Alkira Reinfrank

Alkira Reinfrank

Alkira Reinfrank is a contributor to Inkstone and a production editor on the South China Morning Post's Culture desk.

Beyond spicy: the little-known side of Sichuan cuisine
Many may remember the 1998 film Mulan, the tale of a young Chinese girl who pretends to be a man to take her ailing father’s place in the army. In a joint promotion for the original animated feature, McDonald’s released a condiment called SzeChuan sauce for a limited time. Hong Kong-born Kevin Pang, who was raised in the United States, remembers it well from his teenage days. “It tasted very much like American Chinese food, it was too sweet. The texture was very gloopy, very sticky, and I think it was a little bit too out there for an American audience. If you eat chicken nuggets, you have barbecue sauce, you have hot mustard, but you don’t have this vaguely Asian style sauce. It was a novel
Where is sushi from? Not Japan
Sushi is pretty ubiquitous: from nigiri, with its slice of raw fish on a pillow of rice, to the maki roll wrapped in nori, or seaweed. But the sushi we know today tastes and looks very different from how it did centuries ago.  First of all, the rice in the original “sushi” was not intended to be eaten. Mixed with salt, it was used to preserve the fish and then thrown out. Sushi’s origins aren’t even Japanese, says Nobu Hong Kong executive sushi chef Kazunari Araki, who has more than 20 years of sushi-making experience. The combination of rice and fish, he explains, originated in the third century along the Mekong River in Southeast Asia, where countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, La
Sriracha sauce is hot stuff all over the world, and it’s made in California
With a rooster in the center, surrounded by Chinese and Vietnamese writing, and the bottle topped with its iconic green squeeze cap, Huy Fong Foods’ Sriracha sauce is arguably one of the most recognizable condiments in the world. The sauce is lauded for its spicy kick, vinegary tang and garlicky aftertaste and has developed a cult following since it first tantalized tastebuds in 1980. Heat seekers are known to add it to almost any dish – drizzling it on pizza and sushi; mixing it into bowls of pasta or pho. Fans have gotten tattoos and personalized car number plates to declare their love for it, and astronauts have even taken it into space. Despite its ubiquity, though, there remains common
Hong Kong's new tiny homes make pipe dreams a reality
I survived a night inside a water pipe. Well, it isn’t as dramatic as it sounds. I volunteered myself as tribute to be the first overnight guest of the OPod, a renovated water pipe which has been hailed as a solution to Hong Kong’s ever-worsening housing crisis. Hong Kong has been crowned the priciest home market in the world for eight years straight. The city’s housing prices have more than quadrupled since 2003. Many families struggle to find affordable housing, and a lot of them have no choice but to live in “coffin homes” – subdivided flats that are often smaller than a prison cell. Local architect James Law, who designed the OPod, believes that his micro-flat can help ease the city's ho
Snakes on a plate: do you dare try this delicacy?
When it’s cold outside, you might crave apple pie or a hot chocolate. But how about a bowl of steaming snake soup? You may squirm at the idea, but it's been the winter dish of choice for many in southern China for centuries. Popularized in the province of Guangdong, shredded snake soup is favored in the colder months for more than just its taste. People tuck into the delicacy because they believe it has healing powers. Why snake meat? Snake has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine; it was first mentioned in a Chinese agriculture and medicinal plant book in 100AD. In Chinese medicine, snake is considered to be a “warming” ingredient, heating your body from the inside. Foods are bel
Why Hong Kong is getting steamed up about a high-speed railway
Hong Kong’s legislature has just passed a controversial bill to allow Chinese laws to be enforced in the city's new high-speed rail station.  The rail network, due to be completed later this year, will allow passengers to travel along an 80-mile stretch of rail in less than an hour. It will only take 15 minutes to go from the center of Hong Kong to the nearest Chinese city of Shenzhen – currently one of the busiest overland routes in the world. But this rail link is also, historically and legally, something of an oddity. The former British colony became part of China in 1997. It has a separate legal and administrative system and civil liberties not available in China (such as access to Faceb