Monday 22 April 2013

Hong Kong quickie

Hong Kong is one of the favourite destinations for Singaporeans because it is only a 3.5-hour flight away. Having been there many times for work and play, I've personally witnessed how the service levels have improved over the years.

Once notorious for their gruff attitude and reluctance to communicate in anything other than Cantonese, the service staff is now happy to converse in Mandarin. The availability of English menus at most restaurants also makes ordering a whole lot easier and the fact that they've stop growling and tossing plates around also makes the experience less intimidating than before.

Regrettably, the only thing that has not improved is the air quality. The first time I brought the kids to Hong Kong Disneyland, YK had an asthma attack triggered by the pollution. We spent a couple of days holed up in the hotel room, venturing out only to buy congee from the cafe downstairs. We were so sick of eating porridge after that!

When I went back with YK again in 2011, the smog no longer bothered him. We didn't spend any time sightseeing for he was there to visit the marine fish shops along Goldfish Street. Being the foodie that he is, we also ate copious amount of food in three days.

So, it seemed like Déjà Vu when I made a similar trip last week, this time with his younger brother. SK was interested in trawling the freshwater fish shops instead. Frankly, it doesn't matter whether they are marine or freshwater, I am simply not a fan of fish. 

Thank goodness there are other distractions along the street, such as restaurants, cafes and shops selling aquatic plants. I was happy to find a shop that sells everything you need to start a vegetable garden at home.
Miniature water plants for the aquarium.
Happy City Farmer sells everything you need to start a vegetable garden.
To lessen the hassle of commuting, I booked a hotel (Royal Plaza in Mongkok) nearby so we could walk to the fish shops within minutes. It was a good move because the smog levels hit nearly decade-level highs when we arrived, obscuring the city’s skyline behind a blanket of white. The sky was overcast, with light drizzle throughout our 3-day stay, so it wasn't exactly the best time to visit Hong Kong.

I know of people who travel to Hong Kong just to satiate their food cravings.We're not the kind who go to great lengths to eat that but since we were there, we ate without much restraint. 

I wanted SK to try the food at my favourite restaurant in Hong Kong - Hing Kei Restaurant at 180 Nathan Road. While waiting for it to open at 6pm, we bought a piece of egg ball waffle from the popular stall outside. It was so good.
Egg ball waffle.
The fried mantis shrimp was so fresh and sweet.
Braised home-made tofu.
Extremely peppery but yummy clam soup.
Another excellent dish - steamed bamboo clam with garlic.
The restaurant owner insisted that we try their signature dish - rice noodles with roast goose.

There is something else that I am absolutely crazy about at Hing Kei - this icy cold drink brewed from carrot and water chestnut. I know it is hard for you to imagine how a humble drink can taste so good but trust me, we can drink gallons of this in one night.
We ended up with a hefty bill. Luckily the rest of our meals were very affordable, yet delicious. We walked into this small restaurant along Tung Choi Street for lunch and was wowed by the quality of food. It is popular with the locals but the menu is in English with lots of photos, so it is tourist friendly too.

SK had century egg and fish porridge.

The fried wanton is out of this world. Even the skin is so delicious, I wonder what kind of cooking oil is used here.

The owner recommended their roast goose, fresh out of the oven. The meat was tender and juicy.

While shopping at Tsim Sha Tsui, we came across Ippudo Ramen Shop. The one in Singapore @ Mandarin Gallery is considered one of the best ramen shops in Singapore, so what luck to stumble across one outlet in Hong Kong. We ordered their signature Akamaru Shinaji and the classic Shiromaru Motoaji.

The 25-year old recipe requires the slow cooking over long hours to achieve a perfect emulsion of oil and liquid, creating a rich and powerful Tonkotsu that enhances the flavour of pork–bone topped with IPPUDO's secret miso, garlic oil, lean slices of pork, black fungus, soybean sprouts and scallions.

To satisfy my sweet tooth, I insisted on eating some Hong Kong dessert before our flight. This little shop along Tung Choi Street was good enough for me. I had the black sticky rice with yam and cream, served hot while SK had the mango snow ice. What a nice, sweet ending to the trip.

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