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Hong Kong

Hong Kong: a delicious love letter.

August 23, 2013

Dear, Hong Kong. Thank you. I just wanted to say, thanks. For being so full and for all the experiences. You’re really special to me.

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My husband lived in Hong Kong for a short while as a child and we have a lot of family who live there, so that somewhat explains my ardent adoration. But really, even if you have no previous connection to this city, you’re sure to leave feeling full, with a warm kind of familiarity that encourages appreciation, adoration and future visits.

You keep coming back to Hong Kong. You get addicted to the madness.

Or maybe that’s just me, a girl who grew up thinking anywhere with a McDonalds was “so city”, with one bus that came on a Saturday (or did it even come? I never saw that bus). With each visit, my feelings towards Hong Kong have grown from overwhelmed to acceptance and now, adoration. Though my country genes ensure my visits remain temporary (I do not think I could live without my Mornington Peninsula fresh air for an extended period), I really truly love this city. It is so completely different to anything I have ever called home…and yet now, some four visits later, Hong Kong most certainly feels like a second home.

Here are some eating recommendations for Hong Kong, a city bursting with great eats. Memorable experiences are just waiting to happen. My tastes have certainly matured since first coming to Hong Kong as a green sixteen-year-old 11 years ago (when I thought that Chinese food was prawn crackers, followed by beef in black bean sauce, lemon chicken, fried rice and fried ice-cream). Oh my, did I learn a lot during that trip. This time around I was hungry to taste all the true HK eats I could find. My father-in-law and extended family showed me a fantastically delicious time, it was a dream trip full of congee, pineapple buns and dun tarts, dim sum and more.

Are you hungry yet? Here we go, a random assembly of our eats during this one-week trip to Hong Kong…

1. Capital Cafe in Wan Chai is a popular spot for Cha Chaan Teng (HK-style breakfast). While Australian Dairy Company is the business over the harbour, on Hong Kong Island I really enjoyed this no fuss joint for traditional Cha Chaan Teng eats. We shared macaroni with ham, HK-style french toast, scrambled eggs with thick fluffy white toast and HK-style milk tea.

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2. Tim Ho Wan serves up cheap and delicious Dim Sum to truckloads of people. They have several locations for all your baked BBQ pork bun and beef-stuffed beancurd needs. It’s seriously good stuff. Visit around 11am for lunch or late afternoon to avoid the crowds.

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3. Congee is a must when in Hong Kong. We headed to Tai Hang for some street-congee lovin’, where this little shop on the corner of King & Brown Streets famously serves delicious congee with homemade rice noodles and fresh doughnuts to locals at all hours.

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4. Another must-try when in Hong Kong are dun tarts, or egg custard tarts. I used to really dislike these bites, much to the horror of those around me. I adore Portuguese-style custard tarts (take me back to Lisbon…), but never liked the Hong Kong version. This time, I got it. There are two styles, the flaky shell and the shortbread-style shell. I much prefer the shortbread crust (and prefer my custard more set). If you’re keen to try dun tarts, a good place to start is the very famous Tai Cheong Bakery, located in Central. Some say their tarts are overpriced (true), but I didn’t mind spending the money once on these buttery bites.

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5. More love for my new favourite Hong Kong neighbourhood Tai Hang. We visited Ramen Kureha for mighty tasty ramen bowls. This shop boasts exciting flavours and is super popular with the Hong Kong ladies (something to do with the hipster waiters, I assume).

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6. That night we also visited Xiao Tian Gu for dessert, sampling coconut sago with red beans (my favourite), tofu pudding with cashew cream and black sesame paste. These fun desserts are just so different to the apple crumble I grew up with.

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7. Visit Macau, if you can, for a change of scene as well as yummy noodles, ginger candies and almond cookies.

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8. Gi Kee Dai Pai Dong in Happy Valley is one of our local favourites. This food market stall serves really tasty chicken that is covered in fried garlic. We get this dish every visit. It’s mandatory.

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9. Another Happy Valley local is Hop Lu and their famous fish ball and fish cake noodle soup. The service isn’t the star attraction here, but it’s worth a visit if you’re in the area.

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10. Pick up a bun from one of the bakeries on the street for breakfast or a snack. The pineapple bun is very popular, but Ben’s favourite is the custard. I’m torn. Though we agree on avoiding the hot-dog bun with meat floss.

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11. One night we met Ben’s sister and her husband for a really yummy and fresh dinner at Nha Trang in Central, followed by drinks at Club Feather Boa. After finding our way behind the curtain and figuring out wtf was going on, we ordered a strawberry daiquiri and had a merry time.

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12. Mak’s Noodles is a longstanding gem that serves up scrumptious wonton noodle soup in Central. I just love their prawn wonton.

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13. Yo Mama is a frozen yoghurt chain. My husband’s lovely and talented cousin, Jacqui, encouraged me to try the green tea flavour with sesame flax sprinkles. It blew my mind. Man, I wish we had this in Melbourne.

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14. Lan Fong Yuen will give you a super authentic Cha Chaan Teng experience in Central. We got takeaway HK-style milk tea and I learnt that I really don’t like the stuff. This place, open since 1952, is super cute and I vowed to visit again for breakfast. Though we never did get there for french toast and pork buns. Next time…

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If you’re all up in the Hong Kong food world, please feel free to add recommendations for readers in the comments below. The thing is, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have your eating expectations met, nay, smashed, when visiting Hong Kong. They just do it so well.

 

Hong Kong Notes

Accommodation: Ben and I stayed with family in Happy Valley, which is a quieter nook on Hong Kong Island. For tourists, I would highly recommend staying in Causeway Bay. You’ll be surrounded by shops and can easily hop on a tram and head to Central and other places. Wan chai and Tai Hang are nearby for good food. Personally, I’d choose staying on Hong Kong Island over Tsim Sha Tsui and Kowloon side any day, though I know many people like staying over the harbour.
Getting Around: we used buses, trains (the MTR), trams and cabs, we well as family cars. It’s quite easy to get around Hong Kong and cabs are pretty cheap.
Activities – some recommended fun when in Hong Kong: 1. Definitely head up to The Peak for a gorgeous view of Hong Kong (try to get a clear day, night time is lovely too). 2. Catch Star Ferry and grab a great harbour view of Hong Kong Island. I love to do this at night to see the twinkling city lights. 3. EAT! Dim Sum, Cha Chaan Teng breakfast, go out for dessert, congee, wonton noodle soup, buns and tarts – Hong Kong is a foodie heaven! See above for my eating recommendations and also check out this great article. I’d really recommend wandering and eating your way around Tai Hang. 4. Catch a tram along Hennessy Road. 5. Visit the Wan Chai food market. 6. Visit the Big Buddha and have a yummy vegetarian meal at the Po Lin Monastery. 7. Temple Street night market is a bit of fun. 8. Visit the IFC mall (my favourite) for shopping. 9. Wander, wander, wander and then eat some more.
 

Heidi xo

Macau

August 20, 2013

On this chilly Tuesday, let’s scoot back to Asia. For the next two posts I’ll linger here, summing up my recent adventure, finishing with some recommendations for Hong Kong eats. So grab a cup of tea and let’s travel to Macau…

My father-in-law really spoilt us during our recent trip to Hong Kong. This day trip to Macau was in particular, a real treat. Macau is such an unreal mix of cultures and aesthetics, it is a veritable feast for both your eyes and your appetite. The old Portuguese outfit stands proud amongst the shiny new casino mayhem, creating this crazy combination of run down wealth.

Naturally I prefer the old part of town. I found the Portuguese architecture, with muted colours that once shined so bright, to be incredibly charming. And my, did we find some delicious corners – from chewy noodles to ginger bites and coconut sago drinks.

Here are some snaps from our excursion to Macau.

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When in Macau, you will not avoid the Koi Kei Bakeries littered along practically every street. You have been warned. What was once a lone cart selling peanut candy and ginger has multiplied into a delicious, albeit imposing monopoly of Macau sweet shops. Koi Kei provide samples of their goods for gleeful, greedy shoppers, namely their famed almond cookies. Be sure to visit and taste, and maybe buy a gift or two, as we did. Though I’d also recommend visiting the smaller shops along the streets of Macau for some humble charm.

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Jamón and roast duck…a strange, canivorous, cultural harmony.

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We had an amazing lunch at Cheung Kei Noodle House. This long loved noodle house practice the old-school, traditional bamboo method to make their noodles. They are chewy, al dente perfection, some of the best noodles I’ve eaten. Their wontons with seaweed were also so so good.

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The noodle cook in action…

As a treat, we saw The House of Dancing Water show. It. Was. Spectacular.

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We ended our visit with a traditional Portuguese dinner at António, delighting in delicious baked Portuguese chicken and grilled fish. It took me right back to Lisbon.

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Macau.

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Heidi xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hong Kong. Full.

August 7, 2013

My goodness I am having an excellent time in Hong Kong. Has it always been this magical? This full? Yes, it’s always been this full. But I’m only just now realising the beauty in the fullness.

I first came to this city in 2002 when I was so small and so completely unprepared for the fullness of Hong Kong. I was used to space and sparse. Now, some four visits later, I am less overwhelmed and more…enamoured. More in love.

In love with the grand structures in which people create such tiny homes; in love with the little nooks selling traditional food, untouched by the years and the growing, imposing buildings further narrowing their already limited space; in love with the sprawling markets full of stinky fish and baskets of greens; in love with that feeling I get when I step on to the sidewalk in Wan Chai, dodging droplets from the air-conditioning boxes above and wiping my brow from the full humidity…as we search for a place to satiate our appetites I am at once so happy to be back and so sad to be going. This time around, you see, I am completely prepared for the superficial fullness of Hong Kong…the cluttered buildings and people, people everywhere… yet I am completely unprepared for how full I feel in my heart for this crazy beautiful place.

Hong Kong. I have so much love for you.

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Heidi xo