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January 1, 2003     Sentinel Tribune
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January 1, 2003

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Sentinel Tribune Organizations Wednesday, January 1, Post Card From Hong Kong By John Van Hecke December 30, 2002 ARer two and a half years in Hang Kong, we return to Minnesota this summer. Recently, I've been thinking about the parts of Hang Kong that Iql miss. I'll miss Wan Chai. If you're of a certain age and remember reading 'The World of Suzie Wang' or seeing the movie, you've encountered Wan Chai. Set in post-World War II Hang Kong, the book explores a relationship between an English painter and a Chinese prostitute. Quite popular in the early 1950s, the novel documented Hang Kong's notorious bar culture. The book is a little tawdry although, by today's standards, the action is more suggestive than anything else. Through the painter's eyes, readers learn about Suzie's life in the Wan Chai waterfront's sleazy hotels and bars. Wan Chai was Hang Kong's red light district. Even outgoing Governor Jesse Ventura tells Wan Chai nightlife stories from his Navy R&R days. Whatever you may have heard about the district was, very likely, true. Today's Wan Chai is a shadow of its former self. The bargirl culture hangs on, or tries to, but really, the prostitutes moved across Victoria Harbor to Kowloon twenty years ago. Wan Chai is back to being just a funky, crowded old Hang Kong neighborhood. That's the Wan Chai that I'll miss. On Saturday night, Betsy and I had dinner at Win Loi restaurant, a shaved noodle joint on Tin Lok Lane. We love this place. The food is fabulous, cheap, and not Cantonese. Win Loi, the anglicized Cantonese pronunciation of 'Winner,' serves Shaanxi province food. This is hearty, stick-to-your- ribs stuff. Located in-China's central north, just below Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi was on the old Silk Road trade route to the Middle East. The local cuisine carries an Islamic world flavors influence. Thick, irregularly shaped, shaved rice noodles are combined with fried beef or mutton in broth, garnished with pickled vegetables. It's not Chinese home cooking so much as it is street food. Unlike most Chinese dishes, noodle soup is an individual rather than a shared serving. Fleshing out our meal, we ordered steamed choi sum, called 'Chinese broccoli' in the west. Afterwards, we walked along Canal Road to Lockhart Road, once part of the old Suzie Wang Wan Chai. These days, it's restaurants, retail shops and the St. Alp's Tea House, a franchised, Taiwanese-style place. We go for the purple iced tea with taro root and black jelly balls. It sounds weird but it's delicious. The big, chewy tapioca balls are just plain fun to eat. From what I've read, Taiwanese jelly-ball tea is becoming very popular in America. I won t le surprised to find it at the State Fair next summer. Like every Saturday evening, Lockhart Road was packed. Families, young people, old folks, everyone comes out. It's not a promenade. People walk Lockhart Road to get places, not to see and be seen. Like most of Hang Kong, Wan Chai is overwhelmingly Chinese. Nine out of every ten people are Chinese. It's the day- to-day, family, street life bounce that I'll miss. The vendors, noodle shops, wet markets, butchers, shady DVD sellers, sidewalk watch repairmen, jewelry touts, traditional Chinese apothecaries, everything imaginable packed into less land than Walnut Grove covers. Side streets aren't well lit and some buildings appear rough but Wan Chai is an incredibly safe neighborhood. Street crime is rare in Hang Kong and we've never felt remotely threatened or even uncomfortable. Wan Chai's vibrancy is Hang Kong's. It's simultaneously familiar and foreign, normal and unusual, and Iql miss it. If you have the chance, you should see it for yourself. John Van Hecke is a 1981 Walnut Grove High School graduate and a former contributor to the Walnut Grove Tribune. He may be contacted at $25,000. $27,500. $37,500. $43,500. $45,000. $49,900. $69,000. 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Shellfish have long been a popular choice for these meals, and with good mason. Subtly spiced and filled with "stick-to- your-ribs" warmth, seafood specialties like this "Scallops Dieppoise" from France are cemain to be a big hit this holi- day season. Try your hand at this easy-to-pre- pare recipe, courtesy of "Le Cordon Bleu Home Collection: Winter'" (Periplus Editions). SCALLOPS DIEPPOISE Serres 4 Dieppe, on the northern coast of France. is renowned for seafood spe- ciahies like this. "Dieppoise" dishes usually contain shrimp, mussels, mush- roorns and wine. 1 large shallot, chopped 1 cups white wine 2 springs of fresh thyme 1 bay leaf 8 ounces fresh mussels, scrubbed and beards removed 8 ounces small uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined lO fresh or fren scap patted dry. 3 cups sliced button mushrooms cup heavy cream 1 tablespoon chopped fresh fiat- leaf parsley 1. Place the shallot, wine, thyme, bay leaf and mussels in a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the mussels open, tossing Flavorful, OOH LA-LAt "Scallops Fnch spu to Eve dinner gently once or twice. sels and allow to cool, that have not opened. 2. Line a fine cheecloth and strain m. large saucepan. the cheesecloth, rinse u--p-as before. 3. Bring the liquid to the shrimp, stir. then Cover and simme until the seafood is seafood and set aside. sels from their shells ane 4, Strain the cooking the cheesecloth into a boil, add the about 25 minutes or Add the cream Add the seafood and before serving. Elegant Treats for the What's the best part about holiday dining? The desserts, of course. From traditional fruit cakes to delightfully delicate cookies, the season is filled ' with treats for every sweet tooth under the sun. Try your hand at these delightful "Aniseed Biscuits," courtesy of "The Scent of Orange Blossoms: the Sephardic Cuisine of Morocco" (Ten Speed Press), by Kitty Morse and Danieite Mamane. ANISEED BISCUITS (GALETrF A L'ANIS) Makes about 35 For variation, shape the dough into rings. The use of a pasta machine greatly filcilitates the task of roiling the dough to a wfiform thickness. Substitute cumin seed for arose, i.f 3vu prefer. SLIGHTLY Biscuits" are get-togethers 2!, cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon aniseeds, toasted 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar cup vegetable oil 1 egg lightly beaten cup warm water Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a howl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, aniseeds and sesame seeds. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, combine the sugar, oil and egg. Beat until blended and pale yellow. Fold into the flour mixture and add the water in incre- ments, mixing to make a soft dough. Transfer the doughnut to a lightly floured work surface and knead for smooth lasagna roll opening. Pass one through the rollers dough lightl with three times and roll machine again. Repeat rolling process two dough should be abOU! Repeat with the tions of dough. lightly floured work If rolling by hand, work surface and roll the dough out to a 9- I, Repeat with the tions of dough. Cut two equal rectangles. Using a pastry strip into 4- by With the tines of a down the length Transfer to a Bake until the gold, 18 to 20 minuteS- two to three minutes. Divide the dough Store in a tightly into three equal portions, up to one week. If using a pasta machine, set the Always do right. This will gratify some rest.