The Hong Kong food scene has always been interesting, but it takes a sudden turn as I ventured deeper into the Mong Kok food scene courtesy of Philippines AirAsia and Vikings Luxury Buffet.
The food tour would take me to Mong Kok, an area in Hong Kong known for being one of its central entertainment areas. The scenery is a mixture of old and new buildings, full of restaurants and shops at ground level and residential apartments at the upper levels. Guiness World Records has once described it as the busiest district in the world. It’s a crossroad of tradition and modernity. It reminds me of Binondo, Chinatown in Manila, Philippines which had the same old shops, crowded streets, endless array of merchandise and foodstuff sold everywhere. The place is rich, colourful and multifaceted, but more than that I could see not only the connections but our connectedness of our cuisines as well as our own traditions.
The Hong Kong food tour was a great discovery. Aside from the wacky company that the #TheKTG bloggers and the other media personalities in the group provided, it was interesting for me to be standing on the other side for the fence. This time, I was not playing the role of chef, nor was my cooking the subject of these writers’ interest.
I embarked on this journey to write about the trip; perhaps to write about somebody else’s cooking. It was interesting and invigorating and I could not help but think: Was I crossing enemy lines when I decidedly accepted the invitation be a guest “blogger” from When in Manila for the trip? It was an unnerving thought; I was travelling and dining with this bunch of people who have for many years come to write and give opinions on my cooking. But, the thought of rubbing elbows as a “fellow blogger” was kind of fun.
I decided to go with the flow. It was drizzling when we touched down in Hong Kong and I was nursing a cold but I thought: “What the heck, I can be grumpy for all I care, they weren’t writing about me anyway.” I was unaware of the protocols that were required for such events, but all I really cared about then was having some interesting bites to eat. My agenda was clear: go on the the Hongkong food tour and write about it.
This definitely was not my first time in Hong Kong, but it definitely was my first time on a writing assignment there. Our tour was guided by Eating Adventures, a small, but gritty tour company that not only gives you a load down of standard tourist spiels, but colourful sidestories (even gossip) of some of the food establishments we visited. Our tour took us a few blocks around Mong Kok to drop by 8 food stops while on foot. The tour took us approximately 4 hours in total. Yet it seemed I travelled much farther and longer than it was as I could not stop the avalanche of insights that befell me on the tour. It got me thinking about the food and the cooking methods and traditions that came with every dish we had. I could not remove my chefs toque so to speak.
Unlike Filipino cooking that is very intuitive and emotional, giving a cook so much leeway to interpret or reinterpret dishes as they pleased, which is reflected in the number of versions of our own adobo, Chinese cooking is methodological, almost rigid or mechanical in the way they replicate recipes with so much consitency. Yet with its simplicity and precision comes grace and elegance. Familiarity and comfort in the idea that you get what you hoped for or expect every time. Our guide took me beyond the places we visited, they made me take a step back to ponder more deeply into the heritage and stories behind the cuisine and the dishes that we partook of.
1st stop: Sham Tseng Chan Kee Roasted Goose
Our first stop was the Sham Tseng Chan Kee shop. I was still a bit tentative about what I was supposed to be doing aside from eating. The bird was perfectly roasted; crisp skin, tender and succulent flesh went perfectly well with the sweet, sticky sauce that burst with floral and citrus aromas, I was hooked to how the geese is properly raised and the standard number of cuts prescribed in butchering the bird for serving.
It was all about precision. I could not imagine the amount of repetition one has to do to perform the act so perfectly and seamlessly from one goose to the next. I was in awe. As a chef myself, I envied the discipline and dedication they have not only to their craft but the excellence of one great product.
427-427A Reclamation Street, Mong Kok
2nd Stop: Mong Kok Market Tour
Egg tarts is nothing new. Our own version called the egg pie is almost a staple in some Pinoy bakeshops. But this one was kind of a surprise. In a nondescript bakery among clothing shops, live chicken stalls, and what nots; the sweet smell of freshly baked egg tarts became incessantly, egging us to come closer.
By just looking at how the shop looked I did not expect much, but when the fresh tarts were served, steaming out of the oven, they were irresistible. The custard was silky smooth with just the right sweetness, but what was amazing was the perfectly layered crust that seemingly melted away after the most subtle crunch. What great about it is that it’s a steal at for the price of HKD4, cheaper than Tai Cheong. The street where the bakery is located was also the location of a scene for Transformers 4: Age of Extinction.
3rd Stop: Bean Curd Pudding (HKD7)
This bean curd shop was kind of charming. It was one of the shops you found alongside the Chinese Mitten Crabs at the Fish Market where you can buy Chinese Mitten Crabs from Shanghai. The Mitten Crabs are usually sold for HKD100 for 8 crabs due to only being available in autumn. The crab is sought out by buyers due to its yolk and crab fat.
Inside the shop, everything seemed to be done by hand by the family members themselves. I was told that the business has been ran by the family for several generations already following the same methods that was taught to them by their forebearers. But they now use imported soy beans from Australia as they claimed it was of better quality that what they source locally.
The soy beans are stone ground and made into different soybean products sold fresh at the store everyday. What we tried was their Taho, which was made to cook curdle into a pudding on antique glazed vats, which made it all the more charming and old worldly. We were served taho freshly scooped out from one of the vats. Unlike in the Philippines where it is traditionally served with sugar syrup and tapioca (arnibal and sago) theirs came simply with a golden colored sugar. I was amazed how fresh taho tasted. It was prestine, almost flavourless, with a very subtle aroma of taho. It did not have the earthy flavour of what we had locally. It was like biting into clouds. Amazing!
Visit: Yan Woo Bean Curd Shop
Mong kok Market
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