A Trip to Hong Kong: Centred Around Eating

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After sending DC off to the airport, what else had I to do except meet up with friends and eat more? With Bie, I watched Woman in Black, the horror play, but this time in Cantonese. It was a pretty cool experience considering that it was 31 October and we went to a disused warehouse seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Bie had great confidence in my Cantonese abilities and I managed to catch most of the play. Lucky for me (AKA the chicken shit who’s scared of anything horror), the effort spent in understanding the play meant that I wasn’t really scared when the sudden shocks came in. An interval eating it up at Wo Mun (Watami Japanese Restaurant) and then we went for a Taiwanese movie. This time, I understood 100% of the movie, especially since I got the snippets of Hokkien vulgarities thrown in too!

The next day was a day off before I got down to the business of the trip (a finance conference for networking and talking shop). What better to do than to wander round the eating areas, like Ugh Street below.

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I jest. This is Gough Street in the Sheung Wan area of Hong Kong Island. It’s where the venerable Kau Kee serves up its famous beef noodles (HK$30 or S$5 or thereabouts per bowl).

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Just don’t do as I did. I had the beef curry noodles for some odd reason (here’s looking at you, DC’s colleague!) and it just wasn’t very satisfying. Sure, it was spicy and beefy but there was a dimension of richness and flavour that I felt was missing. Plus, I ordered the wrong noodles. Don’t order chou mein (粗面) thinking it’s the round white noodles everyone else is having, that’s called yee mien (伊面). Chou mein is flat yellow wheat noodles somewhat like Singaporean meepok  (面薄) except made with way more alkali. The yee mien looks like lamian, probably also made from wheat flour. Anyhow, back to the beef itself. I ordered the tendon and meat version, and boy was the tendon melt in the mouth. Actually, there isn’t a great need to specifically order tendon because the meat itself has some tendon-y bits within. I like how the meat was falling in on itself in tenderness and its fullness of flavour. Too bad I didn’t have the space to order the regular beef yee mien, it really did look very good. I’m sure the beef would’ve been cooked perfectly just like in the curry version – so soft and melting. What a missed opportunity.

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Kau Kee Beef Noodles
21 Gough Street
中環歌賦街21號地下,  香港島, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2850 5967

Thereafter, it was all about the shopping. Just that it wasn’t any old shopping. True to my nature, I didn’t step into the malls of luxury goods but the streets selling dried goods.

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Most of them sold sharks fins, birds nest, and other ecologically unsound dried goods. I was looking for something better than that.

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And I found it at Man Lee Loong. Here, I bought two kinds of Chinese preserved sausages. Not the regular pork or even pork liver type, mind you. I bought duck liver (鴨潤腸) and goose liver sausages (鵝潤腸). Then I spied the century eggs (皮蛋) and knew I had to take some back. I specifically asked for the soft-style ones (糖心皮蛋) and the seller tapped each egg gently to listen for the right viscosity. I have yet to try them out but will be sure to report back on whether these are the same as the famous Yung Kee century eggs. Here’s what the shop looks like, I forgot to take a pic, but this is what I grabbed off Google Maps.

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Man Lee Loong 萬利隆
Des Voeux Road West, just up the corner from Wilmer Street

After a quick nap at the hotel, I returned to the Sheung Wan area with Pei for what she calls the most awesome claypot rice ever. Kwan Kee is one of those slightly dodgy hole in the wall places where even though you make a reservation, you still need to wait patiently. The staff look like they’re all family and have a gruff yet friendly nature that they turn on and off capriciously. When Pei asked when we’ll get our seat (it was 10 minutes after our reservation time – we’d arrived early even), the response was a curt 睇到哩, 出邊等啦. Essentially, “we know, just wait outside like good kids”. Yet when we dithered over which dishes to order, a sin that’s just ripe for being scolded since we’d spent so much time outside perusing the menu, they were patient and friendly about it.

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Maybe the sheer number of dishes us two girls ordered was enough to convince them to be nice to us. We started with sweet and sour pork, a decent rendition that Pei likes a lot. I like mine crispier, like the version done in Singapore at the Bencoolen Fatty Weng branch. Here, the focus was more on chewing the meat off the soft pork bones and enjoying the pleasing contrast of sharp-sweet sauce with savoury meat.

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The empress chicken (貴妃雞) was the best I’ve had in a long, long while. In essence, it’s a very simple dish of steamed chicken with the skin dried off then patted with salt, and served with a beautiful ginger dipping sauce. The chicken was well-seasoned and tender. They used proper chicken here, chicken that tastes of chicken – look at how yellow the skin was. Then the ginger sauce, my gosh it was good. First the gingered oil smoothens the tongue, then there are little sparkles of salt and the mild spiciness (not even heat) of the ginger and spring onion. All that accentuating the tender chicken and its skin so incredibly well. I could’ve stopped my dinner at this point and been happy, but there were other dishes to try!

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The clams made up a star dish that Pei really recommends. The problem was that we went on a Monday night and they weren’t as fresh as I’d like them to be. Still, not a great deal to complain about since none of the clams were off, just a bit past their prime. I liked the straightforward black bean and capsicum sauce that was just begging for white rice to go with it.

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We didn’t have white rice with our meal. Instead, something better – two types of claypot rice. The first one was the mixed preserved meat rice (燒臘煲飯) which arrived piping hot with a small bowlful of soy sauce. The trick is to pour in the soy sauce straightaway so it combines with the rice to form a crisp burnt rice layer (飯燋) at the bottom. Pei and I had an agreement that I’ll eat the liver sausages and the preserved belly pork, and she’ll have the regular sausages. It was a fine arrangement, such a pity we’re rarely in the same country given our complementary preferences. I wasn’t super keen about the big, coarse pieces they sliced the sausages into because I like having smaller slices so they catch slightly against the bottom of the claypot for the lovely burnt flavour. What I did like was the preserved belly pork – it had plenty of sweetness and of course full of fat, so full of fat that I had to discard the truly fatty bits. And then the rice, the stuff from the centre of the pot was perfectly al dente and slightly chewy, and there was ample crispy burnt rice to please the both of us girls. Oh yes there was also a vegetable dish, one must have vegetables to round off a meal. We had a well executed and very generous portion of yau mut choi stir fried with preserved tofu (油麥菜炒腐乳).

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And the last claypot came in – chicken and white eel claypot rice (滑雞白鱔煲飯). While not quite as classic as preserved sausage claypot rice, this was by far the better version. Look, I was so greedy to get at it that I didn’t even wait for the steam to clear. The eel was unctuously melt-in-the-mouth and gave a lovely rich, slightly fishy (in a good way) flavour to the heavenly combination of black beans, soy, and al dente plus crispy rice. Just beware the bones, there’s a technique to eating each piece. Be careful not to dislodge the radial bones from the central bone of each little steak of eel and you’re fine.

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By then, our neighbours at the next table had finished ogling our food and wondering how we’d fit it all in. They’d moved on to better things in life, like ordering their food. No surprise that the dishes were exactly the same as ours, except for 4! Total spend for what would’ve fed 4 people or 2 greedy girls? HK$300 or S$50. Not bad for a blowout meal, eh?

Kwan Kee Restaurant 坤记煲仔饭
G/F, Wo Yick Building, 263 Queen’s Road West, Western District
(Really at Kwai Heung Street, if you go by taxi ask the driver to stop at the McDonalds)
香港西環皇后大道西263號和益大廈地下 (桂香街內)
+852 2803 7209

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