Small but hearty bites in food paradise Hong Kong
Just like Singaporeans, Hong Kongers are obsessed with food. Every weekend, throngs of people queue up for their favourite eats. On a daily basis, traditional Hong Kong cafes play host to countless of hungry customers who devour breakfast sets, that include egg sandwiches and milk tea. Comfort food that does wonders. While Hong Kong is known for its delectable offerings fit for a king to snacks enjoyed by the masses, there are certain items that are synonymous with the bustling, vivacious destination.
Egg tarts, classic Hong Kong pastries served in cafes come in two types - the buttery, cookie-like shortbread version, and the flaky one. Both are equally delicious, and Hong Kongers consume them for breakfast, at tea, or even as an after-dinner dessert. Served hot and fresh from the oven with a soft creamy custard centre, they are commonly snapped up by tourists just before they fly home.
To have a taste of what is possibly the best flaky egg tart in Hong Kong, head down to the Honolulu Coffee Shop. Highly recommended by many food websites, the cafeteria is packed on during weekday mornings with office workers stepping in for a quick bite before heading off to work. Just like many other local cafeterias, the Honolulu Coffee Shop serves various breakfast sets with macaroni soup, Nissin instant soup noodles and fluffy egg sandwiches with ham.
However, the highlight of the menu is undeniably the fresh flaky egg tart. The signature dish of the café, the shell of the flaky egg tart is crispy and hot while the custard centre is smooth, creamy and so soft that it melts in the mouth. The delicate snack tastes so good that it can be eaten in under a minute. Order two egg tarts at a go - one is definitely not enough. Complete the heavenly meal with a cup of piping hot velvety smooth fresh milk coffee/tea.
Honolulu Coffee Shop, 176 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, tel +852 2575 1823
A must-eat in Hong Kong is the roast goose, or known as siu ngoh in Cantonese. The best-known restaurant to go to for roast goose is Yung Kee. Having been around for more than seven decades, Yung Kee has built a reputation for itself by serving authentic, delicious roast goose. However, some people have found it to be overrated with its crazily long queues, especially in the evenings. The slightly costly menu doesn't help. Case in point - one simple bowl of roast goose in noodle soup can set you back by about $7.
Another eatery serving good roast goose is Yat Lok, just one block down from Yung Kee. Situated next to a small street, Yat Lok is an old-fashioned, innocuous eatery with a small capacity that sits less than 30 people. Once mentioned in the 2011 Michelin Guide, and also endorsed by famous television personality Anthony Bourdain, Yat Lok serves up a hearty plating of roast goose, barbequed pork and soy chicken. Order the famous roasted goose leg with rice or noodles in soup with additional char siew (Cantonese for sweet barbequed pork). The roasted goose leg is fatty, oily and tender with crispy glazed skin. Set atop al-dente white noodles in hot soup, the dish is perfect for dinner on a cold evening.
Yung Kee, 32 Wellington Street, Central
Yat Lok, 28 Stanley Street, Central
Steamed milk curd
Yee Shun Milk Company, which originated in Macau, has several outlets in Hong Kong, and is famous for its milk-based desserts, especially its steamed milk curd. The milk curd comes in different flavours such as almond, chocolate, coffee, and even with ginger juice, and is served hot or cold.
With a texture not unlike a cross between a pudding and mousse, the milk curd is smooth and soft, and reminds you of the famous cold pudding beancurds that have garnered a huge following in Singapore recently. Yee Shun gets especially crowded at night after 9pm as night owls head there for desserts after dinner. The place sometimes sees a long queue as it can sit up to only 40 people in its small space. If you are craving for some savoury bites, order the famous pork chop bun. A slice of deep-fried pork chop is wedged in- between crispy toasted buns, and served hot. The late-night bite is worth every calorie.
Yee Shun Milk Company, 506, Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay
Commonly known as boh loh bau, the pineapple bun is a sugar-crusted pastry found in most Hong Kong cafes. Contrary to its name, the bun does not come served with pineapple slices. Instead, it can be served with a thick cut of smooth butter on a small bowl of ice, otherwise known as boh loh yau. The boh loh baus at Kam Wah Café are popular with locals and tourists alike, as they come with an array of fillings, including juicy char siew, ham and beef.
If you are too lazy to travel to Mongkok just for the pineapple buns, go to Tsui Wah restauhrant instead. With about 20 outlets in the country, it is not hard to locate a Tsui Wah restaurant nearby. The hot boh loh yau, served with ice cold butter, provides a nice texture as the butter melts in the crispy yet fluffy soft bun. The savoury butter also gives a good contrast to the taste against the sweet bun, making it apt for a tea-time snack.
Kam Wah Café, 47 Bute Street, Mongkok
Tsui Wah Restaurant, 15-19 Wellington Street, Central
A trip to Hong Kong is never complete without dim sum. Dim sum is typically Chinese food served in bite-sized portions in small steamer baskets. Most Hong Kongers enjoy dim sum with their families on weekends, a long-running tradition that started decades ago. Having dim sum in Hong Kong is also seen as a way to bond with extended family members over some tasty food and a steaming pot of tea.
Ask those in the know and they will point you to Tim Ho Wan for really good dim sum. Its popularity soared after it was awarded the coveted Michelin Star in 2009, and since then, queues are a perennial sight, forming daily even before doors open at 10am.
Hungry customers sometimes need to wait up to an hour or more to get a seat in the nondescript eatery. The key here is to be patient and to ignore the unfriendly woman manning the counter who snaps away at customers. However, the long wait is worth it when you bite into the signature dish - the small sweet char siew buns. The glazed crispy pastry complements the fatty barbecued pork, with just enough sauce in the filling to keep the buns moist and yummy. Besides the buns, the har gao (Cantonese for shrimp dumpling) is another must-order. The translucent skin is thin yet sturdy enough to hold the fresh succulent yet crunchy shrimps.
Although a few other branches have opened up in Hong Kong in recent years, the original branch at Mongkok still receives the most raves from food lovers - its highly sought-after Michelin star.
Tim Ho Wan: Shop 8, 2-20 Kwong Wa Street, Mongkok, Kowloon
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