A last time raving about Montreal’s Chinese food

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Dumplings at Qing Hua, Montreal

Dumplings at Qing Hua, Montreal

For some reason that evades me, good local Northern Chinese food is a rarity in Hong Kong, where wonton noodles, curried meat soup and Chinese rotisserie dominate the local fast-food landscape. You won’t find roujiamo in a street food stall, while fried tofus, squid, eggplant, or egg tarts, and other pineapple buns are everywhere. (You might also easily find upscale-ish Shanghai or Beijing restaurants in Hong Kong.)

So I made sure that as a must-have meal in Montreal, as I’m spending the Holidays here, among smoked meat and bagels (although no time for poutine), I would eat dumplings, Northern-style. One of Montreal’s prime locations for dumplings is Qing Hua Yuan. They were on St-Marc when they opened last year, but reopened this Fall on Lincoln, close to St-Mathieu in our Chinatown Two, near Concordia University.

The boiled dumplings are nothing special, but now the steamed ones! In contrast to their boiled counterparts, they perfectly conserve their full taste, and if you are a connoisseur of food, you would be careful to pierce your dumpling, savour the broth inside, before engulfing the rest of the jiaozi. The flavours seem to have expanded by a bit (any combo of pork, lamb, chicken, eggs, vegetable, anise, coriander, Chinese cabbage, etc.), on top of the surprising fried dumplings. Extra goodness: the taste of the reed coming from the steamer.

The fried ones (see second picture of this post) are served with a fine film, which I am guessing comes from a dried-up flour mixture, which in itself puts up a nice show.

Unfortunately, they only staffed one person to take care of the whole floor at lunchtime (it was the Holidays though), and cooled-off dumplings and unusually slow service (one hour from sitting to getting meal at lunchtime) were the resulting minus points. On the other hand, they thought of giving shrimp chips as a free-of-charge snack now, like they would give bread in a European restaurant, because steamed dumplings usually take 25 to prepare.

But is not cheap. On my second time there, with my parents at dinnertime, we needed four portions to be full (depending of flavour, steamer/plate is $8-13, + taxes/service). But hey, you’re paying for hand-made top-quality dumplings.

Qing Hua Dumpling, (438) 288-5366, 1676 Ave Lincoln, Montreal, QC H3H

Halal dim sum in Hong Kong

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Halal dim sum in Hong Kong

Halal dim sum in Hong Kong

Halal dim sum in Hong Kong

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Menu - Halal dim sum in Hong Kong

Not too far of a walk from Wan Chai MTR station on Hong Kong island, you will find the Islamic Centre Canteen on the 5th floor of a muslim religious centre. People come to the Masjid Ammar and Osman Ramju Sadick Islamic Centre to pray, but also to enjoy good halal Chinese food. How can you have dim sum without pork, one might ask.

We ordered a generous variety of dim sum classics such as har gow, siu mai (w/o pork, eh), cheong faan and lo mai gai, and were able to get out of there for HKD30 (CAD4) each. Normal: the “big” (most expensive) dim sum were priced at only HKD12. I must say that it wasn’t the best dim sum I ever had in Hong Kong, but it was decent enough. It is featured in the Hong Kong tourist guide for people of muslim faith, and we noticed a number of people from Southeast Asia.

Islamic Centre Canteen. 5/F, 40 Oi Kwan Road. Wan Chai, Hong Kong, 2834 8211. Business Hours: 9:00a.m.10:00p.m.

Weekday morning in Lamma

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Wet market in Yung Shue Wan, Lamma Island

Some things, you won’t see if you only visit Lamma on the weekends, or simply wake up too late. You might not see some of the fresh meat shops, that seem to be open early in the morning, or the fish market, which is only there up until 9am (and around 4pm in the weekdays).

The Yung Shue Wan “fish market” (because it’s like two vendors in what would be a small parking space for less than two mini-trucks) is located beside the Waterfront bar, close to the small pier for fishing boats opposite the main ferry pier, in the same bay.

Weekday morning in Lamma

Weekday morning in Lamma

Weekday morning in Lamma

Weekday morning in Lamma

Weekday morning in Lamma

The morning hour of commuting is always a bit of rush for me, a normally evening person. But I also enjoy taking the time to walk to the pier, rather than jog (or sometimes sprint) to it. I come out ten minutes earlier and pay more attention to my surroundings.

Yung Shue Wan, the village near the ferry pier, and largest village of Lamma Island, is completely different depending on the times you visit it. It’s, as you can imagine, a lot like a jungle or any ecosystem, at different times of the day, with a changing fauna and flora.

At night, you will see the night-dwellers come out, enjoying drinks under a starry night. In the weekend, tourists take over Lamma, and “normal life” hides under the cover (for instance delivery trucks are forbidden in Yung Shue Wan on weekend afternoons). And in the morning, vendors that you never see at other moments of the day suddenly appear: the guy who sells DVDs, the lady who sells her freshly picked veggies, and the meat/fish merchants.

Weekday morning in Lamma

Not quite there yet

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Outside Exchange Square

Outside Exchange Square

Outside Exchange Square on a (early) Sunday morning

This is an unfamiliar sight on a Sunday morning in Exchange Square, in Central, Hong Kong. Normally, these are prime spots for Filipina maids to take on the only day off of the week for many of them.

In Hong Kong, Central (and Victoria Park too) is known as the hang-out places for domestic helpers, who otherwise live with their employers. You can picture it as Hong Kong’s financial heart being transformed into a sort of outdoor bazaar.

The note to make is that it was barely 8AM when I took this picture this morning, which explains everything. However, you could already see a few people preparing their spots, or at least reserving theirs.

Stephen Harper in China — who (in China) cares?

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Stephen Harper arrived in China on Wednesday, December 2nd, but it’s almost as if he did not. In Hong Kong at least, only official media (the China Daily) seems to be aware that our Prime Minister is visiting China on an official foreign mission — and they weren’t even cordial about it, criticizing him for not coming earlier.

What was in the Hong Kong papers today, December 4th, which concerns with the Prime Minister of Canada (with its 1.3 million-strong Chinese minority) visiting China? In the South China Morning Post, we have an article at the bottom of page A6, the last national news page:

SCMP (Friday, Dec 4, 2009)

Sino-Canadians leaders seal deals, including one on climate change

And flipping through Ming Pao and Sing Tao for a photo of Harper or mention of the characters “加拿大” (Canada), I found none and concluded that none of these major Hong Kong-based Chinese-language newspapers thought it was an issue as important as the two or three full pages to covering the Kam Nai-Wai saga, which saw new developments today.

In Thursday’s SCMP, the day after Harper’s stop in Beijing, there was also the puny A6 article, also taken from a press agency (despite the fact that the SCMP has a bureau in Beijing):

PM's visit to mend fences Canada broke: analyst

If we go back to the case of the China Daily, I must say that I did like most people in China and did not pick it up (it’s not a paper that people tend to read much). However, I did notice its signboard at the newsstand with the daily title, which had the word “thaw” in it if I remember well. This does contrast a lot with ecstatic treatment of Wen Jiabao’s visit to North Korea in October, or more recently, Obama’s visit to China (Obama being Obama, the news did cover page of many newspapers and fronted newscasts for most of the week he was here).

Other papers that had the choice chose not to cover Harper’s visit.