📆 November 2018
📍Hong Kong, China
The city of Hong Kong has a parodical identity as an East meets West hybrid because its Chinese foundation was penetrated with the influences of British colonization. The food is also a reflection of these effects. It has grown to be extremely diverse, being a hub for an eclectic cache of industries that has brought people from all over the world to reside. I am completely and utterly infatuated with this city. Here I present to you my Hong Kong Tasty Travels!
Mak's Noodle Known for their wonton noodle soup. This was the first thing I ate when I landed in Hong Kong. I ordered the beef tendon soup noodle, beef brisket dry noodles, and gai lan. The portions are purposely small to keep the noodles from soaking up too much soup. The recipe has been passed down into the third generation with multiple shops throughout Hong Kong and one in Singapore. I love to dip each bite of noodles in the red wine vinegar.
Liu Yuan Pavilion Hairy Crab season only lasts the span of two short months, October through November. The hairy crab is known for having a patch of brown hair on the bottom side of their bodies. It is a Shanghainese delicacy and has been of controversy as of late due to uncertain sourcing. This restaurant still imports them and serves an exclusive menu during this late autumn season. Their most popular and expensive dish is the stir-fried roe. Just to order the roe, you have to call in advance to reserve a dish for your meal. The reason why these dishes are so expensive is because it's extremely time-consuming to de-shell and extract the meat and roe. The roe is even more sought after as only females provide roe. Each crab is only about the size of my hand, yielding about an ounce of meat. It was definitely an experience and a labor of love. Besides the crab, I also ordered the xiao long baos and mung bean noodles with hairy crab meat.
The personality of Hong Kong is prominent, even in their architecture. Hong Kong is not just hybrid of East and West, it's also an intersection of time where old meets new. It's a stark comparison when run-down apartment buildings can be nestled at the foot of industrial skyscrapers.
Mue Kee Congee Tucked away in a parking structure-like market, is this gem. I'm honestly not the biggest fan of congee because I've associated it with being sick. In my childhood, every time I was sick, my grandmother would make porridge for me. This place is a game changer. The porridge is thick and hearty with deep flavors. They use fish stock to boil their rice grains. They start boiling their congee at 11pm and start serving it at 6am. While I'm getting my beauty sleep, this porridge is developing richness and depth. I came twice during the trip because it is the definition of Hong Kong congee. Here's a tip that my grandmother taught me: While eating your congee, try not to stir it too often because it loosens the starchy composition and you end up with very watery congee. It's best to scoop layers from the top.
Shari Shari Kakigori House Though this is actually a Japanese dessert, they have a location in Hong Kong, so why not?! Kakigori is a shaved ice that is sweetened and flavored with syrups. The texture of the ice sets it apart from bingsoo or Hawaiian shaved ice because of its fluffiness. It's like a bowl of freshly fallen snow. This ice is IMPORTED from Japan. The water is purified from the mountains, creating difference in taste and texture. The water that is filtered or boiled doesn't create the same product because there are still leftover particles in the water. The purity of the mountain ice is what makes it so special. I got the hojicha flavor, a roasted green tea, and warabimochi, jelly-like mochi with toasted soybean powder.
Yik Cheong This is called the "Monster Building," which is most known for being a set in the Transformer movie. But have you ever seen it from this perspective? It's quite incredible to feel so enveloped by a place where people live so humbly.
The housing may be one of the most intriguing aspects of the city to me. I'm fascinated by how condensed they've created their living spaces. Just like San Francisco, the housing costs are high and competitive for very small spaces.
Yum Cha So whimsical that you would think it was just for the looks, but it actually tasted good too! This was just a breakfast snack before actually eating another meal. When it's all shared, it's actually not too much. Everything is very cute and presented beautifully. I especially liked the detail of the fish in the individual dishes. Anyway, I ordered the Salted Egg Yolk Bao, BBQ Pork Buns, Steamed Rice Rolls with Shrimp, and Canary Pineapple Cakes.
Kam's Roast Goose Hong Kong style barbecue is some of the most iconic Chinese cuisine. It's hard to turn your eyes from the whole hanging roasted pig and chandeliers of chicken and ducks. In Hong Kong, you can get roasted goose! I ordered mine with egg noodle soup. My favorite part is drowning the pieces of goose in the plum sauce.
Choi Hung Estate Probably better known as the literal translation, Rainbow Estate. It's one of the oldest housing estates in Hong Kong. Because of its colorful exterior, it has grown to be an Instagram haven. You'll definitely run into all the wannabe IG models, myself included 🙃 This is a more residential neighborhood compared to Mong Kok, Kowloon, and Causeway Bay. It was nice to see a different pace of life in this city because the Estate is surrounded by schools. When I was finished with pictures, many schools were dismissing their students. I liked getting a peek into their normal routine.
Lan Fong Yuen The British customs of serving their afternoon tea with cream and sugar created a lasting impression on Hong Kong. The uniqueness of Hong Kong-style milk tea comes from their black tea being mixed with evaporated milk or condensed milk. It's a popular beverage for breakfast, served hot or cold.
I was privileged enough to speak with the owner when I visited their cafe. He explained how they have been brewing the same recipe since the 50's. They use stockings to brew the tea leaves instead of a strainer because it leaves virtually no debris in the final product. It's also brewed in small batches because it keeps the drinkability fresh. Stay with me on this one. Sometimes when you drink something as full bodied and rich as a milk tea, you'll feel a certain kind of fullness (jia is the Chinese word for it), but when the tea is brewed in small batches, it keeps your stomach from experiencing that discomfort. That's why you'll see at least six pots on the stove at at once, no bigger than 2 liters. It was the epitome of all my HK milk tea dreams.
Arguably the most beautiful skyline in the world. It looks beautiful in both day and night. To continue to add to the contradiction that makes up the personality of Hong Kong, the skyline is serene, but the hustle and bustle around you on Victoria Harbor is far from the cool and collected imagine below.
民聲冰室 This was the best meal while I was in Hong Kong. It brought forward the reason I love food so much. Food has the power to transport you to relive memories long forgotten. Unintentionally, this meal gave me back a moment with my grandmother. The makeup of this meal was something that she would have cooked for dinner while I was growing up. It's possible that I subconsciously picked the vegetable and chicken to accompany the pork because it was a familiar combination. The chicken is seasoned, steamed, and shredded, then it's served cool with sesame seeds and cilantro. The steamed pork tower is topped with a salted egg yolk. While it cooked, the natural juices from the meat and the sauce they put on it combined and left a moat that was the perfect partner to white rice. Stir-fried vegetables with garlic and a little chili always balances out any meal.
Ma Sa Restaurant The things that Hong Kong does so well on one plate -- eggs, rice, and char sui. When I was talking to the owner, she told me that this dish, though simple in preparation, is extremely popular and successful because of their ingredients. The eggs and rice in Hong Kong are far superior in comparison to what we find in the States. There is a fragrance and sweetness to the rice that I've never tasted at home. The eggs are rich in flavor and saturates the tongue. Even without the soy sauce, there was umami in these little pockets of sunshine. Their soy sauce is made from scratch from a recipe that has been passed down for at least three generations!
I also got a bowl of their rice noodles with pork and pickled vegetables because I used to eat that for breakfast as kid. I have fond memories of feeling the steam on my face as I sat in a cold car, waiting to warm up enough to start driving. (I use "kid," but I was a teenager in high school still eating these noodles before school 😝)
Man Kei Cart Noodle The concept of cart noodles is being able to customize the type of noodles, broth, and toppings to match you palate. Ordering is made to be really simple too, you just mark up the menu and send in your order. The challenge? Trying to figure out the translations! If you're worried, stick to what you know. I decided to go for tripe, pancreas, large intestines, tofu puffs, and chives 😅 Did I just lose your faith in my taste?
It's what I grew up on, and I'm proud to be a part of a culture that believes in using every part of the animal to not waste its life.
Even if you don't visit these exact locations, I think it's good to visit knowing there are some items to try. If I had to make a list of MUST EATS in Hong Kong, this would be it: scrambled egg sandwich, pineapple bun with butter, HK milk tea, iced lemon tea, french toast or condensed milk toast, cart noodles, charsui rice with eggs, egg tarts, curry fish balls, dim sum, congee, roast goose, and steamed rice noodles. Below is just a little collection of the other random things I ate while exploring.
Calbee+ has a storefront in Hong Kong. Potatoes are my first love language, so I had to visit. I was inappropriately excited.
Did you keep count of how much noodles I ate? I can eat noodles everyday and I think I proved that in this trip. My trip to Hong Kong was the best trip of 2018.
I have never traveled to a city that I loved as much as Hong Kong. I think its complicated history has created a unique character that I relate to as a Chinese American who straddles the line between Eastern roots and Western ingress. To all the cities I've loved before, Hong Kong, you've captured a piece of my heart.