A Travellerspoint blog

Hong Kong

HK food

overcast 25 °C

At home it's a simple choice for a lot of people. What shall we eat tonight? Chinese or Indian? Upon (not a lot of) reflection, these are both vast regions, each with populations twenty times that of the UK. Not very surprisingly, the range of cuisines in each is correspondingly vast, vaster even than the most cultured stay-at-home foodie in the UK might suspect (putting myself squarely in this category until very recently!).

Hong Kong is an international hub, and it's very easy to get food from almost anywhere here (we've even seen Jordanian restaurants, a first for us), but it's the Chinese food that calls to the adventurous. We gave it our best but have barely scratched the surface in the eight days available to us. We started off with Chui Chow Canton-style dinner; lots of marinated barbecued meats, jellied goose blood and fried fish. Tasty, especially with the vinegared soy sauce it came with. (n.b. Canton is the generic name for the corner of southeast China that includes Shenzhen, Guangzhou, HK and Macau; Cantonese food is what we normally think of as Chinese food internationally as the Cantonese have long been the seafarers and implicit food ambassadors for the Chinese people as a whole. Things are changing though, and you can find some of these regional cuisines in places like London).


The next night we carried on with the most unbelievably spicy Sichuan-style rice noodle hotpot that had us literally crying tears of pain in the restaurant. It was like eating the sun! It's a different kind of heat to the chilli heat we are used to as the Sichuanese use a kind of spice called the Sichuan pepper in a lot of their cooking which has a slightly similar mouth-burny sensation to it but also comes with a whole lot of numbing-mouthy-sort-of-burny feelings too. Very yummy and very addictive. No pictures unfortunately as we were too busy trying to think of our happy place(s).

We've had plenty of lunchtime dim sum – usually small dumplings, boiled/steamed/fried pastry packages and miscellaneous fried things (fried turnip square anyone?) served by unbelievably rude old ladies pushing trollies piled high with bamboo boxes around huge, brightly lit air-hangar style spaces. This is most fun at the weekend as the locals descend en masse to eat, read the paper and hold screaming competitions on their mobiles.

In Macau we had a quick Macanese lunch (sticky saucy rice cake and more marinated meats) and a fantastic Portugese dinner – starting with a jug of iced sangria! - of salt cod stew and “pork chunks with clams marinated in white wine sauce”, which was frankly good enough to go to Macau for. Here's Angi with Carlos, the jovial owner. The restaurant is called... Carlos.


Eating here does have its challenges. The, er, robust Chinese approach to animal 'welfare' means that fish are kept mouthing the air in polystyrene containers until you deign to pronounce their death sentence. Shark fins are huge business here – openly sold in bright, boutique-style shops for vast amounts of money, along with bird's nests and other such delicacies (n.b. Shark's fins are a terribly bad thing to traffic as part of traditional medicine as the fishermen catch the shark, hack the fins off then chuck the still-alive body back in the sea, not even using the meat). You'll also see these things all over menus, along with turtle, dried seahorse, mantis shrimp, and many more of our undersea friends. A bit of a challenge to ignore, but par for the course here unfortunately.


Lastly, we met up with Audre and Dimitri, our newest heroes. These guys have been travelling the world non-stop for fourteen years! Actually, if you ask them how long it's been you never get a straight answer so it could be even longer ;)


We stumbled across their fantastic blog (the link is on the right) while looking for something good to eat in Lima, and were amazed. On exchange of a few emails it transpired that we were all going to be in Hong Kong at the same time, so we agreed to meet up! It was a hoot meeting up with people as food- and travel-obsessed as we are, although we were obviously trounced on the war stories front. Maybe when we next meet again, four years from now in some other distant land...

Obviously we had to get some food. We went to Chilli Crab Under the Bridge, hoping they would have the (very seasonal and hard-to-get) Shanghai hairy crab available but it wasn't to be. Instead we opted for a sort of crispy salty duck egg battered crab (different to most crab preparations but yummy enough to scrape the crispy bits off the plate when we were finised), a hollowed pumpkin filled with a thick, pumpkiny seafood soup (we also ate the pumpkin afterwards), and a few other sundries, washed down with tea and beer.

Posted by pendleton 06:37 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (1)


overcast 26 °C

We went for Tea at the Peninsula today.


One of the classic hotels of colonial Hong Kong, the Peninsula maintains its air of more rarefied times with its army of impeccably uniformed flunkies, fleet of racing green Rollers parked out front, and of course, a flawless afternoon tea experience.


At first we were politely turned away due to Angi's flip-flop wearing casualness. Luckily we had come armed with a second pair of shoes. Nice to know someone is trying to keep the riffraff out though, eh? We were soon ensconced with a delightful cup of tea, a small selection of sandwiches (with the crusts cut off) and enough sugary treats to make the Tooth Fairy rub her hands in glee.


An hour later, we staggered out from the coolly air-conditioned calmness into the muggy afternoon air. Back to the real world again. Wouldn't have it any other way!

All of this was, of course, in aid of celebrating Sharad's 70th birthday. Happy Birthday Dad!


After our tea for two we went for an evening at the races. No joy though, so we'll have to keep the day jobs (travellers).


Posted by pendleton 06:02 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (2)

Hong Kong

overcast 26 °C

Two months of Bali have passed in the blink of an eye and we have left Indonesia (a day after our visa expired - woops. Luckily, when you have hard cash in Indo you can bribe your way out of anything very easily) for Honkers.

HK is both familiar - British rule has left behind Marks & Sparks, afternoon tea (more on this later) & London-style buses (sadly not red); and exotic - the towering incomprehensibility of neon Putonghai characters 20 feet tall decorating our road, Cantonese chatter on mobile phones on the airconditioned subway and restaurants and shops full of delicacies which we'll never be able to figure out. The city centre thrums with activity, as the MTR (underground) network flawlessly shuttles people around a breakneck speed, twenty-something office girls go for lunch in gaggles of giggles, and vast shopping malls are thronged with the international temples to designer gods. These people like to shop. Everyone is trying to sell you something, walk through the space you are inhabiting, or cough at you. Expats cluster together drinking in bars, comparing notes on the previous night's drinking. Locals lunch at high speed in huge, cacophonous eating halls. Old men sit in the oddest places reading the racing pages.

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It's been a lot of fun being in this sort of energy again. We have caught up with old friends, met new ones, gambled, prayed, shopped, eaten and drunk our fill.

First social engagement was a night at the Happy Valley races, meeting up with Tanvi and Konnie from my old JPMorgan days. Our careful strategy of picking the horses based upon their names only yielded winnings of about 10% of capital. Not great then. We headed into the expat ghetto of Wan Chai (neon lights, filth, drinks promotions, hawker girls) for a couple of drinks; luckily our balcony bar had an excellent view of the brutal fight we saw unfolding between two drunk expats. Charming. What with this and being refused entry to the girly bars as we had ladies in the group, we had had quite enough of the place. Lan Kwai Fong was slightly (emphasis on slightly) more civilized but we only lasted a couple of cocktails longer. Good cocktails though...

The next day we took the fast cat to Macau. A former Portugese colony, Macau is now a Special Administrative Region of China, in much the same way HK is. Macau is much smaller though (think a city state rather than the huge amount of surrounding greenness that HK is embedded in), and is blessed with a quaint Portugese-style city centre which is nice for a brief wander. As in, twenty minutes of wandering before you hit the other side. However most people come here for the casinos. It's sort of like Vegas for the Chinese, except without the fun, drinking and hence the atmosphere. Everyone is very serious, sitting at the baccarat tables, smoking furiously and not looking like they are enjoying themselves. A bit of a disappointment compared to the adult playhouse feel of Vegas.

After a few days of sybaritic excess we took our foot off the pedal, seeing some of the more traditional side of the island(s). We chilled at the peaceful Chi Lin nunnery, pondered at the Po Lin monastery, lit incense for our travel blessings at the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin temple ("Ah, very bad luck. $20 to pay the Buddha to remove bad luck"), trekked up to the 30m-high Tian Tan Buddha (OK, so we got the cable car. Better views anyway) and then wandered around with the locals in Kowloon (“Ah”, said an expat friend who will remain nameless, “You're staying in the Dark Side”).

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And the food! Chinese cuisines abound, all of them knocking everything from London into a cocked hat. More details soon. It's almost redundant to say, but our kind of place!

Posted by pendleton 06:04 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (1)

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