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

A Trip to Hong Kong: Two Versions of Roast Goose

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By one of those strange alignment of stars, DC and I were on overlapping business trips to Hong Kong. A bit of canny planning brought us together over the weekend at the achingly modern and very comfortable Langham Place Hotel. The only problem in getting there was that I didn’t realise that there were two “Langhams” in Kowloon, one the Langham Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui and the other the Langham Place Hotel in Mongkok.

After a bit of confusion, I finally got to the hotel and DC took me to Sham Tseng Chan Kee Roasted Goose Restaurant (深井陳記燒鵝茶餐廳). He informed me that Yung Kee was off the menu for this trip as he’d been and the standard of roast goose was abysmal compared to its price. So this place it was and we proceeded to order the roast goose noodles.

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Sure, the soup was full of msg, but the noodles were firm and springy and the goose. Mmm… the first piece of goose I put in my mouth was tender and flavourful. The fatty, savoury juices from the drumstick flowed beautifully with each bite. It’s a pity that not every piece of the drumstick was as tender. The skin was soggy – we couldn’t salvage it in time before it all sank into the soup. Still, for about HK$40 (S$6), this was a fantastic welcome to Hong Kong.

Sham Tseng Chan Kee Roasted Goose Restaurant (深井陳記燒鵝茶餐廳)
Reclamation Street, Mongkok 旺角新填地街427-427A號 behind Langham Place Hotel

DC promised me something better for dinner, something worth dressing up for. So I changed out of my denim civvies, slipped on a black dress and we headed downstairs to Ming Court Restaurant. It’s fantastic to have a 2-Michelin star restaurant right in the hotel. Disappointingly, it seemed like everyone else was dressed down, so not quite as posh as expected. But that was hardly a downer as the service was friendly and not at all snooty like you’d expect for a starred restaurant. (Yes it helps to speak even a smidgen of Cantonese.)

We dithered a while on which dishes to order. Greedy as we are, we realise that our stomachs nonetheless have finite capacities (sad to say, mine more so than DC’s). It went without saying that we would have the roast goose – chiu-chow style roasted goose (HK$148 or S$25). It’s almost a pity it came first as it was the star of the show. The best roast goose in our combined experience, and that’s saying something. Check out how tender the meat is in the pic below.

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One angle not enough? Look at this pic. See how crisp the skin is? And the thin sliver of fat under the skin? It was a sublime experience as each morsel was perfectly tender. I could taste both the slightly gamey flavour of the goose and the spices of the marinade in each bite. Then there was the wonderfully crisp skin; we were so glad that we asked for the drumstick portion with a higher skin to meat ratio. And something most amazing that put this in a class of its own: the marrow was still tender. It’s hard enough to roast a bird so that the meat is tender and the skin crisp, let alone stop the marrow from drying out. This goose scores full marks in our books.

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The rest of the meal simply paled in comparison after the goose. The vegetables were on the soggy side. I’m not sure if vegetables in Hong Kong cook down soggier or it’s just the style of cooking. I’ve had better vegetables elsewhere.

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And then the lowest point of the dinner. This was a gold award winning dish from 2010 – pan-fried chicken skin filled with minced chicken and black truffles, accompanied with sliced pumpkin (HK$288 or S$50). The first piece was interesting, with crisp pumpkin at the bottom and a very slight hint of black truffle in the sauce. Too bad the chicken skin wasn’t crisp as it was sandwiched between the meat and the pumpkin. My preference was to keep the skin on top to preserve the crispness for longer. There was also way too much for the two of us to work through that dish of maybe eight pieces. We really wanted to like this but it was too cloying and monotonous after the first piece. Next better player please.

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And a next better player did indeed step up. The signature fried rice. I hear you readers cry, “What? Fried Rice?! At a Michelin starred restaurant?” Let me explain. This version, fried rice with silky chicken, crispy conpoy and shao xing wine, served in a casserole (HK$198 or S$35) was made with black chicken and pine nuts, fried beautifully together, and placed in a hot claypot to accentuate the wok hei. The chicken was indeed silky as mentioned in the menu description and there was plenty of smokey charred flavour. The best part was the layer of “fan jiu” (飯燋) or burnt rice at the base of the claypot. Beautiful.

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By the end of our dinner, I was so stuffed by the rich food that I couldn’t handle any heavy dessert. Very unwisely, we didn’t take any of our friendly waiter’s recommendations. They were mainly fried or incredibly rich, like deep fried egg fritters, birds nest soup, giant longevity bun stuffed with lotus paste and salted egg yolk. And we ordered osmanthus jelly with wolfberry. While it was very pretty, it was nonetheless a foolhardy choice as the jelly was too sweet and rather too firm for my liking.

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Altogether, the meal was good with a modest damage done of HK$1000 or S$160 including tip. The downer was the overly oily and too monotonous chicken and pumpkin dish. We would definitely order something more classically Cantonese next time, and maybe save a bit of space for a richer dessert. And the roast goose? I’ll fly to Hong Kong just to eat that again.

Ming Court
Langham Place Hotel
555 Shanghai Street, Mongkok,
Kowloon, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 3552 3300

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 pièce 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

My Favourite Hong Kong Dessert

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Oh Yee Shun Steamed Ginger Milk, how many ways do I love thee? I discovered your shop, the Yee Shun Milk Company, while wandering around Causeway Bay.

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I berate myself because I thought you were naught but a tourist trap, simply from the Japanese words on the sign.

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Yet it was love at first sight when I spied the little bowls of ginger steamed milk awaiting the hungry hordes.

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I plucked up my courage, made it past the curt staff, timidly sat at my designated seat across from a similarly determined local, and ordered my silken bowl of ginger goodness. Oh my, the sinus-clearing sharpness of ginger, the impossibly smooth curd sweetened just right.

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I just had to drag my friends here the next day for more of my favourite Hong Kong dessert. Sadly, there’s no substitute in Singapore. I tried a version in Chinatown that disappointed so much I’ll just have to wait for my next visit to Hong Kong.


Yee Shun Milk Company
G/F 85 Percival Street
Causeway Bay
Tel: 2576 1828

The Hike That Became a Food Trail

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I was in Hong Kong at the end of November and having eaten far too much good food, I insisted that Tortoise take me to the islands for a hike. To lose weight. And feel healthy.

We went to Lamma Island where there’s a trail between two ferry points, a good three hours walk. It was the season for lovely weather and this view of the old-fashioned fishing town greeted us on arrival.

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It reminded me of 1980s scenes and also vaguely of cheesy HK flicks starring Samo Hung and gang. My mum loved watching those.

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I knew that my calorie-burning quest was doomed the moment my friend started rhapsodising on the nibbles she had on her last visit. My interest piqued, I immediately perked up when she mentioned satay of some sort. Up the alley just past the sea-front restaurants, the stall had chicken parts and cuttlefish on sticks. No close-up pictures because I was too busy devouring the spicy morsel. Even though HKers generally aren’t very good with chilli, this one was pretty darn hot and my mouth was on fire.

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Tortoise promised succour in the form of taufa (tofu pudding) a bit further down the path. I think I kept whining “are we there yet?” and “can we eat at this stall instead?” as my tongue kept burning. Not long later, we saw this crowd under the tarp. It’s all so charmingly makeshift even the poster advertising its numerous media appearances looks like a primary school project.

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Tortoise and I happily sat down to our taufa and wolfed down the silken custard. I contemplated having seconds but desisted because Tortoise reminded me that there was really good pigeon down the road.

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True enough, there were plenty of signs on the way beckoning us off the straight and narrow. The hike was not to be.

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After turning off the main path, the sign became more explicit. Without a doubt, we were getting warm.

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Pigeon… Preciouuusssssssssssssss…

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After several false turns,  including one where we found ourselves in someone’s backyard and another where we were followed by someone’s overprotective dog, we finally found the place and got our roast pigeon. It was tender, flavourful and had the crispest skin ever. I would have cried tears of joy if I wasn’t wolfing down my half of the bird. Even though it was 2.30 pm, there were loads of people still coming in. One group of expats ordered a huge mound of at least six pigeons for three people!

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We rounded off the afternoon tea session with wak dan ha yun (prawns in lightly scrambled eggs) and ha cheong kai lan (Chinese kale in fermented prawn paste, a specialty of the fishing village). Even though we were quite full from our itinerant snacking, the food was to die for.  My inner Chinawoman would have been delighted to have some rice with the dishes if it were lunch, but we quite craftily saved on calories by skipping it.

We made it to the beach in just under two hours, rather than the 20 minutes we anticipated. Considering the beautiful beaches I’d been to in the past year, this one hardly counted. Some stretches of East Coast Beach in Singapore might possibly be nicer, but it was lovely to (finally) get here just before the sun started setting. Besides, the blue sky, greenery and boats out in the distance formed a pretty setting.

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We mucked about for a short while taking photos and complaining how full we were and then decided that it was too late to attempt making for the other ferry terminal.  You see, we had to meet another friend in HK for, um, tea.

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We turned back quickly, not because there wasn’t time to catch the ferry, but to get even more food. On the way back we took away a piece of tofu cheesecake and some local sweets. The glutinous rice-based sweets weren’t great, but we nibbled on some anyway. On (literally) the other hand, the tofu cheesecake was really good! Light, yet full of cheese flavour. Of course we devoured that on the ferry, and it was all gone by the time we reached HK. We then hotfooted it to Central to meet our friend for virtuous smoothies at Mix, one of those places so peppy it almost gives you a headache.

A bad day for calorie expenditure but another great day for good food.