Where to Eat in HK: Under the Bridge Spicy Crab

April 12, 2016 § 1 Comment

Work will bring me to Hong Kong in a few weeks and I am reminded of the last dish I had a few years ago in Wan Chai. We walked from Gloucester to Lockhart Road to look for Hong Kong’s famous Under the Bridge Spicy Crab Restaurant. Known for their authentic and mouth-watering typhoon shelter crabs.

Back in the day before modern HK, there lived a community of fishermen living in typhoon shelters. Within this community rose a distinct culinary culture that centered on freshly caught seafood. As Hong Kong’s status as a fishing city decline, this community started moving to land, the younger generation trading up for better jobs.

Under-Bridge-Spicy-Crab

We found the modest restaurant with staff that hardly speaks English. With an atmosphere like this, it almost always promises an authentic meal. The star of the show is the bits of garlic, chili peppers, and spring onion stir-fried till crisp then tossed with the deep-fried mud crab—insanely addictive. I love this version because I prefer fried or just steamed crabs sans any sauce, which sometimes masks the sweetness of the crab.  The dry chill-garlic bits, albeit on the oily side, adds just the right flavour and heat to the crabs.  A must-try when in the area.

See you in a few weeks Hong Kong. I hope to devour your impressive crab dish once again. And hopefully, introduce you to the people traveling with me.

Shop 6-9, G/F, 423 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai
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Vietnam Eats

September 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

If you’re thinking of visiting any part of Vietnam, the first thing you need to know about is that food is an integral part of their culture and livelihood. Anyone who has traveled to Vietnam will tell you that it is one of the major attractions. You can’t go to Vietnam and not have a taste of their cuisine.

food-cartsMore often than not, the street is its stage – street food stalls can be found anywhere from the main roads to the alleyways. Small plastic stools and a table taking up the sidewalk is a common scene.

small-tables-and-chairs

So what is Vietnamese food? It has a distinct flavor yet it is almost universally accepted palate-wise. The taste comes from fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, and fresh herbs such as mint, cilantro, and lemongrass – think spicy, sour, bitter, salty and sweet when combined. Influenced much by the Chinese and French, Vietnamese love their noodles and bread. Theirs is a cuisine that is light and refreshing, which is probably why it is easy on the palate. Their taste for fresh ingredients and simple methods has actually placed their cuisine on the map of the foodies.

On my recent visit to Hanoi, I rediscovered favorites and got introduced to new staples. So without further ado, here are a few staples and must-haves when in Vietnam, in my opinion.

Pho – THE staple of Vietnam, available all day and night long.

phoThe national food is a steaming, fragrant broth of rice noodle with chicken or beef topped with bean sprouts, mint, and a few more herbs. Squeeze a wedge of lime into it and the freshness of this simple noodle soup raises the bar for all noodle soups. It’s impossible to walk a block without bumping into a hungry crowd slurping noodles in a makeshift pho stand on a sidewalk.

Banh Mi – The French has stamped its mark on Vietnam through its baguette and has since been given a Vietnamese spin.

banh-miThis Vietnamese sandwich (more commonly called Banh Mi) is a heavenly concoction of crusty baguette filled with pork, pâté, butter, and an array of local ingredients (cilantro, cucumber, jalapeño and pickled carrots and daikon). Indeed a product of cultural and culinary blend that managed to put Vietnamese cuisine on the map.

Bun Cha – If Pho is Vietnam’s most famous dish Bun Cha (ubiquitous in the North) is what everyone prefers over lunch in Hanoi.

bun-cha-up-closeIt’s charcoal grilled patties and sliced pork belly served with a basket of herbs, cold vermicelli noodles, a bowl of nuoc cham (fish sauce, sugar, and rice vinegar mixture).bun-cha

Nem Cua BeBun Cha lovers normally order a side dish of this spring roll filled with small amounts of crab meat, minced pork, garlic, herbs, mushrooms, and glass noodles, then deep-fried to juicy/crisp perfection.

nem-cua-beDipped in the same Bun Cha sauce, this spring roll has become a favorite. Ah, Nem Cua Be! I’m dreaming of you now.

Goi Cuon – Fresh spring rolls, light and healthier version of Vietnam’s many spring rolls.

Goi-Cuon-Spring-RollIt is definitely a wholesome choice especially if indulging too much on the fried ones. Dip it in peanut sauce and your taste buds will be jumping for joy.

Nem Nuong Xa – Grilled minced meat on lemongrass skewers.

Nem-Nuong-XaI’ve always loved these and have long been one of the familiar Vietnamese dishes on my side of the world. It’s meat patties wrapped around lemongrass stalks/skewers then grilled. Simple yet so satisfying.

Ngo Chien Bo – It’s sweet corn kernels fried in butter. Introduced to us by the locals we befriended at the beer corner.

ngo chiem bo buttery cornThe one served to us had salty dried fish added to it. Crunchy, buttery, sweet and salty goodness… so definitely addictive, this little kernel of heaven.

Bo Bia Ngot – a dessert so intriguing though it didn’t call out to us at first sight until some kids on a night out convinced us to buy some.

bo-bia-ngotIt’s a rolled up crêpe made up of shredded coconut, sesame seeds, and light sugary candy pieces (sometimes just sugar). Made to order at a food stall. Another simple concoction that delivered a sensation of complex textures and flavor.

And because I have caffeine running through my veins, all meals end with coffee,

coffeeVietnamese style of course.

Seville’s Good Eats

August 30, 2014 § 3 Comments

“Where can we go for paella?” we asked the front desk guy at our hostel. He looked at us, bewildered. “Valencia?” he finally replied. Obviously, Seville isn’t the place to have this famous Spanish rice dish… so much for that, I guess. A self-proclaimed tapas capital of the world though, some of Spain’s most imaginative tapas can be found here.

plaza-dona-elvira

The most popular way to eat in Seville is to ir de tapas, go out for tapas. You can’t be in this city and not do a tapeo, bar crawling. A humble tradition turned international phenomenon.

manchego-and-olives

The simple bread and cheese (used only to cover the glass to prevent flies from entering) has evolved to fancier feasts of foie gras and truffles. What used to go with the drink for free could actually be the star these days.

La Flor de Toranza

la flor de toranza

So instead, front desk guy pointed us to the Arenal district, a few meters away from our hostel, and there we found La Flor de Toranza (also called Casa Trifon after the founder, Don Trifon Gomez Ortiz). They had a traditional menu with specialty tapas of the fancier kind—foie gras, premium sausages, marinated turkey breast, anchovy rolls…

Toranza-montaditos-

Anchoas con leche condensada (Anchovies with condensed milk), a curious combination caught our eyes on the menu, and so did the lomo y mansanas (salt cured pork loin and apple sandwiches). Interesting play of salty and sweet on crusty bread, the anchovy sandwich came out a winner although the ham and apples didn’t disappoint either. A restaurant with a pleasant atmosphere and friendly staff—a Filipino wait staff even got out to chat with us when they found out we were Filipinos. Close to Plaza Nuevo and Avenida de la Constitucion.

Sierra de Sevilla

sierra-de-seville

Then we moved on to a few bars down. Sierra de Sevilla had Jamon Iberico (cured ham of the Huelva sierras) hanging at the rafters and that sealed the deal for us.

jamon-iberico

We found ourselves a table and ordered a raciones (a full plateful and not a small snack size) of this nutty cured ham sliced thin enough to melt in your mouth and a plate of Quezo Manchego from the La Mancha region.

Being a hot region of Spain, Seville is home to gazpacho but instead of the famous chilled tomato soup now popular all around Europe, I was introduced to Salmorejo, gazpacho’s richer and thicker cousin.

salmorejo

Topped with egg and Jamon Serrano, this creamy soup is sometimes used as a dip but is a lovely starter or even a light meal. I instantly fell in love with the fresh flavors of tomatoes, a hint of garlic and the fruity taste of olive oil blended together in this gloriously creamy cold soup.

Eating and socializing is embedded in the Spanish way of life and mealtimes here needs a bit of getting used to. A simple toast and café con leche are good enough to start their day, but they will need a pick-me-up at 10 in the morning, then lunch somewhere between 1-4pm. Most bars or restaurants close between 4-8pm for the essential siesta. And so lunch ended on our 2nd bar hop.

Confiteria Filella

Adriatico-Bldg

Walking out to Avenida de la Constitucion, we came across the gorgeous Adriatico building that housed Confiteria Filella.

confiteria-filella

Practically an institution, this confectionary shop serves exquisite traditional cakes and pastries. We walked in and were overwhelmed with a plethora of sweet goodies. We walked out with these:

filella-our-pick

Unfortunately, on April 5, Filella Isabel Gomez passed on at 74 and with it this historical shop, hopefully temporarily because if it indeed shut its doors forever, what a loss this will be for the Sevillanos and its visitors.

Bodega Santa Cruz

Bodega-Santa-Cruz

If you’re looking for a typical tavern where your orders are tabulated in chalk on the bar, look no further. On the corner leading up to the Giralda and just steps off the Alcazar, is Bodega Santa Cruz. When a bar spills out onto the street, you know that this is where you want to be.

pringas-sta.-cruz

With dishes such as Berrenjenas con miel (deep-fried aubergines with swirls of honey), Pringa, Lomo Chipiona and Alitas de pollo, you will not be disappointed.

mushroom-tapas-sta.-cruz

These were tapas that satisfied not only our palate but the pocket too. A good place to end after a tour of the Alcazar or the Giralda.

Restaurante Café Alianza

Cafe-Alianza

We chanced upon this by accident looking to rest in between a few hours spent meandering the alleyways of Barrio Santa Cruz. We thought to sit in the shadows of orange trees and bougainvillaea and enjoy the sweets from Filella with coffee.

tapas-alianza

Then we ordered some tapas and before we knew it, it was time for dinner. It was a good place to be lazy and watch the crowds. Café Alianza is in a charming hidden square of the same name.

rabo-de-toro

They boast of having the best Rabo de Toro in town. Falling off the bone soft, flavored wonderfully with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and wine, this oxtail dish could indeed be what the owner claims it to be.

Gago 6 Tapas Bar

gago-6-menu

Now, who says you can’t find good paella in Seville? Along Calle Mateos Gago, we saw this menu board and decided, what the heck… we’ve been craving.

paella

Maybe Seville isn’t the best place for paella and this may not be the best paella but it sure did satisfy that craving—it was nice, moist and crusty. With this plate of grilled meats (beef, lamb and chicken), our meal definitely did not disappoint.

One of the many joys of traveling in Spain is the food. Seville being the heart of Andalusia has an abundance of bars and restaurants to choose from. There is no lack of recommendation, the list is plentiful but the fun is in the discovery.   Walk around and go with the flow, you’ll never know what you might find.

La Flor de Toranza
Calle Jimios, 1-3
+34 954 22 93 15
 
Sierra de Sevilla
Joaquin Guichot. 5
+34 954 56 12 10
 
Confiteria Filella
Av. de la Constitucion, 2
+34 954 22 46 40
 
Bodega Santa Cruz
Calle de Rodrigo Caro, 1A
+34 954 21 32 46
 
Restaurante Cafe Alianza
Calle de Rodrigo Caro, 9
+34 954 21 76 35
 
Gago 6 Tapas Bar
Calle Mateos Gago, 6
+34 658 75 22 19

Delightful Davao

February 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

Davao-DelightsCredits: Paper from the “Chronicling Life” kit of Haynay Designs

Davao.  Home to some of the country’s pride— the world’s largest bird, the monkey-eating Philippine Eagle and a rare orchid of exceptional beauty, the waling-waling— both found in Mt. Apo, Philippine’s highest peak.  But there is more to Davao than these.  Let’s not forget the “king of fruits”, durian.  The area is known to be the center of durian production, thanks to its rich fertile volcanic soil and until recently, typhoon-free area.  But more than durian, Davao is favored with other fresh, quality produce and fruits that are available all year round— pomelo, banana, mangosteen, lanzones, rambutan, mongo, peanuts, cabbage eggplant… among others.

The city is a fascinating mix of small town allure and modern metropolis refinement.  A metropolis inhabited by 1.4M people of different ethnic groups, culture and faiths.  The city teems with good food and on my not so very recent trip there, I discovered a few worth mentioning.

Swiss Deli

Along JP Laurel Ave., in Lanang is a deli and restaurant offering fine sausages, cured meats like bacon and hams, a selection of cheese, US and Australian steak cuts and even ostrich meats.  Owned by a butcher and a baker, Swiss Deli has been around since 2005 catering at first to expats and Davao’s upper crust.  Today, they supply some of the bigger supermarkets nationwide.  On my visit, the restaurant was packed for lunch.

Swiss-DeliMy superb lunch of Chicken Cordon Blue and a shared sausage platter.

Claude’s Le Café de Ville

Claude's-facade

We drove into a driveway of a well-lit ancestral house.  The garden well polished, the interior emulates the facade with old photos gracing the walls and well-appointed antique pieces scattered around.

Claude-interior

My favorite part of the house would be the porch— what a wonderful way to be greeted.

claude's-porch

This house epitomizes old world elegance through and through.  An ancestral home of the Oboza family (also called the Oboza Heritage House) now dwells the only full-service French restaurant in Davao, Claude’s Le Café de Ville.

Complementing its charming home are wonderful dishes served from its kitchen headed by husband and wife team Claude and Tess Le Niendre.  I had the Crab Cocktail to start and the specialty of the house, the Fillet of Beef Tenderloin with Pepper Sauce.

crab-cocktail

The crab appetizer was excellent, and my main, albeit a bit overcooked for my taste (it was more medium well than my preferred medium), was tasty and still juicy.

A pretty authentic French restaurant in Davao was definitely a pleasant surprise.

Malagos Farmhouse Artisan Cheeses

malagos-board

Davao surprises me, I tell ya.  After an evening of wonderful French feasting, we were on our way, the next day, to buy artisan cheese.  This wasn’t the first time I had tried cheeses from Malagos and so impressed I was, I had to find them and see what else they had to offer.

menu-board

Olive Puentespina, the woman behind Malagos Artisan Cheeses, has been producing cheeses since 2006.  All made from hybrid cows and goats from their dairy farm.

cheese-stock

A cheese spread was laid out for us to try over at the farmhouse—from quesong puti, to flavored chevres, to manchego blue—an unbelievable spread, all proudly made in Davao.

cheese-platter

Personal favorites are:  Queso Rustico (semi-soft cow’s milk similar to a manchego), Blush (Queso Rustico with a tint of blue), La Maria (similar to a camembert), Feta tricolor (feta with chili and rosemary, infused fresh), and the Chevre with mango (a blend of creamy French style goat cheese with sweet mango bits).

cheese-stashMy Take-Home Stash

Spirale Ristorante

pizza

For wonderful pasta and pizza, Spirale Ristorante will not disappoint.  Thumbs up for the Vongole ai Chorizo (a wonderful combination, don’t you think?) and the pizza, which is cooked in a wood-fire oven.  Crust was doughy yet crispy.

Chicco di Caffe

durian-brazo-de-mercedes

For their Durian Brazo di Mercedes.  Yum!!!  Anything durian is possible in Davao.  I had my first taste of durian in an ice cream in Davao some 20 years ago and I’ve never looked back.  I. Adore. Durian.

Swiss Deli
JP Laurel Ave., Lanang, Davo City
+6382 234 0271
 
Claude’s Cafe de Ville
29 Rizal St., Paseo de Habana, Davao City
+6382 305 2635 / +6382 222 4287
 
Malagos Farmhouse
Bolcan St., Agdao, Davao City
+6382 226 4446
 
Spirale Ristorante
Damaso Complex
Angliongto Road, Lanang, Davao City
+6382 234 6298
 
Chicco di Caffe
Gen. Douglas MacArthur Hwy, Davao City
+6382 305 3534
 
Faura St., Davao City

Macau Eats

August 28, 2013 § 2 Comments

Macau-eatsCredits:  Paper by Haynay Designs from the Scrapmatters’ Life Little Surprises kit

On board the TurboJet catamaran en route to Macau, I mentally planned our next few days in a city best known today as a high-rolling-casino-lover’s haven.  Not by any means my cup of tea, but there is more to this glitzy casino city than just the sin and the bling.  Although heavily dependent on gambling, Macau’s real attraction (in my opinion) has always been the food.  As an ex-Portuguese colony, Macau has married Asian and Mediterranean in its culture, architecture and even in its cuisine.

grand-lisboaThe Grand Lisboa

The flavors of Portugal intermingled with the Chinese and strongly influenced by the Southeast Asians, Africans, and South Americans has brought out a real fusion between East and West and has evolved to what is known today as Macanese cuisine.  The result is earthy and rich in texture, flavor, and aroma.

Macanese food aside, the presence of raved about, quality establishments worthy of a Michelin star or two scatter around this peninsula making Macau a dining spectacle it is today.

First off our agenda: Dim sum

roasted-mushroom-goose-liver-pateRoasted Mushroom topped with goose liver pate

On the 2nd floor of the east wing of Hotel Lisboa is Portas do Sol.  Contrary to its name, it is a “typical” Chinese restaurant, well-lit with a lively atmosphere, serving dim sum dishes as well as Chinese haute cuisine with season specialties.  The extensive dim sum list reveals familiar and unfamiliar but exciting dishes.  Mostly from the Chef’s recommendation, the dishes we chose were as ambrosial as its presentation.

portas-do-solClockwise:  Steamed rice flour with preserved vegetables and barbecued pork, Steamed river shrimp dumplings flavored with basil, Deep fried wonton in sweet and sour sauce, Deep fried spare ribs with garlic and honey sauce, Deep fried diced garoupa in mustard sauce

Margaret

Margaret's-Cafe-e-Nata

Then we walked down the street to a small alley.  Tucked away in that alley is a small café selling the much talked about egg tarts.  Creamy custard centers, slightly burnt caramel, buttery flaky crust – no wonder Margaret’s Cafe e Nata has queues any day of the week… well except Wednesdays, which was when we first found this hole-in-the-wall, darn!  I found myself walking the same route from Hotel Lisboa the next day.  I walked down Avenida Infante D. Henrique, passed the Grand Lisboa, crossed Avenida de Joao IV and veered right on that street until I saw a small (Margaret’s Café) sign pointing into an alley.  I followed that sign and joined the others in the queue and in less than 30 minutes, I was skipping my way back to the hotel with four pieces of exquisite Portuguese egg tarts to be devoured at the comfort of our room with some leftovers, which held up well for breakfast the next day.

pastel-e-nata

A Crossover from Hong Kong

This upscale restaurant has branches in Hong Kong, Macau and Shanghai. Chef and owner Tao Hwa Yan, once an apprentice to a legendary Cantonese Chef, Master Lee Choi, opened Tim’s Kitchen in a quiet street in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong in 2000.  Bringing with him the techniques he learned with the master, the restaurant started as an on-site private dining serving traditional Cantonese cuisine.  In 2007, Stanley Ho invited him to open a branch in Hotel Lisboa in Macau.  With both HK and Macau branches currently given a Michelin star, Tim’s is not cheap but worth a visit.

roasted-pigeon

The waiters know their menu, and although we failed to order their (pre-ordered) signature dishes, the recommended succulent baked pigeon with preserved veggies wrapped in lotus leaves had us licking our fingers.

Tim's-kitchen

Other just as good dishes recommended to us were: Sautéed scallops with fungus and chives with XO sauce, Fried rice with minced beef, onions and shallots, and Pan fried pork pie with salted fish.

Antonio

Trade in the gilded casino floor at the Venetian for a quaint cobblestone lane lined with Portuguese styled pastel townhouses in Old Taipa Village.  In one of these houses, at the corner of Rua dos Clerigos is Antonio.

Antonio-facade

Not easy to find, we wandered around way before lunch hoping to get a table.  And in a small Alley, we chanced on some Filipino restaurant staff who happened to be taking their breaks from THE Antonio’s kitchen.  With their help, we managed to get ourselves a table.  Antonio Coelho has been preparing authentic Portuguese food in Macau since he relocated in 1997.

baked-duck-rice

Arroz de Pato – shredded duck, rice, and preserved sausage baked into a flavorful, aromatic dish.  A signature dish not to be missed.

AntonioFrom Left:  Clams in white wine and olive oil, Pork Tenderloin steak, Portuguese style served with fried egg, a pitcher of Sangria.

Following the hearty meal, we wandered around the old village.

pork-bun-line

In a corner, near the Pak Tai Temple, we see a line forming but much as we would love to try Tai Lei Loi Kei’s famous Pork Chop bun, dessert appeals more than the bun.  This will have to wait.  So we walked back to Antonio to where he opened a café across.

casa-do-antonio

We found our corner and ordered 2 amazing desserts to die for.

Antonio-desserts

The Serradura is as velvety as this one and the orange roll is a perfect combination of moist cake, orange liqueur and caramel.  Did I say to die for?

 
Portas do Sol
2/F East wing of Hotel Lisboa,
Avenida de Lisboa, Macau
For reservations call: (853) 8803-3100
 
Margaret’s Café e Nata
Edificio Kam Loi
Rua Almirante Costa Cabral, Macau
 
Tim’s Kitchen
Lobby Level East wing of Hotel Lisboa
Avenida de Lisboa, Macau
For reservations call: (853) 8803-3682
 
Antonio
Rua dos Clerigos No. 7
Old Taipa Village, Macau
For reservations call: (853) 2899-9998

Taste of Hida

July 26, 2013 § 3 Comments

It’s been over six months since our Takayama trip.  So much has happened since then.

autumn-leaves

But when I close my eyes, I still see the foliage, still feel the autumn breeze on my face, still taste the beef that melts in the mouth, the savoury sweetness of miso that we’ve come to know so well.  Oh to reminisce.

One of the many highlights of our trip to Hida is the eating.  Located high in the Hida Mountains in the Gifu Prefecture, Takayama was kept fairly isolated during the old days allowing it to develop its own culture. Land-locked, they depend a lot on mountains and rivers for ingredients, taking inspiration but veering away from the cuisines of Tokyo or Kyoto.

quaint-toen-takayama

If you’re looking for quaint towns, a wealth of excellent street foods and sake, a unique way of enjoying miso dishes, and different melt in you mouth beef dishes, then you must go to Takayama.

Along with their carpentry, lacquerware, and pottery works, Takayama is likewise known for its local cuisine. I truly enjoyed the food in Hida.

soft-serve

There were small shops, and stalls of food, from their famous dango balls to soft serve green tea ice creams everywhere we went.

anmitsu

And the mochi.  Oh the mochi.

One of the popular street foods, in this part of Japan, is Mitarashi Dango, little mochi (sweet dumplings made of rice flour) balls on bamboo skewers, dipped in a mixture of dashi, mirin, and soy sauce then grilled.

mitarashi-dango

The chewy dumplings glazed with the sweet soy mix lets out a slightly burnt fragrance that is addicting, tempting me at every corner.

The unique combination of Hida’s landscape and climate produces excellent buckwheat and local soba noodle shops are all over Hida using the buckwheat flour to make their noodles.  Locals love their soba paired with sake.

hida-soba-with-mountain-vegetablesZaru Soba with edible wild plants

These handmade noodles are served hot in miso broth, a favorite during winter or cold (zaru soba) dipped in a light soy broth during summer time – hot or cold, the earthy flavor and the firmness of the noodles always shines through.

And the beef.  Holding its own against Kobe and Matsuzaka is the pride of Takayama.

Butcher

We tried it in various ways, and I can’t emphasize enough how satisfying those meals were.

hisa-beef-with-hoba-miso

One distinctly local and considered Hida’s specialty is Hida beef cooked with another of Hida’s specialty, Hoba Miso.  A plate of sliced raw beef is cooked at the table.  On a ceramic brazier a hoba (magnolia) leaf topped with Hida’s special miso, the beef cooked over it.  The miso added another layer of subtle fermented bean flavor.  But what doesn’t go well with miso anyway?

This special miso is one thing I bought to take home with me.

hoba-miso

Savory miso paste mixed with leeks, shiitake mushrooms, and pickles placed on dried hoba leaf then heated over a charcoal fire – simply divine over plain rice.

A Blessed Christmas

December 25, 2011 § 1 Comment

Christmas is here and I almost missed it.  It has been crazy catching up with work, fixing my new flat, buying presents, getting together, family reunions…  I could go on and on.  So forgive me, if you will, for not posting a recipe this month.

I’m making it up now by featuring a yummy dessert I got as a present this Christmas.  It’s called Sans Rival Chips and it’s brilliant for the season especially when you’ve had too much to eat.  These chips sans the butter is a great alternative to a sans rival craving… perfect for the season.

Have a Blessed Christmas everyone.

Sans Rival Chips
Fudgies by Jenny S
Contact:  (63) 917-888-1122; (632) 852-0557

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