Welcome to the Jungle (CUHK, Hong Kong)

Living gluten-free in Hong Kong has been completely hit and miss and it is for this reason that I havn’t been able to provide heaps of tips and recipes for you all. I have lived mostly off supermarket sushi and strange renditions of things I cannot name from the school canteens. Thus, after 2 months there is nothing I miss more then my kitchen! Or, I’d take any kitchen really. All I have is a mostly broken portable hotplate and a microwave. Want any utensils? You have to supply your own and they will most likely be “borrowed”, permanently, like my last 2 umbrellas. So, in the interests of giving you all something to procrastinate with (and me something to procrastinate from studying as I just HAVE to write this) I figured I would detail some of what has become my weird and wacky home away from home.

So, what am I doing? I am studying abroad at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). Why? Because I got the option and it seemed like an amazing experience I shouldn’t miss. Where is CUHK? In the middle of the jungle near Shatin, N.T., Hong Kong, S.A.R. Quite literally – check out the photos of campus and imagine yourself strolling to class and BOOM! Monkey! Or going to get into a lift at night and there is a snake inside. All true stories and there are many more. Whilst this could happen anywhere, you know its accurately described as ‘jungle’ when your morning commute to class tends to look something like this:

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I’ll give it to CUHK, it’s quite a beautiful campus. But building a campus on a huge hill when you know the HK climate wasn’t very kind. Hiking hundreds of stairs in 39 degrees and 90% humidity is anything but pretty. How are you supposed to make friends when you go to class looking like you have been swimming? Alas, I have found the key – you only ever hike DOWN (with an iced coffee in hand..) and take the free buses back up. You still get a little sheen (and a little exercise) but you are not visibly dripping. It’s only when you a) don’t have to be anywhere special, b) can jump straight in the shower or c) have a short way to go that you attempt to conquer sets of stairs the other way.

Just like campus, exploring Hong Kong has proved to be a very beautiful experience. Whether its looking over the high rise buildings of Hong Kong central or hiking along trails, the views have always been spectacular. Probably one of my favourites was the hiking trail to Tai Long Wan. Having heard from other CUHKers who had gone camping there the weekend before we figured it was well worth our time to make the journey and have a night camping on the beach. And believe me, it was.

Having had a less then seamless commute to the starting point we set off on foot for the hike alot later then expected, and a truthfully, a little grumpy. But when you hike for 5 minutes and are greeted with views like this, I don’t think anyone could stay ruffled for long:

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The end result of the hike is that you get to a set of beaches where you can camp next to a 4 shack ‘town’ where you can rent tents from, by water (and beer) and get food. But be warned – don’t go during the lantern festival or I suppose any other main holiday – its busy – and when you get lost along the way and end up getting to the beach around 5pm, there will be NO tents left. Originally it doesn’t seem a problem as sleeping on the beach isn’t that bad and hey, you save a little money. But at 3am when the wind is blowing sand in your face and you are so cold you actually cannot sleep, you might start regretting not having a tent. Learn from my mistake, this is NOT fun. It’s only the guy who was so drunk he passed out that doesn’t seem to mind. Then again, not being able to sleep has benefits – mine being that I got to see the sunrise and set off hiking bright and early before the heat kicked in.

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On your way in or out, stopping at the cliff jumping is a must. It is not far off the main trail and absolutely beautiful. If you go early you get to have it to yourself for a while too. It can be a little daunting jumping, take it from someone who is petrified of heights, but it is well worth it, just remember to point your toes before you hit the water. 

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All in all, a great trip to take, and well worth the effort. If you have a spare weekend, get yourself down there!

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I won’t keep you any longer for now, but stay tuned for more of my Hong Kong adventures, tales and tips :)

Much love,

G.E.B

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Pasta is back on the menu!

I don’t know about the gluten-free pasta’s you may have tried, but the vast majority I have attempted to eat have been really underwhelming. Most look more like Clag Paste (that stuff you use in craft as a kid and were told NOT to eat..) then pasta and tasted either like cardboard or glue. Yet by some weird coincidence, when I am finding myself strapped for any other options, the one gluten-free pasta I pick up from a store is actually really delicious. Or maybe its just that my body was so excited to have some proper gluten-free food, who knows? I am hoping that its the former. I felt even better about eating it knowing it was made from brown rice and certified as gluten-free. The brand is Canadian so I am not 100% sure in which countries or where you will find it, but google it and when you are shopping, keep an eye out for this packet:

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To make it a wholesome and delicious meal I added a tin of tuna and topped with some Barilla olive pasta sauce. Some would think I am strange for coming to Hong Kong and using Australian pasta sauce, but for now, I am sticking to what I know! Add a little cheese and you are set to go! 

Heres a not so flattering photo of my meal. Turns out that before I embarked on cooking the pasta, I should have checked to see if we had bowls in the dorm kitchen! Alas, as I sat and ate pasta from the pot, I had a sense of utter accomplishment and relief in that even in a completely foreign country where they speak a language I do not, I can still get by completely gluten-free. 

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Regards,

A much happier G.E.B.

Overboard?

So my skin is changing colour, my eyes are different and I am uber lethargic. Gluten-free in Hong Kong clearly hasn’t been working. So after skyping my mother and getting a lecture about it, I figured I would go sort myself out.

Enter – City’super.

So this place is like a palace for me. There is, of course, much more glutinous food but they have lots of gluten-free stuff too! Pretty much they have food from all over the world and reprint the ingredients into English. They also have certified gluten-free stuff! They even go as far as having cake mixes!

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It’s expensive, as is most gluten-free stuff. But well worth it as you can know for certain that you are not going to be eating gluten. I bought all this:

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There was so much more I wanted to buy but the kitchen here is so limited so I am going to have to work on that first! That and we share a communal fridge and thing which I have been warned is often stolen from by others. I am not flushed with enough funds to feed everyone gluten-free goodies!

Anyway, if anyone is in HK and not anywhere near a sushi bar. Like, for example, living on campus, I cannot recommend City’super more. Go check it out :)

Regards,

Your Hong Kong explorer: G.E.B.

The term Glutard

Not too long after I was diagnosed someone said to me ‘Oh you’re a Glutard’. I gave them what could only be described as ‘huh?’ or ‘what are YOU on about?’. They swiftly added, ‘Its a nickname for people with Coeliac disease’. I wasn’t 100% sure at the time whether it was an insult or an endearing term so decided I would take it and twist it into something fun and friendly.

According to the Urban Dictionary, the term Glutard refers to:

One who does not possess the enzymes necessary to digest gluten, a main ingredient in wheat products. One who is “glutarded” must only eat gluten-free foods, such as water, tofu, and air.
“Hey, do you want some pasta for dinner?”
“No, sorry, I’m a glutard.”
“…what does that mean?”
“It means… I’m glutarded.”
“Oh. Okay.”
So they don’t have everything included but at least they recognise that we can’t eat wheat which is a good start! I have started to use it a little myself, and you will find it in at least one or two of my posts so far.
For anyone who wants to embrace the term, you can do as little as using it, or go as far as getting the t-shirt or the mug (from the Urban Dictionary link above)! Get involved, cause ‘Yo, I’m a Glutard!’
Proud of it!
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G.E.B.

Slow Cooked Chicken Penang Curry

Opening Note: Sadly, due to the fact I am newly in Hong Kong, I will be restricted in photos of recipes for a while as I cannot remake the dishes and photograph them before posting. Whilst my dorm does have a little kitchen, it doesn’t come supplied with anything, so I will need to go shopping and stock it up before I can get back to cooking and photographing delicious gluten-free recipes! However, luckily I have a few of my staples stored either in my head or on the computer which I can continue to share in the mean time – I’d hate to leave you all hanging!

Today’s recipe is another great one for anyone with a slow cooker. It can also be done on the stove much quicker, but I find the slow cooker makes it so much tenderer and tastier!

Ingredients: 

800 g boneless, skinless chicken breasts

400ml tinned coconut cream

1 tin of baby corn

1 carrot, sliced

1 red capsicum, sliced

A handful of green beans

Coriander leaves to garnish

Sliced red chilli to garnish

Red Curry Paste (you can buy this pre-made if you’d like, just check its GF!):

1 red onion

10 g galangal, sliced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tsp chilli powder

2 corriander roots, washed

1 tsp shrimp paste

3 tbsp peanuts, toasted

Method:

  1. To make the red curry paste, place all the paste ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Alternatively, pound the ingredients using a mortar and pestle to form a smooth paste.
  2. Trim the chicken of any fat, then chop into 2cm pieces and put in a large bowl. Add the red curry paste and mix well to coat the chicken in the paste.
  3. Put the chicken in the slow cooker. Cook on high for 2 hours, then add the coconut cream and vegetables and cook for a further 1 hour. Ladle the curry into large serving bowls and garnish with the coriander leaves and chilli.
  4. Serve with Jasmine Rice.

Enjoy!

G.E.B.

p.s. In case you were too distraught about no photos, here’s one of the ladies market in Mong Kok today!

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Politeness mixed with Chinese Culture – a recipe for disaster

Last night CUHK hosted a welcome banquet for all the exchange students. 11 courses of preset food. Sounds amazing? Well that wasn’t quite the outcome…

Despite the fact the school knew of my allergy it didn’t seem to translate to the restaurant and they constantly put questionable things on my plate. I tried to put the gluteny-looking stuff to the side but on the small plates it was all just being contaminated and I knew the night wasn’t going to end well. Whilst it had occurred to me to say no, I had been told that to not offend you should say yes and then just leave it, so that’s what I did. Yet even then, only so much can be on your plate before you have to eat some of it. Some of the dishes were delicious, some cute, and some just plain weird looking!

A particularly worrying item on the menu was ‘marshmallow rabbit’. We read this and got quite fearful of what we were going to have to eat. This is what came:

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A cute rabbit shaped marshmallow. We breathed a sigh of relief and gobbled the laser-eyed treats!

Despite all my attempts, I found my plans to head out swiftly ending and instead retreated back to college, my bed and the bathroom.

Lets hope for more luck in the future!