Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Savouring Hong Kong’s Secret Kitchens

As an expat in Hong Kong, chances are you experience constant cravings for that authentic taste and texture of your mum’s cooking back home. The truth is, despite being an international cosmopolitan offering a plethora of cuisines from the world over, Hong Kong is still just not ‘home’. What if we tell you that you could dine in the home of your fellow countrymen and eat off their dining table the comfort food that you’ve grown up with?

PlateCulture is designed with precisely the answer to nostalgia in mind. To start with, PlateCulture is a social network where self-proclaimed home chefs and culinary enthusiasts gather to offer a delicious menu at their home – anything from Korean to Italian, French, Mexican, Indian, Iranian and Cantonese – for interested individuals to sign up for the experience. With the numerous weekly offerings, available in all nooks and crannies of Hong Kong, you’re literally spoilt for choice. 

Alternatively, if you confess to be savvy at the stove, you may sign up as a chef and dish up home dishes that you reckon needs wider recognition, or for the sheer joy of sharing a hearty meal with like-minded individuals. Remember also to create a fancy name for your account, because with Spanish homecooking in Wanchai, Indian flavours in the Mid-levels, and Middle-Eastern vegan feast on Lamma Island, competition among proud home chefs is fierce!

The meals on offer range from HKD100 to HKD500-plus per guest, which is fab to start with, considering there’s no queuing and crammed elbow-to-elbow space involved. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Maternal Instinct of Trees

Not so long ago, when you go around telling people that trees do ‘talk’ to each other, you’d be sneered at or frowned upon as if you’ve just flown over the cuckoo’s nest. But as the debate surrounding the wood wide web – a kind of underground Internet linking the roots of different plants by mycelium, a mass of thin threads that make up most of the bodies of fungus – became increasingly heated and at the same time interesting, you can’t brush off the suggestion of communication among trees so easily.

If you’re on the more liberal end of the debate, you’d want to know that Suzanne Simard, an experienced forest ecologist with three decades of research work on Canada’s forests under her belt, is suggesting that trees do recognise their offspring. This may sound a tad too nerdy on the surface, but let’s hear her out.

“Now, we know we all favour our own children, and I wondered, could Douglas fir recognise its own kin, like mama grizzly and her cubs? So we set about an experiment, and we grew mother trees with kin and stranger’s seedlings. And it turns out they do recognise their kin. Mother trees colonise their kin with bigger mycorrhizal networks. They send them more carbon below ground. They even reduce their own root competition to make elbow room for their kids. When mother trees are injured or dying, they also send messages of wisdom on to the next generation of seedlings. So we’ve used isotope tracing to trace carbon moving from an injured mother tree down her trunk into the mycorrhizal network and into her neighbouring seedlings, not only carbon but also defence signals. And these two compounds have increased the resistance of those seedlings to future stresses. So trees talk.”

And that is that: trees talk.

Intrigued and curious to find out more? The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World by German forest ranger Peter Wohlleben might prove to be an eye-opener.