Boy Mestizo’s food adventures in Hong Kong
It’s been some two years since I was last in Hong Kong, and an even longer time since I’ve been to Hong Kong as a destination in its own right – not a stepping stone to the Philippines, as it has been the last few times.
The interesting thing is that for some time, I felt like Hong Kong was becoming less and less familiar to me; each time I went back, I felt it was a little less like home. More Mainland Chinese and less English; new reclamation projects and buildings; more polluted; old haunts shut down and/or replaced; family and school friends leaving or passing away; losing my permanent residence and thus gaining the ability to be deported. Somewhere I used to live, not that I still could call home. So I wasn’t too fussed about just passing through.
But this time, I was making Hong Kong the be all and end all of my trip (it was my friend’s birthday weekend, after all). And by God, that was a good decision.
Maybe because things have not been that great recently, I’ve been craving for something to really spark things up. Something so different from my current situation and yet still familiar; something that would just sweep me up things and allow me to lose myself in.
And so this trip was absolutely invigorating, and has rekindled my love for Hong Kong. It is truly a 24-hour city, filled with so many dynamic people and with so much going on. And a lot of my friends are moving back to work there! Which leads to the inevitable question: “So Mark, when are you going to start working back here again?”
Well, with food like they have in Hong Kong, I’d be crazy not to want to move back there, right? I mean, the last time I had a Chinese feast was in Lotus Lounge in Poole – where chopsticks do not come as standard – and the last time I had dim sum was at Ping Pong, where a French waiter once had the temerity to assume that since me and my two Asian friends had never eaten at Ping Pong before, we needed it to be explained to us that dim sum is “like, euh, Chinese tapas, you know, euh, small plates to share, like how ze Spanish do” *shudder*.
If I was ever offered a last meal before I died, I would probably request a weekend in Hong Kong. And even then, I would leave this earth unsatisfied.
But now, to the food:
Chuk Yuen Seafood Restaurant
28 Hankow Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, +852 2722 0633
A chain that’s renowned for its lobster, especially the cheese and butter lobster. Wait, did I say both cheese AND butter? Yes I did.
We partnered this bad boy with Sichuan-style string beans with chilli and crispy garlic (the mix of sweetness and heat was delightful) as well as that Hong Kong staple, beef ho fun (of which this was a pretty fine example).
By the end, I was mixing all the crispy garlic into the cheese sauce and spooning it over my ho fun. It may have been sacrilegious and rather disgusting to look at, but dangnammit it was taassty.
Tim Ho Wan
Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station, Central, +852 2332 3078
Those of you in the know will recognise Tim Ho Wan as being one of, if not the most, cheapest Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. Springing forth from its original hole-in-the-wall in Mong Kong, Tim Ho Wan has now opened branches elsewhere, and although some purists say that the quality has not been maintained at these new branches, the queues suggest that it is still pretty popular.
We had their signature baked barbecue pork buns (soft, chewy, fluffy dough encased in a thin and crisp sugared layer, filled with some pretty good char siu) which were unlike any other char siu bao I’ve ever had. We accompanied it with, if memory serves correctly:
– turnip cake (crispy-fried and still chewy and a bit gooey… lovely)
– siu mai (good enough, and a massive improvement on the last ones I had at Ping Pong)
– har gau (much-prized amongst Filipinos, and hence a real treat for my friends… this was a particularly fine example)
– chicken’s feet with black bean sauce (never a favourite of mine, to be honest)
– cheung fun (very slippery, and actually not that filled)
– glutinous rice dumpling (sticky and meaty)
– steamed beef ball with beancurd skin (a new one for me; tasty, springy beef with a chewy skin that some may find disconcerting)
And this was all finished off with tonic medlar and petal cake, which I can only describe as a floral after-dinner jelly filled with strange crunchy bits. Refreshing and pleasant-tasting, but not quite for me.
This is what dim sum is meant to be like! Well-made and not wallet-busting!
32-40 Wellington Street, Central, +852 2522 1624, http://www.yungkee.com.hk/
These guys are the Roast Goose specialists, and our meal here was to be the showpiece meal for my friend, who adores her fatty birds (because she wants to hug them and eat them at the same time, much like this person is doing here, without the eating).
We ate this just a few hours after finishing up at Tim Ho Wan, but it did not stop us from going full Chinese banquet for this dinner.
The goose had such lovely crispy skin, such juicy and tender meat and such melt-in-the-mouth fat, it was an ultimate symbol of food decadence. But a roast goose is a fairly hefty dish in itself, and we were unable to completely clean up the plate. It was with great sadness that we saw it whisked away into the kitchen, never to grace our tastebuds again. Someone later asked why we didn’t get it in a doggy bag. That would have been the smart thing to do.
There were also seafood crispy noodles, steamed mushrooms with pak choi, choi sum stir-fried with garlic, steamed scallops (big, fat, juicy ones that were firm yet tender, like a gentle lover *say what*), jellyfish (another thing I’m not a fan of), Fujian fried rice (a wetter, saucier fried rice with more seafood than the standard Yeung Chow-style), and last but not least, century eggs.
Most people recoil at the sight of century eggs because, well, eggs are not meant to be that colour, right? I was therefore never really interested in them when I was younger, which consequently meant that this was my first time ever eating them – and I must say, they did not taste as I expected them to. There was no pungency from the alkaline treatment; in truth, to me it tasted creamier and a bit smoother, with a hint of truffle to it that gave it a bit of a richer flavour than your standard egg. Paired with pickled ginger, it was a most pleasing treat.
Bear in mind that all of this was eaten during my first two days back in Hong Kong – who says that gluttony is dead? More to come later!
Currently listening to: Alestorm – Captain Morgan’s Revenge