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…!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
Currently listening to: Finch – Letters to You