Travels: Unique flavours of Hong Kong

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By Henry & Stephanie Yuen

Our plane landed around 6pm.  It took the Airport Express 30 minutes to get us to the Central, Hong Kong station, took the taxi 10 minutes to drop us at the Harbour Grand Hong Kong Hotel.  We spent 3 minutes to register but a good 10 minutes to admire the open style, meticulously beautiful lobby of this newly opened ocean-front 5-star hotel located in Fortress Hill, North Point. 

We quickly dropped off our luggage and freshened up, 15 minutes later we found ourselves looking at the menu in a nearby Chiu-Chow restaurant and sipping the tiny cups of ‘Kung-fu’ tea.  Ah, just the way we pictured how this trip would begin.

Harbour Grand Hong Kong Hotel’s live honeycomb

Most hotels in Asian offer breakfast vouchers as part of the guest service and quite often; these are vouchers for buffet breakfast in their nice restaurants. We have had our shares of delightful buffet breakfast at Asian hotels for the food is always decent with plenty choices of local and international fares.  However, it was our very first time to be greeted by a live honeycomb dripping golden drops at the buffet beverage table. A healthy, soothing honey drink in the morning? How could we say no! This feature alone told us how serious and creative Harbour Grand’s thoughtful culinary team was.

Weekend organic farmers market

Taking the Star Ferry across the Victoria Harbour from Central Hong Kong to Tsim-Sa-Tsui, Kowloon was a ‘must-do’ on our list. The ferry ride proved to be more enlightening when we found an organic farmers market at the Central Ferry Terminal.  They were all local farmers from New Territories and were truly crusaders of healthy eating and organic greens.

Street temptations

They used to be everywhere, now street restaurants (daipaidon) and food vendors are hard to come by, thanks to the by-law banning of street food.  We were able to locate a couple daipaidon in Central Hong Kong, tucked away in narrow streets and alleys behind glamorous fashion stores and mega shops.  Time seems to come to a still in these corners as these few remaining daipaidon are allowed to stay as evidence of old Hong Kong and a glimpse into its culinary history. Dai-pai-dons are like real restaurants with different themes.   Some serve congees and snacking food, some serve wonton soups and chowmeins and noodle in soups; some are simply seafood restaurants in the open.  Majorities of the street vendors are gone or moved indoors, but some manage to operate out of street levels and retain the street vendor look and feel.

Must try:

  • Bite into the sizzling hot infamous ‘Chodoufu’ (stinky Shanghai style deep-fried fermented tofu blocks), brushed with chili bean sauce and hoisin sauce, at Lui-yun-gai (Women Street), Sai Yeng Choi Street in Mongkok, Kowloon.
  • Grab a glass of 100% most refreshing sugar-cane juice at Kung Lee Sugar Cane Drink on Hollywood Road in Central Hong Kong.

The family behind Kung Lee used to be sugar cane farmers and knows everything there is about sugar cane. 

  • At Good Spring Company Ltd on Cochrane Road, also in Central Hong Kong, take a 2-minute herbal tea break and help yourself to a cup of 24-herbs tea that helps cleanse the body.
  • For HK$2, take a tram to Shau Kei Wan and taste the Deep-fried Yellow Eel skin with a bowl of house-made Horfan (broad white noodle) and fish balls in soup at On Lee Daipaidon on Shau Kei Wan Main Street East in Hong Kong.
  • Take a front seat at the

Heritage food factories

We were able to visit a few of family-operated food producers that still used traditional methods.  Walking into these factories was like a stroll back in time, and the integrity and quality behind the products were as strong and respectful as their names.

60-year old Kan Kee Handmade Noodle Store

The noodles all look familiar: Egg noodles, dried or wet; Shanghai noodles; Hand-pulled noodles; Noodles with shrimp caviars and deep-fried Iman noodle.  You can see Master Cheung working away in the back room, where a few of the cutters are. Before the noodle sheets are sent to the cutters, Master Cheung is the one who makes them from scratches.  All the recipes are in his head and even though he jokes that he is useless once he steps outside of Kan Kee, he knows exactly when to make what noodles and has yet messed up a schedule.    

100+year old Kowloon Soy Co. Ltd.

The set-up in their retail store on Graham Street in Central Hong Kong has not changed much.  There are jars and barrels of all kinds of sauces and condiments on the ground and on the shelves: Soy sauce, bean paste, chili, dried olives, Chinese wines, vinegars, pickles, brined vegetables…all those bottled products bearing the logo ‘Mee Chun’ we see in stores here are in massive volumes there.  Kowloon Soy Company whose huge manufacturing plants are in Yuenlong and Guangzhou started out as a family business a century ago and is now a major import and export key player in the traditional soy sauce and condiments producing field.