MY first expedition into a Chinese restaurant, 12 years ago in the heart of Wan Chai, was an unnerving experience. A dish of shark's fin and a plate of hairy crabs were ordered for me. I waited in wide-eyed silence for these two scary-sounding preparations to materialise. Who, I wondered, was in the kitchen, having a bit of macabre fun with an unwitting tourist? Not only did they turn out to be visually harmless, but they tasted terrific, too. I became an instant fan, and over the years I have repeatedly dug into this duo of delicacies with unbridled gusto. As my culinary education broadened, I blithely added sea cucumber, silver fungus and bird's nest to my diet. (Could F D Roosevelt have been thinking of unfamiliar foods when he said ''You have nothing to fear but fear itself''? I think so.) On one adventure into the unknown, an untravelled British friend nearly fainted when a waiter removed the gleaming cloche with a flourish to reveal a mammoth lobster in all its vivid red-clawed glory to my shocked dining companion. You can empathise with the poor dear if you hark back to the first time you saw frogs' legs and snails in a French restaurant. Once you get over the strange names (and in some cases the unexpected appearance on your plate) and give the chefs a chance, the delicious choices of new cuisine are endless. And you couldn't be in a more perfect environment to let yourself go, experiment and give the taste buds a change of pace than Hongkong, where ''ants crawling up the trees'' and the classic Shunde dish, ''Buddha jump over the wall'' give dining, not to mention your imagination, a new dimension. The territory has gradually widened its culinary repertoire to such an extent, that it's not unusual to find yourself nibbling on sushi and tripe, munching on potato latkes and rosti, sampling risotto and samosas in the course of a week. So I didn't hesitate when I was recently invited to Landau's restaurant - as part of the Taste of Scotland promotion - to share some cullen skink, Arbroath smokies with aioli and Queenies with stovies. In Scottish, Foodcullen is nothing more threatening than a quaint fishing village on the southern banks of the Moray Firth in Scotland. Skink means soup. So cullen skink is a creamy broth, thick with chunks of finnan haddie (haddock), onions and potatoes, and garnished with chopped chives. Marvellous. Coincidentally, smokies are also haddock, but this time, hot-smoked and from Arbroath where they are traditionally mixed with cayenne, lemon juice and eggs before being baked in shortcrust tartlets. Aioli, which is a sauce that probably has its roots in Italy but is eaten with bouillabaisse in Marseilles, is made of olive oil, lemon juice and garlic, has the consistency of mayonnaise and is served as a tangy dressing for the tart. Delectable. Queenies? Well, it seems these sauteed Scottish mega-scallops were a favourite of Queen Victoria herself and were so named in her honour. Stovies? Pan-fried, sliced potatoes and onions, cooked atop of the stove, of course. Now that you've had an explanation, next time you see these items on a menu you can order like a pro. That's what a sophisticated diner really is; someone who may not have eaten everything, but is open and willing to try something new. So the next time a gent in a skirt invites you to share a steaming hot haggis, go. It's Hongkong.