On Experiencing Multiple FoodGasm in Hong Kong
This week I have been in Hong Kong with a friend. Our culinary experiences span some pretty iconic eating cities – New York, London, Sydney and Singapore. So we couldn’t wait to see what Hong Kong would deliver.
We stayed at the Hotel LKF in Wyndham St – an excellently located boutique hotel in the heart of Hong Kong’s SoHo/ Lan Kwai Fong area: a character filled mix of restaurants, bars, boutiques, galleries, antique shops and markets, perched on the hill above downtown Hong Kong*. You can spend hours meandering the streets taking it all in, and as long as you are in flat comfortable non-slip shoes, all the steps will be easy to manage.
Hong Kong is an international city, so we opted for a mix of traditional Hong Kong delicacies and Asian fusion. Here are our top 5:
You cannot come to Hong Kong and not eat Dim Sum.**
Located in Kowloon, walking distance from Prince Edward Station and a 15 minute walk up from the MongKok markets, One Dim Sum is very popular with the locals, as the queues clearly showed when we turned up. We were handed a number, a tick box order form*** in Cantonese (and found a English translation menu with pictures) and joined the queue. The earlier you get there after opening, the better. The crowds seemed to swell after midday as we were mid-way through our meal.
One Dim Sum was awarded a Michelin star back in 2012, and although they no longer have the star, it was pretty obvious from tasting the food that they have maintained the standard. The food was so fresh and the flavours were sophisticated. We ordered the pork, shrimp and shrimp & vegetable dumplings. The pork dumplings were mixed with water chestnut and peanuts and were very tasty. The steam prawn dumplings however were a taste sensation. Simple and utterly mouthwatering. We paired our dumpling order with a plate of steamed rolled rice noodles filled with shrimp and leek and also the pork version (both delicious), BBQ pork buns, fresh steamed greens, fried skin of beancurd rolls, and a selection of desserts, one of which, fresh mango in a pillow of sticky rice dough covered in shredded coconut was delicious. Interestingly, the tea was black and not green as we are used to drinking, but for a morning caffeine kick it did just fine. Looking across at our neighbours, the steamed sponge cake, sticky rice in lotus leaf and the congee appeared to be the restaurant’s signature dishes. So will definitely try those next time.
In our zeal, we TOTALLY over-ordered, much to the concern of the restaurant owner and the amusement of our table-neighbours. As we laughed off our embarrassment, we noticed many people asking for their left overs to be packaged up. The restaurant happily accommodates doggy-bags/take-home. Not only was this a fantastic Dim Sum experience – yummy food, friendly staff, very local, but with the mountain of food we ordered, the total cost of the bill was only $SGD80 for the both of us. $40 each. So off we walked to Ladies Market Mongkok, utterly stuffed and with more money in our wallets than we expected. And we were able to hand our ample leftovers to an elderly homeless woman at the market, so nothing went to waste.
2. Under Bridge Spicy Crab
G/F-3/F, Ascot Mansion, 421-425 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai www.underspicycrab.com
Coming from Singapore, one of the favourite pastimes of Singaporeans is to argue about food. Who does the best laksa, where to find the best Nasi Lemak, and the all important, who cooks the best Chilli crab in town (“No lah, Pepper Crab better than Chilli crab, lah”). So when two experienced foodie friends pointed us in the direction of Under Bridge Spicy Crab, we knew it would an experience. Wan Chai is a bustling neighbourhood of restaurants and shops, lit up brightly with neon signs. Great atmosphere. Under Bridge Spicy Crab is located under/to the side of the Canal Road bridge into town. It is a huge three-storey restaurant that was packed to the rafters when we arrived. We ended up on the top floor in a private dining room that had been repurposed for general dining to accommodate more people. This restaurant is clearly an institution. We queued up, but not for too long. Their signature dish is, as expected, The Under Bridge Spicy Crab, which we ordered.
Again our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. So for 2 people, I recommend getting the small or medium-sized SMALL crab (there are 3 sizes of small, plus a medium, plus a large). We got the large SMALL. We ate it mind you! But we struggled to consume the accompanying dishes we had ordered. The preparation and flavouring of the crab is a well-guarded recipe. The crab is deep fried then covered with a special sauce that you can order in varying degrees of spicy. We got medium heat, but could possible have gone one higher. The crab comes sprinkled with what tasted like breadcrumbs fried with garlic, pepper and chill. The flesh of the crab was succulent and sweet. It was good. The cost of our large-sized small crab was $HK680 (approx $SGD120). The rest of the dishes were reasonable priced. So we ended up at about $90 per head at the end of the meal. Wan Cai is a great area to explore and what better excuse to go there, than with a great meal at Under Bridge Spicy Crab.
3. Chom Chom
28 Peel Street, Hong Kong. www.chomchom.hk
I would probably need to live in Hong Kong to ever have the chance to sample the number of excellent restaurants in the Soho area. And I am glad that we found Chom Chom. This is modern Vietnamese cuisine bar restaurant where the galley kitchen is open and you can see and smell all the delicious flavours being prepared. We had a great view seated at the bar for dinner.
Again, the menu offers a variety of small dishes to share. This is the type of restaurant that would be your local. It’s cool and there was too much that looked too good on the menu to just eat there once. But I think that between us we ordered a good balance of the best the restaurant had to offer: salt & pepper squid, pho roll (warm rice sheet roll filled with grilled beef, fresh rice noodle, pickled daikon, purple basil), crispy sole fillet rice paper roll with vermicelli, lettuce, tamarind, chilli, kaffir lime and a kaffir lime chicken cabbage salad. And we ordered one more dish after seeing it come out: Sriracha grilled corn with sesame, spring onion, sriracha herb butter.
In short, the food at Chom Chom is outstanding. The perfect balance of flavours that explode in your mouth with every bite.
3. Little Bao
G/F, 66 Staunton St. Central, Hong Kong. www.little-bao.com
If Chom Chom was foreplay, then Little Bao was a full blown foodgasm. This tiny restaurant with only bar seating came with a queue. Being a sole diner, I managed to sneak past the crowd and squeeze myself into a little section of bar.
A Bao is a steamed bun. At Little Bao, the bun is presented as a hamburger. The bao selection takes up half the menu. The other half is a delectable variety of modern Vietnamese fusion dishes like brussell sprouts with fish sauce caramel, chili, peanut, lime & fried shallots, and truffle fries with Shiitake tempeh, truffle mayo, pickled daikon. As both were sharing dishes, I opted for the pork belly bao: Slow-braised pork belly, leek & shiso red onion salad, sesame dressing, hoisin ketchup. And yes, it was as good as it sounds. The pork belly wasn’t fatty, but melt in your mouth succulent. This bao blew my mind. If I had ordered it with another dish, it would have been a complete meal. But I still had a bit of room left. The manager assured me that I wouldn’t be greedy for ordered a second bao, so I chose the Szechuan Fried Chicken with Chinese black vinegar glaze, Szechuan mayo, coleslaw. It was good but didn’t compare to the pork belly. The people next to me finished off their meal with a dessert bao, fried and filled with salted caramel ice cream. Little Bao is essential eating on your next visit to Hong Kong.
5. Mrs Pound
6 Pound Ln, Sheung Wan www.mrspound.com
Walk past Mrs Pound at any time of the day and it would look like a shop front selling old fashioned ink stamps. Until you notice the door slide open and fashionable young things walking out. Mrs Pound has a secret hidden entrance that can only be opened by pulling one of the stamps in the window display of the shop front. And what opens up is a wonderfully retro speakeasy all done in dark pink. And you know how pink is 40 To the Max’s favourite colour! The food is very tasty and generously portioned. To compare with the corn at Chom Chom, we ordered Mrs Pound’s version of Sriracha sweet corn. The mixture of strong pecorino cheese with lime zest, ginger, garlic and a strong hit of chilli, it was really good eating. We also ordered the avocado fries with lime zest mayo. The lunch and dinner menus are infused with South East Asian flavours, which as a resident of Singapore were very familiar. Lots of comfort food to make you come back again and again. And the very original cocktail menu is most definitely an additional reason to pay the visit to Mrs Pound. Very very good.
So there you have it. Five great restaurants. With excellent food and service. Happy eating in Hong Kong!
* This area is not suitable if you are holidaying in Hong Kong with children.
**Dim Sum is Cantonese-style tapas, meant for sharing. A variety of bite-size portions served on small plates, with the highlight being steamed dumplings and buns with a range of fillings served to table in stackable baskets. Dim Sum restaurants are places where families and friends gather to share lots of yummy dishes, and are usually packed around “brunch” time, especially on Sundays.
***Turned out, there was a more comprehensive menu inside the restaurant, printed as placemats. So when you arrive, go in and grab a placemat for the full selection before ordering.
Images: Chom Chom image from hkyantoyan.com, Little Bao image from underage.com, Under Bridge image from anotherheader.wordpress.com