Hong Kong: food, and lots of it

I came to Hong Kong with the mentality that the fewer expectations I had, the better. However, one expectation I was more than willing to maintain, especially at the behest of those familiar with the region, was that I’d be eating a lot of good food. Thus, the time leading up to my departure from the US was replete with daydreams of dim sum bursting with succulence and sophistication, roasted meats that would melt gloriously in my mouth, and pastries — warm, flaky shells decadently teeming with fluffy creams, silky custards, and exciting new flavors — that would stop me dead in my tracks.

While I haven’t yet tasted anything that has rocked my world, the sheer quantity of food I’ve encountered here in my first two weeks has been staggering. All sorts of treats, both savory and sweet, are readily available, and madd CHEAP by American standards. I’ve wondered how Hong Kongers function normally with so much food around them (and don’t gain weight, to boot), and I that think the answer is some combination of these things: the ability to ignore the sight of food, the ability to appreciate food without actually eating it, and tons of walking. It seems like for every one meal or item I indulge in, I’ve denied myself a hundred more. I will know I’ve reached the upper echelons of culinary asceticism when I don’t give in to ordering a baked good or some street food every time I leave my room.

So far, the majority of eats I’ve consumed here fall under the categories of street food and mall food, the product of many a foray into Tai Po’s Old Market District, as well as a number of home-shopping visits to the impressively large shopping plazas. In Hong Kong, trips to the mall seem to be even more popular than mall-ing in Jersey, which truly is something.

A shot of Old Tai Po:

Some squid sun-bathing in the middle of the sidewalk.

I have generally enjoyed spending my time in this part of Tai Po rather than the newer area, which is centered around a multi-plaza behemoth of a commercial district. Though the latter has a wet market with a nice selection of fruits, veggies, and seafood, I feel like my time is better spent, at least food-wise, in Old TP.

A fried food stand next to the dumpling and stuffed bun stand that I’ve visited at least three times already.

The stand next door that provides me with super oily, pan-fried pork dumpling goodness.

The dumplings are in the right corner of the top glass compartment. They’re a bit difficult to make out through the steam…which is a good sign to me, b/c it signifies freshness. On second thought, maybe that’s splattered oil…maybe both. More buns…


The buns with the pink blush are the cutest things ever.

I usually prefer a slightly thinner skin on my dumplings, which is why I prefer mandoo to Chinese dumplings. But when there’s that viscous sweet chili sauce bathing the dumpling skins, the more carbs the better.

I topped that off with something even healthier.

I forget the name of this pastry, but it involved blueberries and chocolate. Unfortunately, it was sorely lacking in the fresh berry department, though the crackling chocolate almost made up for it…it would have if it were dark.

Cafe de Coral is a popular fast food chain, China’s answer to burger-based fast food franchises. On a trip to the mall to pick up some things for the dorm, we decided to stop in for a quick lunch.

My floormate Laurie went with chicken curry.

Looks pretty good to me, and she gave it a thumbs-up. Alice went with the soy sauce chicken, which smelled and looked awesome.

I love how they throw in the obligatory piece of choy. A splash of color, and a nod to the oft-forgotten food group…It’s like the single slice of limp lettuce that you get with a fast food burger. I wanted to try a fast food version of a dish I’ve had a lot back home, ma po dou fu.

I loved the huge chunks of tofu, but it ended up being a little bland for my liking. I much prefer my dad’s home-cooked version, which is hardly surprising.

I am absolutely positive that I have yet to taste the best that Hong Kong has to offer, but am also glad that I’m getting a glimpse of the everyday foods here. In the mean time, I’ll keep an eye out for the meal of my dreams.

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