Wednesday, October 1, 2008

5 Food You Must Eat In Hong Kong: No 1

No. 5: Street Food
No. 4: Congee
No. 3: Noodles
No. 2: Roasted Meat
No. 1: DIM SUM!!

You must have guessed dim sum would be No 1 on my list. It would be a crime if you don't eat dim sum in HK! It's like not eating pho in Vietnam, baguette & pastries in Paris, curry in India, satay in Malaysia...

We had two consecutive dim sum meals on the Saturday that we were in HK. First it was dim sum breakfast in Tsuen Wan, the most western MTR stop on the Kowloon side of HK. Aunt Gouyee is a relative on Hub's father's side, and we hadn't seen her for years. Her son Jungjung is the most wonderful son, always taking his mom out for dim sum and visiting her once a week despite his busy life. They decided that the dim sum in Tsuen Wan's Water Place Plaza (I think that's what it's called; most of the signboard is covered in big chinese characters I couldn't read) is most convenient, plus the best, and so there we were at 9 am in a traditional dim sum restaurant. It turned out to be my favorite dim sum place of all.

To me, there are 3 types of dim sum places. First, there's the traditional dim sum restaurant where tables are covered with white linen, lights are bright flourescent tubes, waiters/waitresses can't speak anything else but Cantonese and the dim sum is darn good. These are big noisy casual restaurants located in shoplots within the city and suburban (if you can call any place suburban in HK) areas, where 3 generations come together on the weekends. The second type is the new dim sum restaurants. These restaurants are still decorated in traditional Chinese red and gold motifs and colors, but are classier. The menu is the same as traditional dim sum places, with some new fancy items, but prices are slightly steeper because they are usually in malls, not in shoplots. Superstar Seafood Restaurant would fall into this category. The third type, which is not as common, is the super classy super expensive super trendy (no red and gold dragons on walls) dim sum places where eating ha gow is like eating foie gras; you eat quietly and elegantly as the well-dressed waitress hovers over you. Zen in Pacific Plaza used to be like that but on this trip, I found that they have renovated and seem more friendly.

Minced beef cheong fun (rice rolls).

Ah! This was the best cheong fun I've eaten so far (did I say that last year? Anyway that was last year). The cooked peanut oil (I couldn't understand why my Cantonese parents had to cook their oil when using it as dressing or sauce, but now I do--cooking it heightens the flavor) and the special soya sauce combine to give the most wonderful flavor while the rice flour pancake glides onto your tongue. Then as you chew, the beef gives a sweet aromatic taste that completes the whole experience of eating Can't Get Any Better Cheong Fun. *sigh* p.s. I've noticed that HKgers don't order shrimp or cha siu cheong fun. It's always beef cheong fun.

Chives and meat gow.

Perfect dumplings of wheat gluten and tapioca flour with a delicious filling of mixed veg and meat. Dim sum is not only about taste, but presentation. Look at the skill in shaping and making a translucent 'skin' or wrapper that allows you a look at what's inside, a skin that's not too thin or thick, not too chewy or soft, and not sticky to your teeth. Dim sum after all means 'point at the heart'. Doesn't that tell you how elegant, poetic and romantic this food is?

Stuffed brinjals and bell peppers.

I wouldn't have ordered this because it looked so ordinary. But one bite and my eyes widened. I sat up. I controlled my chopsticks from grabbing all the items on the plate. The fish paste was tender-springy and the soy sauce super fragrant--tell me how you make soy sauce so aromatic, I wanted to scream. This is the best stuffed veg I've ever eaten. Only 3 items and 2 of them scored 100 points each. I was wide awake and very happy I gave up my sleep for breakfast, which I don't normally eat.

Hum sui gok, salt-water/salty puffs.

Ah...I can eat two plates of these. Crispy-light outside, soft-chewy inside with a delicious meat filling. Again, I have to shout from the mountains: A million thanks to whoever came up with dim sum!!

Fried radish cake.

You get the flow; everything was super duper.

Steamed pork ribs with taro.

For a change, we tried this instead of the usual pork ribs with black soy beans. I loved it; pork and taro are made for each other.

Cha siu bao, roasted pork buns.

I've always liked HK 'smiling baos', those buns with their tops cracked open like they are laughing. The texture of HK baos are between soft bread and cake, very fluffy and tasty. Unlike Malaysian cha siu baos, the roasted pork filling is not made of cheap pork fat and onions in a thick, red-colored sweet sauce but yummy cha siu that you eat without feeling poisoned.

Chicken feet, deep fried and steamed.

Chinese eat certain food not just for taste but sometimes for texture. These are fun to eat, really, and after a few feet/claws, you will master working the skin and tendons off the bones inside your mouth and spitting out the bones.

Ma lai go.

This was the only item I rated 8/10 instead of 10/10 because I was partial to Tai Wing Wah's ma lai go, which I was to eat that night.

By the time we finished, it was about 11 am. We were to meet Hub's cousin James and family in Tsim Sha Tsui for lunch. Dim sum lunch. I was groaning. I couldn't possibly eat a sesame seed by then. That's how I felt. But if you are invited to eat the No 1 food in HK, you must go, even if you had to eat the same thing again half an hour later. So at 11:30 am, there we were, sitting down for another dim sum feast. Bear with me, that'll be my next post. If I can eat the same thing twice in a row, you can read back-to-back dim sum posts too.


Precious Pea said...

Love the dim sum in HK, moreover if it is recommended by the locals! I also love the beef cheong fun as the beef really soft and the sweet juices..yumz! I am game for a second round of dim sum. Bring it on!!

W. said...

*drools over pics*
I went yumcha with my parents today too!! but why does dimsum in hk look so much yummier than sydneys??!!

and and I know how it feels to eat one meal after another...
my relatives in hk always have lunch right after breaky to catch the cheap deals..

but man..those dimsums look devine.... *drools*

Daisy Davis said...

Drool city! There is no dimsum restaurant here in Rogers or near Vicinity. When we went down to Little Rock last summer (@ 4hr drive) for a swim meet, I was busy researching a dimsum restaurnat near the pool so we could go for lunch- so excited..... got there, went in and got seated - hey no dim sum menu! asked about it and they said Chef went back to China. so on top of the big disappointment, the food we ordered were horrible and very very expensive. would have had a better meal at McDonald with a fraction of the price. resorting to trying to make my own,time consuming and not very successful ; ( When are you guys coming to visit! xoxox

Johnathan said...

I think it will be beneficial to list the Dim Sum place ranking on your next post. I know the dim sum is great in HK but wouldn't know where is good unless of course, they r all greatzzz! Till your next post, dun keep us waiting :)

Shalini Nathan said...

Don't you just wish you could just settle in HK! All the delicious food. We'll all probably return back to our homeland looking like ricesacks.

Agnes aka Ric3y said...

Haha Beef CheongFun? I heard it for the first time :) :) love the chives & meat gow and saw is the stuffed brinjals. I love stuffed brinjals!!! :D

Lily Anette said...

Those "ham sui kok" is my favorite... the chewy stuck to your teeth part is so good!

J2Kfm said...

wow, I guess Tai Wing Wah's Ma Lai Kou REALLY hits the spot, huh?

oh, so the CCF's fillings could be beef. whooops. no wonder the minced meat tasted neither pork nor chicken. hehe ...

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

pp: :D i'd love to eat with u. we'll probly eat ten meals a day!

w: but at least sydney's dim sum is wayyy better than kk's :((

daisy: bummer! what is there in rogers..?? why don't we meet at ur aunt's in SF?

johnathan: i don't know enough dim sum places to list them down. u also have to decide if u want traditional or new dim sum houses. hey, do check out j2k on my links--he just did some very good posts on hk tt may help u plan ur upcoming trip.

shalini: yes :D. i wish i could live there a few months a year. no we wouldn't bc there r no fat ppl in hk, have u noticed?? ok, with the exception of toto. but really, there's so much walking to do in hk--on the streets, in the malls, to the subway.

agnes: yumyum, stuffed brinjals..u have a 'sharp mouth'.

lily: yes, yummy isn't it. ah..

j2k: aiya, u couldn't tell it was beef?? beef's so 'heong'!

Precious Pea said...

LOL!!! Yes, i just can't wait to eat together with you. Really wish to have a chance to travel together with u to hong kong, food paradise!

Anonymous said...

muffinman: i'm 38weeks pregnant and i'm craving for any ham sui kok now...(you take very good pictures) just called hubby to try get some from kolombong, the shop next to Fajar. hopefully he can get it.

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

muffinman: u r ready to pop! yea, send the guy running around, he'll do anything for u now :) u have a fun labor (:D) n don't forget to tell me after u pop. take care.

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