Since I’ve only been in HK for two weeks, I’ve been scoping out the restaurants in the area, and hence, eating out a lot. Usually, I try and cook something for lunch, so as to reserve dinner for these restaurant escapades. Under the recommendation of someone who was in my program last year, my coworkers and I decided to try a Shanghai place in Old Tai Po.
George ordered some bak choy sauteed in garlic to get some veggies in his system.
Emily went with a Shanghai noodle and vegetable stir-fry, which looked gorgeous and tasted darn good as well.
Ryan, a vegetarian, opted for the vegetable fried rice. I’m pretty sure he polished this off.
Winnie got the sauteed string beans (I’m pretty sure they’re also fried at some point), which is classic goodness. As you can see, she was eager to dive in.
Of course, a number of us got a dish of xiao long bao, Shanghai soup douplings.
I was really excited to try these, because I’ve had some darn good ones at Joe’s Shanghai. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like these matched up. The texture of the skin was chewier than I’m used to, which I actually enjoyed, but when I bit into the sucker, it lacked the burst of porky flavor that I was expecting. I liked the ratio of soup:meat:skin, but they just didn’t satisfy my soup dumpling urge like I had hoped they would.
I also ordered a dish of spicy wonton, and asked for it extra hot…but I think it ended up just being extra salty. I added the chili sauce on top to help compensate for this oversight, which itself was also extremely salty.
I enjoyed the wonton themselves, which were densely packed with pork and shrimp. But all I couldn’t help but think about the killer spicy wonton dish at a Hunan restaurant near my house in NJ (that unfortunately, recently closed down). The much more delicate sauce was spicier, but slightly sweet and with a hint of vinegar, while the wonton skins were more substantive and not overdone. One might suggest that I stop comparing what I eat here to what I’ve had in the States, but a large part of my interest in the cuisine here is precisely how it contrasts with what I eat at home, and so I think the comparisons are inevitable, even if they are unspoken.
On Friday, we went out with some of the students from our TESOL class, most of whom grew up in the area. They suggested a popular Thai place in Tai Po called Chung Shing Thai, and off we went.
The kitchen is indoors, and the seating area of the restaurant is all outside under the umbrellas and the striped canvas roof cover. I really liked the homey, lowkey feel of the place, especially in combination with some thoughtful nuances in decoration. I had never seen a picket fence in a restaurant before, and I thought it was so charming.
Some appetizers: garlic bread, chicken satay, marinated beef, and a naan-type fried bread.
And some main courses: Seafood pineapple fried rice and curry crab.
And of course, some greens: coconut curry mixed vegetables and Chinese tung choy sauteed in a spicy garlic sauce.
I also missed shooting the New Zealand mussels dish, a few curries, and the seafood lemongrass soup that the restaurant are famous for. The food was delicious — this was probably the best meal I’ve had since getting here. I loved the curries — each one was boldly and distinctly flavored, and the thicker red curry was made to be sopped up by bread. Any bread. Even moldy wonder bread. Over some slightly sticky white rice (the way it should be, in my book), the curries were so good it’s not even funny. We cleaned up house.
We also got dessert on the house, a plate of sweet sticky red rice with mangoes on top, along with some jellies, drizzled with coconut milk.
What a good meal — I left with my belly full and my mouth still slightly tingling from all the powerful flavors (in some cases, perhaps too powerful). I’m definitely hitting this place up again. Probably once a week…which leaves me about 49 more visits.