Tonight’s museum post is of a bottle of Highland Park 12 Year Old Scotch whisky that I procured in Hong Kong back in July. Surprisingly, Highland Park is priced similarly in Hong Kong as it is in San Francisco; most Scotches in Hong Kong that I’ve seen have some sort of premium, usually costing around twice that of SF. Well, lucky for me then, because Highland Park is one of the better drams out there. Enjoy!
With the recent release of WordPress 3.8, I thought I’d give the new 2014 theme a try. I also cleaned up the categories a bit. Can’t believe there are only 6 days until Christmas. Happy holidays, everyone.
Update: thought the 474 pixels for the main entry content was too narrow. I understand why they did it that way, for people to use the extra widget on the right. Since I won’t be using the widget, I created a child theme to make the width 600 pixels.
Learned a couple of new words today while reading a rewatch of Star Trek: First Contact.
First (and I’m really glad I finally learned this word), we have:
leitmotif – a recurring theme in a musical or literary composition.
It was fun in the beginning but in the later Star Trek movies they would always play the same music whenever Klingons, or specifically, Worf, appeared. In the scene where Worf is commanding the Defiant against the Borg cube, the Klingon music plays. I notice this every time I watch the movie, and now I know what to call it: a leitmotif.
The second word is:
This word is frequently associated with the phrase hoist by one’s own petard, having one’s schemes against others backfiring on one. According to the Straight Dope, this line originally came from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
I’ll probably never use this word, but it’s good to know what it means in case I ever see it again.
Continuing on from the last post (which only covered the first page!), today we continue with the rest of the menu, with some actual food items.
類 – lèi – type, variety, kind. In a lot of Chinese menus we will see different sections for different types of food, and these sections are usually labeled something-類. In the case of this particular menu, 類 appears in 餛飩類, i.e. that section is all about the wontons.
麵 – miàn – in Chinese menus, this refers to noodles. The character itself is often used in combination with another to form a compound term that usually has something to do with wheat, i.e. 麵包 (bread) or 麵粉 (flour). Note that the left part of the character is also the character for wheat, 麥 (though this character can be used for other grains as well). The right part is 面 (face, also pronounced miàn), and is probably there for phonetic purposes.
素菜 – sùcài – vegetarian dish. 素 is vegetable, plain, simple. 菜 is also vegetable, usually referring to some kind of greens. It can also mean dish or cuisine, i.e. 這個菜很好吃 or 我喜歡日本菜.
西洋菜 – xīyáng cài – watercress. 西洋 is Western, i.e. Western (white) people. I don’t know why watercress is called “western vegetable”; perhaps it was introduced to China from the West (or not).
酸辣 – suān là – literally sour-hot, i.e. hot and sour. I guess “hot and sour soup” sounds better than “sour and hot soup”. The radical for 辣 is 辛, and I like how it actually looks like a pepper in the character.
併雪菜肉絲麵 – bìng xuěcài ròusī miàn – 併 is combine, 雪菜肉絲麵 is pickled-cabbage 雪菜 and shredded-pork 肉絲 noodles. This entry appears after a smaller order of wontons to indicate that the smaller order is paired with (i.e. combined with) noodles on the side. 雪菜 is literally “snow vegetable”, and 肉絲 is literally “meat-strips” or “meat-threads”. My guess is that once the cabbage is pickled, it appears translucent like snow, hence the name. 絲 is also the word for silk, so the meat strips are finely cut like strands of silk. 雪菜肉絲 is a pretty common combination. In HK-style restaurants, you can often find it with rice noodles in soup for breakfast.
每打 – měi dá – normally 打 means hit, but in this context it means dozen and is pronounced differently. 每 is each, so 每打 is each dozen.
鮮肉餃 – xiānròu jiǎo – fresh meat dumpling.
Just from this little 餛飩類 section, I’ve gleaned 17 characters to practice. I’ll be writing each one out at least 10 times, there’s no other way around it. Until next time…
October 22-23, 2012 (Monday and Tuesday)
Our last full day in London was spent resting up and charging our sleep accounts in preparation for the long-haul flight back to the United States. Although I slept very well on the Caledonian Sleeper from Aberdeen to London, JC did not and quickly resumed her slumber once we checked back into our hotel. I stayed up for a little while, stopping by Sainsbury’s to buy some food and catching up on our finances, but eventually I succumbed as well. It was that kind of a day, actually our first foggy day in London:
Eating ramen had become a sort of ritual for us during Adventure 2012, having enjoyed bowls in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Paris. Of course, we couldn’t leave London without trying the local ramen. That evening, we tried Tonkotsu Ramen in Soho:
The ramen was good, but the thing to write home about was the cod katsu (sorry, scarfed it down before even thinking about taking a photo), a flaky white fish in a light, crisp batter. I salivate just thinking about it. I also got a chance to enjoy a Yamazaki 12-yo single malt.
The evening was spent packing and enjoying one last Coke from the tap; I had had one that night in Aberdeen and it was one of the best Cokes I ever had, and this one was just as good. Must be something about UK draught Cokes.
The next morning, we had a nice room-service lunch before taking the Underground one last time to Paddington, where we took the Heathrow Express to the airport. Everything went smoothly, and I even splurged on another magazine at the airport.
After 3 weeks in Europe and 2 months away, we were finally heading back to America. I’d never been to New York City before, but I was looking forward to being back in my home country, being around American culture again. It’s just nice to be able to say something freely without having to think too hard beforehand, knowing that people will understand you, and you them. At the same time, we were glad to have finally experienced Europe, to see and smell and feel for ourselves what we had previously only read in books or seen in movies. It was a priceless experience that we will treasure for the rest of our lives.
October 21, 2012 – Our last day in Scotland was a lazy Sunday that started pretty late after staying up the night before. After a 1 PM checkout, we left our bags at the hotel and headed out to find a place to eat.
Our hotel was in the vicinity of the main thoroughfare Union Street, so we headed in that direction. Unlike the other day when we were picking up the car, this time we were able to walk slowly and take in the sights. We were in a very old part of a very old city; the street we were walking on was at least 700 years old.
Before actually going to many of the places we went to in 2012, I had some preconceived notions of them that had formed in my mind over the years from watching film, reading books, and also from the “common knowledge” reputation of a place. Although I was not expecting people in Scotland to be walking around in kilts and playing bagpipes, I also did not expect an environment so much similar to where I am from. So yes, the centuries-old granite buildings on Union Street were present, but so were these modern constructs with familiar names: Clear Channel ads on bus stops, posters for PS3 games, a T-Mobile store, Starbucks coffee, McDonald’s. These are all things one can see on Mission Street in San Francisco or, as I now know, any other modern city in today’s world.
The juxtaposition of old and new in Aberdeen is pretty amazing, though. As we walked along Union Street, we decided to head towards a shopping centre complex called Bon Accord & St Nicholas, two physically separate shopping malls on opposite sides of the same street and now managed as a single entity. We walked past a Gap store, and around the corner was the Kirk of St. Nicholas. One was founded in 1969, the other was earliest mentioned in a Papal document in 1157. Talk about juxtaposition!
We walked through the St. Nicholas part and reached the street (called Schoolhill) that divides the two malls. While waiting for the light to change, we encountered a homeless woman. I don’t think anyone consciously or intentionally thinks of encountering homeless people while traveling; it just happens if it does. For me, the realization that Aberdeen, too, has homeless people was similar to seeing all those familiar things earlier. I had just never actually thought about it, but if I had it would not be too farfetched to think that other places in the world have homeless people. We chatted for a little bit and she was pretty critical of the local government, of how it “places the interests of outsiders over those of locals”. A familiar refrain, to be sure.
We said goodbye to the homeless lady and crossed the street into Bon Accord. There was a YO! Sushi there and having seen a few instances of this place in London, we decided to give it a try. Not bad! I couldn’t help but comment that we came all the way to Scotland only to eat Japanese food at a chain restaurant inside of a shopping mall. Well, when you have the craving, you have the craving, and actually the food was pretty good. As an example, I have eaten tonkatsu in Japan and the one I had here was pretty much the same. My only complaint was that the steamed rice I ordered to go with some sashimi was vinegared sushi rice; I guess the young lady didn’t know the difference.
After the meal we walked around the mall a little bit and I got a chance to check out a couple of stores. One of them was a model store called Hawkin’s Bazaar. It was a pretty neat store with model trains, planes, helicopters and the like (was surprised to learn that it is a chain). Nearby was a GAME store, very similar to GameStop in the United States. There was a game in the closeout section that caught my eye, Cities in Motion. It was £5 and I wanted to get it, but I didn’t know how long I would have to hold on to it (my laptop has no optical drive) so I had to pass. I did take a photo of it for future reference. Fortuitously, I was later able to redeem a download copy of it using the points we accumulated from our trip. Awesome!
Speaking of model trains, I have noticed that the scene seems to be more visible in the UK than it is in the US. For example, in addition to Hawkin’s Bazaar and the fact that it is a chain selling model trains all over the UK, I saw plenty of model (and real) railroad magazines at various WH Smith stands. In America, other than at a few niche stores, I don’t really see model trains for sale anymore. I grew up playing with them and it was a lot more common to see them in stores back then. One of the biggest reasons is probably the decline of rail travel in the United States, a decline which I don’t believe has happened in the UK and Europe.
With our real train not set to depart until later in the evening, we had plenty of time to explore Aberdeen. I knew that we were near Aberdeen Beach so we headed in that general direction, walking along the edge of the city center, then through a residential neighborhood. It was a beautiful autumn day and we walked leisurely in whichever appeared to be the more interesting direction, chatting about our trip thus far and the history present in the neighborhoods in which we were walking through, and stopping occasionally to snap photos.
Soon, we arrived at Aberdeen Beach. The first thing that I was reminded of was Ocean Beach back in San Francisco. We had actually gone to Ocean Beach just a few months ago, so the image was fresh in our minds. Both beaches stretch for miles and have a road alongside (the Great Highway in San Francisco and the Beach Esplanade in Aberdeen). One major difference would be the presence of groynes (the wooden structures designed to slow erosion) on Aberdeen Beach.
In the photo above, the groynes aren’t actually that close together; I just zoomed in all the way and the perspective changed. For comparison, here’s a photo of me standing in the North Sea showing how much space there is between groynes:
Both JC and I have always been around the Pacific Ocean, being born in Hong Kong and then growing up and living in the Bay Area, and now Hong Kong again. I never thought that we would one day splash around in the North Sea. I told JC that we were standing at the northernmost point on the Earth that we had ever been. It was a moment to remember.
We made our way down the Esplanade and to the boardwalk, stopping for ice cream at one of the many stands. There were families, couples, children all happily enjoying a pleasant Sunday afternoon at the beach. Before, my life was a full-time job during the week and trying to relax on the weekends. Was it the same for the people here in Aberdeen? What is it like to live here? What would it be like to spend your whole life, to be one of the many generations who have done so, here? As a first-generation immigrant living in a place full of immigrants, it is difficult for me to imagine life as an entrenched native of a place. Of course, Aberdeen has its share of immigrants as well, especially with its energy (i.e. oil) industry, but I think I can safely say that its level of diversity does not compare to the melting pot that is the Bay Area.
Soon, we had made it all the way down to the end of the beach, to Footdee, an old fishing village. This incarnation of the village has been around since the 1800s, but the site itself has been around since medieval times. Even so, it is still fascinating to walk through such an ancient place. It is still populated, as we saw with the cottages with little gardens and clotheslines, not to mention the still-used mission in the middle of town. Today, these old stone buildings have power lines and antennas attached. I imagined being inside one of these dwellings on a cold winter night, the sound of the waves crashing, the wind howling, and the fireplace crackling. That would be pretty cozy, wouldn’t it?
We went through the entire village and reached Aberdeen Harbour. This was probably where the PSVs (platform supply vessels) we had seen from the beach (pictured above) pass through to dock. We had seen a few of these ships up close the day before as the harbour extends all the way to our hotel. While I was working at my computer I saw a couple of them coming and going.
After walking a couple of miles and being on our feet for over two hours, we were pretty tired, so we found the nearest bus stop to take the 15 bus back to Union Street. The thing I remember the most about the bus ride was that it passed through a shopping complex, and I saw the locals going about their Sunday shopping. I was reminded of going shopping with my grandmother in Vancouver, Canada, just another example of what I had realized about people everywhere being the same at the most basic level.
Back at Union Street, the sun was setting and it was getting colder. We took advantage of the remaining daylight to walk through the Kirkyard of St. Nicholas, the graveyard that’s outside the kirk. Walking through graveyards always fires up my imagination. I see names, dates, couples buried together, and I wonder how these people lived and what their world was like. Many of the graves at the kirk were from the 1800s, and a few were from the 1700s. I wondered if their descendants were still living in Aberdeen. Conversely, I imagined that it must be comforting for Aberdonians to know that this is where they came from, that they could trace their lineage back hundreds of years.
It had been a few hours since lunch, and along with all the walking we were now pretty hungry, so we tried to find a place to eat. We crossed the street to the Trinity Centre (where we picked up our car a couple of days ago), but they were closing. There was a walkway inside leading to the train station, so we gave that a try. Luckily for us, adjacent to the train station is another shopping centre, Union Square, and inside is a place serving Scottish cuisine. I finally got to try haggis, while JC’s Highland stew was just as delicious. Similarly to lunch, I had but one complaint, which was that although the menu listed Highland Park 12-yo Scotch, it was not available for order. It would have been perfect to eat that haggis with some whisky.
The sun was now gone and it was getting really cold outside. While still warm from our hearty meal, we quickly headed back to the hotel to pick up our bags so that we could wait out the last few hours at the station. Instead, we spent the next couple of hours at the mall because although the station was covered, it was open to the outside air and was too cold. The mall was pretty standard fare, save for the information kiosk which resembled a holodeck interface from Star Trek. I got a few laughs out of that with my Captain Picard impression. Later, we spent some time at yet another Starbucks before spending the final quarter-of-an-hour inside a heated waiting room in the station, which we didn’t see earlier.
We boarded the train at around 21:30, and fifteen minutes later we were on our way back to London Euston. This time, we tried taking our bags with us, and lo and behold, they fit in our cabin rather comfortably. Dang. We should have done it the first time. It was the end of a wonderful day and I was very happy about having visited Scotland, so I went to the lounge car for a celebratory Glenfiddich. JC and I spent some time taking photos of ourselves in the cabin before turning in. We were a lot more relaxed this time around, maybe because we had already done it once, or maybe because we had our bags with us. Either way, that night I slept very soundly.
Next: Whisky Leaving Scotland
¿Cuál es la fecha? – What is the date?
¿Que hora es? – What time is it?
Son las tres y veintiuno de la tarde. – It is 3:21 in the afternoon.
Lunes – Monday
Martes – Tuesday
Miércoles – Wednesday
Jueves – Thursday
Viernes – Friday
Sábado – Saturday
Domingo – Sunday
Día – Day
Hoy – Today
Mañana – Tomorrow
Hoy es miércoles. – Today is Wednesday.
Mañana es sábado. – Tomorrow is Saturday.
Note that days of the week are not capitalized in Spanish.
Enero – January
Febrero – February
Marzo – March
Abril – April
Mayo – May
Junio – June
Julio – July
Agosto – August
Septiembre – September
Octubre – October
Noviembre – November
Diciembre – December
Es diciembre. – It is December.
Same as with the days of the week, the months are not capitalized in Spanish.
¿A qué hora? – At what hour?
Hora – Hour
Minuto – Minute
Mediodía – Noon
Medianoche – Midnight
De la mañana – A.M.
De la tarde – P.M.
Cuarto – Quarter
Ayer – Yesterday
Fecha – Date
Momento – Moment
Hoy es el once de diciembre. – Today is the 11th of December.
El tres de noviembre es mi cumpleaños. – The third of November is my birthday.
Mañana es sábado. – Tomorrow is Saturday.
A las dos de la mañana. – At two in the morning.
We picked up a menu the other day from a restaurant called 上海弄堂菜肉餛飩, Shanghai Lane. As can be seen in the Wikipedia entry below, the 弄堂 is something unique to Shanghai, and apparently 餛飩 is the Mandarin version of 雲吞, wonton. Together, the name of the restaurant is “Shanghai Lane Meat & Vegetable Wontons”.
This menu has a lot of new (to me) characters, so I will use it to master those new characters.
弄堂 – lòngtáng – alley, lane. More on Wikipedia.
弄 – nòng – play with; fool with; do; manage; handle; get sb. or sth.; get; fetch; play.
餛飩 – húntún – wonton in Mandarin.
雲吞 – yúntūn – wonton in Cantonese.
Above we have an example of how one character can have different pronunciation and meaning. We also have an example of how one thing can have different names.
香港郵政 – xiānggǎngyóuzhèng – Hong Kong Post, or literally Hong Kong postal service.
通函郵寄 – tōnghányóujì – Circular mail. I’ve never heard of 通函 before, but 通 by itself could mean communication, and 函 could mean envelope or letter, so together they become a communication letter, which I suppose is what a circular is.
服務 – fúwù – service
外賣速電 – wàimài sùdiàn – I think 速電 is a Cantonese thing. 速 is speed and 電 is short for 電話, so this whole thing means delivery/takeout speed line or hotline.
壹 – yī – this is the long way of writing 一 (one), used to prevent ambiguities (or fraud, as one of my dictionaries put it). The way the character is constructed is interesting. There is a single bean 豆 under a cover 冖 being protected by a soldier 士. Anti-fraud, perhaps?
外賣自取免加壹服務費 – wàimài zìqǔ miǎn jiāyī fúwù fèi – no service charge for self-pickup (i.e. “takeaway”). More below.
外賣 – wàimài – literally “outside sell”, i.e. to-go, takeaway, or delivery, based on the words after.
自取 – zìqǔ – “self get”, i.e. self-pickup. Hence, no service charge.
加壹 – jiāyī – “add one”, i.e. plus 10%. With 服務費, it becomes the standard HK 10% service charge.
The next one is pretty long:
Wàimài sòngdì rú yǒu xūyào xū shōuqǔ láihuí chēzī, dìnggòu jīn é zuìshǎo wéi $120 jí yuēxūshí 45 fēnzhōng.
送遞 – sòngdì – 送 is to send, 遞 is to hand over. When you send something and hand it over, you’re delivering it.
如有需要 – rú yǒu xūyào – if required, if necessary.
須收取 – xū shōuqǔ – 須 is must, 收取 is collect.
來回車資 – láihuí chēzī – 來回 is come-go. 車資 is car expense. 來回車資 is therefore round-trip transportation cost.
訂購金額 – dìnggòu jīn é – 訂購, reserve purchase, 金額, gold amount, i.e. order total.
約需時 – yuēxūshí – 約 is actually short for 大約, approximately. HKers love to abbreviate stuff. 需時 is required time. Again, 時 is short for 時間, duration. The whole thing is approximately required time.
“For delivery orders, a round-trip transportation cost will be collected if necessary, a minimum order of $120 is required, and approximately 45 minutes will be required.”
Yesterday I tried making some bread with our Panasonic SD-P104 bread machine. Technically, this is JC’s machine, but with the start of her new full-time job she won’t have as much time to make bread for us. Instead, she’ll bring home the bacon and I’ll make the bread, an ideal partnership.
First things first, here is the bread maker in all its glory:
We picked this model because it was available for redemption using our airline miles from Adventure 2012. Since moving to Hong Kong, we’ve used a bunch of Panasonic appliances, and I would say that they’re generally pretty good quality and worth what you pay for them. This bread maker is no different. It comes with a pretty substantial manual that includes recipes for different types of bread. Today, I decided to make a basic “Soft Bread”.
The ingredients required for Soft Bread are:
|High-gluten flour||250 g|
|Granulated sugar||2 tbsp (24 g)|
|Milk powder||1 tbsp (6 g)|
|Salt||1 tsp (5 g)|
|Instant dry yeast||1 tsp (2.8 g)|
|*Reduce about 5˚C cold water by 10mL when the room temperature is above 25˚C.|
Since this model is produced for the Hong Kong market, the English is a little off. I have no idea what that last part about reducing water means.
OK, the first step is to install the blade in the bread pan. Luckily for me, JC does this after every loaf, so I didn’t have to do it. What an awesome wife.
The next step is to “add flour, water, and other ingredients (except instant dry yeast).” I’ve watched JC do this dozens of times, so I knew where to find the ingredients and equipment, which includes: a scale, the container that sits on top of the scale, a 2-sided measuring spoon (with TSP and TBSP), and a measuring cup. Yes, I was doing this at my workstation instead of in the kitchen. You can ignore the mouse and keyboard in the back.
At this time I put the container on top of the scale and then turned the dial on the back of the scale to zero it out. This step is pretty important because if you don’t zero out the scale, your measurements will be all wrong.
Next up was measuring out 250 grams of high-gluten flour. We use Japanese bread flour from TwinsCo. I don’t want to be a hater, but these guys make a killing on the DIY baking industry in Hong Kong. Well, they make a lot of DIYers happy, including my wife, plus they have pretty decent prices, so I suppose they deserve it. Anyhow, it doesn’t say so in English, but in Chinese it does say that this is high-gluten flour (高筋).
I just realized that to bakers, “bread flour” might by definition be high-gluten.
I was a bit careful with pouring the flour since I wasn’t sure how much 250 grams is. For the record, this is what it looks like:
I dumped the flour into the bread pan and then measured out the sugar, salt, and milk powder. We use regular Taikoo granulated sugar, which I guess is like C&H back in the States, the standard, readily-available sugar. The salt is sea salt from Hain. For the milk powder, it is once again TwinsCo:
The label states that this milk powder is sourced from Australia. According to the manual, I can substitute real milk for milk powder. I can also substitute up to half of the water with milk. I decided to try this. We use milk from Kowloon Dairy:
The last thing I added to the bread pan was butter; we had a small piece left and I didn’t want to cut it, so I dumped the whole thing, about 20 to 25 grams, in. Luckily, I checked the manual later and it said that it was fine to increase it up to 150%. Besides, one can never have too much butter.
This is what everything looks like once it’s dumped into the bread pan:
The last ingredient is the yeast. I almost dumped the yeast into the bread pan as well, forgetting that there is a separate compartment for it.
Finally, I made sure the bread maker was set to the “Bread” function and the “Soft Bread” recipe (I think the bread maker saves these setting from last time, and it looked like JC had used the same settings). I pushed the start button at 14:40. The bread maker then indicated that the bread will be ready at 19:00.
(Note that there is a handy 1-to-1 Chinese-to-English translation sticker on top of the machine.)
During the 4 hours and 20 minutes, the bread maker goes through a number of cycles, including kneading, soaking, fermentation, and baking. You can open the cover and check out what’s going on inside. It’s kind of neat seeing the dough bouncing around inside the bread pan. Near the end, there is also a countdown timer.
With the countdown timer nearing the end, I prepared a couple of potholders for pulling out the bread pan, since it can get pretty hot. Once the bread maker beeped to indicate completion, I pressed the “Cancel” button to turn it off and removed the bread pan from the maker.
After letting the whole thing cool for a couple of minutes, you can then slide out the bread. The manual states this pretty emphatically in large font: take out the bread.
Since we had just had dinner, I continued to let the bread cool on a wire rack. This morning, JC sliced the bread and made some ham and egg sandwiches (sorry, no photos of these because I scarfed them down in hunger). We stored the rest in a plastic bag. You can leave it out for a couple of days, but any longer and you risk mold forming. We usually put it in the fridge after that. Remember to use a bread knife to slice the bread, or else you’ll squish the entire loaf.
True to its name, the bread was soft like a pillow, and delightfully chewy. Not bad for my first loaf!
Update 9-1-15: Here’s a pizza made using dough from the bread maker.