Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hong Kong Day 5 Dinner

My recommendation of a restaurant for dinner in HK last year and this year is still Tai Wing Wah Village Cuisine. There are two Tai Wing Wah (TWW) restaurants, one in Yuen Long (the original one) and another in Kowloon Bay.


HK is well-known for food, shopping and wealth. Nobody disputes that. So who is the most famous food critic and celebrity chef in HK/Asia, the Asian version of Anthony Bourdain and Jamie Oliver? I think most people will give that honor to that white-haired gourmet called Hugo Leung Man-to, or Toto for short. This guy is everywhere on the TV screens when it comes to Chinese food programs. Toto personifies his career--he looks like a big barrel, and a friend who has seen him in person said that if Toto ever fell down, he'd not be able to get up on his own. I was told Toto used to work in Wing Wah (a long established HK restaurant that to this day churns out mooncakes and Chinese sausages-which I don't find any good-and other food products) as a chef and then he quit and opened the TWW in Yuen Long. It was a hit, and the second TWW soon followed. I'm told that when he's in town, he'd be at the Yuen Long branch. You've been told.

toto leung
HK's top food critic celebrity, Toto

TWW is so popular that you need at least 7 days' prior booking to get a table. I arrived HK Tuesday and called them Wednesday morning to get a table but the lady said they could only fit me in the following Monday. I told her I was from Malaysia, that I dined there last year, and that I was leaving Sunday and all the while I could imagine her thinking "So what"; it was pathetic of me. Of course she still said no, and informed me that the only table available was for lunch on Sat. Aw. We already had a lunch date with relatives Sat.

So at dinner with A (who, together with my ex-roomie from college, H, was the one who brought me to TWW last year) at Ye Shanghai on Friday, I told her my sad story and she said "You want to eat at Tai Wing Wah hei ma? Hoe, ting man, ting man la." Like a kid who got her toy, I went, "Really? You really can get a table?? Tomorrow? A Saturday?!" I would've kissed her feet if she wanted me to.

I told you my friends A & H have a way around HK. Imagine, no tables until Monday yet within 24 hours we were seated at Tai Wing Wah, with about 70 people waiting outside! People kept coming, even at 9 pm. I hope me telling you this doesn't get my friends in trouble. But they are regulars, so I guess they are privileged.

Left: half of the crowd that was waiting outside the restaurant, the other half on the left of the pic. Right: inside the restaurant, which is thrice as big.

The restaurant in Kowloon Bay is a little out of the way, and I don't know if the subway stop is nearby. But whatever the inconvenience, it is worth all the trouble. First of all, TWW serves Cantonese food at its best, unpretentiously simple and delicious. Secondly, the price is crazy cheap. Every item on the menu is HK$52/RM24/US$7 (up from HK$48 last year), from the chicken to the fish to the veg to the tofu to the noodles to the steamed cake. We can't eat at that price in Malaysia, let alone HK, one of the most expensive places in the world!

Although there were only 3 of us (H, remember, was in Vancouver) , A ordered enough for 5. To our credit, we finished everything except the chicken and the ma lai go, which I hand carried back to Malaysia.

Soya sauce chicken, yummyyy!

TWW's soya chicken is always served in a bowl, and it is one of the top items so nearly every table will have this dish. However, I think the chicken last year was more fragrant.The thing about HK's chickens (and China's too) is that they taste home-reared, with flavorful meat and thin juicy skin that I love to eat. In Malaysia, home-reared chickens have thick fatty rubbery skin which I avoid most of the time. Sometimes I do smuggle a slice into my mouth. Sometimes.

Roasted baby pork rib, A's favorite but I find it kinda common although it was tender and tasty.

King prawns in special sauce.

If you look at the same dish I had last year, you'll see that the prawns were smaller and there was a whole plate of it but this year there were only 5 or 6 big(ger) prawns.

Woo toe steamed with pickled lime.

Pronounced differently ("woo" on the 3rd note in the 4 chinese ways of pronouncing a single character/syllable), woo toe means taro but this woo toe ("woo" on the 1st note) is a kind of fish. The fish was absolutely fresh, sweet and had a nice taste and flavor. The sauce was slightly tangy; the pickled limes are the same types that are pickled in brine for years and made into drinks to soothe dry throats. My Hub said if he comes to TWW again, he'll order two of this. The way he said it, he intends to have the two orders to himself, that's how much he liked this dish.

Fried kangkong in fermented beancurd sauce.

I wanted blanched kangkong with fermented beancurd, a dish that's always found in small wonton noodles restaurants. This version is fried. It's yum but I still prefer the blanched version. HK kangkong is very young and tender.

The ultimate dish came towards the end; I wanted a winter melon soup, cooked and served in the melon (doong gwa jung) but they didn't have it (usually available in colder weather). I didn't know that A had ordered another soup in place of it, and it was not an ordinary soup she had ordered.


Pai chee (whole fins), eaten with a drizzle of quality black/red vinegar.

Sharks' fins soup, not the ordinary sharks' fins, but the mother of them all, the pai chee or "row of fins"! I haven't had this for decades! Out with my animal rights thinking; I'm carnivorous anyway. A kid at the next table was saying "Wah, pai chee..." in wonderment. He obviously knew good stuff when he saw it.

Nearly all the sharks' fins in soups these days are imitation gelatine fins (those individual strands) but pai chee can't be imitated so you know this is the real thing.


So much fins it's like eating noodles! The soup was light and just nice, not too salty or too xien/savory-sweet. None of us spoke as we ate. It was like a sacred moment. And you know, it was considered cheap: HK$500/RM230/US$70 (still, that one soup costed twice as much as all the 5 dishes above!) and we had two bowls each, with leftover soup sans fins. There's just no way you can eat that anywhere else.

TWW's dishes are very home-cooked, the flavor just nice and not overdone. I really love eating here. I want to meet Toto and tell him so one day. I also want some cooking tips, Toto.

One of the reasons why I came back to TWW was that last year, I didn't try one of their top items, jee yau fan or pork oil rice. I just thought it'd be so weird and unhealthy. But since then I've read the raves about TWW's famous delicious pork oil rice on other blogs, and all the HK friends and relatives whom I asked on this trip all give two thumbs up for this item. I will have to break here and keep you on the edge of your keyboards until my next post when I present TWW's pork oil rice and a dessert that is so good, every table had one. We even gave up the 2 free desserts--red bean soup and something else--for this heavenly item because we were so full we had room for only one more mouthful of food.


Tai Wing Wah Village Cuisine
Shop No 2, 1/F
Chevalier Comm Ctr
8 Wang Hoi Rd
Kowloon Bay, HK

Tel: 2148 7773 (reservations); fax: 2148 6559

Book before you leave for HK!

p.s. A & H didn't know about this blog (I just sent them my link yesterday--hope they have the time to check it); this is how they eat--hedonistically. Once a year I visit them and drown in my sig fook, eating fortune.


Precious Pea said...

Terri, when are you going again??? Please please please..can i follow?? *beg beg beg*

a feast, everyday said...

I want to ikut too...

ganache-ganache said...

Wow, r u sure there's only 3 of you ?? I think I'm like you, no matter how full I am, there's definitely space for dessert !

Christina Kim said...

Wowww.....sounds like a scrumptious feast (TWW)!~
And Woo Toe fish...wowww....

You hand-carried Ma Lai Gou back to Msia, how'd you do that? *wonders*

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

pp/a feast: of course u both can. i promise it'll be my treat at TWW. when shd we go??

ganache: am sure, hungry ghosts not included. i'm no tso into dessert but tww's ma lai go's too good.

christy: it was :) hey, i've hand carried plates, bottles of sauces (before they banned liquids), plants, fruits, legs of ham...like any other crazy housewife.

Anonymous said...

That chicken head looks a little scary sitting in there. This might be a stupid question, forgive my ignorance, but are you supposed to *eat* the head too?

Precious Pea said...

Hehe..you should know by now, for me, anytime also can. :)

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

katie: i grew up used to seeing chicken heads served alongwith the chicken so it isn't so scary to me altho i can understand how u feel bc my kids grew up not seeing chicken heads on the table just like u. it was the tradition to serve chickens whole (chinese saying "There's head, there's tail" meaning complete). these days in many chinese communities chicken heads are never served but in hk & china, they still do.

r we supposed to eat the head? in the past, the brains are eaten by some ppl but now it's considered so caveman so nobody does it, not even in hk.

pp: am thinking nov when my girl is back. u?

Anonymous said...

Makes me wish I was in Hong Kong. Great Read.

Precious Pea said...

November?? Cool! As long as not 2nd week as am flying to Krabi. Actually for going HK with you, i can forego Krabi!

J2Kfm said...

hi, what a feast! and book a week before? wow. I imagined prices at skyhigh level, but RM24 for a plate is a steal! and to imagine the famous TOTO's manning the place. yeah, from the show on AFC the lard rice is one of the simplest but most lovely must-have.

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

tealady: tq :)

pp:forgo krabi? no, i want u to go n tell me how it's like.

j2kfm: seems like many of u have watched the show but not me :( hey, u have a great blog there, n ur hk posts r very interesting n informative, plus photos very good. i'm linking u.

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