The Many Meanings of Slow Food: Zhen Zhen Porridge

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Zhen Zhen Porridge and Maxwell Hawker Centre are perhaps more famous for the long queues than the great award-winning porridge. I made the fatal mistake of meeting a friend there for lunch at 12.30 pm. Patting myself on the back for arriving early at 12.15, I put down my tissue paper and book bag on two seats in the classic CBD Tissue Paper Chope and went off to queue. As I’d not queued longer than 25 minutes before, I figured it’d only be a 10 minute wait by the time said friend arrived.

Boy was I wrong. When she showed up, I hardly moved from my original spot. Apparently some unmentionables in front had ordered takeaway porridge for their entire building. There was no choice but to wait. And wait. And wait. I finally made my order at 1 pm and collected 10 minutes later. It was almost an hour’s wait! By then my friend had finished her fishball noodles (no queue, not nice) and was eyeing dessert.

The chicken porridge was good as always, smooth and thick with ghosts of rice grains, generous portions of chicken thigh chunks and loads of toppings. They’d obviously spent ages boiling the grains off the rice. There’s plenty of spring onion, fried shallots, dong choi (preserved Tianjin vegetable) and sesame oil. It all comes together in a surprisingly crunchy and textured whole. Very yummy. I also like waiting for the egg to set a bit so I get swirls of soft just-set egg white and rich streaks of runny yolk, then as a prize I sometimes get a bit of yielding solid yolk. Mmm.

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I always have the yu-sheng as a side. No other stall I’ve tried makes it this way. Again, the theme is generous servings and toppings. I can barely finish the small portion. It’s made of slices of raw fish topped with ginger matchsticks, spring onion, fried shallots, toasted black and white sesame and sesame oil. Top it all off with a sprinkling of lime juice and some cut red chilli and the flavour combination is phenomenal. It’s almost the entire reason why I keep coming back for more.

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$4.50 for a chicken porridge with egg and a small yu-sheng. Go early or on an especially hot day where there’s less of a queue. Don’t dither with your order because the lady can be quite curt. Be brave!

Yung Kee Roast Goose

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Yung Kee is the possibly the most famous place for goose in Hong Kong. Sure, people with any familiarity with Hong Kong each claims a better place, but who’s willing to schlep it out to some godforsaken out of town location? It’s the cake in the your plate instead of pie in the sky thing again.

In my last trip to Hong Kong, I met a friend for dinner here after an almighty bout of shopping. Even though we got there pretty late at 8.30 pm, we still had to wait half an hour before getting a table for two. It sure did work up an appetite and we ordered up a storm. It was a blessing in disguise that goose web was sold out if not we would probably have burst from the amount of food we ingested that night.

We had of course started with roast goose, then char siew, yau choi (mustard greens in oyster sauce), chau fan (fried rice), and double boiled soup. The pi├Ęce de resistance, roast goose, was impeccable. Upon the first bite, my teeth sank into crisp-chewy skin, then oil from the fat oozed onto my tongue and I closed my eyes enjoying the tender piece of smoky, lightly spiced meat.

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If you’re reading this I’m guessing you’re probably only interested in the goose, so the rest of the food doesn’t matter that much. The char siew was OK. My friend likes it a lot but I prefer mine to be a bit more charred and not left soaking in sweet sauce. The fried rice was surprisingly good though I was too full to enjoy it much. The best of the other dishes was the double boiled soup. We started with one order of a family-size earthen pot and enjoyed it so much that we had another. The server raised his eyebrows when he took the extra order. Hey, we can’t help being Cantonese girls.

The damage was horrifying, the equivalent of S$160 for both. Very expensive by Singapore standards but it’s not often that one eats at a Michelin one-star restaurant. That this place got a Michelin star means that lots of places I’ve eaten at are worth at least two or three. It’s still a good place though.

Yung Kee Restaurant
32-40 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2522 1624
Fax: (852) 2840 0888
Email: info@yungkee.com.hk

The Former Adam Road Prawn Noodles at Zion Road

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I was at River Valley Road this evening and had a choice between going down Killiney Road to Ken’s Ramen at Orchard Plaza or to Zion Road for the prawn noodles. Went for cheaper and good over just cheap and good. Even though it was a quiet evening at Zion Road Hawker Centre, there was still a queue of about six people when I got to the famous prawn noodle place at 7.30 pm.

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It’s called Noo Cheng Adam Road Prawn Noodles (stall #4) and the 10-minute wait didn’t feel that long. It was fun peering over the shoulders of the people in front and wondering how big their orders would be. The light-hearted banter of the smiley stall holders was nice too. When I asked to take a photo, the older pointed to the younger, trying to divert the attention away from him: take his picture not mine! He also said that they day’s prawns weren’t as big as they should be because Chinese New Year was coming and big ones were hard to come by at the moment. Still, they look pretty impressive to me!

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My $5 bowl of dry guotiao mian (flat rice noodles and round egg noodles together) was tossed with their special (rather spicy) chilli sauce, ketchup, deep fried lard cubes and was topped with a few slices of fried fishcake. It was pretty decent and I quickly slurped that up to get to the side bowl of prawn soup.

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The three big prawns in the soup were fresh and firm. They were up to standard but let the pork rib steal the show. The two pieces of pork rib in my soup were boiled for so long that they really fell off the bone! They were tender and still very flavourful.

Now the main attraction was really the soup. It was sublime. The first taste of the soup was much better than I remembered. It was prawny, porky and peppery, all in perfect harmony. (Heheh, sorry couldn’t help myself.) The soup was simmered so long with pork ribs and bones that it was slightly cloudy. Szechuan peppercorn and whole garlic added to the depth of flavour. It was like really good bah kut teh with the added bonus of prawn in the mix.

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I’ll definitely go back again, maybe for the one with crab next time!