The final section of our trip was spent in Hong Kong – where I really released my inner foodie and went hunting for the foodie dishes I’d researched about before embarking on this trip.
Mantis prawns featured highly on this trip. They’re something I find synonymous with HK as we can’t get these critters in Australia. I had the mantis prawns deep fried with plenty of garlic (pictured opposite) and also just plain boiled and eaten with a soy & fresh chilli dipping sauce. Both delicious! The flesh of these prawns (and most seafood in HK for that matter) is very “sweet” – a concept the Chinese call “xin“, partly because the HK people eat fresh seafood that are still alive and kicking just before they purchase it for dinner. For Australians, most of the seafood we purchase is kept fresh on ice. When HK people visit and see this, they always make the comment that Australians eat dead seafood…
I also tried Shanghai hairy crabs – we bought these live from little specialist Shanghai crab stores randomly nestled amongst normal retail stores and had them plain boiled with the traditional Shanghai vinegar, Chinese raw sugar and minced ginger dipping sauce. The crabs were laden with lots of yellow crab roe which as very rich and tasty, but personally, I didn’t think there was much “crab flavour” per se. Not compared to the true crabby flavour of say Alaskan King Crabs. And given the small size of these crabs and the effort to get the precious flesh out, I’d probably prefer mud crabs or even blue swimmer crabs instead. Having said that, I make it my mission to try all the crustacean varieties out there so the Shanghai hairy crabs ticked another box. And the dipping sauce was really tasty – I love ginger and I tend to have a palate for vinegary foods so this sauce was right up my alley and I’ll use it again for another dish.
I was also keen on trying private kitchens. These are, as their names suggest, small private dining rooms in people’s homes. There are some more famous ones like Xi Yan opened by Jacky Yu who has since become a TV celebrity chef (http://www.xiyan.com.sg/hk/index.html) but as I left my bookings too late, that’s an experience I’ll have to try next time I’m in HK. Instead I tried Mum Chau’s Sichuan Kitchen. The last time I was in HK was back in 2005 and I tried to get a booking there but again – left it too late (surely next time I will learn…) but the reviews stuck in my mind so I was adamant on trying it on this trip. As with most private kitchens, it was a fixed menu and we were served a range of dishes ranging in spicyness – from poached chicken smothered in a dry chilli paste, to a very tasty & refreshing spicy pickled cucumber dish, to a Sichuan style Ma Po tofu dish. In all we had 5 or 6 dishes – all very tasty, but I was slightly disappointed at the size of the kitchen. It could fit a good 7 or 8 tables so wasn’t very “private”. And the very unique characteristic of this restaurant which made it stand out from the others was very obviously missing! In reviews, Mum Chau’s was described as an art gallery on the side as Mum Chau’s husband was a budding artist. Mum Chau herself was supposed to serenade her guests with some good ol’ fashioned Peking Opera singing at the conclusion of the meal. Sadly – I saw none of this. The guy in the kitchen was certainly not Mum Chau. Perhaps it has changed hands? Or perhaps the residential neighbours complained about hearing Mum Chau’s Peking Opera performance every night? Who knows… A nice meal but I couldn’t help being disappointed.
Lastly, a trip to HK wouldn’t be complete without having some of the fantastic market hawker fare. Amongst some of the dishes tried included Tak Fat beef ball in the Haiphong Road Hawker Market. This came recommended as the best beef ball noodle soups in HK by one of my favourite food bloggers, Cha Xiu Bao. It didn’t disappoint! Very yummy indeed. I also tried wagon cart noodle in Mongkok in a place that claimed it had won awards for the best wagon cart noodle in HK – again, very tasty, but the randomness of the ingredients may not be for everyone.
I think we could do with more hawker fare in Sydney. The intense restaurant competition in HK clearly raises the overall standard of all the food. You can hardly go wrong with any choice! Truly foodie heaven.
Check out more photos from HK here: http://picasaweb.google.com.au/ForagingOtaku/HongKong2008#by