Tuesday 18 January 2005
Auckland has turned into a really cosmopolitan city, especially with the noticeable influx of Asians into the central business district, which apparently is at least partly due to growth in English language schools for fee-paying foreign students. For a Sinophile like me, this is a great thing. I've been back a week now and I've already had a chance to sample several sources of Asian food. I'm really happy that my office is close to the heart of downtown and hence all these options...
Cafe Savoy: Hong Kong style cafe on Albert St, one of those weird "Chinese-style Western food" places. Ever wonder what the Chinese version of General Tso's Chicken is? It's here. Consider, for example, "cheese, creamed corn and shredded chicken on spaghetti", or "potatoes and chicken in a creamy curry sauce on rice, baked". Really, it's lovely.
Food Asia: This is a food court actually. They poisoned my mother the first time I went there but I love it. Lots of cheap classic (and off the wall) dishes from a variety of little stalls. So far I've enjoyed the juicy dumplings and lamb tikka, and I love the preserved plum smoothie.
Food Alley: A slightly cheaper and downmarket version of Food Asia, if such a thing seems possible. Good chicken laksa and great frozen Malaysian ice dessert (with condensed milk, lychees and longans).
Sunshine: I'm looking into an abyss here: a yumcha restaurant (dimsum for you Yanks) directly downstairs from my office, of sublime quality. The basics are superb --- the ha gow (shrimp dumplings) slightly crisp, the desserts melt-in-your-mouth, the chatsu bau are tastier and less sweet. But they also have items I simply haven't seen in New York. Manhattan's excellent Jing Fong had just in its latest incarnation introduced custard dumplings in sticky translucent wrappers (what is that substance?), but Sunshine has those, but also the same thing with red bean filling. Then there were little smoked fishes, jelly rolls, almond cubes, and more ... The flaky pastry pork pies were as good as they should be, and amusingly designed like little Chinese sausage rolls. Best of all the service is relentless. Our four-man team was overwhelmed by a barrage of carts and capitulated after just twenty minutes. I have to repeat, this is all after 1pm on a weekday, and it's directly below my office. May God have mercy upon me.
Continental Noodle House: An old Singaporean/Malaysian favourite of mine back in the early 90s, I'm glad to see it's still operating. Janet and the kids and I had a good meal there but they seem to have cut out the interesting stuff like the peanut pancakes. On the bright side they've cleaned the carpet in the last decade (something I don't think was true back in 1993).
Empress Garden: This is not actually in town, it's a few blocks down the road from where we're staying in Herne Bay. Very nice Peking duck though, as always. Our cold appetizers in sesame sauce were great too.
I haven't even been to Grand Harbour yet...