Five Must-Dos in Hong Kong

We have been back from Hong Kong for a few weeks, and it just now feels like life has re-settled into a regular routine. The backpacks are unpacked, the souvenirs are handed out, and now it’s time for the blogging to begin!

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Our time in Hong Kong was wonderful and a great introduction to Asia for the two of us. Everyone we encountered was quick to smile, there were endless places to explore, and the food was phenomenal. While I’m still writing “A Vegan’s Guide to Hong Kong” (expect that next week), here’s a round-up of our very favorite things in Hong Kong and nearby areas. So, in no particular order, here are five activities and destinations that shouldn’t be missed during a visit to Hong Kong:

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

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About a 45 minute train ride outside of Hong Kong City, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is in the small village of Sha Tin. It’s an easy 10 minute walk to the beginning of the path, during which you’ll pass by a small square with local vendors selling snacks, flowers, and incense. Once you reach the beginning of the trail, be prepared for a bit of a hike. The meandering path up the mountain is lined with unique gold-painted arhat (the Buddhist equivalent of saints) statues, ranging from familiar meditation poses to the outright bizarre.

At the end of your walk, you will be greeted by the monastery, a beautiful sprawling area full of (you guessed it) more statues and temples. With the smell of incense lingering in the air, you can visit the nine-story pagoda or the temple that is the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery’s namesake, filled with nearly 13,000 unique Buddha statues inside. As a bonus, the small restaurant up there is entirely vegetarian and has the world’s best spring rolls.

Note: Fake monks will occasionally try and scam tourists by asking for ‘donations’ by the entrance. These are not real monks and should be ignored. One tried to put a bracelet on my wrist but quickly backed off when I gave them a firm “No thank you.”

Hong Kong Park

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Visited by complete accident, we wandered into Hong Kong Park after skipping the nearby Peak Tram and its ridiculously long line. A wonderful green oasis in the midst of the city, the park features tons of flora and fauna for the curious visitor. We arrived later in the evening, so the Aviary and Tea Wares Museum (both of which looked awesome from the outside) were already closed, but there was still plenty to enjoy.

Throughout Hong Kong Park you’ll see a plethora of animals like families of turtles, brightly colored koi fish, and friendly pigeons. The path around the lake is the optimum place to go for a stroll, or take a packed lunch to eat on one of the many benches. Don’t forget to visit the Vantage Point Tower, which gives an uninterrupted view of the entire park.

Cheung Chau Island

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Our trip to Hong Kong fatefully fell on the date of Cheung Chau’s annual bun festival. The bun festival, a Taoist tradition, celebrates the island surviving a devastating plague hundreds of years ago, and also coincides with Buddha’s birthday. The festivities include specialty handmade buns (I highly recommend the lotus seed ones), an almost endless string of parades, children dressed up as deities, and vendors hawking everything from hand-painted shirts to mini-bun key chains.

While the festival is an opportune time to visit Cheung Chau, which is a 45-minute ferry ride from Hong Kong Island, there are many other features on the island that make it worth a visit. A gorgeous beach, adorable fishing vessels, an ancient pirate cave, and various temples make Cheung Chau a destination for any time of the year.

Day Trips Outside of Hong Kong

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I know, I know. This isn’t a must-do that’s actually in Hong Kong, but I think it’s a great option for those who want to do a little extra exploring during their trip. For those spending the majority of their time in Hong Kong, there are plenty of opportunities to do a little country hopping to places like China, Macau, and even Taiwan. While there, we took two Viator tours, one to Macau and the other to China. While Hong Kong and Macau are all technically part of the People’s Republic of China, these three regions are distinct enough in culture that they’re all definitely worth a separate visit.

Knick Knack (Knock Off) Shopping

Visiting shopping districts or malls has never been a big interest for Peter and me. We’d much rather hit up a local flea market or craftsperson for souvenirs and trinkets to commemorate our trips. I write all this to say, the shopping markets in Hong Kong are a serious must-visit. Full to the brim with knock-offs of everything from Star Wars Legos (take note of the curvy font that actually say ‘Star Wart’) to jade statues that were undoubtedly just pretty glass, there are tons of stalls and areas to explore with wide-eyed wonder. While this cheap (and fascinating) area may not be to everyone’s buying tastes, it’s at least a hilarious place to spend an hour or two while looking at the horrendously painted or misspelled products. Some of our favorites to visit were the Temple Street Night Market and the Ladies’ Market.

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Eating Through The Land of Ooo – Macaroni Salad

One of my favorite television shows, Adventure Time is a wacky ride of funny characters, sometimes heart-wrenching storyline, and food. Lots of food. It’s hard to go through an episode without watching a character make a sandwich, share some spaghetti, or feed their loved one a bowl of soup.

I love basing recipes off of shows, books, and movies, so this is the first installment of my series “Eating Through The Land of Ooo” which is where Adventure Time is based. I’m hoping to eat my way through the majority of episodes, drawing inspiration from the characters’ various meals.

Our first meal takes place in “Ocarina”season 6, episode 12. Jake the dog is celebrating his pups’ birthdays, but they’re all disappointed when arrives with no presents and a small amount of macaroni salad.

Although the pups were disappointed with Jake’s beige take on this carb-centric dish, I’m sure they would have been thrilled with this recipe. I pepped it up a bit by adding heavy-hitters when it comes to flavor like salty olives, sweet roasted red peppers, and tangy pickles. The dressing, although vegan-mayo based, isn’t too heavy and allows the whole dish to be cohesive instead of a gloopy mess.

Although it’s tempting to eat it straight out of the mixing bowl, this recipe really shines when you let it fully sit overnight. Everything melds together to create a dish that you’d be proud to bring to your next birthday party.macaroni salad.jpg

Birthday Macaroni Salad

Serves: 10

Ingredients:

  • 1 lbs. macaroni pasta
  • 1 15.5 oz. can black olives, drained and sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped dill pickles
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions (both white and green parts)
  • 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise (such as Vegenaise)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook macaroni according to package’s directions.
  2. Once cooked, drain the pasta and rinse with cold water until cool.
  3. Combine in a large bowl with the remaining ingredients. Mix well.
  4. Set in the fridge to chill and for flavors to meld for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.  

I’m Baaaaaack

And feeling good.

So this blog has been static for almost an entire year. When Gallivanting Vegan went silent, Peter and I had just moved to a new apartment (that we’re still in and enjoy, yay!), and I’d just been hired by MyRecipes, which left the blog as a non-priority in my newly jam-packed life. Since then, we’ve done some traveling, changed up jobs, and added a new (four-legged) member to our family, Momo the cat.

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I’m now working for Cooking Light, which is a sister brand of MyRecipes, so I didn’t even have to move desks (or leave my awesome co-workers) when I switched positions. Through these jobs, which involve my two loves of food and words, I’ve have the opportunity to do/write some awesome things, like:

So, inspired a lot by the work I do, I’m hoping to post more consistently now. With everything from recipes to vegan travel guides to how-tos. This entire absence I’ve still been making and noshing on delicious vegan food, so I’ve got a nice little backlog of content ready for you guys. Keep an eye out in the next few days for new posts. To easily keep up to date, follow the blog on Facebook by clicking the like button on the side bar.

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Visiting I Dream of Weenie in Nashville.

New York City Pt. I

I was planning on posting about our vacation much sooner, but I was busy on the hunt for a job after graduating. I’m happy to say that I’ve found one, and in the food writing industry no less! I’ll be MyRecipes.com’s recipe editor and officially start in two weeks. On top of that Peter and I will be moving soon, so there’s a lot of exciting change happening in our household!

Back to our December vacation though:

It was a challenge to find someplace reasonably priced (and not 100% sketchy) in New York City, but we finally settled for the Harlem YMCA. Our room was a pristinely clean private bunk bed with very nice bathrooms, a simple kitchen with a fridge and microwave, and it was just one block from the subway.

A plus was the good view of Harlem!DSCF0376We arrived to the city ridiculously early at the crack of dawn and decided that we would skip the subway and walk the still peaceful streets to Central Park. DSCF0317DSCF0319We arrived at the park and spent the next hour wandering around and dodging early morning runners and cyclists. DSCF0329DSCF0327DSCF0325DSCF0335DSCF0331DSCF0333To avoid a hangry meltdown from us both after walking several miles with no food, we ate breakfast. We found a small, unmarked food truck (we’re still not sure it was legal) that was whipping out sandwiches. Peter got an egg and cheese and I got a PB&J on a plain bagel. Both sandwiches were toasted on the griddle and delightfully warm after being in the cold wind for a while.

Ready to give our feet a rest, we jumped on the subway and headed to The New York Public Library.DSCF0345DSCF0347The architecture was everything we hoped for and we spent half the time with heads craned back and mouths open. Sadly, the reading room, which is one of the main attractions for visitors of the library, was closed for ceiling restoration. We’ll just have to add it to our “see it next time” list!DSCF0352The kid’s room had a rad lego version of the lions on the front steps.DSCF0359Our next stop was the Morgan Library and Museum. While the picture below is of the original building owned by J.P. Morgan, the actual museum now spans through several buildings with various exhibits and galleries. DSCF0370The sheer amount of ornamentation was astounding and down to the most minute parts of the building were embellished. DSCF0364The most stunning part, hands down, was the library. All I could think was “This is my dream!” as we saw the thousands of books.DSCF0369They also had several Medieval manuscripts on display that Peter promptly had a freak out over.DSCF0367Lunch was at Franchia, a vegan Korean restaurant. We were both really excited to try Korean because despite being voracious eaters of kimchi at home we’d never eaten anything close to the traditional cuisine. Although both of us ended up getting dishes that had names from other countries in it, so it may not have been as traditional as we intended.

I got the Penang Noodles with Spicy Curry and Coconut Broth. I have a weakness for any type of Asian noodles, so this was right up my alley. Not very spicy, but it was a flavorful creamy broth full of vegetables, chunks of tofu and mock chicken, and delightfully chewy noodles.DSCF0374Peter also took the pasta route and chose the Singapore Curry Angel Hair. It was a good size plate of noodles in a thin curry sauce tossed with vegetables and served with lobster balls. The latter was new to us, and it tasted like a soft seafood-y meatball. It was a great meal and the service was extremely good with very friendly waiters.DSCF0373After our lunch we were fairly tired from all we’d packed into the morning, so we went back to the YMCA for a small power nap to regain some energy.

Feeling fresh and ready to go, we went to the most obnoxious of all American landmarks: Time Square. Despite the overwhelming amount of ads and flashing lights, we had a good time people watching and doing what we do best. Eating.

We got snacks and some hot drinks for our frozen bodies from Nuchas, which was a tiny food truck in the thick of things. DSCF0381I got an almond milk cappuccino and shiitake curry empanada. They both were great and we had a great time laughing at all the insane people in costumes in the square.DSCF0384Our personal favorite was the guy who had a giant pot leaf shirt and was carrying around US and UN flags while screaming “LEGALIZE IT!” He wasn’t even asking for money. Just spreading the word, apparently.DSCF0390Our main entertainment for the night was Matilda the Musical at the Shubert Theatre. DSCF0395I have to start by saying this was my first Broadway show ever. So I may just be not be used to something of this quality, but Matilda the Musical was the best live performance I’ve ever seen. The cast was amazing, the story was equally funny and melancholy, and the props were so good that when Peter and I left we were still trying to figure out how they did a few of the scenes.

Seriously, if you like Matilda the book or the movie, or you’re just wanting to see a good musical while in NYC, please think about this one.DSCF0405Pizza was something we felt like we had to do in New York. So we chose Pizza Suprema for dinner because of the combination of it being voted best slice in town and they had vegan pizza available!DSCF0419Right after I took this photo the place got ridiculously packed to where people were sharing booths with one another. A good sign when you’re someplace with as many pizza options as NYC.DSCF0416Peter got cheese and I got the vegan. The vegan was chock full mushrooms, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and herbs. It was so juicy and good, it didn’t even need vegan cheese or anything. Peter didn’t even have words for his, he just kept going “Mmmmm” with his mouth full. It definitely lived up to our expectations.DSCF0412Overall a jam-packed first day in NYC and much more fun to come!

Christmas Travels

Merry Christmas (and any other celebrated holiday) to all my readers! Peter and I just got back from a fantastic trip to Philadelphia, New York City, Brooklyn, and Salem.

Between that and going to holiday festivities, it will be a few days before I start posting about the actual trip, but for now be satisfied with photos of pre-trip lunch in Atlanta at Kafenio.

This quirky little Greek cafe is located a convenient five minutes from the airport and sports a large amount of vegan and vegetarian food.

We were mostly just excited about the all-day breakfast. Peter ate the Atalanta (not a typo but the name of a Greek mythological huntress) omelette which was stuffed full of veggies and served with a side of cheese grits and toast. I partook in the vegan bowl which was piled high with hashbrowns, tofu scramble, and fresh vegetables.

A great meal to start a trip full to the brim with good food!

Two Dollar Tuesday: Tex Mex Stew

My in-laws gave me the awesome birthday gift of a spice grinder. This gave me the perfect excuse to use Aldi’s whole dried guajillo chiles that I’ve been eyeing for a while now. As soon as I got that spice grinder I knew what I wanted to make, chili!

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I ground up the whole chile (minus the stem) and some cumin seeds I bought at the Asian grocery store. Nothing quite compares to the smell of freshly ground cumin.DSCF6144The base of fresh vegetables makes a fairly light “stew” and the mild flavor of the chile blend makes it safe for non-spice lovers in our household. Feel free to change it up with different pepper varieties or vegetables (I bet corn would be good in this). This is a very basic recipe that’s waiting for some creative additions!DSCF6163

Tex Mex Stew

Recipe total cost: $3.77

Cost per serving: 94 cents

Servings per recipe: 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (20 cents)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (31 cents)
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (about 4 medium tomatoes ($1.12)
  • 3 jalapeños, deseeded and diced (39 cents)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced (22 cents)
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans pinto beans ($1.19)
  • 1 whole guajillo chile, ground (19 cents)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds, ground (12 cents)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste (3 cents)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Directions:

  • In a large pot, bring the olive oil to medium-high heat. Add the onion, tomatoes, jalapeños, and garlic. Sauté until the onions are translucent and tender.
  • Stir in the remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes for flavors to meld. Serve with a side of cornbread or crackers.

Two Dollar Tuesday – Samosa Quesadilla with Cilantro Chutney

This is my first Two Dollar Tuesday in a while and so I was super excited for this recipe. I love samosas, but don’t always feel like going through the trouble of frying them or stopping by an Indian restaurant. So I took the idea of a crispy outside and made it easier by making it in a quesadilla form. DSCF6134

Samosa Quesadilla with Cilantro Chutney 

Recipe total: $3.39

Servings per recipe: 2

Cost per serving: $1.70

Ingredients:

Samosa Quesadilla

  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed (64 cents)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth (4 cents)
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil (5 cents)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (11 cents)
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder (5 cents)
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger (3 cents)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (11 cents)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup cooked green peas (13 cents)
  • 2 whole wheat tortillas (72 cents)

Cilantro chutney:

  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (50 cents)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint (50 cents)
  • 1 jalapeno, deseeded and chopped (13 cents)
  • 1 garlic clove (11 cents)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (3 cents)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (11 cents)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice (4 cents)
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar (9 cents)
  • 1-3 tablespoon of water

Directions:

  • Boil the potatoes until soft and drain.
  • Using a food processor blend the potatoes, vegetable broth, olive oil, garlic clove, curry powder, powdered ginger, ground cumin, and salt.
  • Carefully mix the green peas into the potato blend and spread out evenly on two tortillas, then fold in half.
  • Place a frying pan over medium-high heat and cook each quesadilla until each side is golden brown.
  • For the chutney place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend, adding enough water to make a pesto-like consistency.
  • Cut the quesadillas, and serve with a side of the chutney.