Eating on the run in Hong Kong
I have to admit I’m no connoisseur of Cantonese cuisine, or perhaps my true expertise lies in mainland China. Like any Chinese person who loves his food, I have been known to trek across cities in search of a xiaolong bao or nearly miss airplanes for a taste of Peking Duck (thankfully that hasn’t happened yet, well, missing an airplane on account of a duck! I have missed an airplane before..)
So today I decided to reconnect with some old Hong Kong favourites. I used to work here as a tour guide for Melbourne-based Intrepid Travel. Our hotel was tucked away in the side streets of Jordan Road, and so is my favourite dim sum place in Hong Kong. In Mandarin, it’s called the Shunde Gongyucun — my father’s family has its roots in Shunde and so I feel a certain affinity with this place. I suppose my ties to home are stronger than I think.
The congee here is really the star attraction. Slightly savoury, hints of ginger, touches of sesame oil, thick and immensely satisfying. It comes topped with scallions and your choice of ingredients. I always choose freshly sliced fish or the thousand century egg with tender pork mince. The rest of the dim sum here is simple and fresh, certainly good value and completely authentic. There are no carts here and there are no English menus, but there’s always a spot open at a table and there are plenty of locals from the neighbourhood reading the paper or gossiping with their friends. I topped off my choices with phoenix claw — aka chicken feet! — and a round of ha gow — or prawn dumplings. Again, the congee was tops.
For lunch I had meant to get to a place recommended by Hong Kong native John Law. He seemed particularly fond of a place that served BBQ pork in Wanchai. He said it best when he wrote: “Char Siu is the everyman’s Hamburger of Southern China. Missing a plate of Char Siu on rice in Hong Kong should be a crime…” And so I did have it, but just at a little street venue underneath the mid-levels escalator. Again, nothing so special that I would send heaps of other travellers there but I did like the outdoor atmosphere and it was dirt cheap — emphasis on the hygiene for those with less hardy tummies!
Dinner was also on the run for me and since I was in the Jordan area again, I eventually settled on Tsui Wah. Now for all the Hong Kongers out there, Tsui Wah is something of an institution, a bastion of 24 hour food in a city that rarely sleeps. The tables are elbow to elbow; the service is typically indifferent. But for Hong Kong-style fast food you’ll find no shortage of choice at one of the 15-odd branches locate around Hong Kong (now open in Shanghai too). I’ve completely lost count of how many times I’ve ended up Tsui Wah after a night of drinks, but at least I’ve always left with my potential hangover abated, thanks to the Wah’s multitude of choices.
If I come back, maybe I can start moving up the food chain…