July 22, 2010
It’s colourful, chaotic and the culinary capital of Asia. Hong Kong offers the fanatical foodie a bewildering choice of cuisines.
Following on from her previous post on Hong Kong’s food culture, Chantal Martineau gets to the heart of the former colony’s dining scene.
“Hong Kong is said to have more restaurants per capita than any other place in the world, serving up just about every kind of Chinese regional dish as well as a huge variety of international cuisine. Delving into the city’s night markets, food courts, fine dining establishments, dim sum joints and noodle shops will help you to grasp just what Hong Kong is about.
“Hole-in-the-wall noodle shops abound, but one that has grown rather famous is Mak’s Noodles on Wellington Street in the Central part of the city. Its name in Chinese translates literally as “Mak’s Stingy Noodles”, referring to the notoriously small portions which are said to keep the noodles from going soggy. Now in its third generation, this family business serves a traditional wonton noodle soup using a dried fish and pork-based stock. What the restaurant lacks in decorative flair, it more than makes up for in each savoury bowlful.
“There are endless opportunities throughout Hong Kong to graze on street food. To take just one example, once night falls the bustling market of Temple Street in Kowloon transforms from a treasure trove of cheap gadgets and designer knockoffs into an open-air food court. The food stalls sell everything from the street food classic of fried tofu to full seafood meals.”
“While you could almost certainly eat street food for every meal and still be satisfied, you would be remiss not to head indoors at some point to sample what some of the city’s innovative chefs are doing.
“One of the most provocative among these is Alvin Leung, a purple-haired, tattooed, cigar-smoking wunderkind who owns the molecular gastronomy hot spot Bo Innovation. The self-taught chef turns out novel takes on Asian dishes, such as Chinese sausage and rice re-imagined as sausage ice cream with a rice crisp topping. The Michelin-starred restaurant has been compared to Spain’s El Bulli and New York’s wd~50.
“As in many financial centres around the world, some of the best restaurants in the city can be found in hotels, including the lauded Lung King Heen which has a magnificent view from its perch atop the Four Seasons. But if you want to show solidarity with the locals who were outraged that this Western-accented restaurant was the first and only to earn three Michelin stars in 2009, head instead to Golden Valley at the Emperor Hotel for authentically fiery Sichuan, like chicken in peanut-chilli sauce or a super spicy hot pot.”
“No trip to Hong Kong is complete without dim sum. Unlike boring old brunch, this noonish meal offers the opportunity to taste a multitude of different flavours and textures in one sitting.
“For really authentic dim sum, head to Luk Yu Tea House in Central Hong Kong. The wood panelled restaurant, dating from the 1930s, feels frozen in time with dishes that haven’t changed much since its inception. All the dim sum staples are there, such as har gau (shrimp dumplings), but there are also more challenging options such as dumplings stuffed with pig liver or almond and pig lung soup.”
“With so much to see and taste in Hong Kong, a side trip might seem excessive, but the hour-long ferry from Hong Kong Airport to Macau is just too quick and easy a ride to pass up. Returned to China by Portugal in 1999, the island is still very much a fusion of the two cultures.
“Macanese cuisine also includes influences from nearly every place the Portuguese had colonised, from Mozambique to Brazil. Take African Chicken, the national dish. The bird is marinated in chilies, onions, and garlic, then smothered in a lemony, buttery coconut sauce, and grilled to crispy perfection.”
“If you’re just looking to nibble, head to Food Street in the Taipa district for a colourful array of snacks on sticks. Nearby, at Café Tai Lei Loi Kei, you might notice a queue stretching around the block. It’s for chu pa bao, a take on the Portuguese pork chop sandwich, bifana, made with a sweet, crunchy-topped bo lo bao (pineapple bun).”