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Chef Nurdin’s Perfect Holiday . . . Ho Ho Ho!

It's officially the peak of the holiday season and the time of the year to start holiday entertaining, festive-decorating, and preparing decadent food and cozy cocktails. This inspired us to speak to chef Nurdin Topham of Nur for inspirations on festive dishes, gift ideas, and how to take his philosophy of "nourishing gastronomy" into the home that will definitely get you through the season with your friends and family content and intact. Read on!

How will you be spending the holiday?

I will be spending it at NUR, and creating wonderful holiday memories for our guests.  

Any holiday traditions or must do’s?

I always celebrate the holidays with a home-cooked turkey, and will be bringing this tradition to NUR and celebrating the festivities with the team.

What will you be gifting this holiday? 

Since I am unable to be home in London this winter, I will be sending care packages filled with local goods from Hong Kong to family and friends. 

Best gift you have received and given?

I always love receiving wine, and the best gift I’ve ever given was cooking for my best friend’s wedding. 

What is the art of gifting ?

Giving something thoughtful that acknowledges the person’s character or need.

Any go-to holiday dishes? 

Jerusalem artichokes 3 ways – barbecued, picked, and fried.

What are some things you always have in the fridge?

A large range of Japanese pickles from Tsukiji market. 

Any new cooking methods you will be experimenting or working into your dishes this holiday at Nur? 

We are currently working with different forms of goose charcuterie!

New dishes you will be introducing this holiday?

We will be serving a NUR Vintage Holiday Pudding which has been aged for a year, made with regional ingredients like jackfruit and long-an, and served with apple fudge and almond cream.

Any tips for how to enjoy “nourishing gastronomy” at home?

Eat as much plant-based foods as possible. Search out the most delicious, fresh, and seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Can you share with us your personal picks for places to eat (besides Nur) on your day off? What should we order at each?

Big fan of Ho Lee Fook’s roast goose and all vegetable dishes, and Le Garçon Saigon’s chicken cooked over wood.   

As a chef,  how do you get inspired?

Through reading scientific articles and chef books, traveling, and visiting farms.


Thank you chef Nurdin for speaking to us! VISIT NUR at:


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Our Cool Gift Series – Saturn Reimagined

It’s not just during the holiday season when we can use some inspiration with that hard-to-shop-for person on your list. Welcome to our “Gifting It” series, where we pick a new and cool gift to profile each time. Note: it’s also a perfect place to find ideas for your own wish list. From something out of this world, to something random or quirky, we hope it will be something you’d like to unwrap. Being a good gifter just got easier!

A digital photograph of Saturn – we absolutely love this stunning closeup of Saturn that combines art with science. The original grayscale data from Nasa and Esa (European Space Agency) is converted into colors using data on the intensity of light; the result is a crisp, colourful, and seamless image that is meant to represent what the human eye would see if we were on a trip to the solar system. Part of a new exhibition on display at London’s Natural History Museum, taken by Michael Benson. Read more here:

Why We Picked It:

1.  Reminds us that “we are not alone.” That there are bigger and brighter truths beyond our own planet and understanding…. and that we probably shouldn’t sweat the “small stuff” :  )

2.  Feels like you’ve just travelled with Nasa! The centerpiece will also add a sense of mystery and fun to any room.

3.  The abstract shapes will have you staring and studying each and every detail like the mesmerizing rings that circle the planet. Note: not responsible for dizzyness.

4.  Better than any sleeping aid, this image will most definitely trigger your creative unconscious, inspiring colorful and strange dreams that would make Jung proud.

5.  The beautiful dark greys and seemingly endless shades of blues, and earthy tones and all that’s in between will heighten and refine your ways of seeing.  

Giftwell Gift Meter: 5/5



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Ladies Who Publish – Meet Adele and Kate

We’re smitten to have a heart-to-heart with the two co-founders of The Loop – Adele Wong and Kate Springer. And it’s not just because they’ve taken Hong Kong’s publishing world by storm (though that helps!), it’s also because Adele was one of the first people we met in Hong Kong, and remains one of the nicest, most genuine people we have come across. We’re gung-ho for this dynamic, talented duo. Find out the words they live by, what makes them happy, their biggest secret...

Meet The Loop:
Adele Wong
Publisher and Co-Founder of The Loop
Birthday month: October

Kate Springer
Editor-in-Chief of The Loop / Co-Founder
Birthday month: February


Adele – I love the idea of being able to share genuinely informative and entertaining content with an interested audience. When we get good reader feedback and see our stories being shared online, it makes everything worth it.

Kate – I both love and hate that the publishing world is constantly evolving, offering new challenges and keeping us on our toes. But of course it’s hard to keep up at times! Publishing also enables us to celebrate Hong Kong and all of the amazing people, food and opportunities here.


Adele – We wanted to start The Loop as we saw a gap in the online, digital-first English media landscape that catered not just to niche readers in, say, the luxury or expat market. We wanted to reach English-speaking Hongkongers and those who currently call Hong Kong home, and keep them in the loop on all the amazing things that are happening in the city.

Kate – We felt as young professionals that there wasn’t a website in Hong Kong yet that really captured what we care about: interesting people, serious issues, delicious food and inspiring travel destinations. We also longed for a clean and easy to navigate website that worked just as seamlessly on our mobiles phones, since we’re all glued to them!

Business wise, we also saw a hole in the market for this demographic — high-earning yet down-to-earth young professionals — and an opportunity to advance the publishing industry with collaborative strategies that are working in other major cities around the world but not yet introduced to Hong Kong. Until now!


Adele – I’m sleeping.

Kate – I love to sleep, exercise, go hiking, watch movies, try new restaurants and am always on the hunt for new whisky bars. But, most often, I’m on a plane and traveling to a new place!


Adele – Being able to carve out a unique space for ourselves in the saturated media market in Hong Kong.

Kate – Starting a business! I’ve always wanted to brainstorm and have a creative outlet, and seeing The Loop come to life has been a deeply rewarding learning experience.


Adele – This is a roundabout way of answering the question, but I have kept every personal, handwritten letter or card ever given to me since I was 6 – they’re all in this giant box I keep under my bed. I’m horrible at picking gifts. I probably need more Giftwell in my life.

Kate – Any gift that’s a flight somewhere. My fiancee bought me flights to Okinawa for my birthday last year, and flight to Beijing this year. So I guess he’s winning!


Adele – I’m afraid of sharp knives! Every time I chop up some garlic, I’m afraid I’ll lose some fingers.

Kate – I secretly love the smell of durian, and cow manure — separately, not together. One reminds me of the home in the US and the other reminds me of home in Hong Kong. Can you guess which is which?


Adele – E-Cards.

Kate – Face time all the way, but being in Asia when my family and friends are in the US means that I tend to send more e-cards. I always get a kick out of the animated ones from JibJab.


Adele – Always listen to the other side of the argument.

Kate – Don’t procrastinate. Just sit down and get shit done.


Adele – Valentine’s Day with my husband.

Kate – My birthday! Last year in my 20s and it’s going to be a good one.


Adele – Donald Trump — just to understand what’s going on in his mind and why he’s so popular with American voters.

Kate – CY Leung. So I can figure out what the hell he actually does. Actually that might make for a short conversation.


Adele – A giant web of contradictions.

Kate – An iced milk tea: refreshing, indulgent, convenient and usually amazing — but sometimes it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.


Adele – Get them to a bustling neighborhood dim sum restaurant.

Kate – Dim sum obviously!!


Adele – Being productive.

Kate – Either working in my pajamas, crossing off a to-do list, or traveling to a new place.

Be sure to check out: THELOOPHK.COM!



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How to Write a Proper Thank You?

What is the etiquette for writing a modern-day thank you note? Here's a few things we like to keep in mind . . .


– Be specific on the content. Make sure you don’t sound like you’re doing the dishes or merely performing a chore . . . people can tell.

– Include the details – let them know that their preparations and care did not go unnoticed.


– If you can draw, illustrate your thanks and what you want to convey in pictures or sketches. You get the idea. It will also add that human touch in our digital age.

– Just remember, everyone else will be saying the same thing and using those two exact words. 


– Use verbal irony, puns, double entendres, etc . . . let your personality come through.

– Whatever it takes to amuse and make them beam while reading your note.


– Knowing that you’ve written a good thank you note makes you feel good.

– People gravitate towards people who are fun, witty, and creative, so you’ve just increased your chances of getting invited back. Nice!



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Congrats, Class of 2017!

It's that time of the year again, moms and dads. The end of the school year is fast approaching and the start of summer just around the corner! Before we get ahead of ourselves (summer camps and pool parties, anyone?), let's celebrate and give thanks to the educators who have helped our little and not-so-little ones through their ups and downs throughout the past year. Nothing new under the sun to gift? Here are some ideas to help you come up with something unique and personal ...

For the Teachers and Teaching Assistants: 

You know who they are, these are the people you and your kids have daily contact with for most of the year. They are the ones your kids depend and count on on a daily basis. They give encouragement to your little ones’ slightly wacky science project idea or come to their rescue when they’ve accidentally injured themselves during a baseball game. They are the constant supporters and cheerleaders.

We suggest something Restorative and Therapeutic: Almost anyone can enjoy an hour-long hand and nail massage (perfect for the sports or arts teacher). Or a therapeutic hair detox which is really great for anyone, I mean – everyone – who has to give 120% in this humidity on a daily basis!


For the Principal:

We have always gifted fabulous bouquets (personally arranged by our aunt who is an expert in the Japanese art of flower arrangement known as Ikebana) or giant exotic plants to our principals. The look of genuine, if not slightly embarassed, surprise on their faces and the look of envy on everyone else’s faces when the flowers are hand-delivered is priceless. They might not be the ones who have day-to-day contact with your kids, but their behind-the-scenes work and dedication are felt in every nooks and crannies of the school. Yes, they are the strategists and visionaries.

We suggest Shock and Awe: Get the biggest bouquet for maximum effect or use different colors, numbers, types of flowers or plants (being on good terms with your plant nursery helps) to convey your own personal message. Work with your own florist to create a one-of-a-kind bouquet! Never gift “as is” off the shelves! Your thoughtfulness or rather thoughtlessness will show.

Last but not least, the Graduates: 

This group is most deserving of a gift since they ARE the ones who actually did all the hard work, right? This group is your harshest critics and your biggest fans.

We suggest Digging through the Family Archive: Art is said to be edifying and corrupting to the young. It’s a double-edged sword that is perfect as a graduation gift. That long-forgotten favorite photograph taken by your kids during a family trip to Bhutan years ago will have the wow factor you want when properly magnified, printed, and framed. The more trouble you go through to do this (preferably the non-digital kind), the bigger the surprise. 

Note:  If you opt for a group gift, then our gift vouchers are your most stylish solution. With many parents all chipping in and coins flying around (yes, we’ve seen that quite a few times!), a gift voucher amount can easily be determined and divided equally amongst the parents. Plus, they’ll get the gorgeous packaging and the flexibility to choose their own shop or restaurant. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Congrats class of 2017! You’re almost there (parents too!)!


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Smile, You’re in Okinawa!

This was our first time in Okinawa and we loved the relaxed, easygoing, and anything-goes positive vibe. It's as if we’ve traveled back in time to when life was slower and less complicated. It’s a place so full of creativity, culture, and pride.

We especially love that at many of the spots we went, the only folks working there are the owners themselves – delivering a product they believe in to you, with heart and passion. We think this creates a connectedness and togetherness, a sense of neighborhood and uniqueness that can’t be easily replicated. In some places, we even saw the 2nd and 3rd generations working together on the floor. That just about made our trip.

And they’ve all figured out how to do this by having workable, sustainable hours such as 11 am – 7 pm or 10 am – 6 pm – so that they can take the rest of the day off. There was a restaurant we went to that’s only open in the morning for a few hours. What a concept. 

Say hello to some of our favorites, enjoy!

On Off Yes No

The philosophy behind many juice spots, or any health food shops for that matter, is to preach what they consider as healthy living. The idea for On Off Yes No, and where the name comes from, is not wanting to force a certain way of living on anyone. You can come here to get energized or you can come here to unwind at the end of the day – anything goes, hence the name On Off Yes No. You are free to choose…..not to mention the first-class juices that you can get here. (Their Facebook link)

Mahou Coffee 

A really serious coffee shop given the very specific way in which the owners want to present the coffee – from the zen atmosphere and a light jazz music in the background, to the very detailed process in the making of the coffee that uses specific utensils for each of the different drinks, down to the specific cups used to serve each type of drink, even the shape of the ice cube is considered! You cannot leave here without trying the dessert. The panna cotta has a generous layer of coffee jelly at the bottom, which contrasts so nicely with the sweeter creamy layer at the top. Literally to die for. (Mahou Coffee’s web site: link)


This was probably one of our favorite meals in Okinawa. We walked in at around 5 pm and felt so lucky when we were told that everything on the menu was sold out but there were still 2 dishes available, and they had just enough ingredients to make 1 plate of each! The 2 dishes turned out to be a soba and a pork with ginger set, which were completely unbelievable. The vegatables were so fresh they must have just came out of the garden. The food is served in beautiful signature Okinawa-style pottery. There’s also local Okinawa jewelry and produce sold in the restaurant that’s worth checking out. Magical. (Their Facebook link)


We really enjoyed our meal at Mana, which is a vegan interpretation of Okinawan cuisine done in a very cute and relaxing environment. Everything on our table was jam-packed with flavor and so colorful it was like a work of art. It was hard to believe that the “chicken” we were eating was not chicken at all, and that the curry lunch set was made entirely from beans! Everything was hearty and yummy, the ultimate comfort food. (Their Facebook link)



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The Growhouse Revolution

Nowhere in Hong Kong can you find a more tranquil and cozy local bookstore and one that's under the same roof of a cutting-edge enrichment program for children . . . until Growhouse. We're so lucky to have Jannie Tam, the Founder of Growhouse, talk to us about doing something no one has done before, what "content" means in today's selfie world, the best gift she's received, and why there's no better time than now to be in the book and education business.

Why did you want to start Growhouse?  I have been working in the content business for a very long time.  My major professional involvement included Disney, Time Warner and Dymocks.  Through such experience and exposure, I see the power of content.  It has been disheartening to see many bookstores gone.  What we do now is to stretch what a bookstore can do apart from selling books and merchandise; the decision is to extend into education retail.

How did the concept of Growhouse come about?  I realise books, films and any good content can work wonders if we know how to master the craft of reading and thinking.  It is no longer just showing you a movie, a TV show or a book. We need to demonstrate how to form our own opinions while we resonate with the moral of the stories and how to effectively express ourselves.  It is no longer a product driven business but a balanced product / service offering.

There are so much learning programs in Hong Kong, how is the Growhouse concept different from other enrichment programs?  Our programme is about “critical reading”, “cultural capital” and “global citizenship” through in-depth engagement with text in books and films.  No one has done it until London Gifted and Talented devised it exclusively for Growhouse through extensive research.  It is the first of its kind in the world.

What do you love most about the education and book business? What excites you about it? I am a book lover simply because it takes my mind to places way beyond my imagination.  And the education we are now engaged in is to show students not just to read for pleasure, but to analyse, empathise, resonate so as to find their own voice in this world.  There is no better business to be engaged in than this; it stirs my heart.

How do you cultivate the love of reading in children who have too much to do and too little time? Read what you resonate with; read it more than once.  Movie helps too.

I’m most proud of ….? My family which consists of two men (one old; one young) that are gentle and fun, both with a big heart.  They are the driving force of my life apart from myself. 

Best gift ever received? A mini plant from my son.  He knows me and Growhouse!

What would “happiness in a box” contain for you?  A mini photo album, a CD and a book of my choice. 

Books or e-readers?  Both.  Depends on if I want people to know what I am reading. 

My motto is….?  Take root below; bear fruit above.

I last celebrated….?  Mother’s Day and Growhouse’s second branch in Repulse Bay.  What a gift!

Which fictional character from a book (film) would you like to sit next to at a dinner party? Amelie; she might enjoy my company.

Hong Kong is like…..a fusion buffet restaurant.

If you could do one thing with a friend visiting Hong Kong, what would you do?  Dai pai dong lah, assuming it’s a western friend.

What do you do when you’re not working? Food, reading and social service with my family.

I’m happiest when I’m …..having my personal quiet time before a well-planned day either for family or for work.

Binged or paced reading? Depends on the day.

Find out more about Growhouse in person and online!





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Your Modern Country in Hong Kong

Yup, you heard it here - "modern country" is not an oxymoron. Fresca is something Hong Kong has been waiting for! Two Giftwellers happened to be on Hollywood Road on a Saturday and decided to pop in, and were lucky enough to meet the owner Ivy. Read on!

Ivy described the philosophy of Fresca as “modern country” – a concept that is oh-so-refreshing for Hong Kong.  She wanted to create a feeling of community, a neighborhood hangout. The vibe is clean, wholesome, not hurried, and full of positive energy – not a surprise to hear that even the customers volunteer here!

The food is all vegetarian, obviously with a healthy bent full of natural herbs and spices that will surprise the palate – such as the very yummy bean paste tofu, gluten- free muffins; the soups are also very nice with a lovely, velvety texture, SANS cream! Many of the vegetables and spices used in the food are even home grown by Ivy!

Even though we didn’t order anything on this first visit, Ivy was generous enough to give us samples of pretty much everything they had that day – not something you encounter every day in Hong Kong.

Also check out all the super cute and amazing ceramic pieces (both very large and small) – all of them handmade by the talented and differently abled folks at St. James’ Creation Ceramics Gallery.

There is a second floor of seating space and books on the shelf that you can read. You are what you eat and think, and Fresca’s got it. You will walk out glowing.