Tuesday, September 30, 2008


It was the Mid-Autumn festival, also known as the Lantern Festival in China the other week. It's a pretty important day in the Chinese calendar, traditionally when the farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvest. In modern day Hong Kong, families get together, admire the moon, hang up brightly coloured lamps, and eat mooncakes.

Mooncakes have a thin crust and can have a variety of fillings. This one was filled with a mixed of lotus seed and red bean paste. The duck eggs inside symbolise the moon (sorry, this photo is a bit rubbish).

The story goes that they were used in the Ming revolution to send messages to other revolutionaries concerning the overthrow of the Mongolians. Messages were hidden in the symbols on the crust, and could only be deciphered by taking a set of four mooncakes, cutting them into four, and assembling the 16 quarters. The revolutionaries would then eat the cakes, destroying the message. They are dense, and pretty heavy going. I certainly couldn't eat a whole one, even though they are only about the size of a picnic pork pie. The sweet paste filling tastes OK, but the egg is a bit cloying.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Jiffler in the Guardian

An article on the Guardian food website included a link to Jifflings' sister blog: Kigali Restaurant Reviews. One of my favourite food writers, Jay Rayner, included the link in his blog-article about ethnically incongruous restaurants.

Excellent news! Big thanks to Jay and the Guardian / Observer online.

Friday, September 26, 2008


I've mixed feelings about the word "brunch". It sounds at first like some insidious yuppie portmanteau, but you can have some Tony the Tiger-style fun with it by rolling the "r". Brrrrrrunch. There we go, thats much more fun. Dylan Thomas would have enjoyed Brrrrrrunch.

Enough nonsense. The Sunday champagne buffet brunch at the Intercontinental in Kowloon is a must for vistors to Hong Kong and hungry expats alike. The champagne keeps flowing until your ears go warm and you can no longer differentiate between toes. You have to get up to help yourself to the food though, which avoids any potential Mr Creosote-style exploding. Eeets only waffer theeen....

The restaurant has a fabulous panoramic view across the harbour to Hong Kong proper. I took a photo but it didn't turn out very well due to the champagne. Trust me its lovely, almost as good as the view of the buffet.

I know, I know. Its a hotel buffet. No big deal right? Wrong. A well as the unlimited champagne you get a whole lobster (limited to one each), wagyu beef roast, foie gras, and the kind of cheeses that you want to rub all over your face. Mrs Jiffler saw the dessert station of the buffet and had to be given a sedative.

We took photos. Powers of recall are inversely proportional to quantities of unlimited champagne consumed. Note the absence of anything resembling carbohydrate. You've got to be strategic :Stick to the protein, don't fill up on the carbs. Trust me, I'm a professional.

Fancy things with prawns and crabs, and a bit of foie gras pate...

Scallop (marinated in something or other) had the sweet flavour of the sea. Slices of belly pork that I could have eaten like crisps, fall off the bone chicken, peking duck pancakes, lonely steamed dim sum.


Roast wagyu beef (good) with yorkshire pudding (bad):

Mini-burger, with an assortment of things made from wagyu beef:

Some carbs allowed by the time we got to the cheese. The mimolette was excellent, and the brie was unctuous and chocolatey as you could hope for.

Check out the dessert station. Can you see why Mrs Jiffler had to be restrained? we nearly ended up with a 'face-down-in-the-chocolate-cake' scenario, which isn't good form in these fancy hotels. Out of shot is the ice cream lady, and a selection of wine gums, m&ms, chocolate buttons, hundreds and thousands, and jelly beans for your sprinkling pleasure.

A car-crash of desserts:

This time next week: Hong Kong-Hanoi-Hong Kong, supping beers on a junk in Hong Kong harbour.
Mood: Stuffed
Soundtrack: The hum of the harbour.
Current grip on reality: Monty Python-esque.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sesame Cement

On the left hand side is a scoop of some sort of boring chocolate ice cream. On the right, resembling wet cement, is a scoop of sesame ice cream. It tastes better than it sounds (and looks).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I forgot about Gordon

Prior to the Asian food meltdown the Jifflers stopped off at Gordon Ramsay's new(ish) restaurant at Heathrow Terminal 5. Plane Food (whoever came up with that name is still recovering) invites us to relax in a kind of jetsons themed dining area, or perch at a bar, ideal I guess for solo travellers. Apparently the decor is designed to give off an aviation vibe, what with it being in an airport and all that. Inspired.

Anyhow, seating and service is swift because Mrs Jiffler and I are the only customers in the whole restaurant. OK, T5 is quiet tonight, but come on? There are two flights leaving for Hong Kong, and another for Moscow. Flights packed with high rollers who might easily drop some cash Chez Ramsay. I feel an episode of kitchen nightmares coming on.

Water (no tap offered) comes fast, as does food. Superfast, which is ideal as we end up pegging it for the flight anyway (nobody told us about the poxy monorail thing). Both of us take a fish main, and thanks to the wonders of moleskine notebooks I can report:

Mrs Jiffler:
Seared Loch Duart salmon, lemon and fennel

Steamed wild seabass, asparagus, samphire and lemongrass nage

Yes, thats right, nage. Go here for a description of what a la nage is. I looked around to check that we hadn't suddenly entered a timewarp in Terminal 5 and been transported back to some sort of 80's restaurant hell where chefs use opaque foreign language terms in order to appear imaginative. No, we're still surrounded by overdesigned aviation chic, so we must be in some noughties restaurant hell designed by cretinous architects from New York. Phew.

Its good though, the fish. The nage is actually pretty more-ish and its a pleasure to have a bit of samphire on the plate. Do I detect a hint of basil in that sea bass as well? The salmon is robust and the accompanying lemon-fennel salad is just the sort of refreshing thing you need before a long flight. Sides of new potatoes and glazed carrots are just that. Carrots perhaps slightly underdone, but I don't mind them that way.

Two fish mains, carrots, spuds, water, a coke, and service. 50 quid mate. Come on hurry up, the meter is still running.

Its nice to have something decent - very decent - to eat at the airport (I prefer to avoid those sushi bars with the men in Navy blazers and perma-tanned ladies), but at quids fifty for two to sit in a restaurant designed by some sort of Top Gun fetishist is a bit over the top. Its no wonder the place was empty. They do some more reasonably priced snacks which might please the daytime punters in search of a sandwich and a little bit of Gordon Ramsay kudos, but the prices are still going to keep out the masses. Maybe thats the idea.

One other thing: This isn't the restaurant's fault, but due to security regulations you're given miniature cutlery to use. This is in case you steal a knife and go beserk in the aeroplane cabin. Most people can probably manage with the mini-eating irons provided, but unfortunately my hands are a touch on the agricultural side, and I struggled like a monkey learning to use chopsticks.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hong Kong: Sunshine in a tinfoil tray

Some cities have a soundtrack - a record which somehow captures the indefinable essence of the city. Berlin has Low, and Achtung Baby. New York has Velvet Underground, or perhaps Marquee Moon. Manchester swaggers to the Stone Roses (Although I would imagine Simply Red are more popular up the Trafford Centre).

Hong Kong's soundtrack would be the Beatles sung at double-speed by a Chinese girl group. Populist, mainstream, but a bit wrong.

There is nothing wrong with what goes on your plate in Hong Kong though. After only a few days I accumulated enough jiffle-post worthy food observation for the foreseeable. Then I went to Hanoi and had to start all over again. Anyway, enough rambling, Look at this egg custard tart:

Like foil-wrapped sunshine. It was lovely and hot too, and went all down my chin. Produce of the marvellous Tai Cheong bakery. Favoured by Chris Patten when he had the keys to the shop. Nicknamed "Fat Patten's Egg Tarts" apparently.

More photos and foodie porn from Hong Kong (and Vietnam) soon.