Not all apartments in Hong Kong have ovens. In fact, often they are a luxury only included in newer developments or renovated apartments. Many families in Hong Kong get by with just a stove top burner.
Three years ago we moved to our current apartment and one of the sacrifices I made was no longer having a oven. You may think I’m crazy given my love for baking cakes and cooking in general but to meet our rental budget compromises had to be made. Almost none of the apartments we looked at had an oven and those that did the apartment was pathetically small. Given our budget we had to decide what we could go without and we chose a larger sized apartment with the knowledge it only had a stovetop with two gas burners – nothing else. Living in Hong Kong is all about compromises especially when you are on a tight budget.
My plan was to get a bench top oven. My perception was that all ovens were equal and a bench top oven would, aside from taking up space not alter how I baked things.
I did all the research and hunted down the best bench top oven with the largest internal cooking dimensions (for cooking those big rectangular cakes I love to make) and best reviews. It took a few months but once we got the oven I thought I would spend more time than ever baking in my kitchen.
The reality has been far from that. At first I used it a lot and it is a great little oven BUT it wasn’t the same as a regular oven and being ON a bench was an annoyance in itself. The cooking times were less controlled as the area within the oven is considerably smaller and whilst I still produced (and continue to produce) great tasting food from it using the oven slowly began to feel more like a chore than anything else. For the first time ever I didn’t enjoy cooking any more.
On top of that we couldn’t figure out why our power bill had gone up drastically until we correlated it back to the oven. Unlike a regular oven the bench top oven sucks power like you wouldn’t believe. In some cases we’ve discovered using the oven costs HK$100 in power for one dish!
Over time we’ve used the oven less and less and my enjoyment of my kitchen has waned to an all time low. We cook a diverse range of dishes as many Hong Kong families do but the oven is only used perhaps 2 or 3 times a month. The effort to get it out, plug it in, heat it up and even the prep work for the dishes it produces just feel more laborious because it doesn’t feel like a part of the kitchen.
It’s a regret I have to live with and the honest truth is if I had known the reality of not having a proper oven we probably would have chosen another apartment and compromised elsewhere.
It’s a lesson learned for me. Sometimes the smallest things we take for granted yet think we don’t need we actually do.
When I return to a kitchen with a real oven I will cherish it and enjoy it and re-kindle the passion I know is still there, merely pushed down by the dilemma of the situation I am in now.
Have you made sacrifices you regret living in an apartment? or if you’re moving to Hong Kong what compromises have you decided you are willing to make?