Sweet Buns

Strollin' in the hoods
Strollin’ in the hoods

Weekend trip to an outlying island – always a fun day! This time, it was something rather special that I had been waiting for months!

Busy in the bun business
Busy in the bun business

Cheung Chang is a charming island just an hour off Hong Kong. I have been looking forward to it’s annual Bun Festival, which is when things get rather interesting, to say the least. This festival is an old Taoist ritual, held according to the Chinese lunar year, coinciding with Buddhas’ Birthday (remember to celebrate on May 17th!)

Bun scrambling towers getting bunned up
Bun scrambling towers getting bunned up

Throughout the festival week, there are various activities and festivities, in addition to the different types of buns that are everywhere! The highlight and culmination of the festival is the bun tower climbing competition, when brave pre-selected climbers compete on who reaches the top first. Before the actual competition, there is demonstrations and whatnot.

Climbing practice, no buns
Climbing practice, no buns

I don’t know how lively the island is outside of the bun-season, but now everything seemed to be revolving around those sesame, red bean, lotus or taro paste-filled steamed, white “pillows”. Besides the edible versions, one could buy keychains, toys, posters, and God knows what other necessary stuffs.

All bunned up
All bunned up

The story behind all this? Well, the all-knowing Wikipedia tells that the festivities are fishermen’s rituals for praying safety from the pirates! In ’78 one of the towers collapsed and killed 100 people. More precautions have been taken into action since. Also, the village goes vegetarian for one day (not when I visited, though) – all of the seafood restaurants as well as McDonalds apply this rule, too! If I had been there on that day, maybe McDo could have lured me in…

Scary dragon and Mickey
Scary dragon and Mickey

Festivals are always filled with happy people and interesting things; the Bun festival was definitely not different in that way, though it was quite like nothing else! And going to an island is always an experience, this time I even went to swim, for the first time this year! Once going into the sea, I cannot get enough.

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Whole lotta food love

No idea where the name comes from
No idea where the name comes from!

Lucky to be working in the food industry, I was able to visit Asia’s largest Food & drink, hotel, restaurant & food service exhibition HOFEX, held in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition center this week. During the first 3 days, the expo had 38,297 buyers – not quite the same caliber as any expo in Finland!
If Natural Expo West/East in the States (or any other natural/organic expo for that matter) would be my Heaven, HOFEX probably is something right outside Heaven’s gates. Exhibitors in 3 floors, from so many different cultures, presenting what they perceive as the best from their country. (Scandinavia was not represented at all, though at least I saw one oven door manufactured in Sweden!) Unfortunately for me, European Fine Meats were well presented. On the other hand, the only producer of quinoa products was from Holland – Go Europe!

Scottish lard
Premium Scottish lard

Besides the culinary presentations, panels and other cookings, there was barista championships and the more visually intriguing flairtending competition as well as some rather fancy culinary competitions. And of course some the cool kitchen equipment was tested on-site – I saw some pretty cool sushi making machines as well as veggie spiralers, among others.

Food is art and I was definitely taking picture of the cupcakes
Food is art and I was definitely taking picture of the cupcakes

The thing I like most about this kind of events (besides all the nibbles), is to talk to interesting people who possibly share same interests and have passion about their work (hopefully). In general, I was maybe a bit surprised how many pig legs there was, and so much ice cream! It seemed like pretty much all of the European countries were focusing on meat, alcohol and possibly some cheese. Food traditions rather than trends…

Not your regular cuppa joe
Not your regular cuppa joe

Speaking of trends, the extensive coffee and tea sections were rather seducing. I got to try my first ice drip coffee, which was surprisingly soft – I tried the same Vietnamese beans as hot dripper coffee, and the flavor was much more intense. The coffee had been dripping for 2 days until ready to drink. In Hong Kong, single origin beans and more love-requiring brewing methods are definitely a hit – when Hong Kongers don’t drink bubble tea or milk tea, they at least value their coffee! About beans…the only single origin bean is not coffee, anymore.

Pure, single origin chocolates from Vietnam, from 72% to 82% cacao
Pure, single origin chocolates from Vietnam, from 72% to 82% cacao

I admit being a “bit” of a snob when it comes to certain things. Chocolate just happens to be one of those things that I will rather not put in my body, if it’s low quality. Some chocolove-talk in HOFEX got me an invitation to taste these amazing single-origin chocolates from different villages in Vietnam. Though I do prefer raw chocolate to processed ones, these sweeties were pretty impressive: the only ingredients used are the specific cacao beans and sugar.

Simplicity at its' best
Simplicity at its’ best

When it comes to processed chocolate, these ones were top notch. From cool packaging design to the origins of the bean, Marou has got it figured out. Lucky me, I still have their event invitation which was a chocolate bar. Plus I got a goodie bag with their special golden chocolate, which cannot be bought anywhere. What a dilemma – I don’t want to eat it, but how can one resist the temptation?

Oh, expos, how I love you. If I ever get to go to Fancy Food Show or Expo West, I’ll be happy for months in advance! I hope the next time won’t be too far away from now.