Thursday, November 30, 2006

Memories fading, places changing.

My top 8 fastest fading memories of London Chinatown...

1) The road that used to run along Gerrard Street, before it was pedestrianized.
2) The restaurant that burnt down.
3) Going for dim sum with the family at the big restaurant that used to be on Leicester Square - the one that had the wax food on display in the window.
4) An age when I didn't like dim sum and would rather have gone to McDonalds instead.
5) Going for wedding banquets at Chuen Cheng Ku as a child and being bored out of my mind.
6) A time when Mainland Chinese were a rarity in Chinatown restaurants and Mandarin would barely be heard.
7) The East European looking lady in a funny costume who would stand outside 'So China'.
8) Dumpling Inn.

Photo by aidy100percent

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The bbc blog Diet (Step 1)

I strongly recommend that you try the 'b.b.c.' blog's simple, easy to follow diet. You won't lose any weight but the food tastes nice!

Step 1: Char siu and roast duck rice from Loon Tao, Gerrard Street:

Delicious, and with complimentary soup too. If you can't remember where Loon Tao is, check out the streetsensation link posted a while ago.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Podcast: 'Two Voices'

Here's a fun podcast from Yang-May Ooi, a British Malaysian author whose blog 'FusionView' is linked in the side bar.

She talks about something you may have thought about before - British Chinese (or British Malaysian in her case) accents, how they can affect your interaction with others and how hers has changed over time.

I always thought I had a fairly neutral, nondescript accent but after listening to other b.b.c's speak, I'm starting to think there is a subtle, distinctive b.b.c accent - a kind of hybrid of the local, English accent 'pulled' in a certain direction by knowing and speaking Chinese (Cantonese in my case).

Maybe it's something to do with the fact that the two languages are so phonetically different, that speaking one subtley affects the way you speak another?

You can also catch the rest on Yang-May's podcasts here.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Jackie Chan Royale

Are the crazy physical stunts, intricately choreographed fights and free running antics in the new Bond film 'Casino Royale' supposed to be revolutionary? Guys, Jackie Chan has been doing this stuff for decades! ;)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Oriental City: Brent Council approves development

It's official. Planning permission has been granted by Brent Council and the Oriental City business owners will have relocate for up to three years.

Read the council minutes regarding the decision here.

I've copied the sections that seem to relate most directly to Oriental City. Here they are (the underlining is mine):

RELOCATION OF ORIENTAL CITY: During demolition and construction work the applicants have offered to acquire a site nearby in which to re-locate OC to avoid as much disruption to trade as possible over a three year period. This will be subject to a separate planning permission and the degree of take-up by traders. In any case, this application is committed (through a S.106) to the reprovision of OC on this site.

Proposed Retail Provision:
The proposed Oriental City is ‘like for like’ in terms of quantum of floorspace. However, qualitatively, it will be significantly superior to that existing both in terms of nature of floorspace and efficiency. The floorspace will continue to retail both food and non-food items being made up of unit shops as well as a larger food supermarket. The ancillary food court and restaurant services will remain, forming an important day/evening activity at the site. The floorspace will remain restricted by goods condition to the sale of Oriental goods only.

EFFECT ON EXISTING ORIENTAL CITY DEVELOPMENT The carrying out of the redevelopment will clearly require the displacement of the existing Oriental City from the site. The effect on the businesses of the individual tenants is not a planning consideration. However, the fact that the existing retail offer and other elements of Oriental City will be lost during the reconstruction period is a factor to be taken into account. However, the current retail element on the site will of course be replaced in the new scheme, as will the community space. Accordingly, it is considered that the temporary loss of the existing Oriental City facilities is more than outweighed by the fact that the latter elements will be re-provided, and by the overall benefits of the new scheme.

Issue: Failure to consult the oriental community and produce a Racial Impact Assessment. There has been wide consultation with those who live and work in the locality (see CONSULTATIONS) but not with those who visit or shop at the store. A community worker acting on behalf of the wider Chinese and Oriental community across the South-East is concerned they have not been engaged in the process and the application does not comply with the London Plan (para. 3.103) in requiring the production of a Racial Impact Assessment:- The Mayor will work with look at the proposed content of social and economic assessments and address the impacts by these assessments into the development of policies.........the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 ....requires local authorities to carry out race equality impact assessment. but such assessments relate to policy documents and not to individual planning applications. The specalised nature of the existing retail store, which is to be replaced on site, is recognised in its appeal to all cultural and age groups and the Council's Unitary Deveopment Plan has already been the subject of an Equalities Impact Assessment. The applicants have also undertaken a socio- economic impact assessment as part of the EIA and found the scheme compliant. In addition to this, the current owner, landlord and original founder of the OC concept has confirmed that OC Ltd. holds the head lease of the entire premises of which all the other tenants are sub-tenants. OC Ltd. has been working with the applicant to secure vacant possession and in turn separate tenants meetings have taken place. OC Ltd. have a contractual relationship with the applicant to acquire a new head lease in respect of the new OC.

What does it all mean? Well to my untrained eyes it seems that there will be an Oriental City in the new development, that will at least be the same size in terms of floorspace and will still be a distinctly 'Asian' retail area. I hope I'm interpreting that correctly.

It also states this is not just a shopkeepers vs. developers issue, because there is also the main OC landlord who actually holds the lease to the shopping centre. So presumably the final decision as to what happens will be a three way negotiation between the developer, the OC lease holder and the shopkeepers.

In short, it seems that OC is going to move to an unknown place for the next 3 years and there appears to be a statement of intent to create a new Oriental City in the finished development, rather than get rid of it completely.

So mixed feelings really. It's encouraging to see that the plans do include a new Oriental City but also a bit worrying: Are the developers legally obliged to deliver what's promised the document or can things change in the next few years? A brand new Oriental City would be great but will it really happen?

Update: And of course the more pressing problem is where the 'temporary' OC is going to be. It's not going to be easy for everyone to relocate, in the expectation that they will all move back again at a later date.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

U.S. magazine in 'Asian men are sexy' shocker!

It's all very well Myleene Klass holding the nation's men (and some women, no doubt) spellbound with her extensive swimwear collection and showering habits but you will rarely see an Asian (as in Chinese) male being portrayed as attractive or desirable on British telly.

I can only think of two instances - both 30 second commercials: One was an ad for Lynx deodorant that spoofed 'Crouching Tiger' and the other was an Orange ad featuring a Chinese-looking guy watching a miniature car chase happening on a bar top.

The States are a little more ahead of the game and as the reports, People magazine's latest list of Sexiest Men Alive contained 3, yes 3, Asian males. They are: John Cho (actor in 'American Pie'), Edison Chen and Daniel Dae Kim ('Lost').

Things like this do make a difference in how people (especialy young people) feel about their own race, I think, and it shows there is some way to go yet for us b.b.c males in terms of public perception and stereotypes. How long will it take, I wonder?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Oriental City shopkeepers protest

I've heard that shopkeepers from Oriental City in Colindale staged a peaceful protest at their local council offices (where the planning permission is being considered) today.

Will update with any news as I hear it. In the meantime, here's the background.

Update #1: The Guardian on the planned protest.

Update #2: Well it seems that a large group of shop owners from Oriental City staged a protest at the Brent Council town hall, which the local authority responsible for the Colindale site. Banners were on display calling for the protection of "the only Far East shopping centre" and "No to B&Q". Also present was Jabez Lam, tireless campaigner for the British Chinese community and all-round good guy, and I think the group was met by some council representatives. More details may appear on Jabez's website Min Quan at some point.

I don't know what stage the whole planning application is at but I hope not just that the shopkeepers' concerns are noted but also that we get some hard facts from the developers and the local council about what is really going to happen. It's so easy for rumours to be sparked off in these situations that spread like wildfire and turn out to not to be true after all.

A reminder that the official campaign homepage is here:

Sunday, November 19, 2006

"He lives on a cloud, a very big cloud, in the country..."

Here's a suprising musical collaboration if ever there was one... Britpop veteran and part-time Gorilla(z) Damon Albarn is to join forces with Chinese theatre director Chen Shi-Zheng.

They are going to write music for a circus performace called 'Monkey: Journey to the West' - based on the traditional Chinese story.

No word yet on whether the new production will bear any similarities to the 70s Japanese tv series 'Monkey' that popularised the story in the UK.

Full story here:

What next? Noel Gallagher to star in a Crouching Tiger sequel?

Event: 'Chinese Kitchen Medicine' @ The Dana Centre

Caught an ad for this interesting sounding event over at Dimsum:
Delve into the vast depths of Chinese kitchen medicine to find out how food is used as a recipe for health. Booster herbs and tonics, roots and soups all form part of classic Chinese kitchen welfare.

-Edward Eisler, Jing Tea Ltd
-Song Ke, Director, Asante Academy of Chinese Medicine, London
-Ting-Ming Li, Director, Institute of Chinese Medicine, London
-Vivenne Lo, Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, University College London
-Xun Zhou, School of Oriental and African Studies

Maybe the event wil finally shed some light on those mysterious packets of dried plant matter my mum keeps in the kitchen.

Get your tickets by calling 020 7942 4040 or e-mail Full details here.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A new era, or the end for London's Oriental City?

Note: This story has since been updated here.

The rumours have been flying around for months now but Oriental City in Colindale, north London, could be set for a major re-development. What this means for the Asian shops and restaurants there at the moment is not certain, although the developer has apparently promised that all the current tenants will be allowed to return. It would certainly be a huge loss to the community if we were to lose what must be (in my opinion) the best food court in the country, if not the world!

The planning application was submitted in July 2006 and you can see what the developer has planned for the site here:

In response to the plans, a campaign has been set up to protect the interests of the businesses that currently operate in Oriental City:

When a similar re-development of London's Chinatown was announced, there was a lot of outrage and false rumours. In the end, most of the shopkeepers affected by that project accepted a pay-off and moved out, but neither the rumoured High Street supermarket nor the proposed 'Shanghai' themed shopping mall materialized to take their place.

The Independent reports:

The owners of Oriental City have stated that the present Asian businesses will not be forced out, saying the new Oriental City would be "bigger and better", with 30 per cent more space allocated to the Asian businesses, "retaining the important cultural and community spaces," according to a spokeswoman. The development will eventually include private housing, a primary school and a community centre. She said there had been numerous meetings with the local community and the sub-tenants over the past 20 months.

Jason Tang, a Chinese takeaway owner, shopping with his wife, Debbie, and their daughter, said: " It is very important to keep this place going because it is somewhere new Chinese immigrants who don't speak English can come and find others like themselves. The people who run this place are only concerned about the money, not the future."

I hope that the final decision, whatever it is, preserves the unique Asian aspects of the existing mall and that we do not end up losing this valuable and popular destination for the Chinese community in London.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Police appeal for information after Chinese restaurant owner found dead

A sad story reported by the BBC.

A Chinese restaurant owner has been found dead after returning home with the day's takings. Kam Fum Chung, 65, known as Helen, was discovered by a family member at her house in Hillingdon, west London. Police said there was no sign of forced entry, but her silver VW Golf was missing as well as the Mandarin Restaurant's receipts.

Police believe the vehicle was taken from the address in Meadowview, Cowley, some time after Ms Chung got in about 0030 GMT on 6 November. The vehicle was recovered burnt out approximately four miles away in Denham, Buckinghamshire, the following day.

Det Ch Insp Steven Lawrence said: "It's vitally important that we trace who was driving it and may have carried out this horrific attack." He said the car's plates may have been changed but it was distinctive due to a damaged wing mirror on the driver's side which was taped up.

It is of course a terrible thing to happen to anyone and I'm sure the thoughts of readers will be with the family. Let's hope the perpetrators can be caught quickly.

Random Picture of the Day (or So): Skyscrapers

It's strange how a Hong Kong tower block can be smaller, more cramped, more run down and shrouded in far more pollution than it's UK equivalent, and yet still feels a hundred times more desirable a place to live. I guess the inclement weather and the surrounding metropolis might have something to do with that...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Chinese tourism boom predicted for the UK

Now that China has made Britain an officially 'approved destination' the numbers of tourists visiting the UK from China is expected to increase dramatically in coming years.

In this article, The Times' Will Hide tags along with a group of Chinese tourists to see what they make of Cambridge, drinking lager in the rain, 99s and other British delights.

"This is just the first of many" says Huang, shepherding his group into the National Maritime Museum. "By 2020, 100 million Chinese will be travelling abroad of which five million could be coming to the UK".

Visit Britain, which promotes England abroad, is rubbing its hands in glee - not least because of the free-spending ways of the Chinese once they arrive. Forget Westminster Abbey and Edinburgh Castle; "what they really want is a day at Bicester Village shopping centre in Oxfordshire, a tour round Old Trafford to learn more about Manchester United, and plenty of Chinese meals," says Huang, "steak and kidney pie and fry-ups are definitely off the menu".

But wait, a fry-up is a British classic! You can't come all the way here and not try a Full English. Ah well, perhaps that's just another b.b.c. thing :)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Let's all have a nice cup of... cold, boiled water.

Drinking cold, boiled water or 'doong gwun sueh' in Cantonese seems to be a uniquely Chinese practice that you may or may not have picked up from your parents.

Maybe like me you have childhood memories of a large, metallic, family vacuum flask with its mysterious, mirrored interior that always contained surprisingly hot water.

There are a number of benefits to drinking cold, boiled water. First is the lack of impurities and bugs (something that is more important in Asia than here in the U.K.). Second, it is a neutral alternative to stimulant-laden tea or coffee and third, it is believed to be a 'cooling' ('lerng') drink that can counteract the effects of 'hot air' that Chinese people say some foods contain (look out for a future post on the whole concept of hot and cooling foods or 'yeet hey').

There is something strangely appealing about cold, boiled water. It does have a taste. And when you drink it, it feels like it's doing you good. Or maybe it's just the taste of nostalgia, and memories of that old flask on the family dining table.

Of course, there is one major downside to having a cup of cold, boiled water: You can't dunk your biscuits in it (I know, I've tried).

Monday, November 13, 2006

When fantasy and reality collide.

Whilst many Asian/Western interracial relationships are successful, occasionally things don't quite go as planned and can reveal the way racial ideals and fantasies can obscure cold, harsh reality.

This article by Will Jory, journalist for the Daily Telegraph, starts with a particularly extreme example of the Oriental fantasy turning into a nightmare and then goes on to recount his own experiences which, erm, didn't go to well either. He also discusses the general concept of white English guys' perception of Asian women.

Many Western men take inordinate gambles with young South-East Asian women, the kind of gambles they would never consider at home.

Why? Obviously, there is a physical attraction. For many Western men, the slender, petite, ever-youthful figures of Eastern women can be seriously alluring. Then there is a cultural aspect: Thai women have a grace, a femininity and a deferential sexiness that many women in the West appear to have forsaken.

The attraction of female submissiveness might be reprehensible, but it is none the less real. Who doesn't like having their clothes washed, their meals cooked and their brow smoothed by a soft and loving hand?

Yes, I know the temptation well. For something not entirely dissimilar happened to me, another thirtysomething Englishman, a few years ago.

Well, I don't know. The guy seems totaly down on the whole 'Oriental fantasy' thing but that seems to be mainly down to his own preconceptions being wrong. After all, a lot of mixed relationships actually work out fine.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Comments now open to all.

Just realised I had comments set to Blogger members only. Now changed so anyone can comment.

Friday, November 10, 2006

London Chinatown... shop by shop

Ever found it hard to remember where exactly on Gerrard Street a particular shop or restaurant is? You won't any more with this view of Chinatown, courtesy of

Here's every shop on the north side, laid side by side, complete with business name...

... and here's the south side.

On-board an Oasis Hong Kong Airlines flight

Something I'm sure all bbcs are aware of by now, is the new airline offering low-cost flights from Gatwick to Hong Kong.

I think the general response to the launch of Oasis Hong Kong Airlines was "Yeah, great! Bargain flights to HK!" followed swiftly by "Hmm, think I'll let them do a few flights first before I jump on board."

The early doubts about proved partially right when the inaugural flight ran into problems and had to be delayed but there have been few reports of problems since. Now, for the curious amongst you, here's a chance to see for yourself what the actual plane interior is like:

Check out pics from on board Oasis Hong Kong's 747 here.

If that wasn't enough, here's an in-depth flight report from an Oasis passenger! He seemed to have had a great time, although his experience was probably a bit exceptional (being the first ever flight of a new airline etc.)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Random Pic of the Day (or so)... (RPDOS)

Photo by 'annkatia'.

Judge gives bbcs carte blanche to commit crime!

A judge in Scotland has unwittingly given us bbcs the go-ahead to rush out and commit crimes, safe in the knowledge that it would be almost impossible for us to be identified if caught because we all look the same!

[Sheriff Margaret Gimblett] told Greenock Sheriff Court: “Without wanting to be derogatory in any way, sometimes it is said that all black people look the same at first glance, and the same can be said that all Chinese people can look the same to a native Scot. It’s only when you have time to look that you begin to see the differences.”

Credit to the judge for trying to phrase her comments in as least offensive a way as possible, but you can almost hear the thin ice cracking. There is probably some truth in the fact that one ethnic group can have trouble distinguising members of another ethnic group with which they are unfamiliar but would it really be more difficult to identify a specific Chinese person involved in a specific incident?

You know what this means, though? BBC crime wave here we come! I'm now off to my local KwikSave to see what goodies I can pilfer, thanks to my mask of anonymity*

*I'm joking. Stealing is wrong ;)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hong Kong's latest attraction, the Ngong Ping 360 Skyrail

The Ngong Ping '360' Skyrail is a giant cable car that runs between the village of Ngong Ping and Tung Chung town centre on Lantau Island, a distance of just under 6km. It officially opened on September 18th 2006 after a number of delays and has suffered a series of technical glitches but is proving to be a popular attraction.

With views of the big Buddha and the airport, it looks like it could be spectacular ride (as long as the weather's fine). Apparently it's a fast way to travel too, as the ride takes about 25 mins and the same journey by road takes about an hour.

Check out the official Ngong Ping 360 homepage here.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sanney Leung, author of HK Entertainment Review

If you've tried to visit the popular Hong Kong showbiz news site recently you'll have noticed that the site is no longer up and running and the domain has been taken over by a holding company.

Normally, I would just put this down to a domain expiring and the webmasters 'giving up' on the site. However, always seemed to be updated regularly so it was strange that the site would just come to an abrupt end like that.

After a quick Google, I discovered the reason. Sadly, the site's main author Sanney Leung was recently diagnosed with cancer and is currently receiving treatment. The full story is explained by one of Sanny's friends over at

hkentreview was a great, invaluable site and perhaps the only places where you could read up-to-date, translated showbiz news from HK. I'm sure readers will join me in wishing Sanney a full and speedy recovery.

Monday, November 06, 2006

U.S. and Asia to get PS3 first

Looks like Europe will have to wait a whole 4 months before ther PS3 makes its way over here.

The PlayStation 3, Sony’s first new game console in six years, is scheduled to debut in Japan just over a week from now on Nov. 11. Then it will hit stores in North America on Nov. 17. It was originally scheduled to go on sale in Europe and Australiasia at the same time but Sony postponed the launch in those regions until March 2007 because of component shortages that meant it wouldn’t have enough consoles ready in time.

I sense a few extra-loaded suitcases coming back from HK around Christmas ;). More on it here

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Okay, so what's this blog all about?

Well, there's no specific goal (is there ever one with blogs?) but what I'm going to try to do is just post stuff that might be interesting to other bbc's (that's British-born Chinese in case you didn't know) out there.

It might be articles from the news or bits and bobs I find from surfing around. As the tagline says: Past, present and future. And all of it Chinese-y... in a bbc kind of way. Sound okay?

Let's start with something funny. I found this clip on Youtube (currently subscribed tags: TVB, cantonese) and I thought it was hilarious. Even if you (like me) don't understand half of what the characters are saying, but the comedy genius shines though. Enjoy!