The Guardian and me

I am having fun with my Guardian style book, which is a precious gift from someone.

A few of the entries are particularly inspiring, in some cases amusing ideologies.

Oxford comma

A comma before the final “and” in lists: straightforward ones (he had ham, eggs and chips) do not need one, but sometimes it can help the reader (he had cereal, kippers, bacon, eggs, toast and marmalade, and tea), and sometimes it is essential. Compare

I dedicate this book to my parents, Martin Amis, and JK Rowling

I dedicate this book to my parents, Martin Amis and JK Rowling

Very: usually very redundant

Walkman: Walkmans, not Walkmen


Yo-yo Ma: cellist

Haagen-Daaz: American ice-cream; despite appearances, the name was made up to give a European cachet to a product emanating from the Bronx in New York City

Public schools are actually private schools, so that is what we should call them

Chicken tikka masala: Britain’s favourite dish, note that there is also an Italian dish called chicken marsala

Cummings, EE: US poet who, despite what many people think, used capitals in his signature

Frankenstein: the monster’s creator, not the monster

And I am tempted to add a few of my own riddles:

Tube: characterised by weekend engineering works. If you want to know what’s slow, try taking the green line

Red tape: something you come across when you apply for things

First class: a slightly more spacious seat for a much more expensive fare. Gives you better drinks and food, a slightly bigger TV, and better access to the loo.

Marks and Spencer: known for good quality underwear and a great food hall. Appealing to middle-class moms

Volcanic ash cloud: an unpredictable cloud that paralyses air traffic. What people associates with Iceland

iPad: a gadget for people who haven’t had enough of the computer screen (yet).

Bigoted: for usage, google search for Gordon Brown

Authentic Chinese food

In England, if you mention Chinese food, people think of sweet and sour chicken, or sweet and sour pork. To a lesser extent, stir-fried beansprouts, broccoli and carrots (the famous Marks and Spencer Chinese food series).

In Hong Kong, I don’t think sweet and sour food enjoys the same status as it does in England. I am certainly not a fan. Sweet and sour doesn’t sound right. It is too much confusion, too cliche, too readymade.

Personal preferences aside, I believe that rice or noodle dishes with chau siu (juicy barbecued pork) is the most embraced Chinese food in Hong Kong. It is so cheap as well. On average, you can have barbecued pork with rice for under three quid. There is a famous local eatery on 265 Hennessy Road, Wanchai called ‘Zhoi Hing’  which offers the best barbecued pork with rice in town. I used to work in that area, and every time I passed by the eatery, there’s always a long queue in front. However with only four or five tables in the eatery, the best thing is to go there during non-peak hours, or to order takeaways.

For me, checking out the Chinese food series in England’s supermarkets is a highly fascinating experience. The package designs and presentations betray many underlying western ideologies.  The oriental clouds that decorate the readymeal lunchboxes are quaint and amusing. I marvel at these elegantly designed lunchboxes in London, and consider how our cuisine is defined and appreciated: roast duck in plum sauce, spring rolls, prawn toasts, chicken in black bean sauce (it always takes me two seconds to recall what ‘black bean sauce’ is, as we call it ‘dou si’ in Hong Kong), Shanghai stir-fry noodles…Every now and then, I am tempted to try it out to see how authentic it is. But of course authenticity is a relative concept. To me, a born Hong Konger, the presentation and names for these dishes can be alien-looking. But to be honest, they are very delicious. In general, I prefer the Chinese takeaway package design at Waitrose to that of Marks and Spencer. It’s hard to explain why, but I think Waitrose’s package designs are slightly more ‘authentic’. Perhaps because of the bright red and white colours.

Sometimes I wish there are more such Chinese-style readymeals in Hong Kong, though I suppose we lack the market for it.