Monday, August 6, 2012

Food Hero Tuesday: Michelle Ng of ChopstixFix

Note from the Editor: Every Tuesday, TFT HK will bring you a post or article from/about one of our local or global food heroes. These are people who inspire us, and whose visions align with the values that TFT espouses and promotes. This week's post is an interview with Michelle Ng, creator of the popular Hong Kong food blog ChopstixFix, and restaurant reviewer for Sassy Hong Kong. Michelle describes herself as "a Brit born Chinese-Malaysian who has loved food since time immemorial. She is a firm believer in 'Live to Eat, not Eat to Live'". Michelle, we at TFT HK salute you!

Hey Michelle! Thanks for being with us today. First, can you tell us about yourself?

I grew up in London for most of my life, but my family originally hails from Malaysia. Coming from a family of food fanatics, and spending a few years in Penang as a child, I was quite well exposed to a variety of cuisines, and my parents always made sure that I tried everything at least once!

When I came over to HK three years ago, I was like a kid in a sweet shop- I basically went wild trying out as many restaurants as I could, discovering all the dai pai dongs, and the wealth of cuisine on offer. It wasn’t long until I had a ridiculous collection of food photos. Not really knowing what else to do with them, I decided to set up Chopstixfix as a sort of restaurant directory and to help my family and friends decide where to eat when they visited me! It was meant to be a bit of a fun hobby but now the writing is definitely a passion and a little bit more serious than just a food album!

So ChopstixFix was originally sort of an online Hong Kong food adventure scrapbook for your visitors? I love that! It sounds like you've always been a dedicated explorer of the food scene in Hong Kong. What are your favorite things about eating in HK, and what don't you like about it?

I love the great spectrum of food on offer. I love that there are some utterly fantastic and humble eateries like Kau Kee as well as stellar restaurants like Otto e Mezzo. I feel very lucky to be able to experience the dining scene in HK as I think we’re quite spoilt for choice and everything is so accessible. There’s nothing I don’t like per se, but I do find the turnover of restaurants in HK sometimes alarming. I can’t keep up with half the restaurant openings, and I feel that we’ve gotten to a point where everyone’s so intent on trying the newest places that we find ourselves neglecting the established ones! I barely have a chance to go back to my old favourites!

The quick turnover of eateries here can definitely be overwhelming. How do you choose which restaurants to review?

Unless I’m reviewing for Sassy Hong Kong or a review on Chopstixfix is by invitation, I usually end up checking out restaurants that my friends want to try. I’m very easy going. I enjoy most cuisines and I’m adventurous so I just go wherever the mood takes us! I’m still working my way through places that have been on my list since I first moved here!

What's your favorite spot to eat in the world?

Second to home-cooking and eating with family, (because my parents are amazing cooks), I’d probably say Penang. I’m disgustingly greedy when I go back and been known to eat 12 mini meals in one day. You can’t beat the hawker food out there. A lot of my best childhood memories are linked to food experiences in Penang. If you haven’t visited Penang, then you should go!

I keep hearing so much about the abundance and quality of street food in Penang. I'll need to move up a trip there on my "to-do" list! What's your favorite restaurant in Hong Kong?

You’ll hate my response, but I can’t really single out one restaurant, because it depends on my mood and what I feel like eating at the time. My favourite sushi place is Sushi Shin in Tai Hang, but it’s not somewhere that you can rock up to every day! If you asked me where I like going for Indian, I’d say Woodlands in TST for dosas. I like Crystal Jade when I need a quick xiao long bao fix! And Kau Kee for curry beef noodles.

Yum. Who are your food heroes and why?

I think Rick Stein and Anthony Bourdain are total legends. I loved watching Rick Stein’s cookery programmes and his passion is so palpable, so I find that very inspiring. Also, I shy away from cooking fish so I enjoy watching how he does it and what recipes he conjures up. Anthony Bourdain is very entertaining to watch. I like his no holds barred approach and frankly, he’s just cool.

What are your favorite food blogs?

I think Janice of "e_ting" is fab and I trust her taste-buds, so I read her blog for recommendations in HK!  I enjoy reading "Smitten Kitchen" - the recipes are a great read and the photos are mouth-watering. I’ve recently discovered "The Lambshank Redemption" by Neil Davey, who shares his gastronomic experiences from around the world. The writing is witty, eloquent and light-hearted.

I haven't read "The Lambshank Redemption," so I'll have to check it out! Do you cook? If so, what are your "go-to" recipes?

I cook when I have time. I try to make my lunch every day, make a healthy salad. For dinner, I normally rummage around in my cupboards and try to whip up something! It either goes wrong or it ends up being very tasty, and then I have the problem that I can’t remember what I did! Pasta puttanesca, pea risotto, spiced couscous with chicken and pork katsu curry are my ‘go-to’ recipes if I’m lacking imagination.

Thanks again, for letting us get to know you, Michelle! Anything else you want our readers to know about you?

I love amaretto sours and KFC chicken skin and I'm obsessed with Tae Kae Noi crispy seaweed from 7-Eleven which is a nice, guilt-free snack! I'm also training for a half-marathon, so I'm trying to be as healthy as I can during the week and indulge on the weekends!

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