Off the eaten path in Hong Kong


  • Asia
  • Saturday, 20 Apr 2013

Hong Kong is a food haven, no dispute, but some of the food spots tend to be over-promoted (and sometimes disappointing). So here’s one writer’s pick of some unusual crop.

I always get excited when I get to do a trip to Hong Kong... not merely for the sights and the window shopping that could be had, but also for the food, glorious food!

I prefer to stay away of the more touristy haunts and prefer the more “local” shops.

One of my favourite light meals between shopping in the Mid-Level district is a small restaurant called Tsim Chai Kee, on 98, Wellington St, Central, Hong Kong, which serves the most delicious fishballs.

The fishballs look like a slightly elongated golf ball, and you can have that with a mix of prawn wantan, or sliced beef, with or without noodles in a clear broth, and all this is consumed with a pink vinegar.

But the highlight would be the fishball, made from the flesh of a special type of fish called the dace, which is finely minced together with air-dried tangerine peel and ginger, resulting in plump, bouncy and delectable fishballs.

If you have just arrived on the morning flight from Kuala Lumpur or Penang, having been stuffed some nondescript meal on the plane over to HK, Tsim Chai Kee is the best place for a pick-me-up to muster up the energy for power shopping/window shopping and sight-seeing later in the day.

The restaurant opposite Tsim Chai Kee, called Mak’s Noodles, is also noteworthy. It’s a place so well known for their beef tendon and braised beef brisket noodles and wantan noodles that even Anthony Bourdain has made his way here, as the newspaper cutting – lovingly laminated and pasted on the wall – announces to all and sundry who step into the restaurant.

The portions are a little too small for my liking as it doesn’t assuage one’s hunger after a flight, while having a second bowl would be over-indulging. Leave this for the next day when you can handle two bowls of noodles. I meant to take a picture of the beef tendon and beef brisket soups but was too overly consumed by the aroma that when I remembered to bring out my camera, there was nothing left in the two bowls!

The easiest way to get to these two restaurants is to take the Mid-Levels escalators until the Wellington Street exit and walk down the stairs – the restaurants are on the left.

Talking about beef brisket noodles, I would suggest if you ever happen to be around the Times Square area and have the sudden urge for a pick-me-up, to look up this fabulous restaurant called Ho Hung Kee which serves a beautiful dry version.

Order a side of yau choy sum on the side, and you’ll be energised for another bout of walkabouts around this shopper’s paradise which boasts Lane Crawford, Fashion Walk with all the big brand names and lots of lesser know brands like PatriziaPepe, Agnes B, and the multi-brand store IT, all within 100m of each other.

For roast goose, I prefer a restaurant called Yue Kee, out in Sham Tseng, just off the Sham Tseng main road, at 9 Sham Hong Road, Sham Tseng, New Territories. It’s a short distance away from the city, but well worth the trip. The roast goose arrives at your table piping hot with the fat between the crispy skin and the juicy succulent meat almost rendered away entirely.

As can be expected, the prices are not cut-throat like in most city-centre restaurants, so that even two persons can enjoy half a roast goose (which is two standard portions) without feeling you’ve been robbed!

The goose liver in Chinese wine is also a superb dish if you are not concerned about your cholesterol or blood pressure levels. Although worried, I consumed it all the same after popping enough medication (which I lie to myself will counter the effects).

To get there, you can take an MTR and a taxi from the MTR station, if you want to save cost.

Another hidden gem for a late night snack is a place called the Flying Pan, located on G/F 9, Old Bailey Street, Central (www.the-flying-pan.com/central.html) serving breakfast, brunches, omelettes, ranchero eggs, griddles, pancakes, waffles, bottomless cups of coffee and many more breakfast items 24/7.

My favourite has to be the British Fly Up with all the greasy trimmings including black pudding, which is a rarity in most South-East Asian countries. It’s the perfect meal to have at 2am after a night out in Central.

For a mid-morning meeting with friends or alone, you could go to another quaint little restaurant called Portobello on Staunton Street in SOHO (South Of Hollywood Road).         It’s a lovely place to drop by for coffee and cakes or a cup of tea to kick-start your engine for another packed day of shopping and sightseeing. They serve a full English breakfast as well, but the space is very small, which makes it difficult to eat comfortably, unless you are used to confined places.

For a proper leisurely morning breakfast or brunch, the restaurant and bar opposite Portobello, aptly named Staunton’s Wine Bar & Cafe, has a lovely laidback ambience which anyone with a hangover from partying the night before would appreciate. It boasts high ceilings, fairly spacious areas and there are always like-minded (and hung-over) people gently shuffling away in it.

For those die-hard “dim sum-ers” who simply must have dim sum when in Hong Kong (although I prefer dim sum in Malaysia or Melbourne), there are a few choices, ranging from the really chi chi dim sum restaurants to the run-of-the-mill tourist restaurants with tour buses lined up outside from the late morning.

If one really must have dim sum in HK, I would suggest a restaurant that is not so touristy (although there are occasional tour groups).

It’s called the House of Jasmine, and is located on Lot 401, 4th Floor, Ocean Centre, Harbour City, Tsim Shat Sui. Being part of the Maxim Group, it’s the sort of place that the locals go to for their Sunday dim sum lunch.

Getting there is easy. Take the MTR on the Tsuen Wan line (Red) from Admiralty to Tsim Sha Tsui, then get out and follow the signs for Harbour City. You can’t miss it with all the glitzy shops fronting this mall.

Alternatively, if you find yourself checked-in early at the Airport Express Terminal at Hong Kong’s IFC, and you have some time for a leisurely lunch, you may want to try the dim sum at Cuisine Cuisine located on 3101-3107, podium level 3, IFC mall, Central.

This is the place to use up all those Hong Kong dollars you have left over from your trip. The food is innovative and not only looks good but tastes fantastic. The furnishing is rich and opulent with its huge Murano chandeliers and it’s got a lovey view of the harbour.

It may cost an arm and two fingers, but at least you dine in style!

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