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Archive for the ‘Chinese’ Category

Last weekend, W, J, and I indulged our Chinese sides by visiting a Beijing/Shanghainese restaurant and ordering all our favorites from childhood. I found Wei Yi on the internet and after I saw the stuffed Chinese pancakes (北京餡餅), which is one of my favorite foods EVER in the whole wide world, I had to try it.

Right, so W and I arrived at this little place on Hau Fook Street just before noon. The little street is just off of Cameron Road in TST, and is lined with many little restaurants, mostly of Asian persausion. There are giant green signs outside with the most mouth-watering photos of all sorts of Northern Chinese goodies. Don’t worry if your Chinese hasn’t moved beyond “mm goi!”; there are pictures of menu items all along the interior AND an English menu.

Outside the Temple of Heaven. I mean, Wei Yi Noodles.

Photos to help the Chinese-challenged (myself included!). Note: My favorite dish on the menu is in the second row, on the right.

Before J even got there, W and I had scoured the menu, salivating, and ordered the following: One Beijing stuffed pancake (北京餡餅), one hot and sour soup (酸辣湯), one onion pancake (蔥油餅), a bowl of preserved vegetable and pork noodles (雪菜肉絲麵), one bowl of plain soup dumplings (净水饺), two soybean milks (豆漿) for J and I, and one salty soybean milk/soup (咸豆漿) for W. Perhaps it was ridiculous for three girls to split as much as we did, but perhaps it was just the much-needed fulfillment of a long-term craving.

Anyways, the salty soybean milk/soup came first (I call it soup because…well, see the photo below). I must admit I was too scared to try it, but W said it was high-quality; apparently, salty soybean milk should curdle if it’s good. Both W and J mentioned it’s easier to determine the properties of good soybean milk from the salty kind than its sweet counterpart.

A photo of J and my cold (sweet) soy milk is also below. I was very satisfied with how it brought me back 20 years to my times as a wee one in China. Wei Yi makes all of their soy milk on their premises, too, so you know it’s fresh.

W's guilty pleasure at Wei Yi

Soy dream, eat your heart out

Afterwards the bings came out with a vengeance! The green onion pancakes (蔥油餅) were a bit bland in my opinion (I would have preferred a bit more salt), but I loved the texture of the pancake. The outer layers were crispy while the inner parts were soft and moist. There was a nice proportion of green onion to flour.

This is my bing-bing

Afterwards was the stuffed pancake. It was plump and toothsome, oozing a bit of soy sauce and vinegar from the filling. All three of us said “MMMMMMMM” after biting into our pieces, appreciating the savory, juicy beef-and-chive filling.

Have I mentioned this is one of my favorite. dishes. in. the. world?! Great to finally find it in HK!

"I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille"

The hot and sour soup came next, and while it was chock-full of mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and all the good stuff for a really dense soup, the spiciness of the dish overwhelmed the vinegary, sour flavor. Out of the dishes we ordered, it was actually my least favorite.

A bit too "hot" and not enough "sour"

The last two dishes were absolutely delicious; I would order them again in a heartbeat. The preserved vegetable with pork sounds a bit strange in English (I mean, old bodies and prunes are the only things that should be preserved, right?), but the saltiness from the preserved vegetables flavored the soup nicely. Aside from the broth, I also liked the consistency of the noodles – they had great “chew power” or jiao ji-er, like hand-pulled, homemade noodles. Once we slowed down with our binge eating, I was worried the noodles would get soggy in the soup; however, they held up perfectly.

You need these noodles

J was obsessed with the plain dumplings in soup. It was the same broth as the noodles, though the taste was lighter as there were no preserved vegetables or additional meat to season the soup. The wrap-to-filling ratio of the dumpling was a bit heavy in the former department, but as I like chewy wrap, I can’t complain too much. The filling was pork and chives, and it was so smooth, prompting W, J, and I to lament the one time we all tried to make dumplings to no avail (our homemade filling was tough and, as W described it, “healthy-tasting”). In any case, the filling also had the soy sauce and vinegar mixture found in the stuffed pancake, which flavored it nicely.

They may have been called plain, but these dumplings were all sorts of amazing

When the bill came, there was even more to cheer about. After ordering five dishes and three drinks, our bill came to about $45 HKD/person. Awesome.

I really, really like this restaurant and, to be frank, W, G, P and I went back four days later to eat even more! If you’re a fan of northern food, I’d definitely recommend giving this place a whirl – just don’t be surprised if you find yourself craving it over and over.

Wei Yi Noodles (Despite its Chinese name, meaning “only one,” there are outposts in Sham Shui Po, Sha Tin, and other locations)
10 Hau Fook Street
2311 1498
Cost: ~$50 HKD/person

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I didn’t mean for two vegetarian posts in a row, but here we go! Two weekends ago, a group of friends and I had lunch at Nan Lian Garden in Diamond Hill. I first noticed this garden (and the nearby Chi Lin Nunnery) from the bus window when I still lived in Tai Po – just as we’d come out of Tate’s Cairn Tunnel, there would be a wonderful patch of green and – gasp! – open space next to all the highways and high-rises. I went to the Garden and the Nunnery once in 2009, but hadn’t been back until my friend D suggested we try the vegetarian restaurant in the middle of this garden. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera that day, so the iPod had to suffice – sorry for the fuzzy photos this time.

Long Men Lou entryway

To be perfectly frank, I didn’t find the food at Long Men Lou: Chi Lin Vegetarian (that’s the full name of the restaurant, as given on their website; I think it sounds like a movie title for an epic trilogy) to be anything mind-blowing. However, I wanted to write about it for two reasons: namely, because I think this is one of the few places you can get vegetarian Chinese food in Hong Kong that is not deep fried and pretending to be some kind of meat; and, because I acknowledge that my taste buds favor very heavy flavors, and perhaps others have a better appreciation for subtle flavors. The dishes at Long Men Lou are all free of MSG and low in sodium, oil, and sugar, which is great – but for me, that translated into things tastings a bit bland. In any case, it’s definitely a unique restaurant, so I’ll give it a mention on the blog.

First things first: For lunch, there’s a minimum spend of $85 a person. You can hit that target by ordering one of their set lunches or ordering a la carte. We chose the latter, and ordered about 6 or 7 dishes for our table. We ordered an appetizer platter to start out with, which had a beautiful color scheme. The brown slices in the foreground were these really yummy tofu pieces that had the mouthfeel of beef. P, who usually hates tofu (it’s the texture, he says), even enjoyed these. The green beans to the left were a disappointment for me because I was expecting more flavor, perhaps some garlic.

Vegetarian? There's an app for that.

The seasonal stir-fried vegetables were average gai lan. Normally, I do not like the oyster sauce they’re customarily served with in Hong Kong. However, in this case, I kind of missed that sodium; they were served bare and it tasted…bare.

Naked gai lan

I was really intrigued by the fried rice with pine nuts and ginger puree. When I ate it initially, I again didn’t taste much. However, D mentioned he could suss out the subtle flavors of the toasted pine nuts and ginger, and I’m willing to concede that perhaps at that point of the meal, I was too engrossed in conversation to properly taste subtle undertones. Unfortunately, I couldn’t taste much ginger either. I wanted to add salt to my rice…or chili oil (the northern Chinese girl in me was kicking in). But, if I were to ever go back, I would definitely order this dish again and taste it more carefully to see what I could discern.

Fried rice with pine nuts and ginger puree

The dish I liked most during lunch was the fried vermicelli with eggs and bean sprouts. Actually, it seemed to be heavier on the bean sprouts than the vermicelli, but I didn’t mind. I think I liked this one most because I could taste salt (hurrah!).

Fried vermicelli

We also got vegetarian dumplings, which I really wanted to like but, again, seemed bland. Even the vinegar that came with it seemed a bit watered down. I did like the mushrooms in the dumplings, though, which again evoked a fuller mouthfeel. We also ordered a baked cheese, avocado, and tomato dish. W had read that this dish was highly recommended. In our opinion, however, it was a fusion failure – the cheese was way too soupy underneath the baked crust and the avocados were unripened. It was a bit unsettling to eat such hard avocado swimming around in a bowl of cheese soup. I would not get this dish again.

Vegetarian dumplings

Avo bake: very...interesting

So, even though it’s not my favorite restaurant, I do think Long Men Lou is unique. If you’re a vegetarian visiting Hong Kong who wants to have a taste of vegetarian Chinese food, I’d definitely recommend this as a spot to try it out. There have been so many instances in Hong Kong where restaurants have tried to tell my vegetarian friends that a dish is “only vegetables”, only to forget that it’s cooked with lard or chicken stock or flavored with fish oil. This is one place where you don’t have to be afraid of that! Also, the building itself is quite different – a waterfall cascades over the top of the restaurant and you dine “behind” the waterfall, if you will, which you can see through a large picture window. It’s a calming view, although the chatter inside the restaurant is as loud as you might expect in any Chinese restaurant on the weekend. (We came on a Sunday; it was full and there was a short wait before we got seated.) In any case, it’s a different kind of dining experience and if you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, this is definitely an (affordable) option.

Long Men Lou: Chi Lin Vegetarian Cuisine
Nan Lian Garden, Diamond Hill
3658 9388
Check their website for lunch, tea, and dinner hours
Cost: minimum charge of $85 HKD/person for lunch

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With a name like Supreme Beef Brisket Soup, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. Fortunately, this little Yau Ma Tei noodle shop really delivers. J, P, and I happened upon this restaurant when we were heading to Mido Cafe. Since it was only the third day of Chinese New Year, Mido Cafe was closed, and the Supreme was staring right at us. There were a good number of patrons inside and outside, and we decided to give it a whirl.

The menu was in Chinese, English AND Japanese. The prices were a pleasant start to our morning; few things were over $40. I loved how you could get the signature brisket by itself, or with noodles, rice or noodle soup. Customization!

Choices, choices, choices

But let’s get down to what’s really important: the food! P ordered the beef brisket curry in noodle soup and it came out in two bowls: one with brisket and one with noodle soup. The curry wasn’t super-spicy, but had a nice kick to it. The brisket was so unbelievably soft. It came apart delicately in your mouth – definitely not something I was expecting at a corner shop in Yau Ma Tei, but they are “supreme”, after all!

Curry Brisket Beef and noodle soup

Ooooooh the curry brisket!

The broth for the noodle soup was the same for all three of our dishes. My other friend J, who lives nearly above the Supreme, told me the savory flavor has a certain je ne sais quoi because they use Chinese daikon. I have no idea if this is true, but the bottom line is: the broth was salty, savory, and light all at once.

My fresh prawn wonton noodle soup rested in this lovely broth, and the wontons were stuffed within an inch of their life. Each one seemed to have a prawn and a half, and with a little bit (or a lot) of the homemade chili oil on the table, the whole bowl dazzled.

Wonton prawns before the spice...

...and after

J’s pork ball noodle soup was also a win. And on a side note, the green onions in all of our soups were awesome. Just as you got into the savory soup, you’d get a crunch of freshness which offered a nice balance.

And this little piggie went into our soup

So next time you’re going to Mido Cafe, take a detour. With a mix of great noodle soups and its prime people-watching location (we saw so many accidentally fashionably old men in the half an hour we sat there), the Supreme is where it’s at – and they mean business.

Supreme Beef Brisket Soup
46 Portland Street
2771 9897
Cost: ~ $60/person

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Dumpling Sunday

Today is a catch-up day. I realized in embarrassment that I haven’t posted anything since late April! The last few months passed in a flurry of travel, but fortunately, the travel included some really good food. But first, here is a Hong Kong-based post featuring one of my favorite foods of all time: Dumplings.

In late April, my friend A and I had a long-overdue reunion. She invited me to watch her boyfriend P play volleyball for the South China Athletic Association. Every week they faced a different opponent in a different locale and that given week, they were playing in Sham Shui Po. Of course, I’m never in Sham Shui Po so I promptly went online for lunch ideas. I stumbled upon a promising restaurant called (simply) Shandong Dumpling Restaurant, named after a Chinese province. The place was conveniently located near the MTR station.

The menu has a long list of dumplings and wontons, along with typical “northern dishes” including cold Chinese salads and some hot stir-fries. It seemed like all the dumplings could be served in noodles with soup as well. In the end we ordered the shredded chicken salad, and three types of dumplings: beef (A’s favorite), pork and chives (my favorite), and – a new one for me – fennel and pork (P’s favorite).

Dumplings! I’m in heaven.

The dumplings came ten to a plate, all plump and steamy in their carb-and-protein glory. I bit into my first one – pork and chives – and was extremely impressed. First, the filling was actually well-seasoned; I can’t even begin to count how many Hong Kong dumplings I’ve tasted with ultra-bland filling. Second – the crucial element that jumped this unassuming Sham Shui Po joint to my favorite dumpling place in HK – the wrap was carefully crafted to produce a delightfully chewy, full-of-springback texture. In Mandarin, we might say it has good jiao ji-er, or literally “chew power”. The skin was thick enough to really add some substance to the dumpling, so it wasn’t just an overbearing meat dish, but truly, a dish with meat and dough. These dumplings received the highest compliment from me, that being: They tasted just like the way we make them at home.

Delicious – enough said.

The highlight of my meal, though, were the fennel and pork dumplings. I’d seen this on many dumpling menus before, particularly the one at my all-time favorite dumpling place in the world, Beijing’s Tianjin Bai Jiao Yuan. It’s called hui xiang (茴香) in Mandarin, and I’d never known the English translation. Anyways, it’s fennel, and it’s awesome in dumplings. It gives the filling a bit of dill-like flavor. It’s a strong taste, and definitely not for the weak-of-taste-buds. But for those willing to try a new thing, you may be very pleasantly surprised. I think it gives the filling a bit more kick.

Fennel – whodathunk?

I will add, also, that the dumplings here were definitely better than the cold salads. The shredded chicken salad, while good combined with the cucumbers and peanut sauce it was served with, was not great and I probably wouldn’t order it again. The dumplings though – oh man the dumplings! I wish I lived closer to this place; I’d be eating there all the time (especially with the reasonable prices). I did notice, however, that you can order frozen dumplings to go – next time I’m in the neighborhood, perhaps?

Note: The place seemed to only have a Chinese menu. Therefore, it’d be smart to visit with your Chinese-reading friends. Or at least the ones who are proficient enough in food vocab!

山東餃子館 (Shandong Jiaozi Guan)
G/F, 81C Un Chau Street
2729 2800
Cost: ~ $25-30 HKD/person

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After getting fro yo at Yo Go, G, W, and I stumbled across a humble-looking storefront with empty counters on the left and a frying station to the right. A middle-aged man and woman were working hard to dunk every kind of battered meat thinkable into vats of hot oil. There was a modest line of hungry Hong Kongers outside, so we made like lemmings and joined the queue.

Not what you imagined when you saw "Danish Bakery"? Us either.

We ordered a fried pork chop sandwich, though selections ranged from chicken to other parts of pork, etc. The signplate is all in Chinese so W had to translate for us, but if something getting dunked into the vat looks like your cup of fried meat, just point to it – that ought to do as well.

The ordering scheme is simple, but efficient. Tell the woman to the left what you want, pay her, and she gives you a slip. Give the slip to the fry woman on the right who’s toasting the buns. She tells the fry man. And voila, within 5 minutes, your very own, just-fried sandwich appears in a brown paper bag.

You so fry

We bit into it eagerly. The meat was great – crispy and juicy, but not overly greasy. The thing that really stood out to me was the bun – it was like a soft, buttery bakery bun.

Pork Chop Sandwiches! (Did anyone else think of the GI Joe spoof?)

Perhaps the bun was made in the Danish Bakery itself? I can only conjecture that every morning, the bakery has goods for sale on the empty left side of the store, and I think the sandwich buns are among those. In any case, wherever it came from, the sandwich was delish. If you’re in the area, get in line – as G said, “You can’t really go wrong with fried meat on a bun”. So wise.

The Danish Bakery
106 Leighton Road
Cost: $7-11 HKD/sandwich

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The greatest aspect of having a visitor is the excuse it gives you to play in your own city. I had that opportunity this past week: Mr. B, father of one of my high school classmates, came to HK for business. He wanted to tour the city and sample local food as well, so I’d decided a little yam cha was in order.

TIM HO WUN

Our first stop was celebrated dim sum restaurant Tim Ho Wun (thanks to C/G for the pronunciation!) in Mongkok, opened by the dim sum chef from the Four Seasons. Finding the place may seem a little tricky, since the storefront is only in Chinese (添好運點心專門店). Just look for the white sign with green characters (or, the window with all the newspaper and magazine clippings).

Fried cha siu bao = The meaning of life

Fried cha siu bao = The meaning of life

Last time I was here, the restaurant just opened and endless fans queued for hours (literally), even in the middle of the afternoon. This time, Mr. B and I arrived around 11:30; we must have been lucky because we were seated right away in an otherwise full dining room. I must confess I’m not a huge fan of dim sum, but I will heartily chow down at this place. The cha siu cheung fan is the perfect combination of sweet and savory, and the ha gao are nice and plump. And here’s a dim sum pop quiz for you: What’s better than cha siu bao? That’s right – FRIED cha siu bao. If you’re here, you’ve gotta order these. I would travel from HK island on a weekly basis to get these for takeaway if I wasn’t afraid of turning into a little bao myself.

I’d recommend coming here earlier in the day to avoid a long wait. Also, while there is now an English menu, sometimes the dishes get “lost in translation”. Therefore, I think it helps to have a Chinese speaker, or at least someone who knows what to order for dim sum (and how to communicate it to the waitstaff). Although, I’m pretty sure everything is good, and for the quality of food, this place is a steal!

LITTLE SHEEP

Another recession-friendly dim sum establishment is Little Sheep, a chain originally from Mainland China, known for its hotpot. However, on weekends from 2-4pm, there’s an all-you-can-eat dim sum special for $45 a person! Judging from the packed dining rooms, word is definitely out among the locals.

"A rose by any other name...": Chicken feet are called "phoenix claws" on most dim sum menus

"A rose by any other name...": Chicken feet are called "phoenix claws" on most dim sum menus

Upon being seated, you get an order slip where you can tick off as many dishes as you like. Mr. B and I came to this place with C/G, and he selected all the classics – cha siu bao, siu mai, ha gao, cheung fan, and chicken feet. In addition to the order sheet, there’s also a buffet table with more northern-style dim sum choices, which pleased my palate. I raided the spread at the first opportunity and came back with some Shanghai-style fried ricecakes, fried tofu cubes, and sesame balls filled with green bean paste.

A handful of bamboo steamers, soy-sauce-drenched plates, and teapots later, we were all in a major food coma. It’s worth mentioning that when the fluffy, steamed cha siu bao appeared, my salivatory glands automatically kicked into overdrive. And I know I deemed fried cha siu baos the best.thing.EVER., but the original version at Little Sheep reminded me there’s definitely space in the dim sum world for both.

Am I a total cheeseball if this made my day?

Am I a total cheeseball if this made my day?

PS: Little Sheep seems to only have a Chinese menu, so brush up on your food characters!

PPS: This restaurants gets major points for having little male and female sheep in Mongolian-wear on their bathroom signs.

Tim Ho Wun Dim Sum Juen Moon Dim (添好運點心專門店)
G/F, 2-20 Kwong Wah Street, Mongkok
2332 2896
Cost: ~ $70 HKD/person

Little Sheep
G/F, 1/F-4/F, Mongkok Commercial Centre, 16, 16A, and 16B Argyle Street, Mongkok
2396 8816
Cost: ~ $45 HKD/person


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