Talents are varied and some people might be able to play the banjo with their toes, be the next promising candidate for Ryan Gosling’s muse, or maybe have
feet naturally shaped in a point so that ballet dancing is a default method of transportation.
I however, have one skill above them all; Eating With Enthusiasm. It’s a recognized sport between myself and my travel companion to Asia, featured below eating a sought-after pineapple bun. Leah and I teamed up together to become the best Enthusiastic Eaters, refining our taste bud muscles to supplement our previous training when we lived in Seoul as professional Korean BBQ Pursuers.
Close up on this bae. The pineapple bun was calling Leah for a solid two days through the psychic realm. I’m here, it said, I’ll always be here for you. You never have to be hungry when I’m waiting here, for you girl, in this nondescript diner.
It is a soft pastry soft bun with the outside crispy and with a sweet crunch, revealing a pineapple finish on the inside that wraps itself around the sliver of melty butter wedged neatly into the open arms of the bun. Leah was very intent on finding this bun and we made it our mission to seek and destroy.
We finally gave it a try for breakfast, knowing that our other options for a Hong Kong morning meal were macaroni and cheese garnished with ham slices,
sausage with scrambled eggs, and dim sum, the latter of which we’d already had the first morning of our stay.
Yes, that’s right. Macaroni Soup with Ham is a very popular breakfast meal option. I don’t have an answer.
I might be hesitant to eat a cheesy pasta hamp soup at 9 a.m., but dim sum for breakfast? Oh, yes, I can manage that. We embraced our passions without fear as we boldly ordered our favorite seven items from the dim sum menu specifically because of the panda and piggie designed sweet buns. Dim sum translated means “touch the heart,” which I can say with confidence that is true.
Everything is so dang cute in Asia, even the food. Especially the food.
The dim sum breakfast is magic, as you can expectfrom food in the place it was created. I’ll freely pass on pancakes, scrambled eggs, bitter coffee and toast in favor of a honeycomb spongy cake, sweet cream filled steamed buns and milk tea. How do you say “delicious” in Catonese?
However, as an Enthusiastic Eating Specialist, it is my duty to warn those who wish to dine on dim sum in the morning to refrain from ordering too many items. Trust me. Two is fine, three is a feast. Six and you are migrating into a Zen-like state of becoming the dumpling, internalizing the dumpling as a part of
your own psyche. Seven? You’d better have nowhere to go later except for bed immediately.
Leah and I had journeyed all the way to Hong Kong for one specific purpose: to see our dear friend mily,featured below as our excited tour guide in Temple Night Market. She’s been in Hong Kong for three years teaching English to babies through osmosis using songs and talking to herself. We were excited to reminisce about our times together as English teachers in Korea, which also was highlighted by our Enthusiastic Eating training through summer noodles and Korean BBQ adventures.
I’ll always remember our first night seeing Emily, who rushed us to the local market and taught us our first cultural lesson. Taking the dishes, she pours a light brown liquid over the bowls and chopsticks, laughs and says “this is how we wash the dishes in Hong Kong.”
“Wash the dishes?”
“Yep!” She continues laughing, and I look to Leah for confirmation, who nods and shrugs. “When in Hong Kong, use brown rice tea to wash your restaurant
I’m almost 100 percent sure that the dishes are clean before we washed them and it is just an extra precaution, but it was a bit jarring at first. Going With the Flow is a skill that needs to be actively worked on in order to stay relevant as a traveler.
For example, Emily here is the epitome of Going With The Flow, and is the absolute queen of Rolling With The Punches. I would know that she could be comfortable dropped in any place around the world, something I am always striving for.
At the night market, she encouraged us to try the spicy crab. I could have honestly had dim sum for every meal of our entire trip, but alas we needed to
sample a variety of what treasures the city had hidden among its island metropolis.
The night market wasn’t the food stand sampling set up that I expected, but rather a series of sit-down casual outdoor restaurants with plastic patio chairs
and stools. If you go, you should definitely take Emily’s advice. It is very good and very spicy, just as its namesake suggests. The market is a bustling area of shopping and eating, and you can get your psychic reading on the side of the road.
After our bonanza of eating, bargaining for realistic fake designer bags and buying chotchkies that we just HAD to have for some reason, we were ready for dessert, but were too full to think properly.
So, we opted not for a real dessert but rather a sweet treat for the eyes in the form of a beautiful city view and cocktails in the Wan Chai neighborhood we stayed in.
Even professional Enthusiastic Eaters need a moment to process all the delicious food they consumed that day. We sat on the rooftop and looked out into the coastal city, watching it glitter in the dark, a classic recipe for any tourist in a city for the first time.
In addition to beautiful rooftop bars, we were shown a very interesting bar in the same neighborhood of Wan Chai that offers a 30 percent discount to all airline
crew. Pilots and flight attendants, make your way over to Dusk Til Dawn, order all your friends a round and enjoy the live music as you realize everyone there
works for Cathay Pacific.
Our last day came much too quickly, and there was so much more dim sum that knew was waiting for us, but we planned to indulge in a hot pot restaurant recommended by my friend Lindy who knew “Megan’s Kitchen” would appeal to my narcissistic side. It was a true delight, and to continue our training we ordered Way Too Much.
Truffle oil meatballs, shrimp dumplings, vegetables, noodles, crab meatballs, all bubbling beautifully in a coconut Thai soup. It was truly the perfect finale to our Hong Kong food love affair. I loved the variety and customization allowed us, from the soup bases to the ingredients and even the sauce was personalized to our preferences.
Several days of dim sum, hot pot, and night market meals later, our survey of Hong Kong cuisine had concluded, our only take home souvenir a few extra
pounds carried in various happy places around our bones. We collapsed from our feeding frenzy and contemplated our need for fruit and greenery. One thing we specifically could not find in Hong Kong was a salad.
I don’t know how Leah does it, but she eats like there is a garbage disposal trapped inside of her and still stays a beautiful beanpole. It was an honor and a
challenge to keep up with her, and I believe my eating skills were honed to a rather impressive degree. I came home and ate nothing but spinach and carrots for a week, retreating to my original, comfortable rabbit-inspired diet.
If you take away anything from my trip, it should be this: When you travel, travel with a friend who matches your individual skill set. If you are jet set on
skiing, then don’t bother traveling with a gal who hates the cold and will see you in the hot tub later (me). Go travel with friends, but align your talents together so that you can become a traveling duo or trio or squad of empowerment. Leah and I alone are just two very hungry and energetic girls, but together we conquered the food scene with gusto like the champions we’ve been trained to be. Together we encourage each other to be our best selves, to keep eating even when it hurts, to sacrifice our sanity for the chance to savor the cultures rather than look at them through a lens. Travel is not just an Instagram gallery; it is most effective when it allows you to feel another way of life, regardless of your inclinations or prejudices that would prevent an open minded embrace of the culture.
Next time, I will honor my own advice, push myself further out of the comfort zone of dim sum, and order that macaroni soup with sliced ham. Maybe.