Back in 1991 I set off for a twelve-month global journey. With me I had a few essentials, money, clothes, my wife and a collection of Lonely Planet Travel Guide Books. After a few weeks in India we found that the books were as essential to our survival as food and water. We went on to use the Lonely Planet Guide Books (or the LP as we termed them) throughout Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, North America, Canada and Mexico. Sometimes our travels would be so fast and furious that we would not read about our next destination until we had arrived at the town's bus depot. We grew to love and trust the LP - it never let us down.
As you might imagine I was therefore thrilled to receive their latest departure in travel writing "World Food Hong Kong ". Swiftly I dived in to its pages. When I saw that pocket size book was written by Richard Sterling a guy who would - quote " go anywhere and court any danger for the sake of a good meal" I knew I would be in for an interesting literary adventure.
Richard Sterling's other titles include Dining With Headhunters The Fearless Dinner and the award wining Travelers' Tale. His much-applauded writing has won him praise from The James Beard Foundation and kudos from the Lowell Thomas awards.
The book 's contents are broken down into fourteen chapters -
World Food Hong Kong starts with the essential aspect of understanding the domains cuisine culture. Sterling enlightens us on the island's history, flavors and influences. My learning began. It would seem that Hong Kong's cuisine is a melting pot of the nations tastes with the addition European influences olive oil, ketchup and asparagus all worked themselves in to the fabric of the island's "local" cooking.
Staples and specialties are next rice, noodles, tofu, meat, sauces flavorings - the list continues as do the lessons. We all know that in 1295 Marco Polo introduced the noodle to Italy but did you know he made his mark on the Chinese too he introduced the kiss?
The content continues with Drinks, Home Cooking, and Celebrating with Food. Food as Medicine is where I must pause to narrate. Sterling reminds us that the Chinese believe that "food, medicine and health are all part of the same continuum. This is derived from the Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang, which applies as much to human health as it does to the cosmos. When all in the universe is in its proper balance, harmony reigns. But in a condition of imbalance, we risk ill health, misfortune violence and destruction. Lesson: Seek balance!" If you are seeking balance try the Yin Yang soup or if you are feeling peaky there is always the Lizard soup chicken and cloud fungus.
Seeking knowledge of unusual foods? Then move to the next chapter "The Bold Palate". These are foods for the brave. How about preserved eggs, snake or baby mouse wine? That is right the wine is made by preserving still-suckling baby mice in rice wine. Apparently this is jolly good for rejuvenating the body's organs. For those who have survived the journey thus far normality is ahead.
Shopping and Markets, where to Eat and Drink, Understanding the Menu and a modest Recipe Section are all a great read. The 'Where to eat' chapter covers the complete dining gambit from the uptown Peninsular to downtown street food and must try dim sum.
For the gourmet traveler the book finishes with a handy English to Cantonese culinary dictionary a must have for those who want to appear to know their jellyfish from their junk food.
As I close I am relieved to say the Lonely Planet does it again, a captivating unpretentious little book, not just physically but also financially suited for anyone's pocket. $14 or ٧.