Over the past 24 years I have been to Hong Kong almost 20 times, so much so that I cannot remember the exact number. In 2008 I applied for a HK ID card, so now when I visit HK I can enter via the automated machines (haha!). I’m sure you’re wondering why I visited HK so many times. Well, my father is from HK and I still have relatives there. Whenever I visit HK I stay with my grandparents, who live in a suburb about a 15 minute bus ride to Mongkok – the area that I’m most familiar with in HK.
There is something about the food in Hong Kong which I really like. Maybe it’s the fact that many of those foods cannot be found in Singapore (or maybe I am unaware of where they are being sold). Here are some of my favourites.
On my first night in HK, I had dinner with my grandparents at this restaurant called Goteborg （哥登堡）. I’ve got no idea where they got the name from. Each time I visit HK I eat here once, because I am usually only in HK for a week or so, and the food is really cheap and good.
For HKD$70, I can get the following dishes, and toast, which I didn’t photograph. It’s simple western food, but very reasonably priced and quite delicious.
For dessert, my grandparents and I went across the road to have some 糖水。My all-time favourite HK dessert is the black sesame paste. It’s more a cross between paste and soup.
A good 芝麻糊 is completely black in colour. When you use a spoon and scoop some up, then pour it back into the bowl, you shouldn’t be able to see specks of black sesame mixed with a colourless starchy liquid (like mung beans in tau suan). It should be completely black. It shouldn’t be too sweet, and because it is served hot, when you gently blow it to cool it down the paste should fold back like a silk sheet or a soft pillow having a slight depression, then effortlessly returning to its shape. I cannot find any 芝麻糊 of the like in Singapore. Just yesterday I tried one in Amoy St Food Centre but it was nowhere near HK standard and I will never buy 芝麻糊 from that stall again. If you know of any good 芝麻糊, please let me know.
When I was in HK I ate so many egg tarts. I don’t know why egg tarts aren’t as available in Singapore as they are in HK. Almost every bakery has egg tarts displayed at the shop window. Some bakeries even have a special oven-thingy outside their shop for passers-by like myself who just want to buy an egg tart or two. And the egg tarts in HK are absolutely amazing. Personally, I don’t enjoy the egg tarts with fluffy pastry, but rather those which in HK they call cookie-饼 egg tart.
Next we have the dimsum. During this trip I had dimsum twice. Once at 翠园 in Mongkok, and the second was at the famous 添好运 (Tim Ho Wan) in Sham Shui Po. 翠园 is a restaurant which has yumcha in the mornings (people sit there from early in the morning to almost lunchtime chit chatting), then a la carte dinner at night. Many of the dimsum dishes cannot be found in Singapore, or perhaps only in more atas dimsum places. The standard is also much higher. I remember going to Swee Choon once, ordering the 凤爪 and being incredibly disappointed. Don’t need to worry about that in HK.
Ox stomach in satay sauce (HK style)
Beef tendon in Chu Hou sauce
Phoenix claws or chicken feet (凤爪)
My all-time favourite bao: 麻蓉包. The filling in the bao is sesame paste (it is not supposed to be flowy). I gave 流沙包 up for this bao because 麻蓉包 is only found in HK.
Yin-yang fried rice. Fried rice covered with shredded pork in tomato sauce on one side, prawns in cream sauce on the other. Only time I ever had this in Singapore was at the chinese restaurant in CHIJMES, and they had to ask the chef to specially cook this because it wasn’t on the menu. I’m not sure if the same restaurant is still there.
TIM HO WAN
Now according to my dad, the original Tim Ho Wan outlet that was awarded with 1 Michelin star in Mongkok is now closed because the landlord wanted to raise the rent by a lot. This is how it works in HK – the better your business is the more rent the landlord wants. They still have an outlet in Mongkok, but it isn’t the original store anymore. Apparently the main outlet has now shifted to Sham Shui Po, and that was the one I visited with my dad.
The 1 Michelin star 酥皮焗叉烧包 (baked bun with bbq pork)
If you’re walking to Tim Ho Wan from Sham Shui Po MTR station, you’ll probably pass by a row of shops selling heaps of CNY stuff. These shops sell stuff at wholesale prices. Worth checking out if you’re in the area.
Did I mention that I don’t like to queue? I’d rather eat something less nice and not queue than queue for 45 mins just to try whatever stunning dish there is. But at street food stalls, there is no such thing as a queue. You just walk up to the stall and shout your order out when the lady asks you. No need to queue – just join the mass of people in front and slowly squeeze your way forward. I managed to snap a shot of this stall when nobody was ‘queuing’.
My favourite street food is the 炸大肠. It is quite salty on its own and when you bite into it the fat just oozes out – yummy! But I only had two sticks. If you ever buy from these stalls, make sure you tell them your order all at once – if not you’ll get a scolding – just like what I got when I wanted to add something to my order at the end.
I also visited Ngong Ping 360 with my dad when I was in HK. Apparently it has the longest cable car ride in Asia. But in my opinion, there is nothing new about cable cars. Once you’ve taken a ride in a cable car, the rest are the same. The only thing that changes is the scenery.
In my view, there is nothing attractive about Ngong Ping 360. The only interesting thing we tried there was this ice cream thingy. And there was free Wi-fi so that was good.
Have you ever tried the char siew in HK? It is absolutely amazing. I think it’s got to do with the type of pork they use. The char siew in Singapore is always so dry and unappetising, whereas the char siew in HK is so tender, juicy, delicious. I don’t eat char siew in Singapore anymore.
This is my only photo of the char siew I had at the Royal Garden Hotel in TST. When I remembered to take a photo of it at the serving area it was completely gone. For a HKD$500++ buffet, you’d probably not eat char siew, but go for the more expensive items like sashimi and seafood. The fact that the whole lot of char siew was completely depleted speaks volumes about its quality.
Oh, something special about the buffet at Royal Garden is that they always have a special dish for the diners. Upon seating each diner is issued with a coupon, which they can use, at any time during the buffet, to redeem the special dish. The last few times I went it was crab, which isn’t really my personal favourite, but this time, it was really good:
On Sunday, I visited my friend’s church in Sham Shui Po. When I was in Melbourne I met this girl from HK who was in Australia on a working visa. During her short stay in Melbourne she attended my church, Bethel Bible-Presbyterian Church, and when she heard that I was visiting HK she suggested that I visit her church, so I did. Exiting Sham Shui Po MTR station, I had breakfast at a 茶餐厅 nearby, then headed off for church. It was about a 10 minute walk from the station. The church currently rents a unit in a building on the corner of two streets, mostly quiet apart from the charismatic church in the neighbouring unit. During the service I was not aware that it was a charismatic church next door so I thought the guy was practising kungfu. Nonetheless, it was a blessed time of worshiping the Lord and fellowship afterward.
After church, I followed some of the young people to a nearby café in Shek Kip Mei for tea. I only ordered a macchiato because I had a dinner appointment with family at night and didn’t want to spoil my appetite. I also wanted to try the coffee in HK. They said that the building in which the café was located used to be a factory, but after the factory moved out and many years of being unused, the building has now been converted into an arts ‘haven’. I didn’t really have a walk around, but the café felt something like Chye Seng Huat in Singapore.
As for coffee, I don’t like lattes or flat whites or cappuccinos because I don’t really like milk that much. I usually order long black with no sugar. But last Sunday I decided to have a macchiato, because I wanted to have a shot of espresso with just a bit of milk. Not really. I was more interested in seeing the three layers of the macchiato. When I took my barista course in Melbourne the instructor told us that a proper macchiato has three layers. The top layer is the foam, second layer is the mix of milk and espresso, and the third is pure espresso. The top layer should be a ‘mix’ of the foam and crema, and most people eat the foam with a teaspoon before savouring the shot of espresso. In order for the layers to be visible, the macchiato had to be served in a clear glass. That was what I was looking for.
Something like this:
But what I received was this:
If I was in Melbourne I’d definitely request that the barista make another one in a proper glass. But at this café I decided not to, because I was afraid I had to wait another 30 minutes. The coffee was pretty good though. The waiter offered to get me a teaspoon but it never came. I guess they were just too busy.
You might’ve noticed that so far I haven’t mentioned anything about congee and noodles. Here it is. Nathan Congee and Noodle is a place which I visit, sometimes twice or thrice, when I am in HK. It is a must-go, cannot-miss place. Each time I go I always have a bowl of congee and a bowl of noodles. Most of the time, it is 皮蛋瘦肉粥 (century egg with lean meat congee) and 牛腩面 (beef brisket noodles). But I think its real specialty is the pig’s liver and kidney.
Nathan Congee & Noodle. 11 Saigon Street, Jordan. Nearest MTR: Jordan.
牛腩面 (beef brisket noodles)
皮蛋瘦肉粥 (century egg with lean meat congee)
Poached pig’s liver and kidney.
I’ve saved the best for last. Nowhere does it as good as them. I’m more a fan of the liver than the kidney though. The liver is poached to perfection. There isn’t that grainy texture which can be felt in the pig’s liver from other eating places. Even when the liver cools down, the last piece, a victim of the Asian-last-piece-syndrome, it doesn’t develop that grainy texture. That’s why it is the best. If you’re in HK, you have to give it a try. Enough said.