Food and Drink

Dim Sum rituals

Whilst having Dim Sum today I watched the lady at the next table carefully cleaning all the cups, bowls and chopsticks (using the tea and hot water provided by the restaurant).

The problem is that once you notice people doing this you can’t help but observe that most people who do this (and many restaurant staff) handle cups, bowls and chopsticks quite indiscriminately.  So we have to hope that their hands are really clean.  

I wrote about this several years ago, and these were the explanations offered in the comments:

  1. There’s a lot of TB in Hong Kong.  Which is true:
  2. Restaurants use bleach to wash everything, and it needs to be rinsed off.

    Another comment was that a brief wash with hot water is unlikely to kill many germs, which must be correct (for that you’d need water that is actually boiling).

    So if you are really a germaphobe you should probably stay at home.


        Health Scare

        Two years ago I complained about President’s horrible Ambassador product (I can believe its not butter) and here it is in an SCMP report

        Almost 20 spreads sold in Hong Kong ‘could increase your risk of cancer’

        GlycidolAt least 18 margarine products sold in shops in Hong Kong contain glycidol, a substance thought to cause cancer, and at least 16 carry a by-product [3-MCPD] that can harm kidneys and male fertility, the Consumer Council said on Monday.

        The watchdog revealed the findings from tests done last October on 30 items – nine types of butter and 21 products containing margarine. The latter comprised 16 margarine spreads, four blended spreads and one sample of shortening.

        [..]  The European Food Safety Authority (ESFA) is set to publish its standards for glycidol intake this year. Last year it recommended that the intake of the by-product 3-MCPD should be no more than 120 micrograms per day for adults.

        3-MCPD comes about when refining edible oils and is found in noodles, chips and even infant formula.

        Among the samples, President’s Ambassador Salted Culinary Fat Blend contained the most 3-MCPD at 1,100mcg per kg.

        As I said two years ago, I really don’t understand why a respectable company such as President is selling this product in packaging that looks just like butter (and that was when I knew it contained trans fats, but didn’t know about the glycidol and 3-MCPD).  Seriously, what’s wrong with them?

        Having said that, the risk is quite low:

        But a person would still have to eat 24 teaspoons of the fat blend in a day to exceed the ESFA’s guidelines, the council said.  “With normal consumption, the impact on health is minimal,” Wong Kam-fai added.


        Cheesing

        黐線 chi1 sin3 – crazy, idiot; nuts

        Waitrose Double Gloucester

        ParknShop were selling this cheese for HK$40 (which is reasonable by Hong Kong supermarket standards).  Then a few weeks later it went up to HK$88, which is definitely 黐線 chisin.  Then it went back down to HK$44. 

        Then it was HK$22, which is slightly cheaper than the regular price in the UK (£2.55, since you asked).  Only in some PnS stores – one branch of Taste is selling it for around HK$70.

        But there was no information about those earlier prices.  This from a company that will advertise reductions such as HK$88 down to HK$87.90, not to mention “alt fact” reductions (where the higher price might have been charged for one day, if at all). 

        Sadly, it’s not one of my favourite Waitrose cheeses.  OK on toast, but that’s all.


        Food Gulu - update required. Plus spam.

        Food Gulu

        I understand that apps need to be updated periodically.  But why do you force me to update it before I can use it?  Almost every other app allows you to use the current version and update later (when you have time).  But not FoodGulu, oh no.

        Food Gulu is a simple enough app - it allows you to book  tables for restaurants in Hong Kong (including the Maxims group).  Anyone who has had to wait for a table for Dim Sum should appreciate the convenience.  You can make a booking on your way to the restaurant  – and if there’s a long wait you can do something else whilst monitoring the queue.

        But recently it seems to need updating every week, and the first you hear of it is when you open it to book a table.

        Plus they have started sending me annoying offers for a 20% discount if I pre-order food in a Korean restaurant at the airport.  This can’t be a targeted offer (I’ve never been to this restaurant or used the FoodGulu app at the airport), so it must be spam


        Bad carbs

        It’s fascinating how the “low carb” diet is finally being taken seriously by the establishment.  I have written about this many times, being unconvinced by the Atkins diet but interested in alternatives

        The TV series “Doctor in the House”, shown here recently on BBC Earth, featured “low carb” diets as an effective way to deal with diabetes.  Then I found this in New Scientist:

        Fat vs carbs: What’s really worse for your health?

        David Unwin, a doctor practising in Southport, UK [..] suggests to his patients with type 2 diabetes or who want to lose weight that they do the opposite of what official health advice recommends. He advises them to stop counting calories, eat high-fat foods – including saturated fats – and avoid carbohydrates, namely sugar and starch. Telling people to avoid sugar is uncontroversial; the rest is medical heresy.

        But crazy as it sounds, Unwin has found that most of his diabetes patients who follow this advice are getting their blood sugar back under control, and that some are coming off medication they have relied on for years. Those who are overweight are slimming down.

        If you want to read more, I recommend “The Great Cholesterol Myth” by by Jonny Bowden and Stephen Sinatra


        I can believe it's not butter

        imageIt certainly looks like butter - and the shelf label says “salted butter plus vegetable oil”, though apparently the official name is "President’s Ambassador Salted Culinary Fat Blend" (which really sounds delicious, doesn't it). 

        What is the first ingredient?  Hydrogenated vegetable oil.  There is some butter, but it’s the third ingredient, so probably less than 20%.

        President should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for selling this product in Hong Kong.

        Yes, it does contain trans fats.

        [See also a later post about this product containing glycidol and 3-MCPD]  .


        Not a big risk

        This is ridiculous (from The Guardian):

        Processed meats rank alongside smoking as cancer causes – WHO

        UN health body says bacon, sausages and ham among most carcinogenic substances along with cigarettes, alcohol, asbestos and arsenic

        Bacon, ham and sausages rank alongside cigarettes as a major cause of cancer, the World Health Organisation has said, placing cured and processed meats in the same category as asbestos, alcohol, arsenic and tobacco.

        The report from the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer said there was enough evidence to rank processed meats as group 1 carcinogens because of a causal link with bowel cancer.

        It places red meat in group 2A, as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. Eating red meat is also linked to pancreatic and prostate cancer, the IARC says.

        The IARC’s experts concluded that each 50-gram (1.8-ounce) portion of processed meat eaten daily increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.

        Really - they found “a causal link with bowel cancer”?  I don’t think so.  What they found was that people who eat more processed meat have a higher incidence of cancer.  It’s easy to play around with the data and identify some correlation between two items, but if you want to go on to establish a causal link you need to do a much better study that eliminates most of the other variables. 

        And “Bacon, ham and sausages rank alongside cigarettes as a major cause of cancer”.  Well, not really.  The Q&A (issued with the press release) says that:

        this does NOT mean that they are all equally dangerous.  The IARC classifications describe the strength of the scientific evidence about an agent being a cause of cancer, rather than assessing the level of risk.

        I think it’s that weasel word “alongside” (used by The Guardian in their headline as well as the body of the article), with its implication that they are somehow equivalent.  Which they aren’t

        We know beyond all reasonable doubt that smoking causes cancer, we certainly don’t know that about sausages, ham and bacon.  Plus, all they are saying is that your risk of these cancers might go up from 5% to 6%.

        Other journalists have added their own speculation.  There was a cover story in Time magazine that included the suggestion that it could be the nitrates / nitrites (probably not, as the body produces nitrites) or the process of cooking (grilling, frying, BBQ) - but I’m sure that theory was debunked.   

        I can think of two simple explanations.  People who eat a lot of sausages and bacon might have a generally unhealthy lifestyle and could well be overweight, or could it just be the quality of the meat that is used in cheap sausages and ham?  But neither of those would really be news. 


        Closing time

        A really good article in The Guardian today:

        The death and life of the great British pub

        The Murphy family, John, Mary and their adult son Dave, were preparing to spend a 33rd Christmas as landlords of the Golden Lion pub in Camden, north London when they heard the rumours. A mysterious figure was said to be looming in their corner of the industry, harrying publicans, striking down premises. There was “a Grim Reaper of pubs”, the Murphys were told, and he was circling their handsome Victorian building on Royal College Street.

        It was December 2011. In front of the pub’s eyelash-shaped bar, beneath a blackboard that, for as long as anyone could remember, had advertised a heavy discount on tumblers of Irish Mist, the family met with a representative of Admiral Taverns. Admiral was the large pub-owning company – a pubco, as they are known in the trade – that leased the Murphy family their tenancy at the Golden Lion. “The rep told us she had bad news,” said Dave Murphy, a solid, red-cheeked man in his 40s.

        It’s a long article, but worth a few minutes of your time.

        See also Be careful what you wish for on a similar subject.


        A hotel somewhere in SE Asia

        Me: Can I have a cheese omelette?

        Chef-type man: Yes.  [Turns to assistant].  Cheese Omelette

        Assistant chef:  What do you want in it?

        Me: Onions and tomato [Assistant Chef starts cooking].

        Me: What about the cheese?

        Assistant chef:  [ignores question, continues cooking]

        Me: I want a cheese omelette  

        Chef-type man: He asked for a Cheese Omelette.

        [Assistant throws cheese-free omelette away and starts again]


        Cheese

        They had another one of those International Cheese Festivals at Hullett House in TST.

        The problem is that the cheese market is in a tiny room.  I had to wait in a queue before I was allowed in, but there were still too many people inside.  I did manage to try the only Scottish cheese they had (from Barwheys Dairy), and so I bought some of that, and a couple of French cheeses before I gave up.  Not cheap at HK$55 per 100g, but I’d have bought more if it had been better organized.

        From there I went to the Shangri-La, which had this rather puzzling dish in its buffet:

        image

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