Thursday, September 9, 2021

GOING TO HONG KONG: Guest Post by Tori Eldridge


Readers know Lily Wong as a badass ninja who uses her martial arts skills for good, but in The Ninja Betrayed, Lily show’s her softer side with more food, more family, and—OMG—so much more of Daniel Kwok. With all the swoon-worthy dates, Michelin-star restaurants, ritzy bay-view homes, and the local-eye view of exotic Hong Kong, Lily would be on a dream vacation, if only she weren’t up to her eyeballs in riots, intrigue, and triads. 

Yeah, yeah… danger-smanger… tell us more about love, food, and Hong Kong! 

Ever since I began this series, I knew I would eventually take Lily back to Ma’s hometown and the city where Lily’s meddlesome grandparents still live. After visiting in person with my Hongkonger daughter-in-law and family, I knew that time was now. 

Even readers who have not yet read The Ninja Daughter or The Ninja’s Blade will fall right into Lily’s family, her dreamy new boyfriend, and the exciting prospect of dating him in one of the most exciting cities in the world. Writing The Ninja Betrayed also gave me a chance to share my first-hand impressions and relive my own experiences.

I visited Hong Kong at the end of 2018 to celebrate our eldest son’s engagement to his Hongkonger bride. Coincidence or fate? He started dating her after I had begun writing my debut novel and establishing that Lily’s connection to Hong Kong! 

They met in Shanghai during my son’s business trip then fell in love in Portland, Oregon after she moved there to work at Nike headquarters. When he took a position in Shanghai, she followed nine months later and took a position in Beijing. After another year of long-distance romance and bi-monthly getaways in China, they married in Hawaii and got stuck in Tokyo months later at the start of the pandemic. It turned out to be a blessing because Nike allowed them to work virtually, together, from Tokyo. Now, they’re married and living in Shanghai with their darling eight-month-old daughter (my first grandchild). How’s that for a romance? 

When my husband, my youngest son, and I visited Hong Kong, we were able to hang with my daughter-in-law’s family and “meet” the city through a local perspective. The experiences we had and the places we visited infused my writing with added color, texture, and (what I hope to be) keen cultural and political understanding regarding the pro-democracy struggle. 

We even bonded over dumpling making—apropos since Lily’s nickname is Dumpling! 

We hung out with family at the public barbecue and played mahjong in their tiny fortieth-floor home in one of the ubiquitous apartment-block clusters. 

“This is Hong Kong, don’t forget, the most vertical city in the world.” (The Ninja Betrayed) 

We wandered through Mong Kok, the busiest, most crowded section of Hong Kong with a mixture of old and new tenements, first-floor retail shops, and tented kiosks that sprout up at dawn and vanish later in the night. 

Once out of the grungy tenement, I headed for the Mong Kok MTR station, down busy one-way streets. People flowed through Crowded Corner with skilled precision, disrupted only by the abrupt actions of tourists who didn’t understand the rules. 

Don’t stop. Don’t block. Don’t crowd.

Locals didn’t squeeze into tiny shops without purpose, nor did they add to the noise pollution with boisterous conversation. They waited outside and kept their voices low so there would be room for others to shop and think. In a city this congested, no matter how independently-minded its citizens, Hongkongers acted in the best interest of their community. (The Ninja Betrayed)

We perused the street markets, shopping for produce and the deliciously sweet and greasy lap cheong sausage (hanging along the top) that Lily loves to eat in the sticky-rice dumplings known as zóngzi. 

Ducks hung beside slabs of meat over fish on ice or live seafood in tanks. Chickens clucked at one stall while shoppers scrutinized bok choy and pomelo at another. The scent of fragrant produce mingled with the musk of ceremonial incense, stacked high in red-wrapped tubes, boxes, and packages. Dried strings of sweet lap cheong sausage hung above bins of dried abalone, fungus, and beans. (The Ninja Betrayed)

We took the Star Ferry to Hong Kong Island in the day and watched the boats chug by at night, just as Lily does on her own and with Daniel Kwok. 

I folded my arms on the railing as the ferry pulled away from the dock. Daniel rested his chin on my shoulder. Together we watched the skyline appear, steel and glass ablaze in reflected gold and red. The breeze off the water nipped at my face and made me glad to have worn my light leather jacket. I leaned into his chest. Daniel’s assurances had lightened my mood. Would I feel the same if I shared more secrets with him? (The Ninja Betrayed) 

We took a double-decker bus to the top of The Peak, where we hiked around the scenic walkway and down jungle paths not nearly as steep as the ones Lily encounters on her treacherous run. 

“I sprinted to the Watford trailhead and stared at the steps. I hadn’t counted them on the way down, but dreaded every one of them for the charge back up. Train to live. Live to train. Sensei’s slogan reminded me that every challenge presented an opportunity to grow and improve. My adventures in Hong Kong had already shown me the importance of staying in shape. This three-quarter-mile sprint up a mountain would do me good.” (The Ninja Betrayed) 

Although we didn’t eat quite so well as Lily at the Ritz and Ta Vie, we did eat home-cooked papaya soup, jook (rice porridge), and crispy-broiled pork belly at my in-laws’ home. We also filled our bellies with delicious food from street vendors, cha chaan teng tea restaurants, and a Cantonese-style dim sum banquet with our daughter-in-law’s grandmother, aunts, uncles, parents, and brother’s family who gather together every Sunday. 

The banquet lasted for four hours with seemingly endless steamers and plates of Hong Kong delicacies, including my favorite sticky rice, bean curd rolls, and black bean chicken feet. I struggled with the fast-paced Cantonese, made everyone laugh by mixing it up with Mandarin, and ended up relying on Ma for translations. (The Ninja Betrayed) 

My trip to Hong Kong was magical for so many reasons. What a joy it was to relive and draw from my many visceral experiences as I explored Lily’s softer side with her challenging romance and complicated family. But never fear, the new book is loaded with trademark ninja action, intrigue, and mouth-watering food.

To get in the mood for The Ninja Betrayed, try this recipe for the classic yuen yeung Hong Kong coffee milk tea, named for the opposites-attract pairing of Mandarin ducks, a symbol of conjugal love in Chinese culture. Yuen yeung has a complex ratio of three parts coffee and seven parts Hong Kong style milk tea. This recipe makes it a little simpler to make at home. 

• Simmer 2 cups water with 3 tsp black tea for 3 minutes. 

• Add 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk and simmer for 3 more minutes 

• Brew 1 cup of black coffee. 

• Strain milk tea and mix with coffee. 

Note: You can also use evaporated milk sweetened with sugar to taste. Or try my low-carb, no-sugar version below. 

Right now, I’m drinking a blend of Assam and Darjeeling black teas brewed in a cup of hot unsweetened almond milk with a splash of half-n-half mixed with a long shot of decaf espresso. 

What inventive coffee or tea combinations do you like to drink? 


Tori Eldridge is the Anthony, Lefty, and Macavity Awards-nominated author of the Lily Wong mystery thrillers—The Ninja Daughter, The Ninja’s Blade, The Ninja Betrayed—and the upcoming dark Brazilian fantasy, Dance Among the Flames (out May 2022). Follow Tori on Instagram, and learn more about her at

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