Posts Tagged With: Hong Kong

Dining out in the Mighty Kong: Part Three

Boy Mestizo’s food adventures in Hong Kong… continued

 

No trip to Hong Kong is complete without a trip down Memory Lane. Memory Lane, in this instance, being the Hong Kong Golf Club. Now I was one of those lucky kids who had a father who’d become a member of this most prestigious and exclusive club all the way back in the 1970s, when it considerably easier to get in – this granted me junior membership.

And so, as a junior golfer, I was able to partake of the fine food delights at the Deep Water Bay branch of the HKGC. Many lunchtimes were spent either eating Yeung Chow fried rice or Singapore Noodles to my heart’s content – the waiters knew me as the kid that ate every single last bit on the plate.

I can still do that, but I struggle a bit more these days. I must have been a real, hungry, fat kid when I was younger… but I had such happy memories!

 

Hong Kong Golf Club

19 Island Road, Deep Water Bay, +852 2812 7070, http://www.hkgolfclub.org/dining.php?s=5&ss=502

I maintain that the Singapore Noodles and the Yeung Chow fried rice at the HKGC are the best I’ve ever had in Hong Kong, and are a definite must every time I’m back in town. But why?

They are such simple dishes, but it is surprisingly easy to get them so, so wrong. Over-use of salt and cheap ingredients in a really greasy rice dish, and under-powered spices and very patchy use of ingredients in an oily mess of noodles… I can see why many treat Yeung Chow fried rice as a periphery dish, and why many Singaporeans dismiss Singapore Noodles as a Western mockery of Chinese food (it isn’t – I think it’s a Cantonese take on what they think Singapore Chinese food should taste like).

Yeung Chow fried rice - the taste of a happy childhood

Yeung Chow fried rice – the taste of a happy childhood

Singapore Noodles - not authentically Singaporean, but still gosh darn wonderful

Singapore Noodles – not authentically Singaporean, but still gosh darn wonderful

But the HKGC know how to make these into fine, showpiece dishes. They are flavourful and well-balanced – the mix of the slightly-sweet char siu pork in the fried rice with the fresh sea flavours of the prawns along with the smoothness of the scrambled eggs; and in the Singapore Noodles, we have the fieriness of the chilli mixing with the saltiness of the soy sauce, the earthiness of the curry powder and the turmeric, with the freshness of the coriander. Again, it’s not rocket science to make these things, but when everything comes together right… damn it, I’m craving some right now.

 

New Baccarat Seafood Restaurant

9A G/F Pak She Praya Road, Cheung Chau, +852 2981 0606

Another trip down Memory Lane was a visit with my father to Cheung Chau. One of the smaller of the outlying islands (and apparently one of the oldest inhabited places in Hong Kong), Cheung Chau is known for its seafood and its geriatric population. If Lamma is filled with expats and hippies, Cheung Chau is filled with care homes (not that the elderly there exactly need caring for – they are probably fitter than you are).

The last time I was in Cheung Chau was on a school trip to one of the holiday camps there, sometime back in the 1990s. I only have vague memories of it, but from what I saw on this trip here chimed very much with what I remember. This is rural Hong Kong, and it has hardly changed. In a city that changes by the year, I’m sure it must be refreshing to find somewhere that still harks back to the past and to tradition – speaking of tradition, I’m still yet to go to the annual Bun Festival, which features brave young men climbing up bun mountains to win a prize, in a sort of commemoration of the gods Pak Tai and Tin Hau.

An interesting aspect of the Bun Festival is that the entire island goes vegetarian for the duration, something even the numerous seafood restaurants adhere to. Since it wasn’t the Bun Festival, I managed to fill my net (belly) with a good selection of seafood at the New Baccarat Seafood Restaurant (thanks to Tamarind and Thyme for the recommendation).

Squidilicious

Squidilicious

Back in Lantau, we always ate salt and pepper deep-fried squid, and so naturally this had to be one of the options that we ordered. It was so crisp and crunchy and yet filled with such juicy and succulent squid, it was an absolute delight. And despite being deep-fried, it most definitely did not feel like there was a lot of grease in there. So, it was rather healthy (!).

And speaking of health, nothing fills me with more well-being and joy than a plate of Chinese greens stir-fried with garlic. We had pak choi in this instance, and there was still enough bite to give this some real substance.

From boat to plate

From boat to plate

Remember the steamed scallops we had in Lamma? I was so taken by them, and I had told my father about them so much, that we just had to order them. Again, tender and juicy scallops swimming amongst sweet minced garlic and ginger, topped off with fresh spring onions and oily vermicelli noodles… how could you say no? There you are, by the sea, with the fresh catches of the day… and you don’t go for the scallops? If you ever went to Cheung Chau on a day-trip and ended up in the McDonald’s there, I would hunt you down and try to slap some sense into you.

 

Tin Yin Dessert

G/F, 9 Tai Hing Tai Road, Cheung Chau

We’d passed this tiny little café on our lengthy stroll around Cheung Chau; the colourful pictures of all of their dishes strewn around the walls were just screaming for our attention. And so, after eyeing them up, we made a mental note to come back here for dessert.

A veritable multitude of desserts

A veritable multitude of desserts


That plan was very nearly scuppered by the feast we had at New Baccarat; but as you do in difficult situations, you must soldier on. My stomach could recover when it was back in the UK.

Absolutely appetising views

Absolutely appetising views

My father went for the ‘safe’ option of taho (dau fu fa), as something he was eminently familiar with; I opted for a classic dish that often receives strange looks because it looks like black soupy charcoal-sand – black sesame soup. Both are substantial yet light desserts that impart a more natural sweetness than, say, a chocolate brownie or a cheesecake, and that’s what I love about a lot of Asian desserts.

So I always find it disappointing when Chinese restaurants back in the UK limit themselves to ice cream or banana/pineapple fritters – it disregards the whole wealth of dessert options that are available. And yes, the tastes, textures and looks may be unfamiliar to the Western palate, but all it takes is a bit of education.

And speaking of education, ever wanted to learn how to dry fish and other seafood?

Just hangin' out, just dryin' out

Just hangin’ out, just dryin’ out

 

Random bits and bobs

Check out these lovely char siu bao from Cheung Chau. We were just idly walking along the street when a giant steamer was brought out of a pokey kitchen, and whipped the lid off to reveal several fluffy white gems. This was a sight to see in itself, but our interest was only stoked further by the queue of people that formed up to buy them, fresh out of the steamer. You could say we were peer-pressured into having some.

Bao, bao and more bao

Bao, bao and more bao

These were really light and fluffy, and the char siu was tender and tasty, but I think the buns were a bit sweeter than I usually like them.

Fare thee well, oh dumplings

Fare thee well, oh dumplings

Here are some Taiwanese dumplings that I had as my last taste of dim sum dumplings. They were rather doughy and thick-skinned, but the filling was delicious all the same. When washed down with some Hong Kong milk tea, it was a fond farewell to dim sum.

Char siu fan - as satisfying as a mother's hug

Char siu fan – as satisfying as a mother’s hug

And now for my last meal in Hong Kong: char siu fan (starting to see a theme here?), or barbecue pork and rice, from Café de Coral (airport branch). Char siu fan is a classic Hong Kong dish, and there is no way I would have any other last meal in Hong Kong if I could help it. Café de Coral’s version is by no means a gourmet meal, and the pork they use tends to be on the fattier side, but for the price you pay and for the absolute deliciousness that you get? It is a meal of champions.

 
And with that, my food tour of Hong Kong is complete. Go there with an empty stomach, and come away fed like a king.

Until the next time, Hong Kong!

 
Currently listening to: Funeral for a Friend – Storytelling

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Dining out in the Mighty Kong: Part Two

Boy Mestizo’s food adventures in Hong Kong… continued

 

It was a rather cool morning; the sun had disappeared behind the mist and the clouds, and a breeze was skipping its way across the waves. I leant against the rails on the pier, staring moodily across the harbour and taking in the ferry making its way over to me. My ferry. Our ferry. Except my friends were late. This was looking like a good start to the week…

I tend to forget that I grew up by the sea, and frequently spent much of my time on it, be it on the Star Ferry wending its way from Central to Tsim Sha Tsui, on the boat over to Mui Wo on Lantau Island every Easter, on junk trips around the islands, or on the catamaran to Macau. Hong Kong is surrounded and shaped by the sea, and it informs the food. This isn’t often something that I feel is really communicated across to the average English diner by your average Chinese restaurant here (chances are it would be Cantonese); the average person instinctively thinks of things like sweet and sour pork, fried rice, stir-fried noodles and crispy aromatic duck, long before they think of things that came out of the sea.

So it was refreshing to head on over to Sok Kwu Wan on Lamma Island, a destination long known for its seafood restaurants, not just amongst the expats who would end their junk trips there, but also amongst locals. There is still an active fishing fleet here and several fish farms, which gives Sok Kwu Wan the double charm of not only having fresh seafood, but also of being a slice of old, rural Hong Kong. And so it is that we take a look at some food…

 

Rainbow Seafood Restaurant

23-25 First Street, Sok Kwu Wan, Lamma Island, +852 2982 8100, http://www.rainbowrest.com.hk/eng/attractions.asp

I remember visiting here when I was younger, but back when I was an ickle sprite, I was not as appreciative of seafood as I am now. But still, there are lines I won’t cross, and one of those lines is sea snails. My friends were very ecstatic about them, and chose the set menu primarily because of the sea snails…. but oh no! You didn’t catch any today? You’re going to replace the dish with clams in black bean sauce?? What a shame…!

He was just all clammed up about this dish

He was just all clammed up about this dish

This was a good, classic dish, with safe and familiar flavours. As clam shells are not particularly edible, it was disappointing that we therefore had more shell than meat. Thinking of which, those shells would have made for good decorations around the flat, say, maybe for a summer beach party. Hmm…

King of the prawns, king of the table

King of the prawns, king of the table

I did very much enjoy the king prawns fried with garlic and chilli, and served with crispy rice cracker bits. Wonderfully savoury, these prawns packed a good amount of juicy flesh, and eating the diced garlic with the crispy rice cracker was a tasty way to pass the time until the next dish.

Beauty in simplicity

Beauty in simplicity

And what a dish this next item was: steamed scallops served with oily minced garlic and ginger, spring onions and rice vermicelli noodles. Oh my. OH MY. Succulent, tender pieces of scallops flavoured with the sweetness of the garlic and the bite of the spring onions, all wrapped up in the yummy oily noodles. This was the showpiece of our meal, as it stunned us with its flavours and its simplicity.

Not your average sweet and sour dish

Not your average sweet and sour dish

Less simply-constructed was a good ol’ hefty fish deep-fried in a light batter and served with sweet and sour sauce. Now, this sauce was not an overly-sweet, gooey concoction packed with sugar and whatnot else; it was actually really refreshing and more-ish. And when poured all over pieces of fish that have been fried in such fluffy and light batter that did not even hint at greasiness, you’ve got a winning dish.

I always imagine these guys to be quite cuddly

I always imagine these guys to be quite cuddly

Oh, and this is another line I’m not so keen on crossing. It’s not because I find cuttlefish cute (look how bulbous they are! Cuuuute eh), but because, well, I just don’t particularly like the taste.

 

Guangdong Barbecue Restaurant

43 Hankow Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, +852 2735 5151

Ah, the Symphony of Lights. Such a corny piece of touristy nonsense if ever I saw one. Victoria Harbour and the Hong Kong are already pretty impressive enough, without a laser show shooting off in time to some cheesy arrangement and faux-American voiceovers. Still, it is something that has to be seen, if only to show the Shard how a laser show should be done.

Lasers shooting off all over the place

Lasers shooting off all over the place

Anyway, we were chilled and hungry, and in search of a quick, cheap fix. And so it was, stumbling around the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui weighing up our options, we chanced upon Guangdong Barbecue Restaurant. Roasted duck and pieces of glazed pork belly hung in the windows, beckoning us in with their “ooh so shiny” allure – it was time for siu mei.

Alas, our sails had some of the wind taken out of them when we quickly realised that Guangdong Barbecue has both a Chinese and an English menu, the latter of which was much shorter than the former. Boo hiss!

I have a feeling that we were also charged higher prices because we ordered in English, which took away a bit from our enjoyment of this meal.

I broke with tradition, and instead of getting the usual char siu fan, I opted instead for the crispy roasted pork belly. Even with just three component parts – roast pork, steamed rice, sautéed choi sum – it is a visually-arresting dish with such vibrant and enticing colours. Alas, the cut of pork belly that they used was rather bony, so I did spend a fair bit of time chewing around the ribs.

Meat, veg and rice - get in my son!

Meat, veg and rice – get in my son!

It was a good meal, but to be honest, you could do better elsewhere.

 

Din Tai Fung

Shop 130, 3/F Silvercord, 30 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, +852 2730 6928, http://www.dintaifung.com.hk/

Ah, another Michelin-starred dim sum restaurant – how glamorous this trip is turning out to be! Din Tai Fung is a chain that emerged in Taiwan, and has carved itself a reputation as being a purveyor of fine, fine, fine xiao long bao, the Shanghainese soup dumplings.

So even though I was destined somewhere else for dinner that night, since I was in the area I knew that I just had to try some – after all, I was determined to get my full dim sum fix this trip. And my friends, before they left to go back to Manila, had prattled on about this continuously.

Having arrived at 4pm, laden with shopping, I was quickly ushered into the near-empty restaurant and to a table by the window. I was the only solo table there – every other table was filled with the remnants of the lunchtime crowd and some ladies having afternoon snacks. Yes, dim sum is best had in a group and shared, but by God I needed this fix baaad. Just one more hit, please!

Bopping with my baos

Bopping with my baos

My first choice was of course the classic xiao long bao. I was extremely tempted to get the black truffle version, but rather foolishly I convinced myself that I’d be able to come back this trip and have some (spoiler alert: I never made it back). But no worries – it was a good choice.

Subtext: if you scald yourself with burning hot broth, YOU ARE AN IDIOT

Subtext: if you scald yourself with burning hot broth, YOU ARE AN IDIOT

Following the helpful instruction card, I prepared my dipping sauce, took up my first dumpling, pierced the skin, added the ginger and consumed. And wow, it was luscious. The skin was not too chewy, the broth was rich and warming, and the filling tender and juicy. Overall, it was a delicious experience; I did my best not to just wolf them all down.

Perfectly-shaped, perfectly tasty

Perfectly-shaped, perfectly tasty

I also had a chance to try their siu mai – and these were rather special ones. With nice chunky prawns in them, there was a great texture and fresh taste to these, infinitely better than any I’ve had in London, and perhaps even better than the ones at Tim Ho Wan. And, rather surprisingly, like Din Tai Fung’s xiao long bao, they were filled with a savoury broth. It was a good thing it squirted away from me when I chowed down on one!

And, since I am a sucker for taho (or, as it is known in Cantonese, dau fu fa), I could not resist getting the almond silky tofu pudding. Very smooth, almost cream-like – and almost like a smiley face J

Smile!

Smile!

 

Currently listening to: Finch – Letters to You

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Dining out in the Mighty Kong: Part One

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.

This is what happens when lobsters adapt to swimming in cheese and butter

This is what happens when lobsters adapt to swimming in cheese and lobster

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).

Let's take a moment to congratulate the main man behind this dish - the garlic dicer

Let’s take a moment to congratulate the main man behind this dish – the garlic dicer

Having fun with ho fun

Having fun with ho fun

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.

Crisp yet soft and fluffy buns of glory

Crisp yet soft and fluffy buns of glory

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)

Stack 'em up high

Stack ’em up high

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.

Floral jelliness

Floral jelliness

This is what dim sum is meant to be like! Well-made and not wallet-busting!

Yung Kee

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.

Feasting like a boss

Feasting like a boss

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.

This goose died for our pleasure

This goose died for our pleasure

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.

Surprisingly creamy and rich

Surprisingly creamy and rich

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

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Mabuhay!

Here are my first tentative steps into the blogging world…

So, shall we start with an introduction? My name’s Mark, a half-English half-Filipino mestizo who was born and raised in Hong Kong and who has also lived in Singapore (got that?), who is now a young and responsible (ha!) adult living in London, who likes to share things with people. Not necessarily my possessions, mind – hands off my wallet, you – I’m thinking more in terms of my experiences and my knowledge.

And that’s probably why I’m here today. I seem to have developed a bit of a reputation amongst my friends and family of being a ‘go-to’ guy when it comes to making food and drink recommendations. I’m not quite sure how that came about; maybe it’s because I have a pretty encyclopaedic recollection of everywhere I’ve gone in London, or maybe it’s because I am such a good storyteller (ha!). In any case, unless there is a way of tapping into someone’s brain, I have a vast amount of food and drink knowledge going unused. And that’s just plain wasteful.

So – here is my attempt to share some of that knowledge and some of that experience. I hope that you can enjoy just a bit of it, but most importantly – and here is today’s life lesson – I hope that I can help you enjoy your own life just a little bit more.

Currently listening to: Billy Talent – Show me the Way

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