[This post has been kindly contributed by my sister, who loves food as much as I do and has exquisite taste, as well as the unerring ability to sniff out fantastic food in obscure places. This is the first of her many contributory posts, reviewing some of the wonderful food to be discovered in Hong Kong.]
I recently took a trip with my mother to HK before joining my dad in Macau. One of the first stops we made, for a casual dinner on the night we arrived, was the legendary Yung Kee. There are always celebrities and famous businessmen to be seen at this restaurant, though most have now migrated upstairs to the private Kee Club which serves both Western food and the famous dishes from its namesake below. On the night we were there, we saw a Phantom pull up and visting Hollywood royalty sweep out and into the club upstairs.
Many people claim that Yung Kee isn’t that great and there is better duck elsewhere, which I wouldn’t deny but on a good night, Yung Kee is pretty darn hard to beat. I go there for primarily two things, the duck and the century eggs and I like their convenient location on Wellington Street where I’ve also found a great dumpling store, a funky budget hotel, a great massage place and a cheap, old lady-run (the best kind) hairdresser where you can get a wash and blow-dry for cheap. The duck is juicy and they make a great, thicker sauce in which they soak these soft red mung beans which I have a soft spot for. The century egg is also really well-done, with soft centers. So good that my mother consented to eat one, despite this being the time that HK was rife with rumours that the Chinese had injected artificial yellow colouring into egg exports.
32-40 Wellington St
Perhaps the most beautiful restaurant in HK, the food presentation, the view and the location of Hutong all can’t be beat. I wanted to show my mom this restaurant as it’s just one of the most darkly beautiful that I’ve been to. It’s probably not my favourite place for local food and certainly, it’s beyond most people’s budgets but it certainly is a sight for the eyes. I’ve been told there is a US$39 per head minimum charge, or 300HKD but I don’t really think there are many dishes that cost less than that.
The restaurant serves Northern Chinese food but jazzed up by inventive cooking and beautifully fresh ingredients. The first dish was a chicken, stuffed with glutinous rice and baked in lotus leaves, wrapped in a casket of clay. The baked bundle was brought to our table and we were invited to pound the clay shell in a mortar. The taste was wholesome and just salty enough from the chicken oils that had infused the rice.
The second dish was also beautifully presented, in a painted, native red-weave basket. The colour of the basket was highlighted by the bright red dried chillies, intersperced with generous pieces of soft-shelled crabs. This dish was actually way too spicy for my tastes but my less spice-wuss Singaporean friends just lapped it up. This dish can also be done with Sichuan prawns.
The third dish was a simple saute of mustard greens, well done, if a bit oily. In this picture, you can see how fresh each piece is and how it’s cooked just till it’s translucent, so that it still has plenty of bite but the sweetness of the vegetable is released.
The fourth dish was my favourite, as well as one of the restaurant’s signature dishes. The lamb ribs are juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside and they come presented on a half meter long wooden plate or sometimes a narrow stone slab. This is a presentation that I’m actually seeing more and more in Asia but I believe that Hutong was one of the first places to debut it.
It is served with a thin soy sauce with sliced ginger and hot chillies. The secret to the two textures is that the lamb ribs are deboned and slow cooked while the skin is fried to a crisp and the two parts are reassembled.
1 Peking Road (28th Floor)
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon HK
+852 3428 8342
Overall: The taste of the food just doesn’t live up to how beautiful the dishes and restaurant are but this restaurant in any top city would be considered a must-try.
Yee Shun Milk Company
Ah...my favourite place in HK. No, that’s pretty sad but seriously, this milk pudding is the best. Yes, I have heard of the one in Jordan and I promise to try it the next time I’m in HK but I have it on good authority that it is only as good as Yee Shun.
This company only deals in milk and it’s logo is a cow and it’s all about flurescent signs of cows (as many people as there are in Singapore) and their product is great. For the uninitiated, before you go there and curse at me, I should add that Shuang Pi Nai, or Dun Nai, “steamed milk with two films” is an acquired taste. This is basically a mixture of milk and egg white, steamed sometimes with ginger till it forms a pudding with a thin membrane layer on top. While smooth and silky, some people find the taste of powdered milk overwhelming or find it too ‘jelat’ to eat an entire bowl (I, on the other hand, can eat two).
The papaya or mango milk here is also very good, look at the creamy colours!
Yee Shun Milk Company
Several locations: Pilkem Street, Percival Street and Lockhart Street in Causeway Bay (exit C at the Causeway Bay MTR, turn right)
Tsim Chai Kee
This unpretentious dumpling soup shop on Wellington Street is a treasure! Introduced to me by a friend as “There’s this place where the dumplings are the size of your palm”, it didn’t disappoint.
These are pictures from the store front and inside the store, which is air-conditioned (which I appreciated especially during the summer).
The dumplings are chock full of prawn and black mushroom, which you can see through the thin skins. You can also see the ladies in the back of the shop, stuffing the dumplings from a mountain of prawn stuffing. I get a kick out of that. My mom’s opinion was “Shiok!” and she really liked how each regular serving is a small bowl so that you can have it for an in-between-meal snack. Most Singaporeans think Mak’s Noodles is the place on Wellington Street to go to, but take it from a very picky noodle eater, Mak’s has nothing on this place and the service at Mak’s is just god-awful, having fattened their coffers so much from Singaporean tourists.
Chris Pattern’s Egg Tarts/Tai Cheong Cake Shop
It was reported that this shop had closed down and egg tart lovers around the world mourned. Fear not, it has not closed down…it has merely moved to across the street. It used to be at 32 Lyndhurst Terrace and I’m not sure if that is the new address but I found it along the way walking to Lyndhurst Terrace anyway and I usually walk there from Wellington Street (no prizes for guessing why). I walk up Lyndhurst, toward the GOD store at the top of the street and the store is right there.
The picture on the right shows the guys in the glass making the tarts with the famous, laminated picture of Chris Pattern.
Tai Cheong bakes hundreds of egg tarts daily, as well as other Chinese pastries, so you're assured of a fresh, warm tart no matter when you go.
The egg tarts are beautifully baked with the wobbly custard still hot and slightly liquid on the inside but firm and springy on the surface. This paired with the savory shortcrust pasty is a persuasive pairing, my mother, usually not a dessert lover, was completely sold and we returned several days in a row to buy boxes of the tarts. The best way to eat them and compose an ode to egg tarts, is hot on the street corner.