I'm back in more ways than one. As well as this being the first post in about three months (general blogging malaise), I'm back from my lovely holiday out in Asia and boy have I got a lot of tasty eats to bring you. First stop, Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is an amazing place, full of the future and the past, with skyscrapers towering over nearby temples. Over the week I was there, I managed to eat in small side street cafes and Michelin starred restaurants alike (there are a lot of those), and stuck to as much Chinese food as possible. No point trying to eat anything I can get out here in London. Amongst my favourite eats was the roasted goose and char siu rice at Yung Kee.
Originally, my initial goal was to eat some roasted meats at Joy Hing, a renowned restaurant in Wan Chai specialising in roasted meats. Sadly, it was shut over the bank holiday weekend, so I had to look for alternatives. Yung Kee is one of those places which has become part of Hong Kong history. Talking to people who grew up in Hong Kong, I heard that it was a place where one set of parents had there wedding reception, and another whose mother used to get their lunch there. Over the years, it has developed, grown and refined, and is now one of Hong Kong's many Michelin starred restaurants.
I was only there for a quick lunch, and had never had roast goose before, and in a twist of my quest for the perfect "roast duck and crispy pork", added some barbecued pork. What arrived was a majestic plate of meat enhanced by the pouring of goose gravy (fat) all over the edges. Crisp goose skin, rich meat, similar to duck but seemingly deeper in flavour, and the leanest, smoky sweet pork. All this cost about 70 HKD, which is about £6. An absolute bargain.
As I was staying out near Sheung Wan, I thought a brisk walk into the center of town would be a great activity for my first day. Thing is, I hadn't counted on the fact that it was a blazing 35C outside, and it didn't take long before I needed food and shelter. For Kee is a little kitchen/cafe hidden off Hollywood Road specialising in one thing, pork chop. Have it in noodles, in soup, or the most popular option, on rice. After a bit of pointing, I got my plate of rice and meat. Quick, easy and tasty. Ultimate comfort food, and all for just 48 HKD (£4). Once you're done, hop by round the corner to Teakha and digest with one of their speciality teas. The Keemun Black which was on that day was quite special.
Hong Kong is scattered with places to eat, and I always stick to the principle of "if it's full, it's probably decent". Taking this approach doesn't help you find the special little places hidden away though, and with space at such a premium, these places are everywhere. Take Sake Bar Ginn. Located on the 4th floor of what looks like an apartment block off Lan Kwai Fong (the bar area of Hong Kong), you would never find it if you didn't already know it was there. Up the lift is a tiny little sake bar, selling a variety of bites whilst you neck some of their excellent sake. We only ate a few things when we visited, but these included a mini bowl of excellent udon, a little cracker made up of tiny little fish staring at you as you eat them, and chicken knees. Tiny little battered and deep fried morsels packed with the flavour of chicken skin. Amazing little things.
Chicken was the order of the night as after our starters at Sake Bar Ginn, we moved onto Yardbird, a newish yakitori restaurant/bar modelled on modern Brooklyn, and remarkably similar to the kind of places you now find scattered around in London (think Spuntino, Pitt Cue and Bubbledogs, with a dash of Bincho). Inside, it has a bar upstairs and some seating downstairs, but the place is small and queueing is very much the order of the day. After a little while and some good cocktails, we managed to perch on the bar and decided to settle there. After all, the place was pumping, the music was rocking and the staff were pretty awesome too.
Once we got stuck into ordering, a basket of seriously kick ass chicken arrived. Lightly fried, well seasoned and each juicy morsel packed with chicken juices. Other stuff included meatballs with a chicken yolk as dressing, a bowl of chicken fried rice (which was more like a chicken skin risotto) and probably the best of all, four perfectly formed round sweetcorn fritters. All were devoured within minutes, not a kernel missed. Yardbird is not cheap, and probably ranks on the upper middle of Hong Kong dining. Expect to pay about £40 a head with a few drinks, but it's definitely worth it.
Falling back down to earth, one of the iconic dishes of Hong Kong is the simple bowl of wanton noodle soup. There are a couple of pretenders to the throne of best rendition of this dish, with Maks well rated and well covered in the blogs, but I opted for Tsim Chai Kee instead, a more traditional outpost. I can't vouch for the quality of Maks, but I was very happy with my bowl. Firm but yielding noodles, a broth which was actually more than just a vehicle for the noodles (like so many in London) and three large wantons packed with prawn. I split each wanton, spread it evenly amongst each mouthful of noodles and soup and slurped away happily crammed onto a table with strangers. 21 HKD later and I was done. Yep, less than £2, once again an absolute steal.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was seeing one of my closest food buddies Charmaine. When she moved out back to HK from London, I lost a dining partner and a good friend. She was one of the reasons I wanted to revisit Hong Kong and she took good care of me whilst I was out there. One of the meals she organised was a visit to the Kimberley Hotel where we had pre ordered their speciality, a whole suckling pig.
Preceded by a deep fried chicken, a ridiculous ox tail broth, the suckling pig arrived whole, stuffed with sticky rice. Once sliced, it looked like quite a big task for just five of us, but we managed to destroy it in record time. It's hard to describe how good this was, but just imagine crisp porky skin all stuffed with sticky rice, encasing a weird root vegetable of sorts. Wonderful stuff.
The last stop on this mega round up of my Hong Kong eats is yet another one of those Hong Kong Michelin starred places, The Chairman. The Chairman is a restaurant with a difference. It is the first Chinese restaurant I have ever visited which seems to put an emphasis on using seasonal and local produce. The blurb on the inside cover would not be out of place on any of the new wave British restaurant where you would expect the words "local", "foraged" and "organic" scattered quite liberally throughout its menu. And in all fairness, it was like no Chinese meal I had ever had before.
Each dish we ate was interesting without being over complicated, with almost Western influences in a few. Whole crab in a wonderful Chinese Wine based sauce had me licking my bowl, even resorting to pouring the rest of the gravy into a little bowl for future dishes. Other dishes included a cuttlefish/chicken hybrid which sounds weird but tasted delicious and was arranged in a painstaking checkerboard fashion. Take these along side some more traditional dishes such as tofu and wild mushrooms, and slow cooked braised pork belly and you have somewhere which is a must visit.
So there it is, my monster Hong Kong post. The thing is, there's more. Much more. Stay tuned for some Dim Sum based goodness, and hopefully, I won't leave it so long this time.