Wokk’n on the Wild Side

I bought a wok today. I bought it from a very nice man at Kam Lee Steel Product and Engineering Ltd. on Cleverly Street in Sheung Wan.  It is a traditional round bottom carbon steel wok.

Me and my brand new wok!

I am more excited to cook with this wok than I can express. One of the best things about our flat is that we have a great gas cook top with four burners and a fifth burner in the middle with a ring for a wok!I was given very specific instructions for preparing this wok for cooking. First, heat the wok until it turns blue or very dark. Then take a half an onion, soaked in water, and rub the inside of the wok with the onion.

Moving fast. This wok is hot!

You don’t want the onion to burn, so when you smell the onion burning you stop and re-soak the onion. You continue to rub the wok with the onion until you no longer smell any metal. Your nose plays a big part in this whole thing. Lucky for me. When you achieve the goal of no metal smell, you then reheat the wok and rub the inside with pork fat or pork skin, which is plentiful in the markets here. It will probably even be free. However, I did see Crisco in a specialty store and that could be used. I am committing to using this wok at least two times per week. My goal is for it to turn that great dark black and be non stick before I venture back to the US.

Sunchoke and Cashew Stir Fry with Egg, Basil and Asparagus. I am very happy with the results. Not greasy or oily at all.

Oh by the way, this was not an outrageous financial commitment. The whole deal set us back about $9 US.

There is another dark side of wok cooking. And that is the endless wok puns that Steve comes up with.  Here are just a few:

  • Always wok on the bright side of life
  • Just keep on Wokin.’
  • Wok like you mean it
  • Wok, wok, wok til you can’t wok no more
  • Wok baby, don’t run
  • Wok til you drop
  • Just wok away
  • I’m wokin’ here!  #@!!!

Happy Thanksgiving

Burning blessings on the street each morning. Offering thanks for the many blessings one has received.

Just a little touch of homesickness this week. Maybe because I have been reading some essays from the states with a Thanksgiving theme. Maybe it is because I like to cook. Maybe it is because I miss homemade Chex Mix made by my sister.  Maybe it is because we want to be there with Calvin and watch him eat mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans. Maybe it is because I oh-so-miss Kam, and I wish she could surprise us here with a visit like she did a few years back.  Maybe it is because I have been thinking of Thanksgivings past.  Maybe it is because I miss all the family and great friends and eating too much good home-cooked food and familiar family recipes and squabbles over preparation of food and the weather……rain in Oregon, sunshine in Phoenix, snow in Minneapolis and falling leaves in Boise.

Right before we left for Hong Kong, we had Thanksgiving dinner with our friends Bryan and Diana in Phoenix. Bryan says we “pre-gamed Thanksgiving.” We savored a bit of the essence of the holiday. Getting together with good friends and family and eating traditional American holiday food with a bit of a twist.

There is evidence of one part of the holiday in Hong Kong. One department store here, SoGo (I think it is a Japanese company) is having a sale which appears to be Black Friday on steroids, and it runs for an entire week. I have never seen such masses of people. My thankfulness on this event is that I could not even figure out how to buy anything, because there was quite a system of numbers and ques all in Chinese. Not to mention thousands of people looking for a good deal. We happened upon this event because we were out looking for a small trash pail, and someone thrust an 9 page event flyer into my hands. The only words in English were “Thankful Week.”

That is not the part of Thanksgiving I miss today.

Today Steve will go to the office. I am starting a new adventure teaching English to kindergartners at a local school. I also will enjoy a lunch with some new friends, and Steve and I will have a quasi Thanksgiving meal of turkey and a few cranberries together tonight. And, I don’t have to miss being thankful and reflecting on all that we have in our lives.  This year I am especially thankful for technology.  I can Skype with Kam and see Calvin and blog and email and text.  I guess we are savoring the essence of the holiday again, with a bit of a twist.

This is a Thanksgiving to count in the blessings column to be sure. -xoJ


Permanent Home

Welcome to our new place! Jing Tai Garden in the Mid-levels, Hong Kong. Last weekend, we made the move from our serviced flat to the permanent flat. It took just three trips with suitcases across the road to move and a delivery from IKEA.  It is amazing how large 840 sq ft feels when you don’t have much.  

We could see the permanent flat from the serviced flat.

24th Floor at the Lily serviced flats.

Steve waived at me.

I waived at Steve.


Our living-room-in-boxes arrived from IKEA.  Thankfully, everything fit in the very small lift.  If it had not, they would have carried it up the stairwell, and they charge by the floor.  16 floors would be a costly job, and the pay would be well deserved.  Even the mattress fit!

Assembler and shelves.

Here is the kitchen.  Not common to have an oven and an open space.

This flat was built in 1978 and renovated in the last two years.  We looked at so many places and this one was the best fit for us in terms of location and size.  We really wanted to be on a much lower floor, but this was the best we could do.

We have a little view of the hills behind from the kitchen.

Bedroom closet storage turned out to be plenty.

So, we are now set for the next two years.  It is a little uninteresting right now, but I am sure we fill it up with lovely finds and have too much to bring home.

By the way, we have a guest room.  Hong Kong in your future?

Best Of The Last 30 Days

Hundreds, if not thousands, of incense rings burning at this temple. The rings were about 20 inches in diameter.  Photo taken from about 12 below the rings.

We are just now coming up on 30 days here in Hong Kong. It seems like a very short time. I wanted to share some of the best things we have encountered since we arrived.

  • Victoria Peak is just a mile away and when we hike to the top, you would never know you are in a big bustling city.  Beautiful trail, secluded and quiet, unbelievable views of the harbor and the city and lovely exotic vegetation.
  • Octopus Cards make life easy.  You just load that card at any Circle K (yes, Circle K like in the states) and you can use it on buses, subways, grocery stores, department stores, admissions to venues and much, much more!  No cash carrying required!
  • We like not having a car!!  Can’t believe how freeing it is to not worry about an auto.  The big plus is that walking helps with all the consumption of all the great food there is here to eat!
  • A subway ride costs about 65¢ US, and a taxi costs about $5 US to just about anywhere we need to go.  And a bus, tram or streetcar is about 45¢ US !  On top of that, you hardly ever wait for one to come by.  And, if you get on a bus and get lost, it is a cheap taxi ride home.  Or, you just stay on the bus until it comes round again!
  • There is a wonderful smell of incense coming from all the little and big altars that you find along the streets of Hong Kong. It is very soothing and pleasant.
  • There are lots of cats that you find running around the outdoor markets and sitting in small shops.  They are doing their job on the rodent population and in turn, they are being fed by lots of people.  I see little old men going out with dishes of cat food and water all the time.
  • The YWCA in Hong Kong does a lot of good work for women here and in China.  They also support newcomers, like myself, and domestic helpers that come from The Phillipines and Indonesia. I have met several very nice women and have leads on many interesting volunteer options.
  • Steve’s three-times-per week commute to Shenzhen in mainland China, takes just about 1 hour and 15 min.  Soon to be shorter when we receive our resident cards.  Wow!?  We’re going to be residents of Hong Kong!  Sounds pretty weird.
  • I can text home with no problem and Skype works great.
  • We have room for visitors.  Even though our new flat is pretty small, we have guest accommodations.  -xoJ


This is an old, very heavy Chinese made bicycle.

Not too many bikes here in Hong Kong. Mainly because it is not safe with the very narrow streets, double-decker buses and so many cars. Not to mention that most streets are steep with hills, making it impossible to ride uphill and hard on the brakes to go downhill.

This one is gas powered. It will do the trick on hills.

So Glad We All Voted!

Not that big of an announcement about Obama. But, article details his trip to Asia and meetings with the new, Premier Wen Jiabao, at the East Asia Summit in Cambodia and a visit to Myanmar taking place in just 10 days..

Text after text was coming in to my phone while I sat in a room with nine other newcomers to Hong Kong. I was the only American, and I was on the edge of my seat thinking and worrying about the election outcome. Finally, I had to apologize to the group for not being polite and monitoring texts, and that I was getting news of the election from the states. Everyone immediately wanted to know what was happening. The group was made up of German, Colombian, Australian, Trinidad and Canadian . Most have lived in several other places in the world before Hong Kong. The main question they had was; “how could anyone vote for Romney in American?” From their perspective, the choice was very clear and a Romney presidency would be very bad, not only for the US, but for the world. When I received the test from my sister “OMG..WE WON!!!!!” I happily relayed the message to an approving group.

Everything you Need

This shop has everything you need and more.

In Hong Kong, one could select a different street everyday of the week to explore and find something interesting.  I doubt that we will ever be able to cover everything in our time here. This was a great find and a place we will certainly return again and again.  There is just about everything from baskets to hardware to footwear to step ladders…you name it and you will probably be able to find it here.

There is also ceramics, and in a pattern that I have been looking to find.  These “rooster” bowls come in assorted sizes and are hand painted in China.    After we made our selections and a list for a return visit, we were amazed by the shop keepers skill at the abacus.  Yes,….. he still uses an abacus and faster than I could do it on the calculator.   -xoJ

Thoughts and Prayers

Technology today does not make it hard to keep up-to-date what is happening in the world.  We have been able to easily watch the unfortunate situation that is playing out on the east coast of the US. Hurricane Sandy’s destruction is monumental and gut wrenching.

I struggle for inspiration to post about the small wonders and discoveries that we encounter in our new life here, while so many in my own country are struggling with a new life full of need and discovery not near as pleasant as the one I am facing.

Our hearts goes out to everyone in the US affected by Hurricane Sandy. For now all we can do here in Hong Kong is say a prayer and donate. So, we do.