One could reasonably expect to eat lots of Chinese food while staying in Hong Kong: in fact, it would be within the bounds of reason, still, to assume that Chinese food would make up most of one’s daily diet in HK, whether in the form of mantou, soup noodles, bbq meats, or stir frys. However, after being here for oh, about 45 days now, I’ve noticed that I am still consuming a significant amount of food that I would not even categorize as Asian. For example, this morning I had peanut butter and bananas on toast, which I certainly didn’t learn from my mom and pops. Yesterday, I made pancakes for a late breakfast and had a salad for lunch, pizza in the late afternoon, and oatmeal at night. I love doing stir frys when I’m cooking for dinner, because they’re what I know and the easiest/fastest thing to make on the induction cooker that constitutes my kitchen here. But I have definitely retained the majority of my Western eating habits thus far, with only minimal inconvenience. From my observations of the other ETAs, they seem to have held on to many of their eating preferences as well — not only skewing Western, but health-minded, organic, etc.
In the same vein, I’ve also noticed that of many of the restaurants/joints I’m hoping to try out here, about half of them do not specialize in a Chinese cuisine. It seems nonsensical, and I’ll admit, on some level, stupid: after all, why would one come to Hong Kong and be so keen on eating non-Chinese food? One reason I came here was specifically to test my palate on ‘authentic’ Chinese cuisine, to see how I responded to it when raised entirely on an ABC-diet. And while I still certainly intend on, and am in the process of, doing that, many of the blogs, magazines, and local newspapers always mention Western places on their lists of ‘places to eat.’ One that I am dying to try is called M at the Fringe, situated on the top floor of a local arts venue. It’s pricey, “fundamentally European, with dishes from the Middle East and North Africa often making an appearance,” and been voted Hong Kong’s best restaurant four times in the past eight years by HK Magazine (the last three years in a row). Thus, I’ve quickly come to realize that on the contrary, it would be quite stupid of me to systematically avoid other cuisines simply because I was in Hong Kong: that is, it would be stupid if I wanted a year of culinary immersion that was truthful to the region. Due to its status as an international mecca, there’s an incredibly rich and exciting international cuisine scene. It definitely requires funds, but I did tell the Fulbright I was interested in exploring the local cuisine, and I genuinely think that the word ‘local’ in Hong Kong rightfully includes North African- and Mediterranean-inspired foods, in addition to the food stalls and hole-in-the-wall places dishing out traditional Chinese food that remains gloriously resistant to fusion.
So, I guess my point is that my gastronomic goals have been altered since my arrival to now embrace such dining experiences. And despite it’s unbearable population density, Hong Kong is, thankfully, more than big enough to accomodate my two-pronged approach.