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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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