Monday, April 24, 2017

Slow Food Awakening

Up a flight of stairs of a random industrial building in Kwun Tong is a small café/restaurant called "8104 Box of Life", and every Monday evening, Kong Yeah, a small advocacy group that supports local farming and food products, puts words into actions by hosting dinners at this place with an ever-changing menu using produce freshly harvested from local farms and other locally made artisan products.

I have been following the group – with their name meaning “Hong Kong stuff” in English - on Facebook for a while and admiring what they do, but I didn't have a chance to go to one of those dinners until recently when they hosted one in collaboration with Slow Food Hong Kong, which shared the similar visions of advocating, celebrating and preserving local food ingredients and cooking in slightly different ways.

Joined by a dozen or so people from the group, our dinner plan was slightly disrupted by the sudden train outage that evening, which meant many of us were stuck in traffic and arrived a bit late – it’s not without irony that we were bugged by the advanced technology of mass transportation which indirectly led to the demise of many local farms - but while we were waiting, together we watched an inspiring short film called "Food for Thought: Food for Life". Through the lenses of filmmaker Susan Rockefeller, the 20-minute clip focuses on how some farmers, chefs and advocates were doing on grassroot level to tackle the global environmental and food production issues, and how we, as consumers, could help drive changes and make a difference.

After the delayed start, we began our meal with a small dish of salad of sweet potato shoots. Sweet potato shoots have leafy greens like spinach and stalks similar to watercress, with a slightly slimy texture and a strong nutty flavor, which works well with a Japanese-style dressing with sesame. Our second course was a spring pumpkin and carrot soup – with pumpkins coming from an organic farm in Tai Po and carrots from Yuen Long. Soy milk (made in Fanling) was added to the soup base for the smooth texture and it was garnished with parsley and coconut milk. I suspect loose ends of other vegetables (onions or celery perhaps?) were thrown in as well cuz it has a surprisingly complex flavor and a hint of sweetness.

We got a choice of main courses – either a zucchini and potato “lasagna” with roasted portabello mushroom and tomato jelly, or a Chinese “crepe” with sweet pepper and basil. I picked the latter, and turned out it’s more like a calzone with a pizza-like dough folded with sautéed diced sweet peppers mixed with pesto sauce (said to be the kitchen’s signature sauce) and baked in the oven. It’s served with two interesting sides – first the Yuen Long cabbage sauerkraut, then grilled onion with tofu. The tofu resembled the texture of ricotta contrasting well with the sweet onions, and the sauerkraut was appetizing with the sharp acidity.

The place doesn’t have a liquor license so we were encouraged to BYO, or went for the non-alcoholic drinks menu they offer. I like my glass of soothing roselle lemonade, which was refreshing and sweet. The dessert of ginger cake mixed with local honey was excellent too – tasty with great spongy texture.

It was a good evening getting to enjoy some of the finest seasonal ingredients produced right in our community and to meet like-minded people who loves food as much as caring about the environment. Organizations like Slow Food, or Kong Yeah, and many others, have been working in big and small ways to advocate and educate, and we slowly see the differences among the society, with stronger support over the "local movement", proliferation of farmer’s markets and more awareness over issues of over-urbanization and industrialization of our food ecosystem.

But again, to make change happens it has to start with every one of us doing our part. "To change the community, we need to change the composition of the soil. We are the soil," said in the film. That was echoed by Kitty, the dinner co-host and a core member of Kong Yeah. "Some called this 'Green Monday' dinners, but we see these not only as dinners but as 'daily revolutions', small steps each of us take to start caring about the food we eat, and to raise awareness about our environment which hopefully turn into long-term benefits for our community and for our world".

That to me, was the serious food for thought.

When? April 10 2017
Where? 8104 A Box Of Life, Room 4, 1/F, 19-21 Shing Yip Street, Kwun Tong
Menu Highlights? Chinese Crepe stuffed with Tai Po Sweet Peppers and Kong Yeah Homemade Yuenlong Basil Sauce
Slow Food Hong Kong:

Also appearing on Slow Food Hong Kong website:

1 comment :

Unknown said...

Very interesting, also very far away for me! Still, it's good to know that food and soil understanding is spreading. I'm not sure if the actual dish choices are a bit too far out for me though, zucchini and potato? Hm.