I can’t believe it’s been two months since I came back from holiday. It feels like only yesterday that I was catching a bus from Nathan Road in Mongkok out to Tuen Mun City Centre in the New Territories to see my uncles, aunts, cousins, and cousins kids – all million of them. (Slight exaggeration, but I do have a very large extended family).
The funny thing about going to Hong Kong is that I never view it as a holiday. Instead, it’s always a whirlwind of family obligations, visiting and dining with branch after branch of my extended family. And honestly? I wouldn’t have it any other way. We eat a lot of street food, and in a lot of dodgy little diners and eateries. The food is always what I describe “ugly delicious” – visually unattractive, but so satisfying!
Here’s just a few of the meals I had in Hong Kong. Prepare to drool!
On my first night in Hong Kong, I went out with my dad and brother to explore the streets of Mongkok near our hotel. We had two goals in mind – 1) to put an order in for tailored suits for them and 2) to get a decent dinner. We succeeded in both – there’s nothing more satisfying then a simple bowl of noodles with fish balls ordered from a tiny little restaurant staffed entirely by middle-aged ladies. Pure satisfaction at $10HKD a bowl.
But of course, you can’t spend more than five hours in Hong Kong without going out for tofu fa as well. We went out in search of my favourite dessert after we finished our noodles. All my older cousins will tell you about how they used to pick me up from kindergarten twenty-five years ago, and then take me out for tofu fa before taking me home. My love for tofu fa hasn’t weakened since then, and I almost moaned as the first mouthful of silky smooth pudding entered my mouth.
My dad decided then that he was still hungry, so ordered a plate of dumplings and turnip cake from the same street vendor. Oily crispy delicious dumplings, with fatty pork soup inside that filled your mouth with flavour.
I find it really hard to eat healthily whenever I’m in Hong Kong as I inevitably end up in a never-ending series of visits to diners, fried street food vendors, and cake shops. Buying fruit to eat when I’m back in the hotel room at night is one of the small things I try to do, made easier when there’s fantastic options like tiny watermelon the size of a grapefruit!
And finally before we headed back to our hotel on the first night, I had to buy some egglettes – light, airy, fluffy, sweet and addictive. It became a habit to buy a serve to share between the three of us every night before we returned to our hotel room.
Speaking of habits, egg tarts! Quite often we would catch a bus directly into the New Territories for breakfast with my extended family, so we had to have a small snack beforehand to get us through the half hour bus trip. With a half dozen bakeries around our hotel all bringing out trays and trays of piping hot egg tarts early in the morning, it became all too easy to have an egg tart each every morning. I always think the egg tarts are better in Hong Kong – flakier, smoother, and less sweet and definitely a lot more more-ish.
An egg tart and a Vitasoy – could you think of a better pre-breakfast taster?
I’m not going to lie – my family takes yum cha very seriously. This particular feast was at a restaurant in Shenzhen across the border in China. A dozen of my family members had crossed the border together to pay our respects to my late grandmother and late grandfather’s graves located in Shenzhen. After visiting and going through the rituals of lighting incense and burning paper offerings, we all went to have a late yum cha lunch. Can you believe that we managed to finish it all?
Yum Cha Round 2, in a restaurant in Yuen Long in the New Territories. We’d strategically arrived late in order to catch the post-2pm afternoon specials menu, where many of the dishes are offered at only 75% of their usual price. Yum cha is already cheap in Hong Kong when compared to Sydney prices – now take another 25% off that!
A simple breakfast is best. We ate a lot of congee while we were in Hong Kong, served up with plates of rice noodle rolls and fried noodles. My go-to option was the fish congee, my brother opted for beef, and my dad’s a big fan of the pork with century egg.
My brother and I had never been to Hong Kong Disneyland – oh the travesty! We decided to go together on an overcast day that turned into storm clouds which actually worked in our favour as it meant that there weren’t as many crowds and we didn’t have to queue long for rides! There’s something truly magical about Disneyland – you walk through the gates and you’re transported back to a time when cartoons were real and Mickey and Minnie Mouse are your friends. It’s amazing.
And just because we’re suckers for kitschy offerings, we had to buy a waffle in the shape of Mickey’s head! It’s a pretty terrible waffle to be honest, and really not worth the $50 HKD.
Having high tea at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hong Kong has become a bit of a tradition. It’s pricey by everyday Hong Kong dining standards, but cheap by Australian high tea standards. While I’m a big high tea fan, I go for a particular reason – one of my cousins is the chief pastry chef in the kitchens of the Mandarin Oriental. His creations are absolutely beautiful, you can see them in the Mandarin Oriental cake shop as well as experience them during a long luxurious afternoon tea.
Finally, while this meal doesn’t look like much, it represents everything I love about Hong Kong. The HK experience at diner chains like Cafe de Coral is just so quintessentially everyday-Hong Kong. All my relatives go for a diner breakfast three or four mornings a week, not to mention countless morning and afternoon teas. I go multiple times whenever I’m back in Hong Kong, and find myself craving that diner experience every couple of weeks whenever I’m back in Australia.
Coming up – recaps of my dining experiences in China and Seoul!