

Bamboo poles lying on the streets are a common sight. These are used to erect scaffolding seen at the far end of the stack of poles.

Bamboo scaffolding is used for maintenance and construction everywhere.

A scaffolding worker tying a bamboo pole with twine seen from the Mid Level Escalators.

While the use and erection of bamboo scaffolding is amazing in itself, there is something else that one will definitely not miss that is equally amazing: scaffolding that overhangs over a street, sometimes extending out to lengths seem to defy the laws of physics, and sometimes only barely clearing the tops of vehicles passing on the busy street below them! Most of these I guess would be for erecting and maintaining the many neon signboards jutting out from the buildings above the streets. It must really be a feat putting these up … and, it probably has to take nerves of steel to be perched on one of these extended some seven or eight metres out over a busy street!

One won't miss the amazing sight of scaffolding that seem to defy the laws of physics extending out from the buildings. It must be quite a feat to put these up!

Another example of scaffolding that seem to defy the laws of physics.

These sometimes barely clear the tops of high vehicles passing under them.


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy My Hong Kong Travel Blog site. Please visit the My Hong Kong Travel Blog where you can vote for you favourite blogger and stand a chance to win a trip to Hong Kong. Details would be provided at the voting page.





The delectable world of Margaret Xu

8 08 2010

I guess what must have been the highlight of the trip out of the four days of fun and adventure the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) had lined up must have been the experience at Yin Yang, which I have made a brief mention of in a previous post and which deserves a little more attention.

Yin Yang is a three table private kitchen run by celebrity chef Margaret Xu.

The setting for Yin Yang, a three table private kitchen, is a delightful four storey shop house of 1930s vintage in the Wan Chai district, which has been well restored and beautifully decorated shop house. Entering the shop house, one is greeted by reminders of a simple and bygone era: a tiffin carrier, an old refrigerator, an old style thermos flask … that in the soft light that filters through the old style frosted windows and grills, provides the ideal setting for what Xu attempts to create in her kitchen. It is in creating what is a fusion of the old cuisines of Hong Kong, which Xu goes back to basics.

The setting for Yin Yang is a four storey beautifully restored 1930s shop house in Wan Chai. A model of which is seen here.

The old style decor of the restored shop house provides an excellent setting for what follows up the staircase to the third floor where the dining room is.

The old world charm of Yin Yang is seen in the many simple objects that Xu decorates the interior of the restored building with.

An old styled thermos flask ...

An old tiffin carrier.

Old style windows and grills through which soft light filters through ... creating an ambiance which adds to the flavours of Xu’s creations.

Grills that are perhaps a reflection of the food that Margaret Xu prepares ... a fusion of old styles ...

Another delightful old style window and grill ...

An old refrigerator.

It is perhaps the simple and traditional ways that Xu uses to good effect that defines what Yin Yang is. Old and simple preparation and cooking methods are used by Xu, simple perhaps not by the effort put into the preparation, but by the means in which preparation is done, as it was in the good old ways of food preparation. Yin Yang’s signature dish, “Yellow Earth” chicken is roasted slowly in a clay oven that Xu designed herself, fashioned out of two upturned terracotta pots. The chicken we had, moist and full of flavour from the slow roasting, with a beautifully browned crispy skin, was not craved with a knife, but torn and shredded on the spot and served. The menu was selected by Xu herself, who attempts to surprise her guests with her charming creations as was seen in the other dishes that were served, each equally delightful and full of flavour. The roasted pork leg which followed a shellfish dish also deserves mention, the rich flavours of roasted pork with a crackling crispy skin, was made all the more flavourful with a lychee sauce that had the sweetness of fresh lychees in it. Throughout the entire meal, we were certainly treated to food that was prepared with the dedication and care of a chef who takes great pride and delight in the way she cooks.

The specially designed oven that the "Yellow Earth" chicken is roasted in.

At Yin Yang, knives are not used to carve meat. Meat is torn and shredded in the traditonal way.


The menu that Margaret Xu selected for us.

For all that, I was certainlty surprised to learn that Ms. Xu wasn’t always a chef, or even been formally trained as one: Xu had until a few years back, run her own advertising agency. With a lot of imagination and schooled by her Hakka neighbour, and the mainly Hakka rural villages she frequented, Xu learnt how to prepare traditional food in the traditional way. I guess what defines her and how she cooks is summed up in an article about her in Theme, in which we are told that Xu “grew up loving the Chinese wet market behind her childhood home”, and “instead of lunch money, her parents gave her money to go shopping to cook for herself when they were away”. These days it is not so much the market where Xu hand picks her ingredients from. The vegetables that she uses are 100% organic and come from her very own organic farm.

And there was dessert of course!

Was this Darren wanting seconds?

Beer accompanied the meal ...

and soft drinks ...

After the wonderful meal, there was still time for Xu to share a treat to a few of us who opted to stay behind … how to make a simple green chilli sauce. The sauce was made from a generous helping of fresh green chillies, hand picked from Xu’s organic farm of course, together with fresh ginger and spring onions, which were washed and duly chopped up with some of Darren’s help. The vegetables were then fried in a wok with a generous amount of vegetable oil until they were soft. Salt was added and mixed in, before the vegetables were removed and then transferred into a blender. The mixture was then blended and … voilà! There we had it … a spicy tangy tasting pesto like paste, which our food blogger Catherine of Camemberu tells us goes very well which Chicken Rice … and perhaps as a dip. The warm mixture was then put into little jars which each of us were given a piece to bring home with us.

The main ingredients of the green chilli sauce: Green Chillies, Spring Onions and Fresh Ginger - all from Xu' organic farm.

Preparation of the green chilli sauce includes chopping the spring onions, ginger and chillies.

Darren had a hand in the sauce preparation.

The wok is heated up.

Vegetable oil is added ...

Level of oil in the wok.

Is the oil hot enough?

The ingredients are added and fried.

Salt is added.

Once the vegetables have softened and before they turned yellow they are removed from the wok.

and blended into a puree ...

and there we have it ... a tasty spicily tangy pesto like paste which goes well as a dip ...

... which we each had a jar of to take home with us.


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy My Hong Kong Travel Blog site. Please visit the My Hong Kong Travel Blog where you can vote for you favourite blogger and stand a chance to win a trip to Hong Kong. Details would be provided at the voting page.