Late night snacks with Sham Yee...

Jackie Chan

[Nov 2011 - The Journalist] Journalists eat at the most irregular hours. It's the nature of their work. Many sit down for lunch when others are having afternoon tea. Late night snacks replace dinners.

For those of us who work into the early hours the most important was less the food than the closing time of the eating establishments. So, often, the question of the moment was: Where do we go for the late, late night snack?

Thank heavens we have such a thing as a late night snack directory. A walking one at that.

It goes by the name of Sham Yee-lan. More popularly known as Shamyee. Thirty years in the making, she began as a junior reporter, working her way up to assignment editor or news editor in the western context.

Shamyee who is now teaching at Shue Yan University, says late-night snacking was a way of life for her generation of journalists. They have since been replaced by the “cafe generation”.

According to Shamyee journalists in her time went out for snacks in the early hours of the morning at least three times a week. “Sometimes, when you’re working very hard, a good late-night meal is good reward for yourself. It’s also a way of relieving work pressure.” she said.

Shamyee says hot pot was a popular choice. “If we’re off duty the next day, we would sit around the hot pot until 4am.” Places they frequented were the likes of Tai Woo Restaurant in Causeway Bay for local fare, or Hsin Kuang Restaurant in Wanchai for Teochew cuisine.

Sometimes they forayed to Lan Kwai Fong for long discussions over a glass of wine before going for supper in a group of six or more. Later, when incomes improved they favoured Japanese restaurants for sashimi and sushi.

To celebrate a colleague’s birthday or a big festival, they would go to a karaoke and sing through the night; everyone then being a “super vocalist”. Shamyee remembers, with a great deal of laughter, that the closest she got to being crazy was going off to buy raw food at a 24-hour supermarket after working late into the night. They she and her friends to Shek O for a barbecue. “We lit the grill at 2am,” she recalls.

The present generation of journalists may get together in groups for social activities but meals like hot pot are off the menu. Quite a few are concerned about gaining weight. Others regard marbled beef or geoduck simply over the top. So they compromise over a cafe meal.

When we think café we think of those located in Mong Kok or Causeway Bay. Some of are operated by journalists or former journalists. TC2 café in Mong Kok is one example.

TC2 café boss Patrick used to work in Commercial Radio, TVB and Cable TV. He left the beat three years ago to start a new life in catering. Patrick said that when he was still a journalist, he used to go to bars with colleagues after work. “When I worked at Cable TV, our centre at Tsim Sha Tsui was very close to the bars and I went there quite often.” He would have late night suppers with colleagues. Patrick said: “Journalists from the electronic media and those from newspapers did not mix together for activities, unless they had been classmates.”

Now, as a cafe boss, Patrick sees his customers keeping to two separate groups from the electronic media and the print media. But the talk is similar, even when different generations are involved.

“Sometimes, I listen to their whispers. They’re mainly talking about their superiors. At times they may discuss how different media handled the same assignment with their different skills. Sometimes, they may discuss the up-to-dated hot social issues because many of my old customers are from political beats.” Patrick said.

When the “death” of former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin was reported -- or misreported – by ATV, he had also joined in their discussions.

A common trait among journalists of whatever generation, is the long wait for everyone to turn up. “They normally don’t come on time. So if you’re making a reservation for a table, it’s better to mention that you’re journalists. It will be much easier for us to arrange the table.”

So next time you decide to go to this café, be sure to identify yourself. They may give you a better discount.

(Translated by Luther Ng)

People often associate late-night supping with weight-gain but Cynthia Wong, a dietician, thinks that taking late suppers may not be directly to blame. It all depends on whether your daily intake of calories is more than required.

“If our body clock is reset forward late-night snack is only the last one of our three daily regular meals. And if we do not exceed the normal daily intake of calories, there should be no problem at all.” She said, for example, the upper limit of the daily intake of calories for an adult weighing 120 lbs is 1500 kcal. If the person takes 500 kcal more than the daily requirement, he or she will have a weight gain of 1 pound after one week.

Wong says some journalists went to her centre for help in reducing weight. She thinks that many journalists wake up at noon but they should still take their lunch as usual. And when it is around 3 or 4 p.m., they can take a breakfast amount of food as their afternoon tea -- a cup of coffee plus a sandwich. And if journalists are unable to eat in the evening in the rush to complete their stories, Cynthia suggests they take some biscuits to keep hunger at bay. When they finish their work they can have late supper in place of dinner. “So the late-night snack will not be counted as an additional meal.” she said.

We still need to take late supper in a healthy way. For those journalists who like to eat hot pot, Cynthia Wong suggests choosing a clear soup, like parsley with preserved egg. “ Spicy soup base or satay soup base is too greasy and we should try to avoid,” she said.

“We can still eat beef in hot pot, but we need to use fresh beef and avoid marbled beef.” Seafood and meat balls are healthier choices.

As for cafe snacks, it may be difficult to skip chips and chicken wings. But try at least to give more attention to the drinks. Fruit teas and scented teas are good choices. “Many think that juices are healthy but a glass of juice contains 140 kcal. It’s equal to a glass of soft drink,” Cynthia said.

For desserts, Cynthia suggests choosing fruit mitsumame (a kind of starch jelly) or sweet potato soup. “We should not pour too much sweet soup into the starch jelly. It's all right to eat the sweet potato because it is a kind of high-fibre food.” She said. A bowl of black sesame paste contains 300 to 400 kcal. This is equal to two bowls of rice and those who want to avoid a weight gain should keep this at arm's length.

Even if a late supper replaces your dinner it may still harm your health if you sleep after a full meal. According to the past researches, late-night eating and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease are co-related and it also causes indigestion. So we all you late night birds – keep an eye on your meals in the wee hours.

(Translated by Luther Ng)