Present & correct
When it comes to buying Christmas gifts for foodies, try to resist the temptation to buy something you'd love to have yourself. In other words, if your speciality is pastry but your friend quakes at the thought of serving a dessert more complicated than shop-bought ice cream and cookies, there's no use giving them an expensive textured rolling pin used in making puff pastry. Here are some ideas for foodie gifts to get you started on your shopping list.
Inexpensive stocking stuffers
The best place for inexpensive gifts is Shanghai Street - just a short MTR ride from Admiralty. Go to the Yau Ma Tei station, take exit C then walk along Man Ming Lane, heading away from Nathan Road. Walk past Arthur Street and Temple Street, then turn left on Shanghai Street - most of the cookware shops are concentrated in one block along both sides of the road.
One of the first stores you'll come to is Chan Chi Kee Cutlery (316 Shanghai Street, tel: 2385 0317), which has almost every tool and pan a budding pastry chef will need: heavy polycarbonate chocolate moulds (a bargain at about HK$88; upscale shops sell them for double the price), chocolate dipping forks, tart pans in all shapes and sizes, porcelain ramekins and metal moulds for jellies and small cakes. Chan Chi Kee is an excellent shop for its comprehensive pastry tool collection but the other stores on the street all have interesting items that would be hard to find outside the area. Look for vegetable cutters in the shapes of flowers, fish and Chinese characters (including 'double happiness'), mooncake moulds and stove-top (as opposed to electric) handheld irons for gai dan jai ('little chicken eggs'), waffles and egg roll biscuits (at about HK$100, these are great for those who like to attempt some typical Hong Kong street foods).
If you want to give a delicious edible gift, buy the delicious truffle salt produced by Tetsuya Wakuda and available from Waves Pacific. The truffle salt is HK$125 and can be ordered at wavespacific.com
There's a wealth of cookbooks for the foodie. As with Nigella Lawson's other books - How to be a Domestic Goddess and Feast - the recipes and pictures in her latest, Nigella Express, reflects its author: sensual and stylish but not overly styled. The book is based on Lawson's most recent television programme and, as the title suggests, the recipes can be made in under an hour, without relying too heavily on packaged foods. HK$340 from Publisher's Associates (tel: 2565 0660).
You can love or hate his TV personality, but as a chef Gordon Ramsay is well respected. Chef is a coffee-table book, with close to half the pages dedicated to beautifully photographed food. The recipes aren't something you can whip up quickly after a hard day in the office: most require three or more elements before the dish can be assembled. But unlike other books by multi-star chefs, this one doesn't require too many expensive and esoteric ingredients that we can buy only through mail order. HK$650 from Publisher's Associates.
No prize for guessing what Pork & Sons by French chef and restaurateur Stephane Reynaud is about - that's right, pork. The French, like the Chinese, value the pig for everything but its squeal, and there are recipes for the animal's head, blood, trotters, guts and tail, as well as for more 'ordinary' dishes for the more squeamish. HK$417 from Page One (tel: 2522 3262).
Giorgio Locatelli's evocative book, Made in Italy, takes us from the author's childhood home in northern Italy to acclaim as chef and owner of Locanda Locatelli in London. Locatelli writes about ingredients, chefs and cooks he's worked with, his family, who instilled in him his love for food, and, of course, gives the recipes that have helped make him one of the most respected Italian chefs in Britain. HK$570 from Kelly & Walsh (tel: 2522 7893).
Wine lovers have noticed that there's long been a Eurocentric bent in books about pairing wine with food. Wine with Asian Food by Patricia Guy and Edwin Soon tries to redress the imbalance by writing about what to pair with the cuisines of China, India, Japan and Southeast Asia. The first part of the book classifies wines into seven styles and food into five flavour categories, while the main part of the book gives recipes and a comprehensive list of wines varieties to look for to accompany that dish. HK$275 from Publishers Associates.
Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson have completely revised their tome, The World Atlas of Wine. Even the older volumes of this book are amazing in their thoroughness, and the latest edition now includes more New World wine regions. HK$620 from Kelly & Walsh.
Spanish pastry chefs are not as famous as their French neighbours but some of them are extremely talented, making innovative, exciting desserts. One of the best is Oriol Balaguer, whose Dessert Cuisine is available from Baking Warehouse in Kwun Tong for HK$1,580 (these books sell out fast so if you're interested, act quickly). The company also has Paco Torreblanca's first volume for HK$1,580. Tel: 2172 6916 or go to bakingwarehouse.com
Whimsical gifts for cooks
No matter how much we love it, cooking day in and day out can feel like a chore. Great, in the basement of Seibu, carries the French brand Pylones, whose colourful utensils can make everything from peeling vegetables to dishing up food more fun. The highlights are a whisk in the shape of a squid for HK$110, salt and pepper grinders dressed as Russians, pirates and Native Americans (HK$340) and colourful rolling pepper pots (HK$110). Great, tel: 2918 9986.
Expensive gifts for the serious cook
Some food gifts can be major investments, and hopefully the recipient will pay you back with a few excellent meals. The Gaggia Gelateria has a built-in freezing unit, unlike most other ice cream makers where you have to plan ahead and freeze the unit for a full day. It's HK$8,396 (reduced from HK$11,195) from PanHandler. Other highlights at this shop include a Magimix meat slicer (HK$2,640), beautiful Art Deco-style Kitchen Aid espresso machines (HK$8,805) and heavy, stainless steel-lined copper pans (the Bougeat line has a 25 per cent discount, but hurry because it's selling quickly). PanHandler, tel: 2523 1672.
Pantry Magic in Central and Causeway Bay is now carrying professional-quality kitchen equipment. The 4.5-litre Kenwood mixer comes in pink, orange, red and beige and costs HK$2,188. The Cuisinart 14-cup heavy-duty food processor is HK$2,698. Pantry Magic, tel: 2501 0988.