Once upon a time in a rural village of Korea, we decided to escape the everyday grind and embark on an epic task to find the Best Burger in Busan (our nearest decent city). We attacked this challenge with relish but were perhaps a little over-enthusiastic, given that we attempted to try all the burgers on our list in a single outing. Ouch.
Now if one was to attempt to try a similar feat in Hong Kong, we’re pretty sure that one’s stomach would physically rip apart by day end, making it hard to (a) write and (b) carry on eating. That would suck. So we’re dividing this series up into mere morsels (see what we did there?!) that will leave you salivating for more. All in all should add up to a somewhat comprehensive guide to the HK food scene and let’s be honest here folks, a huge influencing factor in our decision to move to Hong Kong was, food. Hong Kong is rightly famous for its amazing variety and quality of food. Every country is represented in some way, shape or form but, of course, the local is always the best, the cheapest and the quickest way to understand what makes a country tick.
Now, keep in mind also that while Hong Kong geographically actually isn’t that big, you could still spend a looooong time travelling between destinations, again impinging on the all important eating time. Being of the genius persuasion, and, more the point, living in what we consider is a serious contender for Amazing Food Neighbourhoods of Hong Kong, we have decided to tackle this challenge by exploring the wider HK food scene by way of our local digs. Rolling home sans binge-fest is just the icing on the cake.
On that note, the best place to start is the furthest place from home – being a whole three blocks from our house down the main road. It means we’ll be starting with a sweet course first but we don’t actually see a problem with that, especially as this particular treat works perfectly at breakfast time!
This little spot is famous all over Hong Kong for its gai daan tsai, or HK style waffles. At any given time of day there is a queue as people wait for the delicious, freshly-cooked spherical delights and copious pictures and articles adorn the street front.
The shop itself is fairly tiny, just a service window and a half dozen or so oozing waffle makers. Somewhat bubble-wrap like in appearance, a good gai daan tsai consists of a standard 30 balls or ‘eggs’.They tend to range in flavour a bit from a little sweet to more coconuty in flavour, depending on where you buy them from but our local celebrity gai daan tsai joint, Lee Keung Kee, definitely does the best ones we’ve tasted.
The ideal consistency is feather light with semi-hollow balls, that have a little bit of a soft/chewy centre,. The balls are bound by a thin layer of crispy batter, meaning you can break them off piece by piece and pop ’em in your mouth and making them the perfect snack to eat while meandering Hong Kong pace along the busy streets. For something more substantial, its off to our next favourite hole-in-the-wall vendor in North Point, the lady we’ve affectionately dubbed the ‘steamed bun chick’. Located on Tong Shui Road (translates to Sugar Water Road – how appropriate for our foodie hearts!), this shop has tray after tray of differing types of steamy goodness. Another quite small street-front operation, these women seem to crank out a never ending supply of food, all day long. We’ll never get around to trying everything they have, mainly because a couple of the items in particular see us coming back for repeat orders each time. That innocuous pile of triangles sitting on the bench is one of our favourite local carbs. No idea what its called but its basically a fried-ish wedge of bread flavoured with spring onions and joy. Well, that’s what we think the ingredients are anyway. The point is, they rock. Of course, it would be utterly wrong to shop here without trying the buns. Our two favourites (to date – we have tried a number and while all are good these are our top for honourable mention for now) are the pork and beef buns.
The pork is moist and packed with seasoning. These buns are so damn juicy and satisfying its hard to take a photo so apologies for the rushed crapness of the following. The beef is much the same in appearance though beefier and darker, obviously. YUM. The thing with these though, and believe us we HAVE found out the hard way, is that its difficult to eat too many in one sitting as they’re extremely filling. Don’t be tempted to order one of everything as have been known to do. Pace yourself and come back often.
Yes, we’re getting full but we’ve saved the best for last here. Its not only our favourite snack place in all of Hong Kong, its conveniently on the corner of the block we live! The food is superb, the service friendly and the prices cheeeap. We have no idea what its called but for those Chinese reading of you, its 麥記美食. Maybe someone can shed some light on it for us, though if not, it really doesn’t matter as it won’t stop us being regulars there. Yip, its another hole-in-the-wall vendor but this one has the added addition of a few tables out on the street, creating an almost old school dai pai dong (open air stall) atmosphere. It has the usual Hong Kong array of food on a stick – fish cakes and fish balls, sausages, various intestinal parts, squid etc. which can be purchased to go in a paper bag, or, as most choose to do, dipped in the sauces you see and eaten right in front of the stall with the efficient lean slightly forward so the sauce doesn’t drip onto your clothes/shoes stance. Stuff on a stick, while awesome, is not the reason we frequent this place so much. Remember our obsession with all things dumpling? Well this is where dumpling heaven may just be. First up, their most famous dish (yes, every place here is famous in some way, shape or form!) – the xiao long bao, or soup dumplings. These deceptively simple looking parcels hide a soupy inside, with a perfectly seasoned blob of juicy pork. Bite a small hole to let some of the steam out, suck out the soup, then devour the rest. There is a dipping sauce but we seldom bother, often having shoved the dumpling in our face before even registering. We’ve had soup dumplings at many a more fancy establishment but these, as far we are concerned, are the best. $20 for six doesn’t hurt either. But wait – that’s not even our favourite dish! The pan fried dumplings are also amazing, crispy and slightly greasy (in a totally good way) on one side and gorgeously steamed on the other, these little guys have staved off many a pre-dinner rampage at their ridiculously affordable 5 for $10. Every person who comes through our house gets forced to indulge in these at some point during their trip. Be warned.
One more dish cannot escape mention here and in fact, really stands out as a winner in the street food stakes, H-J in particular having dubbed them her ‘favourite noodles in all of Asia’. That is not a title given lightly. Bouncy, slightly stretchy, perfectly cooked noodles swimming in a sauce of delicately spicy, nutty sauce…we’ve no idea what these are called but have learned to ask for “noodles, no soup, just the sauce stuff” which seems to cross the language barrier successfully enough. $15 and your happiness is complete. There’s other stuff on the menu too. We’ve worked out a couple by sheer luck of ordering the wrong stuff from time to time, wonton soup, noodle soup and the like but we know there’s more we’re missing. Feel free to let us know what, should you be so inclined, otherwise we’re happy to just keep fudging our way through and seeing what surprises we can come up with. And with that, its time to do as we set out to at the beginning of this post and roll home. Luckily, our house is a mere 50 metres from the end point so off we go into the night. Stay tuned for the forthcoming editions of other ways to get your bellies-worth in North Point, Hong Kong styles!