Friday, September 13, 2013

Travel through Philately - Hong Kong Delicacies

Nothing makes a nation prouder these days than to present a meal and say "This is from my home! Try it and be amazed!" Of course not everybody would be impressed by every unique food the nation would offer. Take durian for example.

However the delicacies of Hong Kong, influenced by Cantonese cuisine coupled with British colonization, created a wave of frenzy the world over with its allure, with imitations and authenticity claims rising and competing wherever there is a Cantonese restaurant or tea shop. To aid in the spread of Hong Kong delicacies' recognition, Hong Kong Post chose 4 all time favorites to represent Hong Kong's taste and flavor in its FDC.

Hong Kong Post released 2 sets of FDC with the theme of Hong Kong Delicacies in 2012, one with a set of stamps, the other with the same set in a miniature sheet.

The lowest cost of the series is however the one most distinguished to Hong Kong - egg tart and milk tea, with a "茶" to signify tea or tea time. Being a signature dish of the former colony, the tart was an amalgam between Portuguese tart from Macau and the English custard tart although it adapted more from the latter. Unlike the English version though, the yellow custard cupped within a soft outer crust is less creamy and tastes more like an egg. To be served one piping hot and the sweet smell wafting over is a good way to get your day going.

Hong Kongese loved their evening tea as much as the British, forming their own distinctive "evening tea culture" except that their tea is different. Known locally as "see mat nai cha" (絲襪奶茶) or silk stocking milk tea, the sweet tea is a product of black tea strained through a cloth bag and evaporated milk, the latter replacing the use of sugar in British tea. Definitely not a healthy way to spend an evening but the allure of the velvety smooth beverage is something not to be missed when one visits Hong Kong. The addition of "silk stocking" to its name is purportedly derived from the shape of the filter with a sackbag cloth, and the latter is claimed to be the main reason why it is so silky smooth. Take a cup of milk tea with an egg tart served hot in an evening, and one could see how this makes a hectic day endurable.

A closer look at the stamps themselves - 茶 for an evening tea time served with Hong Kong egg tart and silky smooth milk tea, 麵 with Wonton Noodle as one of the all time favorites in Hong Kong, 燒 for the much sought after roasted goose, and 鮮 for seafood, something which a place named for its harbor couldn't live without.

Tea culture aside, Hong Kongese, like most of China, couldn't do without rice and noodles. Decorating the HKD2.40 stamp is Wonton Noodles, representing 麵, Hong Kong's and nearby Cantonese' favorite noodle. Thinly wrapped chunks of sweet pork, twisted on the top to seal the meat within with a finality, gets cooked in boiled soup stock along with Wonton noodle, the distinctive thin strands then served with the aforementioned dumplings known as Wonton. If the owner is generous, the Wonton could contain shrimp as well. One sip from the soup stock, one bite on the Wonton, and one slurp from the noodles will make your day. More importantly, this is an everyday food for Hong Kongese, bound to their culture for decades. It originated from Canton but spread to other colonies where Cantonese were bound for, bringing the dish with them.

You cannot leave Hong Kong without trying their roasted dish, known locally as 燒味 ("siu mei"), usually comprised of roasted poultry (roasted chicken, duck and goose), roasted pork (燒肉) and barbecue pork (叉燒). The staple of Hong Kongese cannot be complete without having one of the above, and the most prized of them is the roasted goose, presented in all its splendor in the HKD3 stamp (although it looked rather unintelligible as to what it is). I tried it once and I have to say that it taste rather like duck. Maybe I don't appreciate it the way the natives do.

And the Fragrant Harbor couldn't live up to its name without a plate of seafood to offer. The natives truly cherish seafood. Maybe the reason why it was featured in the HKD5 stamp with a large 鮮 is to reflect the costliness of it compared to everyday items. Despite the higher price of seafood, it does not deter the natives from converging to seafood restaurants or add it into their daily dish as much as possible.

Date of Issue:            30 August 2012
Denominations:          HKD1.40, HKD2.40, HKD3.00, HKD5.00
Stamp Size:               51mm x 29mm
Souvenir Sheet Size:  135mm x 85mm
Perforation:               14.25 x 13.75 (one elliptical perforation on each vertical)
Paper:                       Paper with security fibres
Printing Process:        Lithography
Printer:                      Cartor Security Printing, France
Designer:                   Eddy Yu

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