Shoe-shining with grease-free batter and pondering Plan B

Fans of shamelessly odious hardcore shoe-shining need do no more every day than to open the Standard at page 23 and gorge themselves on the obsequiousness of Sing Tao Daily editor Siu Sai-wo’s Fame and Fortune column. Today’s example reads like a paid-for advertorial for a trendy restaurant, but it probably goes further than that.

The piece starts with a lavish review of an oh-so sophisticated and high-class meal of fish and chips and pork chop at The Pawn – the renovated historic building in Wanchai. “The beer-added batter takes away the greasiness,” Siu claims – a remarkable discovery if true, unless maybe he left the crispy stuff on the plate. The food, portions, prices and ambience all come in for lavish praise. (Yes, this is the same Pawn of which the magnificently brutal Raymonde Sacklyn wrote: “The duck dish was another loser of the first order of rubbish…”

Sacklyn complains of the meat’s toughness, but Siu begs to differ, even stating: “The pork chop is tasty and tender, which Chinese people will prefer, as their chewing strength is generally not as powerful as that of Westerners.”

At this point, I as a reader would greatly appreciate a brief discursion into the evolutionary origins of different ethnic groups’ capacities to masticate. It couldn’t be anything to do with having different staple grains in the diet, as agriculture developed only in the last 10,000 years or so, which is too recent for natural selection to produce variations of food-grinding abilities. And anyway, the northern Chinese eat hard ‘durum’ wheat like the Westerners, not soft, mushy rice.

Perhaps while we’re at it, Siu might also like to ponder a few other questions. How come white women drink loads of coffee while pregnant yet still have very light-skinned babies? How come Westerners are so strong and resilient that they can get their hair wet without suffering instant, life-threatening ailments?

But it is not to be. We are getting to the stage where the purpose of the groveling column becomes clear. The Pawn is one of the Urban Renewal Authority’s heritage ‘conservation’ (or ‘pimping-out’ at least) projects. Cue Barry Cheung, URA boss, who gets an implicit pat on the head for his general wondrousness, a special mention for being a ‘gourmand’ who appreciates The Pawn’s gross foreign fare, and a further boost for paying even for business meals out of his own pocket – which in Sing Tao-world is presumably on a moral par with donating a kidney to a stranger.

What’s up? Barry Cheung is a buddy of hopeful Chief Executive-candidate CY Leung. We can conclude that the word came down from the top of tycoon-owned Sing Tao group that they should hedge one or two bets, just in case the unthinkable happens.

Which brings us rather neatly to the South China Morning Post’s report suggesting that members of the Beijing-directed Election Committee are starting to balk at the prospect of doing their rubber-stamp voting act next March for a Henry Tang who is lagging rival CY Leung so obviously (probably around 3 to 1) in the public opinion polls. Liberal Party bigwig James Tien suggests that ideally Henry would narrow the gap with CY to a relatively seemly 10 percentage points.

La Belle Broomhead, Regina Ip, is of course hoping that Beijing might share Election Committee members’ fears of looking ridiculous and choose her as Plan B. But that would open old Article 23 wounds, and the Communist leadership have invested a lot of grooming-time in adulterous but reliable, plodding Henry. So there’s nothing for it but to get those public approval ratings fixed. Proletarians and bourgeois alike can expect an array of warm and cuddly promises from Henry in due course, confirming Hong Kong’s position as Asia’s premier handout hub. It will also remind us of that old saying that the Big Lychee has all the disadvantages of democracy and none of the advantages of authoritarianism; we can’t vote, but the politicians have to bribe us anyway.

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14 Responses to Shoe-shining with grease-free batter and pondering Plan B

  1. Spike says:

    Sacklyn is amusing to read but I have no reason to believe his opinions are any more valid than other reviewers, especially since I have eaten in some of the restaurants he’s reviewed and my experiences have been quite different from his.

    The bit about chewing is hysterical. However, your bit about evolution over the course of 10k years may be incorrect.

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/11/agriculture-jaw-shape/

    ” …. hunter-gatherers tended to have longer (more jutting) and narrower lower jaws, whereas those of farmers were relatively shorter and wider. But the form of the crania did not show this correlation, with one exception: The shape of the palate of the upper jaw, which is closely associated with the lower jaw and involved in chewing, also varied to some degree between farmers and hunter-gatherers. To see whether this dichotomy in jaw shape between farmers and hunter-gatherers could be due to other factors, von Cramon-Taubadel searched for possible correlations with geographic location, genetic history, and climate variation but found little or none. …even if the jaw alterations were due to natural selection, she concludes, they would have taken place over a relatively short period of evolutionary time.”

    So the advent of agriculture might indeed have had some evolutionary impact on homo sapiens after just 10,000 years. But Siu has it bass-ackwards. “animals raised on softer, more processed foods grow smaller jaws than those fed fresh, unprocessed food.”

    And the notion that this only occurred to Chinese is typical of the same kind of HK/China is the best at everything and the first at everything thinking that one can find daily in the SCMP letters page.

  2. Walter De Havilland says:

    The Pawn went up immeasurably in my estimation when I recently had a meal there with Mrs. DH. Seated on the balcony, Mrs. DH faced eastwards along Johnson Road, whilst I seated opposite her had an unobstructed view into the bathroom of flat at the junction of Johnson Road and Luard Road. Imagine my pleasure, as Mrs. DH droned on about nothing in particular, oblivious to the events unfolding behind her, I had a unobstructed view of a young lady preparing to shower. Whilst never getting a full frontal view, my imagination filled in the blanks and a rather dull evening because mildly erotic. The whole experience was rather delightful. Also, I don’t recall masticating on the beef.

  3. Lammadonna says:

    This could get very interesting as they will both try to up the ante on the “Yearly HKSARGovt Handout”. HK$10,000 anyone?

  4. maugrim says:

    Raymonde Montague Sacklyn is real? Given his comments about the shortcomings of various ethnic staff, I’m surprised he hasn’t had a visit from people who use sharp knives, daily. The author salutes Mr. Sacklyn’s longevity in the face of provocation.

    As to the pawn, its everything Chinese people hate, its old, probably has ghosts, expensive, panders to gweilos and you can eat far better for less almost anywhere. Mind you, it pushes all the buttons westerners are long used to, dark interiors, funky/industrial toilets, lots of concrete and exposed walls, obscure and expensive drink list, working class food passed off as being gastronomic. You get the picture.

    Add to the list westerners visiting zoos whilst pregnant.

  5. Probably says:

    When do we get to experience some of the real advantages of authoritarianism alluded to above?
    For example as torturing political opponents, appointing members of ones own family to positions of power and annexing the Sudetenland!

  6. Stephen says:

    I am indebted to the author as I could only get as far as “The pork chop is tasty and tender, which the Chinese people will prefer as their chewing strength is generally not as powerful as that as Westerners” FFS.

    Hence I had no idea, but should have know better, that it would turn out to be a puff piece for Big Baz Cheung, Chairman of the URA. The same Baz who gave Hong Kong its most cherished heritage conservation project – K11 !

    Would suggest if CY wants to win this he ditches Baz and goes for the tried and trusted Arculli as his campaign Manager.

  7. Big Al says:

    @Spike. von Cramon-Taubadel? Come on! That has to be a made-up name! Or maybe not – check out the names of academics who routinely write very dull papers and you’ll find they all have really weird names.

    As to Chinese superstitions, just found a website listing the “Top 15”. Imagine my delight to find at No. 8 “Clipping toe-nails or finger-nails at night would bring ghosts to that place”, which explains Hong Kongers’ predilection for nail cutting on public transport (and, consequently, the number of busses that mysteriously catch fire whilst parked – now we know: ghosts!).

    At No. 9 we have “if one points at the moon with one’s finger it will make one’s ear tips fall off”. Now, that shouldn’t be too difficult to disprove for earthlings. Perhaps Vulcans never point at their moon (or, perhaps, Vulcan has no moon), which would explain a lot about Mr Spock.

  8. Sen says:

    Which is why Barry The Gourmand maintains his figure with a not dry hamburger.

    if you have been confused between gourmet and gourmand-

    “A gourmet is someone who would not fly from New York to Nebraska simply to check out a steakhouse rumored to serve beef in the rough shape and size of a softball. A gourmand is someone who would.”
    (Paul Gray, Galloping Gourmand,

  9. Alas Raymonde is real, alive and kicking. He’s also without doubt, the biggest pain in the backside I’ve ever cooked for. He always wants the best table, likes to have menus tailored to his needs, insists on. All this on Friday nights and uses coupons to pay. However, he liked my cooking and once told me that he’s highly allergic to a simple thing,, which, if eaten, could kill him, to my surprise, it wasn’t humble pie.

  10. Spike says:

    Choppy, you’re alive?

  11. Bluebottle says:

    I don’t think you will find better toffed-up fish and chips than made by this pair.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWTy9fE48og

  12. Yes Spike! Alive and back on the stoves!!!

  13. Big Al says:

    @ Spike. Thanks to you and Google I can now see that Dr Noreen von von Cramon-Taubadel is quite a babe (for an anthropologist) and, as expected, associates with a lot of people with weird names to write very dull papers – Ricaut, F.X, Auriol, V., Keyser, C., Murail, P., Ludes, B. and Crubézy, E. to name but a few from a recent submission. Those long winter nights must really fly by …

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