A Home-Cooked Meal by Noel Shiu

Today was a peek inside the food culture behind the door of a Hong Konger’s home. I went to go eat lunch with my host student, Ben Fong around 1:30 pm at his home.
Upon arrival, we took off our shoes and placed them outside of his front door. When we stepped inside, we chose a pair of house slippers to wear inside the home. Ben’s apartment home was clean and snug as its size was about 400 square feet. Most homes in Hong Kong are small and are in tall buildings due to limited space with a large population.
We immediately said “hi” to Ben’s father and brother and was told to sit at the dining table while the father was finishing up his cooking. While waiting, we handed Ben a thank you gift and he was honored to accept it by grabbing it with two hands and saying “thank you” while a nod and a smile.

Ben poured everyone puh-er, which is a traditional Chinese tea that cleanses all the oil and grease from the food in the body. In addition, he also provided us lemon tea juice boxes in case we preferred a sweet beverage.
When Ben’s father was done cooking, Ben scooped everyone a bowl of white rice. Ben’s father was the last one to sit down and everyone was ready to eat the boiled prawns, steamed fish, boiled Chinese Broccoli, braised pig hand with lotus root, steamed egg with chicken meat, and a box of fried duck that lied in the center of the table.

Lunch is ready!

The dining etiquette was not as formal as I thought it would be. Everything was causal as we picked the food onto our bowls of rice with the same pair of chopsticks that we eat with. Although it was casual, Ben mentioned that everyone present in the home usually eats together for family meals.
After the meals were finished, we were served papaya soup with black-eyed peas.
I enjoyed eating lunch with a family from Hong Kong because I felt like I got a chance to experience what it feels like to live in Hong Kong with a Chinese culture. Although most homes in Hong Kong are small, I can tell that love for family is bigger than anything because everyone was so kind to each other and I felt a family-oriented vibe ever since I stepped foot into the home.
Ben’s family said that today was the most people they ever had in their home and my group and I was honored to be there to join a family meal.

A Cultural Whiff by Caroline Dien

Moving onto our third day in Hong Kong, we had our first day of sun in the morning! We had our first traditional Hong Kong breakfast/brunch of Dim Sum. The location of the restaurant was on the second floor of Hong Kong Cultural Center, right across from the Peninsula Hotel. We had a little bit of trouble finding the cultural center, but with the help of a local, we were able to find it with ease. The exterior of the cultural center has stairs decorated with a mural based staircase.

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We tried lots of traditional dim sum with two different teas. The three white teapots are filled with pu-erh and jasmine tea. The two long, metallic teapots are pots full of hot water for people who want to drink water and for refilling empty teapots. We had traditional chicken feet, egg tarts, barbeque pork buns, gluttonous rice wrapped in banana leaf stuffed with meat, shumai, taro and shrimp dumplings.

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on our way back to the student dorms, we went to exchange money at an exchange store. They were very tiny with a window and only enough space for one person to fit inside. We met a cat in the store next door which had a black furred black heart on its back.

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After lunch, we headed to the PolyU campus for a lecture on stress management and aromatherapy. The lecture was very informative and we learned about the use of essential oils in aromatherapy. We were also taught the difference between lavender and lavandin, and that German Chamomile is better than Roman Chamomile. The lecture also went over shelf life of the essential oils and how certain oil scents were used for different things. We also practiced massaging the blended oils on ourselves using qi points.

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After the lecture ended, we went off to find the rainbow basketball courts that we had seen on social media. It was basically a colorful basketball court with apartments that were painted bright colors. The interesting thing was that the courts were on top of the apartments’ parking garage. They made use of the space and added color to the community. There was also a community garden that the grannies took care of. Overall, the day was filled with new experiences and adventures that we will take back as memories after these short weeks are over.

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Hong Kong at LAST! We Survived. by Jenny Nguyen

Day 1

After countless hot days and cold nights of waiting in our Cali weather, our Hong Kong FLP 2017 Summer trip started before we knew it. For many and almost all of us, we started our short yet long journey to our final destination in the air at SFO. Throughout all the different lives and experiences from one another, some have had a taste of air travel and others have not. I for one had traveled before but was not ready for the long flight. My travel plans were to fly with Nhu from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Haneda, Tokyo International Airport (HND) with a 19 hour layover and then a 4 hour flight to Hong Kong International Airport (HKG). Personally, for my first long flight since I was 3 years old I was not mentally prepared for it. I woke up early and grabbed my last American meal with my loved ones but unfortunately missed my flight. As a lessoned learned, always go super early and sometimes prioritizing food over flight is okay or not! Either way by the time I did arrive and checked in I was able to catch the next flight to HK but with a non-stop flight with Eliot and Christina one day before checking in to the dorms (Roughly +13 hours).

Catching the next flight out to HK

It was dreadful. So long and cramped up in a small yet large vessel. In the end, I safely made it to Hong Kong in one whole piece. Ushering through immigrations, baggage claim, money exchange/octopus card and then to the MTR was a very quick process. It was rush of experience and excitement. Due to my missed flight, I found a cheap hotel to stay the night and wait for the next day to check into the dorms. It was a very interesting experience traveling solo from airport to hotel using the MTR and taxi. My first taste of public transportation was unreal, it amazed me how different it was in HK compared to how it was back home in Cali. Nevertheless, my night passed by and I miraculously made it to the dorms just in time for the typhoon season to start coming in drenched with humidity and rain. By the time I checked in, I had also saw others checking in which gave me relief. After checking in and settling with nice cool A/C surrounding us we were ready to venture out to see the area. Almost everyone had made it to the dorms by noon so we ventured out to our first meal in HK independently. While walking along the unfamiliar area with caution and excitement we arrived at a small noodle and rice shop. Finally, our first meal right? For some of us we had a bowl of noodles with some type of protein depending on the preference and others had a rice place again with a source of protein. From that first meal experience at the small noodle shop it was an experience. We did not have napkins provided and water was not a common commodity. It was a cultural shock. After scarfing up as much as possible we went out to find toiletries and WATER and boba of course.

Our first meal being a large helping of noodles for most of us and finding our first taste of Boba (bubble tea) in Hong Kong. While shopping for toiletries and snacks, I never would have thought soy sauce would we so cute. It was given with a purchase of an Onigiri, a common rice ball snack in Japan.

From independently venturing out and exploring the area we managed to taste the rush of traveling with the MTR and moving around. By the end of it, dinner time arrived. We met up with professor Harvey, a host student Thomas, and professor Fong. We then started our journey on foot from the dorms to the HK Poly campus. It was a short yet lengthy walk. Finally making it onto campus we went to grab dinner at the staff canteen where we also met two other host students, Jelly and Po. The food served was a quick glimpse of what it was like to eat as a staff member here. Some unfamiliar and unfamiliar tastes filled our buds.

Our tired bodies and full stomachs all stuffed onto an elevator before our adventure to the Super Market.

After our unique dinner we ventured out to the super market at fortune mall, a walking distance from campus. From our first independent exploration around our dorm area we did not know where to go to buy what we needed such as towels and toiletries essentials. We only found so much by ourselves. When we reached the super market on foot, I was unbelievably happy to find it. The shop had everything we needed from groceries to toiletries and much more. It was relieving to find such a convenient store. After that, we caught a bus back, the wrong one on accident, and made it back switching to the right one. Overall, our first half day in HK was an experience with a few of many cultural shocks to come

Some cultural shocks include: No accessible fresh water; (FREE) Water fountains, purifiers. We had to buy and stock up on a lot of water. Napkins are also not provided most of the time, we stocked up on it too. The humidity is unreal, it is a city sauna with random light or heavy drizzle. We bought an umbrella from 7-11 and brought it everywhere. Overall, we survived our first day.

Good bye Cali hello Hong Kong, our home in June.

Lin Hueng Restaurant in Tai O Fishing Village by Bianca Porras

After looking around for bit and taking in the beautiful sights of the big bay and houses on stilts, we can all agree that we were getting hungry.

From the outside, it didn’t look like much. There were some fish in a display window but we could not look inside. In fact, it seemed rather small to fit all 16 of us based on the appearance of the door, but we were so wrong. When we walked in we were greeted by lady and she sat us down at two tables right away. After we were all seated and comfortable Gabi ordered some food for us. We didn’t know how much she would order, but we would soon find out.

We started our course by rinsing our bowl, spoon, plate, and glass, and chopsticks in piping hot water. Soon afterwards our first dish came out. The hostess sit down a plate with vegetables, tofu, and what appeared to be fish bones. Gabi explained that this is what are soup broth was made of and we could also eat from the plate if we liked. While the soup looked creamy it defiantly tasted like seafood broth, and was extremely light and cleansing as to prepare of for all the food that was about to make its way to our tables.

Throughout our meal we were served noodles, seafood wonton dumplings, spicy green veggies mixed with pieces of squid, shrimp, and clams., fish cakes, mushrooms, jellyfish, steamed fish that was caught directly from the bay itself, and the list goes on and on. We were floored by the amount of food at our table and it was all delicious. However, there was one dish take took the top prize for most interesting, and that was the chicken.

Now this is not your average Chinese food from the states, that would be like comparing apples and oranges. No this is half a chicken, and when you order half a chicken they mean you get half of everything including the head. Gabi explained that if we were to order a whole one we would get all the parts and not just half. But like I mentioned earlier don’t let appearances fool you., because at our tables this was one of the most popular dishes. It was not fried or greasy, but rich in flavor. If your thinking by now, Hey! I want to check out this place! Then do so quickly because from what we were told by Gabi this place is retiring sometime is August. We were fortunate to be able to experience this place before that happens. The food was amazing, and by the time we were done we could no longer say we were hungry. Thanks Gabi for taking and sharing this place with us!

Tai O Fishing Village: Where Land Meets the Sea by Nhu Ngo

They say the cure to everything is salt water in terms of our tears, sweat, and the sea.

And I feel that the residents of Tai O and the whole village itself is the best personification of this phrase.

Our excursion to Lantau Island started off with a scenic bus ride through the greenery of Hong Kong. I was mesmerized by the large amount of preserved land in contrast to the industrialized skyscrapers that surround our dorms. As we delved deeper into the island the people dwindled, buildings shrank, but the vast forests stayed.

The village of Tai O is located at the western end of the island sitting right next to the ocean. Gabby, our tour guide, informed us that Tai O is one of the oldest establishments in Hong Kong, which could be seen through the architecture of the village. Many homes sat on stilts plunging into the ocean banks surrounded by boats, a sight I was familiar with having been born in a fishing village in Vietnam. Even so, the general aesthetic greatly deserved its moniker as the “Venice of Hong Kong”.

Another aspect that I found very quaint were the mom-and-pop shops scattered throughout. From restaurants, storefronts selling dried seafood, and even cat cafes, the villagers of Tai O have readily accepted their position as a tourist destination. At the same time, the village is able to keep its rustic simplicity – an aspect that makes Tai O unique. While buildings were interconnected, and there were many, the village is quite spacious which only added to the relaxed vibe that emanates throughout the area.

During our visit, we toured through the village and noticed many Taoist temples and shrines. The villagers of Tai O revere several deities of which include a warrior deity and, quite obviously, the sea deity. The oldest temple in Tai O dates back to the 1600s and was remarkably well-kept much like the rest of the village.

I believe that the village is so well-kept and such a popular tourist spot because the residents truly love their home. When the government gave the villagers the opportunity to move to modernized homes, they didn’t accept, which truly emphasizes that their roots to the village are deep.

In their position, I would do the same as it would be silly to move away from the sea – the cure of all things.