Category Archives: Hong Kong

Crazy Rich Food + Reflections

This weekend is the opening weekend of Crazy Rich Asians, the film based on the bestselling book of the same name by Kevin Kwan. And while many of the articles for the film focus on its importance in Asian American representation in Hollywood or the cultural conflict of the plot between traditional class hierarchies amongst rich Chinese versus “rags to middle class riches” Chinese Americans, I, of course, want to write about the food mentioned in the books and movies. In the book series there are liberal mentions of various places that the exorbitantly rich of Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shanghai dine in, which does include places open to the public and are relatively affordable. Below you can find a few of those places found in the film and/or books in Singapore and Hong Kong and my thoughts on them (if I have been). Be aware, there will be some spoilers of the movie and/or books below.

[Following that you’ll find my reflections of the movie].


Newton Food Centre – After Araminta and Colin pick up Nick and Rachel up they head to Newton Food Centre where they order from different stalls specializing in their own dishes. I’ve never eaten at Newton Food Centre but in the scene you can see the foursome chow on various Singaporean dishes like Satay at TKR Satay, Oyster Omelette at Hup Kee Fried Oyster Omelette, and ice kachang at 88 San Ren Cold and Hot Dessert. For reference, in the book they actually go to another hawker centre, Lau Pa Sat, though Nick prefers the satay at Newton.

Hong Kong:

Roast Goose Rice and Tong Choy at Yat Lok

Roast Goose Rice and Tong Choy at Yat Lok

Yung Kee – In the books, Yung Kee is described as the place where the uber rich go dine on roast goose. And while the refined trappings of the restaurant remain intact, a family feud a few years ago led to a split. The better Kam family roast goose now lies at Kam’s Roast Goose in Wan Chai (in decidedly less upscale digs) which also racks up a Michelin star, unlike Yung Kee. Although Kam’s Roast Goose is fantastic, I do have a preference for Yat Lok (also a Michelin star earner) in Central.

Fook Lam Moon – Although I don’t recall this so-called “Tycoon’s Canteen” being in the books, it was mentioned by Kevin Kwan as a place where old money still eats. And honestly my one visit to their TST location showed perfectly why, and it’s not because of their food (which is good but not mind blowing spectacular). It’s because of their service, where they have a number of private rooms, a multitude of wait staff to refill your tea cups so you never have to, and even nice small shelves so your bags never, ever touch the ground (or hang over your seat). Reservations are probably required but it’s not too hard to make one online.

Dim sum at Lung King Heen

Dim sum at Lung King Heen

Lung King Heen – In the book when Rachel is at the bachelorette party on Samsara Island, Kitty and Alistair are purportedly seen at this three Michelin star restaurant, the first (but now not only) three Michelin star Chinese restaurant in the world. The food might not be the most innovative compared to other high end Cantonese restaurants in Hong Kong, but the dishes are well executed. Like most higher end Cantonese restaurants, the cheaper option is to eat the dim sum ate lunch (which even for 2 people will probably set you back around $40 USD). Advanced reservations of a month or two are advised.


And now to my reflections on the film. Of course, there’s many things I could say about the movie, but I want to focus on how particular parts of the movie affected me. Like Love, Simon, Crazy Rich Asians was an important movie in terms of its cultural impact as a romantic comedy to me. While neither obviously hewed super close to my experience, both movies were well made movies based on reader adored books (of which I read both books before either were movies) that hopefully launch a number of other movies beyond the straight, white upper middle class narrow confines of the vast majority of major studio romantic comedies of the past.

Crazy Rich Asians itself resonated with me loudly in no small part because Kevin Kwan wrote the book for and in the perspective of the Asian American experience, especially those like me who are Millennial children of immigrants. The impetus to root for Rachel is because Rachel is like many of us, children of Asian immigrants that moved to the United States with immense sacrifice to hopefully provide opportunity for their children. (To be clear that’s not the entire Asian American experience which also includes refugees of war as well as those whose families had means to send their Baby Boomer and Gen X children to colleges in the US and Canada)

As such, what Rachel deals with in her trip to Singapore to meet Nick’s family and childhood social circle, she, like us, have a very fish out of water experience when visiting the Asian motherland. There are customs and traditions, regardless of your class or ethnicity (though in the Crazy Rich Asian series, accentuated by class) that are generally known but not quite fully experienced until you visit your ancestral home (or in Rachel’s case, a nation where the majority of folks are Chinese like herself). And in those moments many Asian Americans realize that you’re not quite [Asian ethnicity] enough, but similarly you’re not quite “American enough” for non-Asian, especially white folks, at home.

This is crystalized in 2 of the most powerful scenes of the movie: the dumpling making scene and the mahjong scene [major spoilers ahead].  In the dumpling making scene, Rachel makes dumplings for the rehearsal dinner along with a couple of Nick’s cousins, Nick’s aunts, and Nick’s mom. There’s visible tension between Rachel and Nick’s mom, Eleanor, which comes up to a head when Eleanor catches Rachel as Rachel is lost finding a restroom. The end of the conversation, after Eleanor regales Rachel on how she wasn’t seen as good enough to marry Nick’s dad, hits with a sting when Eleanor, played by the incomparable Michelle Yeoh, tells Rachel that she will never be good enough.

“You will never be good enough” is a phrase that serves both the plot narrative and a line that touches like a cattle prod to Asian Americans like myself. On one side, people like me are told by our Asian immigrant family and family (or people in general) living in Asia that we will never be good enough to meet expectations, including language fluency and respect for ancestral cultural norms. We are, in effect, too American. But then outside of Asian American enclaves at work or school where we try to fit in, we are criticized for having an accent (even if we might not have one – in which case we’re praised for having “surprisingly good English”), eating gross looking or stinky food (which then get popularized a decade later by white chefs that “discover” it), accused of eating cats or dogs (when we don’t), or exoticized for real or assumed body features and sexual desires. It may not be as pointed and direct as what our family members or those in our ancestral lands would say to us, but the effect is the same, we’re too Asian to be an American. It’s a dual hit for Asian Americans like myself who try to bridge our identities and be proud of these different identities, but are told that we aren’t good enough for either.

But as much as those words in the dumpling scene hurt (and when I shed a few tears on my second watch), the mahjong scene near the end turns the table and shows how Asian Americans can have agency and a potential to use perceived weaknesses into strengths. In that scene, Rachel invites Eleanor to play mahjong where they have a pointed conversation about family and cultural compatibility vs. following your heart. What Eleanor doesn’t know, but Rachel soon reveals is that she rejected Nick’s engagement knowing that what Eleanor thinks is a winning hand (marrying Nick) is not one at all and in Nick’s current situation it would be lose-lose. So Rachel chose for him and shows the strength and power of Asian Americans. Rachel then leaves, revealing that she would have had a winning hand but knowingly gave it away to Eleanor (which you can read more in AngryAsianMan’s excellent primer on the scene). The scene shows that Asian Americans like myself actually do understand and respect both the Asian cultural traditions of familial piety and American cultural understandings of individualism and freedom to follow your passions. But the choice isn’t either or; by understanding both cultures you can make your own decisions and not be boxed into one way of doing things.

The movie isn’t perfect by all means, but the books and the movies are so emotional and powerful for Asian Americans who have experiences like myself because it’s one of the first stories we’ve read and seen on the screen that reflects our dual cultural experience. It’s not a story by and for the people (especially the fantastically rich) of Singapore. It’s not a story even for immigrants like my parents who do live in the US now but their major cultural upbringing was from where they were born (who I’m sure will like most of the story anyway, if my aunt is any indication). It’s a story by and for Asian Americans, like Rachel, born and raised in America.

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Lung King Heen (龍景軒), Hong Kong

Lung King Heen
Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, 4th Floor
8 Finance Street
Central, Hong Kong

What’s it like to eat 3 Michelin star dim sum? Well truthfully, I already ate such at T’ang Court inside the Langham Hotel, which has received 3 Michelin Stars for the past 2 years. However, as great as that meal was, it wasn’t at Lung King Heen (龍景軒), the vaunted restaurant that has been known to be the first 3 Michelin star Cantonese establishment in the world. As such, it has been a years long dream for me to dine here and see if it was really worth all the plaudits bestowed on it.

Originally I hoped to go with my brother and sister-in-law, but their plans made them unable to go for the New Years Day reservation I had made in September. Fortunately, a spur of the moment decision to open up a dating app led me to meeting a fellow American tourist. After a successful breakfast date the day before, I changed my reservation to a table of two. The fortuitous series of events meant that I could try even more dim sum items at Lung King Heen.

I was slightly late for the reservation, but both the restaurant staff and date seemed to take it all fine. We were seated at a small table next to the window with a gorgeous view of Victoria Harbour and Tsim Sha Tsui. Afterwards we were presented a menu which included just a singular page of 18 dim sum items.


Lung King Heen dim sum menu

The menu wasn’t exactly filled with interesting, innovative items that I had come to expect at other fancy Cantonese restaurants in Hong Kong, like Yan Toh Heen. However, there were a lot of items that were slight twists on classic items as you can see from the menu above. After browsing the menu a little bit we decided to order the following five items:

Steamed Shrimp Dumpling with Wild Mushroom at Lung King Heen

Steamed Shrimp Dumpling with Wild Mushroom at Lung King Heen

  • Steamed Shrimp Dumpling with Wild Mushroom (牛肝菌鮮蝦餃) – This version of har gow was interesting with a slight hint of umami from the bits of wild mushroom. The shrimp was plump and juicy with a nice snap. My one slight complaint would be the dumpling wrapper, which was a little thicker than it should be to hold the slightly larger filling. As such, biting into the dumpling wasn’t as easy and refined as those at Ming Court (which I still consider the high standard for what a har gow should be). Quibble aside, these were some of the best shrimp dumplings I have ever had.

Dim sum at Lung King Heen

  • Steamed Rice Rolls with Beef Chuck and Enoki (金菇菜牛頸脊腸粉) – The rice rolls were pretty good with tender chunks of beef matching well with the slight crunch and flavor of the enoki mushrooms. The rice noodles were cooked pretty well, not falling apart or being too gummy. Surprisingly, though, the rice noodles weren’t as good as the shrimp rice noodle rolls that my family and I ordered at Tim Ho Wan.
  • Steamed Lobster and Scallop Dumplings (龍太子蒸餃) – This is perhaps the most photographed dim sum item from Lung King Heen and is one of their signature items. Think of it as a siu mai that just put in lobster instead of pork. There was definitely a lot of scallop and lobster here, making these dumpling definitely worth their bang for the buck (even if it comes out to $7.75 USD a piece). However, my dumpling had scallop that was slightly overcooked, but not too overdone to detract from the dish.
Dim sum at Lung King Heen

Dim sum at Lung King Heen

  • Steamed Shanghainese Pork Dumplings with Crab Meat (蟹肉小籠包) – I am normally very wary of ordering xiaolongbao at a Cantonese restaurant, as almost all Cantonese restaurants fail to execute this beloved Shanghainese/Jiangnan dish properly. But props to Lung King Heen for tasty dumplings filled with juicy pork, shreds of crab meat, a decent amount of soup, and a thin wrapper that never fell apart. Bonus points for the cute and creative way they served the dumplings. These were by far the best xiaolongbao I have had at a Cantonese restaurant and even beats a number of American Taiwanese/Shanghainese restaurants too.
  • Steamed Shrimp and Pork Dumplings with Crab Roe (蟹籽蒸燒賣) – These bits of siu mai were excellent, with perfectly cooked shrimp and juicy portions of pork. The crab roe was a nice touch without being too much (like those at Lunasia). Overall, this was an exemplary version of the classic siu mai, being one of the best versions I have had.
Baked Barbecued Pork Buns with Pine Nuts at Lung King Heen

Baked Barbecued Pork Buns with Pine Nuts at Lung King Heen

  • Baked Barbecued Pork Buns with Pine Nuts (崧子叉燒菠蘿包) – Like many of Hong Kong’s dim sum parlors, these char siu baos were essentially “pineapple buns” (baked buns with a hardened sweet custard top) with a barbecue pork filling. Unlike those at (and imitating) Tim Ho Wan, these buns were more in traditional pineapple bun style where there is a thick layer of baked custard that surrounds most, but not all of the top side of the bun. The buns were great and the filling had tender pork with a slightly sweet and savory filling that balanced the sweet buns. I really loved these, though I think I prefer the ones at Tim Ho Wan slightly more at the end of the day.

So how was Lung King Heen overall? Pretty good. While I found the lack of truly innovative dishes to be disappointing, the overall execution of the dishes I did have ranged from above average to phenomenal. I’m not sure that it beat Yan Toh Heen in terms of the best overall dim sum experience I have had, but it certainly has all the hallmarks of modern luxury in Hong Kong: food that is exquisite but not flashy or showy and service that is attentive but not overbearing (very attentive about tea cup refills but no incessant questions of “and how is everything?”). Best of all, for upscale dim sum in Hong Kong it isn’t too comparatively pricey either. Definitely worth the wait, but it’s advised to book way in advance.

Birthplace of HK Milk Tea & Three Michelin Star Dim Sum

After a month long election delay, I bring you back to my New York/Vancouver/Hong Kong trip report:

Days two and three of my Hong Kong trip continued on my vow to primarily eat at places that were Michelin guide recommended. In the course of 24 hours that lead from a Bib Gourmand recommended hole in the wall roast meat joint to a lavish three Michelin star restaurant for Dim Sum.

Po Kee 波記燒臘粉麵店
Shop P, G/F 425 Queens Rd W
Western District, Hong Kong

It’s no secret that I love Cantonese style barbecue. From the crackling skin of roast goose to the tender, sweet flavors of char siu, Cantonese style barbecue is probably the only reason that prevents me from being a vegetarian. I usually stop at 1 Michelin star-rated Yat Lok on my Hong Kong trips, but this time I decided to explore other places and eat other barbecued meats aside from roast goose. I looked up my copy of the Michelin guide and decided to go to Po Kee.

Po Kee is located quite close to the HKU MTR stop on an older commercial strip of Queens Road West. Given the slightly confusing address, it was a little difficult to find at first, especially in the rain. However, I found the small store front walking a little further along Queen Road to the left of the HKU MTR exit. Once I was seated, I quickly ordered the following, given the little time that servers in Hong Kong give you to order:


Roast Duck Lai Fun at Po Kee

  • Roast Duck Lai Fun – It was raining heavily so I decided to warm up a little with a bowl of roast duck and lai fun in soup. The soup was light and flavorful and the duck was juicy and tender. The skin was crisp in the beginning, but became soggy as it usually does in soup. The best thing about this dish, however, was the al dente lai fun which kept its texture and didn’t soak up too much water. I’m amazed how Hong Kong can make such dexterous noodles but they can’t in the United States.

Char Siu Rice Plate at Po Kee

  • Char Siu Rice Plate – Unfortunately, the roast duck lai fun wasn’t enough for my hungry stomach, so I decided to place another order. They didn’t have any more of their famed roast pork, however, so I decided to get char siu. The barbecue pork was very succulent and had a light glaze that was flavorful without being too sweet or gloppy.

Lan Fong Yuen 蘭芳園
2 Gage Street
Central, Hong Kong

After lunch I decided to wonder the indoor shopping malls around Central. When the weather cleared up a little bit, I thought it was the perfect time for a quick afternoon snack. Conveniently, I was within a few minutes walking distance to Lan Fong Yuen, the likely inventor of what we know call Hong Kong style milk tea.

Lan Fong Yuen is on Gage Street, a small side street in Central. It is actually a dai pai dong and still as its original stall on the street. However, most of its business is now done in a small restaurant right behind the cart. The cramped space has maybe a dozen tables, so its likely you’ll share a table. And because they have a kitchen in the restaurant space, Lan Fong Yuen is also a cha chaan teng, with a number of dishes on their menu. Aside from their milk tea, they are most known for their instant noodle dishes. (Yes, instant ramen with different meat and vegetable toppings is a thing in Hong Kong)


Iced Milk Tea and French Toast at Lan Fong Yuen

However, I wasn’t that hungry so I just ordered a glass of iced milk tea and some french toast. The iced milk tea was perfect for the humid heat outside, with a nice balance of black tea and condensed milk. At first I thought it was a tad sweet but it balanced out well quite nicely. The french toast was really sweet, which normally I don’t like. However, I found this rendition really delicious. If you thought American versions of french toast were sweet, the ones at Lan Fong Yuen (which are typical of HK in general) are made with 2 thick slices of milk bread, slathered with coconut custard in the middle, coated with egg batter, deep fried on a skillet, then coated with butter and drizzled with maple syrup or honey. It’s a caloric sugar bomb in the most delicious and medically frightening way.

Given the limited items I tried, I can’t say if Lan Fong Yuen is more delicious than other cha chaan teng stalwarts like Tsui Wah. However, the stuff I did taste was delicious and it was nice to take a sip of milk tea from its birthplace.

T’ang Court
The Langham Hong Kong
8 Peking Road,
Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong

The next day I decided to switch it up and eat luxuriously after a day of eating at beloved hole in the wall places. I made a reservation for T’ang Court at the Langham Hotel, making this the first 3 Michelin Star restaurant I have ever dined in.

While the restaurant didn’t have the views of Yan Toh Heen, it was definitely very luxurious. The servers seated me at a large table of four, just for myself, and immediately brought my the tea that I had requested (It always seems odd/interesting that the fancy places in Hong Kong give you so much space even for a table of one yet the hole in the wall places cram people to any possible seat available). After browsing the menu and getting a recommendation from the server, I ordered the following:


Dim Sum at T’ang Court

  • Fried Rice Flour Rolls – This was recommended by the server as this is a pretty unique preperation of the dish where the rice noodle rolls are seasons with a spice mixture and fried. What comes out is a dightful dish where the rice noodle rolls have a crunchy, spice kick on the outside but still remains soft and chewy on the inside.
  • Shrimp Dumplings – These were pretty good shrimp dumplings with a nice mix of fresh shrimp with just some subtle notes of bamboo shoots for texture and pepper. It was nice that they were steamed on top of thinly slices carrots so that the dumplings wouldn’t stick. However, I do wish they were still slightly smaller so that the wrapper wasn’t too stretched for the filling. Overall it was one of the best shrimp dumplings I have had, but not as great at Ming Court.
  • Turnip Roll – I got one piece of this unique dish where a think daikon sheet is the wrapper and the filling is stuffed with scallop, winter melon, and mushroom. It was a little large and fell apart when I picked it up, but still tasted very well.

Pork Dumplings with Prawns in Soup at T’ang Court

  • Pork Dumpling with Prawns in Soup – I have always been intrigued by these oversized dumplings in a ‘supreme broth’ dish, so I decided that I’d finally order it. There was definitely more pork than shrimp but the flavors blended really well and the rather light seafood soup was a good palate cleanser.
  • Bird’s nest & custard egg yolk bun – As always in these lavish Hong Kong restaurants, I order some desert item with an expensive ingredient. I think the bird’s nest blends better in the custard egg yolk bun (bird’s nest itself is rather tasteless) than Ming’s Court birds nest custard tarts. However, in the end it was still a solid, if not quite spectacular, custard egg yolk bun.

Overall, T’ang Court was certainly the most innovative dim sum I had and slightly better than Ming Court, but I still reserve judgement on if it was truly worth the upgrade to 3 Michelin Stars this year. I’ll get a taste of consistently 3 Star rated Lung King Heen at the end of the year.

Dining at a Dai Pai Dong

Continuing on my NYC-Vancouver-Hong Kong trip report, I finally make it to Hong Kong. After some disappointing, although decent, dining stops on my last trip, I decided to mostly eat at restaurants in the Michelin guide this time.

Tasty Congee & Noodle Wantun Shop
Shop 3016-3018, 3F
IFC, 1 Harbor View Street
Central, Hong Kong

The first stop was Tasty Congee & Noodle Wantun Shop in the IFC Mall, which is a bib gourmand recommended restaurant (meaning the food isn’t up to par to get a Michelin star, but good enough to be considered a decent restaurant with good value). I went there for lunch around 2PM, and it was a breeze to get a table after the post-lunch crowd had departed. I browsed the menu, which had dishes ranging from congee to dim sum to noodle soups. While I wanted to try a number of dishes, a limited budget and stomach capacity meant I only ordered the following:


Wonton Noodle Soup at Tasty

  • House Specialty Wonton Noodles In Soup (正斗鮮蝦雲呑麵) – The soup was fantastic, with a broth that was light but also had a nice amount of dried fish and shrimp flavor. The yellow chives were flavorful and the wontons had a nice, light skin with a good amount of plump shrimp. The only thing that was disappointing was the slightly overcooked noodles, but that was only one flaw in an overall very well executed (if small) dish.

Stir Fried Rice Noodles with Beef at Tasty

  • Stir Fried Rice Noodles With Beef (干炒牛河) – One of their signature items, the dish did not disappoint. The rice noodles, thin beef slices, bean sprouts, scallions, and soy sauce were perfectly stir fried with a nice amount of “wok hei”. While the dish got a little oily in the end (though still not as oily as most renditions), the freshly stir fried flavor remained all the way through as I devoured the whole plate. While this dish is fairly simple, this was definitely the best rendition of the noodles I have tasted.

All in all, Tasty was a good start to my Hong Kong food adventures. The prices certainly weren’t bad too, especially given the location in one of Hong Kong’s fancier malls.

Sing Kee 盛記
9-10 Stanley Street
Central, Hong Kong

While lunch was at a restaurant in a fancy mall, my dinner was anything but. As I had never dined in a dai pai dong (大牌檔) before, I decided that this was my time, especially given that the number of them continue to decline.

For a little bit of background, dai pai dongs are street food stalls that were once ubiquitous in Hong Kong (somewhat similar in vein to New York hot dog stands or Los Angeles taco trucks). The name comes from the big license plates they had to operate that were given by the Hong Kong government in the 1950s and 1960s. However, because of sanitary and other issues, they stopped giving more of them out in the 1970s and the licenses can only be handed down by family. The combination of the restrictions in licenses and the rise of cooked food centers (to establish a more centralized, sanitary place for food stalls) means that the number of true dai pai dongs (where the stall is on the street and not just a store front with street/sidewalk tables) has shrunk to just a couple dozen.

Given the precipitous decline of dai pai dongs, I decided to eat at one of the most accessible and highly rated one still in existence, Sing Kee. Sing Kee is located near the end of Stanley Street, a street in Central that is also the home of the venerable roast goose vendor Yat Lok. It’s only open in the evening and like most other dai paid dongs, is cash only. You take a seat on a free stool on an open table and then take a look at its one page sticky, laminated menu which has just a few dozen stir fry dishes in traditional Chinese and English. I ordered the following:

Pork Ribs and Chinese Broccoli at Sing Kee

Pork Ribs and Chinese Broccoli at Sing Kee

  • Pork Ribs in Salt and Pepper (椒鹽排骨) – Unlike the big slices of fried pork chops that you get at most Cantonese restaurants in the US that serve this dish, these were small spareribs, like the ones you would eat at dim sum, that are fried to perfection. The wok hei was great and the fried scallions and thin slices of peppers that accompanied this dish were excellent.
  • Garlic Stir Fried Chinese Broccoli (蒜茸芥蘭)- While stir fried vegetables are not on the main menu, like most Cantonese restaurants you can just ask what fresh, seasonal vegetables they have available. This time I ordered the Chinese broccoli which were very fresh and flavorful with the perfect amount of garlic stir fried to accompany it. It’s not necessarily the best plate of Chinese broccoli I’ve ever had, but it was pretty darn good.

All in all, I can see how dai pai dongs have a certain nostalgia and appeal that won’t be matched at a cooked food center, no matter how the good is at the food stalls there. There is something about grabbing a quick, cheap bite of food out on the street as the flurry of lights and foot traffic surround you. It certainly isn’t the most sanitary way to cook food, but the food is great and the ambiance is unbeatable. If people travel to Hong Kong, they should definitely eat one meal at a dai pai dong before they are all gone in a generation or two.

Yan Toh Heen, Hong Kong

Yan Toh Heen (欣圖軒)
18 Salisbury Road
Kowloon, Hong Kong

On every one of my trips to Hong Kong I usually like to visit at least one fancy (usually 2+ Michelin Star) restaurant and a couple mid-tier and hole in the wall places for dim sum. While the couple mid-priced and hole in the wall dim sum places on this past trip disappointed as a whole, my high end dim sum experience did not.

I arrived to Yan Toh Heen at the Intercontinental Hong Kong a little after my reservation time. Not to worry, however, as the hosts graciously seated me right away. I was seated at a 2-top table with a nice view of Victoria Harbor while on a plus seating bench as comfortable as my favorite couch.

I browsed the menu for a few minutes while my pot of Chrysanthemum Pu-Er tea was steeping at my table. There were a lot of interesting choices I wanted to try, but I had a relatively limited budget and wanted to sample a couple classic items with a couple of new items. In the end I settled for the following items:

Yan Toh Heen Superior Dumplings

Yan Toh Heen Superior Dumplings

  • Yan Toh Heen Superior Dumplings (極品三式海鮮餃) – The three dumplings included in this dumpling set were the Steamed Scallop with Black Truffles and Vegetable Dumplings (黑松露帶子餃), Steam Lobster and Bird’s Nest Dumpling with Gold Leaf (金箔燕液龍蝦餃), and Steamed King Crab Leg Dumpling with King Vegetables (長腳蟹肶菜苗餃). The server suggested I start with the crab leg dumpling, which was the simplest and cleanest in terms of flavor, and progress to the scallop dumpling. That progression was delicious and loved being able to eat towards more rich umami flavors. It was also my first time eating gold leaf. Though the gold leaf was nice, let’s be honest, given that it’s tasteless it did nothing to enhance the flavor or texture of the dumpling except for a feeling of decadence. Regardless, it was a very tasty dish that also came with an accompaniment of 6 different dipping sauces.
Steamed Prawn and Bamboo Shoot Dumpling at Yan Toh Heen

Steamed Prawn and Bamboo Shoot Dumpling at Yan Toh Heen

  • Steamed Prawn and Bamboo Shoot Dumpling (晶塋筍尖鮮蝦餃) – These har gow were very on point and probably the 2nd best I’ve ever had. The skin was thin, but had a little bit of give, and held the shrimp filling well. The bamboo shoots gave a little textural bite to the very fresh shrimp used in the dumplings.
Yan Toh Heen 3

Turnip Cake and Tofu Skin Rolls at Yan Toh Heen

  • Pan-Fried Turnip Cake – While these turnip cakes were nicely fried and had very flavorful Chinese sausage, they were probably my least favorite item of the meal. There was nothing particularly bad about them but it was a bland dish compared to the other dishes I ordered.
  • Pan Fried Tofu Skin Roll with Vegetables – In contrast, these were probably the best tofu skin rolls I’ve ever had, The tofu skin was crispy without being burnt and the filling was light but still substantive in portion. I ate these pretty quickly.
Yan Toh Heen 4

Mango Cream with Sago and Pomelo at Yan Toh Heen, presentation

  • Chilled Mango Cream with Sago and Pomelo (楊枝甘露) – I finished my meal with one of Yan Toh Heen’s signature items. As you can see from the above photos, it came covered with a fancy glass dome to contain the dry ice steam. The mago cream and sago combination was delicious and not overly sweet as it could be. The shaved pieces of pomelo might have been a little too much, but it was a nice bit of tartness to cut the richness of the mango cream and sago. I can definitely see how this is a signature dish, presentation wow factor aside.
Yan Toh Heen 5

Mango Cream with Sago and Pomelo at Yan Toh Heen

The meal was unforgettable, with impeccable service, a thank you gift of jasmine tea leaves, and a sweeping view of Victoria Harbor and Hong Kong Island to boot. While a meal at Yan Toh Heen is not affordable by any stretch of the word, I feel it’s definitely worth every penny.

Looking Back to 2015, Looking Forward to 2016

A little over a year and a half ago I wrote a post reflecting on my first year of serious blogging and places I looked forward to dining in during the coming year. I didn’t do a similar post earlier this year, but I figured today was the perfect time to do it since a calendar year ended a few days ago.

Upon reflection, 2015 has been a year of “firsts” for me. It was my first time eating Dongbei cuisine from Northeastern China (what some of you may have learned in textbooks as Manchuria). It was my first time blogging about Thai food. Most importantly for me, however, it was my first time traveling to Hong Kong.

It’s undeniable that my trip to Hong Kong left a lasting impression on me; so much so that Hong Kong eateries make up a majority of my 2015 list of most delicious eats. It makes sense given that, in a way, it was my journey home, home to where my parents were born and home to the culture they raised me in. That’s not to diminish the other wonderful non-Hong Kong places I ate at throughout the year. It’s just to remark about on my year-ending list full of “firsts” that my first trip to Hong Kong makes the biggest impression.

So without further ado, here are the most delicious places I ate (and reviewed) for my blog in 2015:

Muslim Lamb Chops at Fu Run

Muslim Lamb Chops at Fu Run

  • Fu Run (Flushing, Queens, NY) – My first foray into Dongbei cuisine was magnificent! My cousins and I loved the grass jelly noodles as well as the amazing and succulent cumin lamb.
  • LKK (North Point, Hong Kong Island, HK) – Technically not a restaurant, but a street stall that sells arguably the best egg waffles (雞蛋仔) in Hong Kong.
Afternoon Tea - a favorite on my mom's side

Afternoon Tea – a favorite on my mom’s side

Dim Sum at Ming Court

Dim Sum at Ming Court

  • Ming Court (Mong Kok, Kowloon, HK) – I’ve eaten at a number of Dim Sum restaurants this year (see Elite, King Hua, Sun Hing, and Dragon Beaux), but this 2 Michelin star restaurant at the Langham Place hotel was the best dim sum I had, hands down. Yes, even better (though certainly not cheaper) than Tim Ho Wan.
  • Pho Ngoon (San Gabriel, CA) – I also had my first taste of northern Vietnamese food in 2015. Let me say that I love northern Vietnamese just as much as southern Vietnamese, especially the Pho Cuon.
  • Yat Lok (Central, Hong Kong Island, HK) – You think roast duck from a Chinese BBQ joint in the US is good? You haven’t had roast goose from Yat Lok that perfectly balances crispy skin with juicy meat.

As you can see, it’s been a fantastic year of food adventures!


This year, I want to continue my pattern of breaking new personal boundaries when it comes to experiencing various Asian cuisines and dishes. Fortunately for me, one of my first trips will be to Macau where I will get the pleasure of tasting Macanese food, which borrows from the cuisines of Guangdong and Portugal.

However, there’s a ton of restaurants I do want to try and blog about in the coming year that include cuisines I’m already familiar with. Given my desire to explore new foods but also refine my palate in cuisines familiar to me, here are 5 restaurants on my list for 2016:

  • Chengdu Taste – Sichuan cuisine is enjoying a renaissance in the US thanks to the large number of Sichuanese people moving to the States. Chengdu Taste is among the very best of these newer Sichuan restaurants and I’m eager to finally have a taste (especially with the convenience of 4 locations now with its rapid expansion).
  • Lung King Heen (龍景軒) – The first Chinese restaurant to receive the highly prized 3 Michelin stars. While it’s definitely pricey, with 2 trips to Hong Kong this coming year I’m sure I’ll be able to save some money to eat here this year.
  • Private Party – The kitschy and potentially problematic Communist theme aside, I’ve never had Beijing style hot pot so it’s definitely high up on my to-try list. It’s especially interesting given that you can grill skewers in the center of your hot pot contraption as well!
  • Thip Khao – Keeping with the theme of “firsts”, the first time I had Lao food was a few weeks ago. During my trip(s) to DC this year I hope to taste more delicious Lao dishes
  • Tita’s Kitchenette – While I have grown up in San Diego and gobbled many plates of Filipino food, astonishingly enough I have never eaten in National City before, one of the centers of Filipino cuisine and shopping in the US. This year I hope to take a bite at one Filipino place my brother and sister in law highly recommend.

Hopefully I’ll be more successful than May 2014-May 2015, where I only ate and blogged about 1 of my wish list restaurants. Only time will tell if I’ll keep this New Year’s Resolution.

Egg Waffles (鷄蛋仔)

After dinner Sunday night my friends and I decided to go to a Hong Kong dessert place. We stumbled on the place by pure accident, but it gave me a chance to eat one of my favorite dessert items for my birthday: an egg waffle (or 鷄蛋仔 as it’s called in Cantonese and eggette as an alternative in English).

Egg waffles, if you don’t know, are very popular dessert/snack items sold on street stalls throughout Hong Kong. While the origins of this snack item is little known, the modern day form is an egg rich batter that goes into a waffle like griddle with egg-like pockets where puffs of chewy dough form. An ideal egg waffle is crispy and crunchy on the outside while also being soft, slightly sweet, and a little chewy inside the puffs. These can be enjoyed throughout the day, but usually I have them either as a mid-Afternoon snack or a post-dinner dessert.

雞蛋仔 at 利強記北角雞蛋仔  credit to Phillip Lai - "雞蛋仔 #lkk #hongkong" ( )

雞蛋仔 at 利強記北角雞蛋仔
credit to Phillip Lai – “雞蛋仔 #lkk #hongkong” ( )

The best place I have had an egg waffle is, of course, in Hong Kong. There is a famous stall in the North Point neighborhood called LKK (利強記北角雞蛋仔 in Chinese) on 492 Kings Road, at the corner of Kam Hong Street. On Kings Road it’s hard to spot, but once you turn the corner onto Kam Hong St. you will see an unmistakable line for these egg waffles. The place is an institution, with a number of photos of TVB stars, like Nancy Sit, eating egg waffles at the place plastering the wall of the stall. Yet, it’s location in a fairly working class residential neighborhood means it is never really mentioned in English or Mainland Chinese travel press, given the place a very local feel. They even have a couple of other locations in Hong Kong, testifying to its popularity. The egg waffles, of course, are super great as well with pretty much perfect texture and at a bargain of $2 USD for one.

However, you definitely don’t need to travel to Hong Kong to eat an egg waffle. If you live or visit a city with a large population of immigrants who were born and raised in Hong Kong, like Los Angeles and San Francisco, you can get a bite of one too.

San Francisco Bay Area

It should be no surprise that the Bay Area has plenty of food vendors and restaurants that serve egg waffles. After all, the Bay Area has the largest number of residents that are from Hong Kong according to the census bureau, and it’s the only major metropolitan area with multiple Chinatowns where Cantonese is the lingua franca.

雞蛋仔 at Hong Kong Snack House

雞蛋仔 at Hong Kong Snack House

If you live in the East Bay (around Oakland and Berkeley), like I do, there are a number of options for one to get a taste of an egg waffle. Probably my favorite is the aptly named Hong Kong Snack House in the Pacific East Mall. The tiny store is very reminiscent of a Hong Kong street stall and serve nicely cooked, if slightly underdone, egg waffles. In Oakland Chinatown there are a number of options. If you are on the go, there is the Quickly on 10th Street that can satisfy your on the go craving for both boba and egg waffles. However, if you rather have it at a sit down restaurant, you can go to one of several Hong Kong style cafes/cha chaan tengs like the more upscale Shooting Star Cafe or the more bare bones Yummy Guide.

雞蛋仔 at Creations Dessert House

雞蛋仔 at Creations Dessert House

The city and the Peninsula are not left wanting either. Just the other day my friends and I went to Creations Dessert House in the Richmond where they served perfectly crispy, if oddly misshapen egg waffles. There is also the 4 location chain called Eggettes where egg waffles are their raison d’être. Not to be left out is the well reviewed Kowlooon Tong Dessert Cafe. And if you want a feel of being on a crowded street in Hong Kong, there is Dessert Republic in downtown San Mateo.

Los Angeles

雞蛋仔 at Tasty Garden in Westminster

雞蛋仔 at Tasty Garden in Westminster

To eat an egg waffle in Los Angeles, one will have to do what they have to do to eat any other amazing authentic Chinese food item: drive to the San Gabriel Valley. Once you are in the SGV, however, the number of options are numerous. A vast number of Hong Kong style cafes/cha chaan tengs have them, so you can get your fill at places like Tasty Garden in Alhambra and Monterey Park, Cafe Spot in Alhambra, and Tasty Station in Rowland Heights. Don’t need a meal and just prefer desserts or snacks? Tea and dessert places like Puffect in Walnut and Fresh Roast in Alhambra.

If you prefer not to drive in the SGV, not all is lost. Tasty Garden also has locations in Irvine and Westminster, though I prefer the egg waffles at the Westminster location. And while I haven’t tried the egg waffles at Phoenix, they do offer them at their locations in Gardena and Garden Grove.


Outside of the Bay Area and Los Angeles, egg waffles are a little harder to find in the United States. While there was an “egg cake lady” named Cecilia Tam that sold bits of egg waffles in New York City during the 80s and 90s, there is little presence of the egg waffles now. You still, however, can get them in Boston at a little stall in Chinatown. In San Diego, one can find them at E + Drink, which is interesting given that the place is mostly Taiwanese (albeit Hong Kong style dessert places in the Bay Area often serve boba instead of Hong Kong style milk tea).

But no matter where I have an egg waffle, eating one just brings me a sense of warmth and comfort. It’s the ultimate snack, a perfect way to finish a busy day of work or a nice bonus to a birthday celebration with friends. In fact, I wish I was eating one right now.

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Hong Kong Visit, Part 3

Hong Kong Island from the Ritz Carlton

Hong Kong Island from the Ritz Carlton

Dim sum parlors and cha chaan tengs may be the most ubiquitous type of restaurants from Hong Kong, but they are far from the only type of restaurant that you can find there. While I wish I could have eaten it all, from the innovative takes on classic Cantonese at Bo Innovation to traditionally Tanka typhoon shelter crab, neither my schedule nor the constraints of my wallet allowed me to sample the true diversity of food Hong Kong has to offer.  However, I did get to sample some of the great array of food, which I’ve documented below.

Afternoon Tea

The Lounge & Bar at the Ritz Carlton
102/F, The Ritz Carlton Hong Kong
International Commerce Center, Elements, Hong Kong

Even though its been more than 15 years since the British handover of Hong Kong, the colonial roots of the modern city are undeniable and everywhere. This includes the ritual of afternoon tea by those of upper income classes (which I should note is different from high tea). My mother and grandmother always loved to reminisce about the delicious food and beverages of afternoon tea so I took the trip to Hong Kong as my chance to splurge a little on myself. I invited a cousin of mine who currently lives in Hong Kong as well and chose the Ritz Carlton not only because of its food reputation, but also because it has an incredible view of Hong Kong, which you can see above. The tea set for two came with the following:

Afternoon Tea at the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong

Afternoon Tea at the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong

  • Earl Grey Tea – I wouldn’t say that the tea blew me away, but it was definitely good tea. While many would add milk and some sugar, I just drank the tea as is, which I usually do for any tea.
  • Scones with jam and clotted cream – Scones are typically the standard when it comes to afternoon tea, and these scones did not disappoint. They were nice and buttery, matching perfectly with the jam and clotted cream. As my cousin suggested I ate some of them as palate cleansers in between rich dishes.
  • Raspberry Cheesecake – This was my probably my favorite item after the scones. It was rich without being too tense and the raspberry gave the small slice of cheesecake a nice fruity tartness to cut the richness of the dish.

There were a number of other items as you can see from the picture, but all in all I was very pleased with most of the items. Service, however, left a little bit to be desired as it took a while for our tea and coffee to get refilled. Regardless, my cousin and I enjoyed catching up while partaking in delicious afternoon tea.

Cantonese Barbecue (燒味)

Yat Lok (一樂燒鵝)
G/F, 34-38 Stanley Street
Central, Hong Kong

After Cha Chaan Tengs and Dim Sum, probably the next most ubiquitous type of restaurant in Hong Kong is one that serves Cantonese barbecue. In nearly every major street with a mom and pop restaurant, usually at least one serves Chinese barbecue. You can usually tell them apart by the fact that they hang roast ducks, roast pork, and barbeque pork near the front windows. If you have been in any Chinatown of a major American city, you have probably walked past and/or seen some of these restaurants too. Of all the Cantonese barbecue places in Hong Kong, one of the most well known is Yat Lok. Specifically, Yat Lok is famous for its roast goose, which many order in drumstick form served atop a noodle soup with rice noodles. Given its reputation, I decided to spend a dinner there and ordered the following:

Roast Goose Rice and Tong Choy at Yat Lok

Roast Goose Rice and Tong Choy at Yat Lok

  • Roast Goose Rice (燒鵝飯) – I generally prefer roast meats over rice so I decided to order a roast goose rice plate instead of a roast goose noodle soup. The first few bites had extra crispy skin but little meat and I almost became really disappointed. However as I ate other slices I truly understood why this roast goose is highly rated – for most of the slices the skin was nice and crispy while the meat was perfect and moist.
  • Water Spinach/Ong Choy With Fermented Tofu (腐乳蕹菜)- One of my favorite childhood dishes was also one of the simplest that my mom cooked – Ong choy with fermented tofu. This time Yat Lok perfectly blanched the greens to be cooked, yet a little crispy with a dollop of fermented tofu sauce on the side. Once dipped, the ong choy was a wonderful balance of freshness, saltiness, and a little spice.

As a side note, the po po (婆婆), or elderly lady/grandmother, that was the cashier chastised me when I paid. Why? I had unconsciously brought in a Starbucks drink the the restaurant which was seen as a side of arrogance and rudeness. Since Starbucks is considered a luxury item, by bringing in that drink I was considered snobby as if I didn’t want to drink the drinks they served. In fact, they do serve a pretty good milk tea, which is what I should have ordered instead.

Cantonese Desserts 

Ching Ching Dessert (晶晶甜品)
81A Electric Rd
Tin Hau, Hong Kong

I’ve talked a lot about savory items, but like many food cultures, there are a number of sweets for dessert too. So after dinner at Goldfinch, my cousin took me to Tin Hau for some dessert. Tin Hau, which is a neighborhood on the opposite side of Victoria Park from Causeway Bay, is apparently home to many favorite local dessert shops, most of them along Electric Road. I didn’t know whether Ching Ching was the best or most well known, but I trusted my cousin’s judgement and browsed through the menu of a number of childhood favorite desserts. In the end I got:

Desserts at Ching Ching

Desserts at Ching Ching

  • Mango Pudding (芒果布丁) – I loved eating mango pudding as a child and this version outranked them by far. Not only could you taste the fresh mango in the pudding, but there were soft dices of mango in the pudding itself making a very light yet decadent dessert.
  • Silken Tofu with Ginger Syrup (豆腐花) – This dessert, made with hot silken tofu and drizzled with a sweet ginger syrup, was my mom’s favorite sweet treat. In the United States is hard to get a good version as the tofu is often brittle or the syrup is not quite right either in amount or flavor. This version was practically perfect with silken tofu that stayed intact and a syrup that added a slightly sweet flavor without overpowering.

Now there are many other desserts on the menu, including grass jelly and almond “tofu” jelly, but given the quality, I feel like they might be all good. Granted, having never lived in Hong Kong I might be missing some of the nuances that might further distinguish one place from another.

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned before, I wish I could have eaten more. These three blog posts are only a glimpse to the vast food culture of Hong Kong. If I was to make a metaphor, my food experience in Hong Kong was like eating a few morsels of dim sum – enough to have me satisfied, but so tasty it keeps me hungering for more. In fact, as I write right now, I am saving up money and room in my stomach again so I can take another trip to the Fragrant Harbor again.

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Hong Kong Visit (Part 2)

Hong Kong at Night on the Star Ferry

Hong Kong at Night on the Star Ferry

Dim sum is arguably the most celebrated and ubiquitous culinary import from Hong Kong to the United States and Canada. For most people, it’s easy to understand why – it’s affordable, nearly all items are delicious, and they come in small plates allowing you to try a variety. Its large footprint and fairly universal acclaim across the Pacific might make you think it’s the thing Hong Kongers eat all day, everyday. But while dim sum is certainly popular, I can tell you what is even more ever present in Hong Kong: Cha Chaan Tengs (茶餐廳) more commonly known in the US as Hong Kong (style) cafes.

Cha Chaan Tengs (茶餐廳)

I grew up eating at cha chaan tengs, but since there were none in San Diego those meals would only be during our monthly drives up to the San Gabriel Valley. Like many in Hong Kong, we would generally go there to eat for a late dinner or where no one in the family could make up their mind on what type of food we wanted to eat for dinner. But given that there weren’t that many cha chaan tengs in the Los Angeles area in the 1990s and early 2000s, especially compared to restaurants that served dim sum and seafood, I thought they were mildly popular but not super common in Hong Kong. That assumption was immediately proven wrong on my trip. On some blocks there wouldn’t just be one cha chaan teng, but maybe five or even six of these restaurants ranging from small mom and pops to large chains.

The popularity of cha chaan tengs come from their early roots in the 1960s and 1970s. With the industrialization of Hong Kong and the influence of British culture, many working families want to eat more western food and drink, especially British tea, at an affordable price. What grew out of this trend were two important culinary developments:

  1. Hong Kong style milk tea (奶茶) – a milk tea made with a strong blend of black tea with evaporated milk and sugar or condensed milk (to imitate the afternoon tea of upper class British). A really popular version is the yin yeung (鴛鴦) where drip coffee and the brewed tea is mixed and then added with the evaporated or condensed milk.
  2. Soy sauce western food  (豉油西餐) – Chinese style western food like a pork chop with a Chinese style mushroom sauce and spaghetti noodles, soy sauce marinated roasted chicken, and Chinese style Russian borscht typically made with more tomato with little to no beets.

Since the 1960s and 1970s the menus have expanded even further to include wonton noodle soup, sandwiches, instant ramen in tomato broth, and thick toast with spreads like peanut butter. In many cha chaan tengs the menu isn’t just on a paper booklet handed to you, but also on a paper under the glass table top and scribbled on paper taped to the walls. And while this is really just a brief description of what a cha chaan teng is and what it serves, the gist is that these restaurants are enormously popular as a sense of nostagia for young and middle aged people in Hong Kong as well as a place to go if you’re hungry and need to eat a late lunch, late dinner, or post nightlife sustenance.

It’s like if a large city in the United States had streets upon streets filled with diners (in addition to other restaurants) where the diners served everything from burgers to kung pao chicken, and many people came there to eat a late afternoon snack or late evening meal. Given all of that, it starts to make sense how I ate more meals at cha chaan tengs than I ate dim sum in Hong Kong. Below are my thoughts on each of them:

Goldfinch Restaurant (金雀餐廳)
G/F, 13-15 Lan Fong Rd
Causeway Bay

Dripped in a lot of 1960s nostalgia, Goldfinch is mostly known as the setting for two Wong Kar-Wai films, In the Mood for Love and 2046. However, it also has a part in my family’s history as it is where my mom’s side ate a number of meals and loved their Russian soup. It’s pretty fitting that my first visit to a cha chaan teng like restaurant is a family patronized place famous for its nostalgic soy sauce western food and decor. I ordered one of their famous set meals, the black pepper steak, which came with the following:

Russian Soup at Goldfinch

Russian Soup at Goldfinch

  • Russian Soup – While I know my family loves this soup and it’s something they fell in love with, I got to say that it’s only okay. The flavor of the tomato, cabbage, and other vegetables are on the milder side and I prefer the spicier, heartier version of the family recipe I’m used to. It’s definitely decent though a touch bit disappointing given the hype.
  • Black Pepper Steak – I don’t have a photo, but the dish was served on a black skillet in a shape of a cow. Regardless of the presentation, the steak was seasoned well and cooked to the nice medium-rare that I wanted with a decent blend of steamed vegetables to balance all the meat. The french fries felt weird as a starch, but I have to remember this is Chinese interpretation of a western meal rather than a meal I would order and get at a Denver steakhouse, Ruth Chris, or even Black Angus.

But despite some of the issues I had with the food, I can definitely see why my family loved and still loves the place. Goldfinch is nostalgic and iconic and there are some places that you just go to time and time again from your childgood that might not be the best anymore, but means a lot to you. It’s why some older Chinese people in the US still go to restaurants that opened decades ago and aren’t remotely at the same quality of some of their newer competitors, but it was the first restaurant they ate at which felt like a reasonable taste of home.

Tsui Wah (翠華餐廳)
G/F-2/F, 15-19 Wellington Street

My next cha chaan teng experience was at Tsui Wah, a modern cha chaan teng chain with locations across Hong Kong and now into Mainland China. In my experience, and in talking to my currently Hong Kong based cousin, I feel it’s like a Hong Kong version of IHOP – an affordable, late night (if not 24 hour) chain serving decent food to a wide breadth of people. I went on a Monday night for a relatively late dinner and ordered the following.

Hainanese Chicken Rice at Tsui Wah

Hainanese Chicken Rice at Tsui Wah

  • Milk Tea – Tsui Wah’s milk tea is made with tea leaves and evoporated milk. It’s not very sweet and the tea is fairly strong. I preferred it a little sweeter, though I probably should have just added sugar to mix with it to get the desired sweetness I wanted.
  • Hainanese Chicken Rice – One of their signature items, the rich dish comes with decently poached chicken, flavorful rice, several dipping sauces, rather bland pickled cabbage, and “home made” soup. The chicken was nice and moist, though I was a little disappoined that the chicken came in boneless. Nonetheless, a solid Cantonese version of the dish and I did really love the pork soup that tasted very homey to me.
Pea Shoots at Tsui Wah

Pea Shoots at Tsui Wah

  • Garlic poached pea shoots – I orginally ordered some chinese broccoli but once I saw on the table that they had pea shoots, which I love, for cheaper, I immediately switched my order. The vegetables were cooked with relatively little flavor and while I definitely like the basic flavor of pea shoots, I wish they were stir fried instead.

All in all, I can definitely see why it’s such a well established chain that a restaurant in San Mateo attempts to imitate their brand and flavor. I’ll definitely be back to one the next time I’m in Hong Kong, especially after a late night out.

Hong Kong Day (香港地)
Shop P102, P1/F The Peak Tower

Hong Kong Day is a smaller chain brand that’s part of the larger Maxim’s Group (which also has bakeries in many MTR stations and popular dim sum and seafood restaurants). It is not as well known as Tsui Wah and the menu is a bit smaller, but it’s very similar in terms of decor, food quality, and service. Since my other options eating at the Peak were rather limited to touristy Western restaurants or another meal at Tsui Wah, I decided to try Hong Kong Day out and ordered the following:

Meal at Hong Kong Day

Meal at Hong Kong Day

  • Lettuce in Oyster Sauce – Unlike the Tim Ho Wan version of this dish where the sauce was more cooked in with the lettuce, at Hong Kong Day they literally threw blotches of oyster sauce on top of quickly poached lettuce. While I get that vegetables definitely are more a throwaway item on these menus, the lettuce here was both visually and orally unappetizing.
  • Singapore Style Rice Noodles – Singapore style rice noodles at cha chaan tengs are basically a Cantonese, mild version of Singaporean mee siam. In this way, the Hong Kong Day version was nice in that it had perfectly cooked noodles, a reasonable but not overpowering amount of sauce, and relatively generous amounts of shrimp and meat but it was otherwise unremarkable.
  • Milk Tea – I actually liked the milk tea more here but I think it’s because Hong Kong Day adds more sugar and I like a balance that is just a touch but not too much on the sweet side.

All in all, Hong Kong Day in spectacularly mediocre. The meal served its purpose as a quick and reasonably priced meal when visiting the touristy Peak but otherwise I’d stick to Tsui Wah.

Kam Wah (金華冰廳)
G/F, 47 Bute Street
Prince Edward

Kam Wah is a very much old school mom and pop style cha chaan teng. In fact, from the name you can see that it keeps to more of the origins of a cha chaan teng called itself an “ice restaurant” (冰廳) which is a cross between an “ice room” (冰室), a term for a quick service cafe starting in the 1940s that served ice drinks and snacks/pastries that were the earlier cousins of cha chaan tengs, and a cha chaan teng. While their menu has expanded over the years to include various cha chaan teng dishes, they are mostly known for their milk tea and Cantonese pastries which is exactly what I ordered as a quick afternoon snack on a Tuesday.

Pineapple Bun and Milk Tea at Kam Wah

Pineapple Bun and Milk Tea at Kam Wah

  • Milk Tea – This was probably my favorite milk tea of the whole trip. The tea was strong, but balanced out very well with the evaporated milk and enough sugar to make it sweet but not too sweet as I often find in US restaurants.
  • Pineapple Bun – As I’ve stated before, pineapple buns aren’t really made of pineapples but are rather buns that have a sweet crust thaat look like a pineapple when baked. These are the buns that Kam Wah is famous for and I can see why. The bread is fresh, warm, and light but with good buttery flavor and the crust is sweet and flakey without easily flaking off the bread. A more decadent version called Bolo Yau is when the bun is sliced and a thick slice of butter is inserted to melt into the bun.

This late afternoon snack truly explained why my mom loved milk tea and pineapple buns, even though it was unlikely she actually ever went to Kam Wah. While I have been used to hours and almost day old pineapple buns that are stiff and blander in the US as of late (even at vaunted Cantonese bakeries like Kee Wah), these buns restored my love for these delicious buns.

City Cafe (香城茶室)
1/F, Hong Kong Museum of History
Chatham Road South
Tsim Sha Tsui

In an interesting twist, my last cha chaan teng on my trip was at the Hong Kong Museum of History. Yes, cha chaan tengs are so ubiquitous that the only option for a meal in the museum is their independently contracted cha chaan teng that’s situated on the floor in between their exhibits. So once I finished the ground floor exhibit on prehistoric and dynastic Hong Kong, I ate a late lunch and ordered their Curry Beef lunch set

  • Curry Beef Rice – The curry was nice and they gave me a decent proportion of beef, potatoes, and currents. It was definitely a small step up from most cafeteria food, but I can’t say it would win any superlative awards. The rice was cooked decently.
  • Milk Tea – The hot milk tea was decent and a little sweeter than the Tsui Wah version, though I’ll be honest in saying that I was almost “milk tea’d out” as it was near the end of the trip.

All in all, I would say it was pretty good for a museum, especially one that is older and hasn’t yet done an upscale transformation like several art museums in the US. I appreciate that it has a decent variety of options despite a relatively small menu that only spans one single sided piece of paper printed on both sides.

Cha Chaan Teng Thoughts

If you’ve read through my entire post, you will have seen a lot of comments about how the food was “alright” or “average” which might be taken as a slight. In this case, it isn’t really. The point and ubiquity of cha chaan tengs are to provide quick, decent, affordable meals for working families and people in Hong Kong. There’s no Michelin Star cha chaan teng as there are of restaurants serving dim sum because it’s not meant to be a high end, magical dining experience. Cha chaan tengs, I feel, perfectly encapsulate Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a place that is magical, but the people don’t have a lot of time and many people don’t have a lot of money. Thus cha chaan tengs allow the vast majority of Hong Kong to eat quick, to eat at any time of day with or without friends, to eat reasonably good food without breaking the bank. And if you gave me the option of 10 meals in a row at a cha chaan teng or 10 meals in a row of dim sum, I’m picking the cha chaan teng.

Hong Kong Visit (Part 1)

Hong Kong from Victoria Peak

Hong Kong from Victoria Peak

Hong Kong is a city of 7.2 million people which, to put into perspective, is nearly twice as populated as the city of Los Angeles, and more populated than the boroughs of Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn combined. Suffice it to say that as it would be practically impossible to eat at all the fabulous places in LA or NYC in a week, it’s nearly impossible to eat at all the great places in Hong Kong on a week’s vacation. Even if you were to venture out of traditional Cantonese cuisine or food at Hong Kong style cafes (茶餐廳), there are still a range of other options from Teochow cuisine to high end French fare. And nearly everywhere you walk, no matter what neighborhood you are in, your nose is assaulted with the smell of food whether it’s fresh or cooked.

So with only 15 meals in the 6 days I was there, I couldn’t possibly eat it all. In fact, some places I really wanted to go ended up being inconvenient from where I was staying or traveling to and others were outside of my price range (which only allowed me to splurge once, which you can see below). Of the 30 places I had starred as “wanting to go” on my OpenRice app (similar to Yelp), I ended up only going to 7. Nonetheless, given that the city is filled to the brim with food basically 24/7, nearly every place I ate at was delicious.

But in order to break my blog posts to reasonable reading sizes, I’m making this a 3+ part blog series on my travels. Today’s focus is on something I have blogged about here copiously: dim sum. So without further ado…

Dim Sum (點心)

Dim Sum as we know it today was perfected In Guangdong province and has, of course, continued to evolve in Hong Kong since it became the center of Cantonese culture and food after World War II and the Chinese Civil War. Much as it has evolved in North America, dim sum has transformed from a breakfast meal to get starch and protein before a long days work to food you can get at nearly any hour of the day whether you are eating alone or with numerous companions. Regardless of the time of day I ate dim sum, there were many fellow diners. Fortuitously, though, I never had to wait in line, even at Tim Ho Wan. I ate 4 meals of dim sum in total (only 2 were planned) and here are my thoughts on each of them:

Ming Court 明閣

6/F Langham Place Hotel
555 Shanghai Street
Mong Kok

Situated on the 6th floor of the posh Langham Place Hotel in Mong Kok (旺角) is the Michelin star Ming Court. This was by far the most expensive meal I had on the trip, even more than my split of afternoon tea at the RItz Carlton, and one that I had planned in advance. I wanted at least one upscale dim sum option and Ming Court turned out to be the easiest to get a reservation with a fast an simple online booking system through their website as opposed to The Chairman, which needed you to have an email back and forth with the restaurant. I booked a table of one for Saturday morning as a good place to start on my trip to Hong Kong.

And I can say that the food was not simply good, it was excellent. Highlights included the:

Dim Sum at Ming Court

Dim Sum at Ming Court

  • Bamboo Shoot Shrimp Dumpling, Steamed (貴妃醉蝦餃) – the first “perfect” har gow I’ve ever had – skillfully wrapped with 15 folds, really fresh shrimp accented well with the bamboo shoot, and wrapping that tore off perfectly when bitten.
  • Egg Yolk Custard Bun, Steamed (明閣流沙包) – Steamed perfectly with a bun that was soft without being wet and filling that was salty sweet without being too runny.
  • Bird’s Nest Egg Tart, Baked (燕窩蛋撻) – While the birds nest was honestly a little superfluous (but because I was splurging, why not?), but the texture melded nicely to these petite egg tarts with a nice buttery crust and delicious custard filling.
Tea Service at Ming Court

Tea Service at Ming Court

I also ordered the Crab Meat Dumpling, Egg White, Black Truffle, Steamed (松露蛋白蟹肉餃) and the Pork Dumpling, Whole Shrimp, Crab Roe, Steamed (燒賣), both of which were also good. Bonus? Because I was dining for one, they halved some of the orders that called for 4 pieces to orders of 2 pieces. However, that wasn’t the best perk of all! Ming Court’s teapots stood atop a teapot stand that had a candle underneath to ensure that the tea was always nice and warm! And at about $35 USD for the meal, while it was expensive it wasn’t that much more expensive as higher end places in the United States at lower quality (like San Francisco’s Yank Sing).

Sun Hing (新興食家)
Shop C, G/F, 8 Smithfield Rd
Kennedy Town, Western District

Sun Hing was highly recommended by the host of the AirBnB place I stayed in Sai Ying Pun (西營盤). Thus, the next morning I rode the MTR from the new Sai Ying Pun station a couple stops down to Kennedy Town for morning breakfast at 7AM. Sun Hing is known to late night revelers as the place to sober up as it opens dark and early at 3AM. And while the crowd wasn’t quite as bad at 7AM, this tiny joint was filled to the brim with many locals gathering for their Sunday lunch. I managed to nab a spot when I walked in because there was one seat empty (as pretty much every table in a non-hotel restaurant in Hong Kong is a communal table).

Sun Hing was as local and “old style” dim sum as I got on my trip with dim sum ladies quickly moving just steamed or fried dim sum through the narrow aisle between the 6 tables. It’s first come first serve (so being lucky to have a table spot close to the kitchen is a great bonus) and anything left over is piled at a counter near the cashier for to go orders. It’s fast, it’s furious, and it’s done almost entirely in Cantonese, which is something that can be daunting for first timers. Two standouts here were:

Dim Sum at Sun Hing

Dim Sum at Sun Hing

  • Pork Meatball Cheung Gyun (腸捲) – These were simply hawked as cheung gyun (rice noodle roll similar to cheung fun, but not flat) but the rice noodle, tube of pork, and chopped vegetables were very delectable.
  • Siu Mai (燒賣) – These were the best siu mai I had on the entire tripe. Very fresh with a little shrimp and juicy, tender pork meat.

I also got the har gow and pai gwat which were both pretty good as well. Sadly, I didn’t get their most popular item, the egg yolk custard/lava bun (流沙包) but after waiting patiently for 10 minutes to see if any would come after I had eaten my last dim sum item, I decided to call it quits. However, I would happily come again – not only because of the great food, but at $79 HKD (a little over $10 USD), it was also the cheapest dim sum place I went to on the whole trip.

Tim Ho Wan (添好運)
Shop B, C, & D, G/F 2-8 Wharf Rd
Seaview Building, North Point

Known primarily as the cheapest Michelin Star restaurant in the world (which is now debatable after roast goose king Yat Lok received a Michelin Star this past year), this hole in the wall turned international chain is the mastermind of former Four Seasons Chef Mak Pui Gor. I deliberately went to the North Point location partially because it was near the hotel in North Point I stayed in during the latter half of my trip and partially because it has the smallest lines of all Tim Ho Wan locations in Hong Kong, due to location and size of the restaurant. Coming in a little after 1PM on a Monday afternoon I had little problem getting a seat, promptly washing my utensils in tea, and sitting down to order. Of the 5 items I got, 2 were stand outs in my book:

Char Siu Bao at Tim Ho Wan

Char Siu Bao at Tim Ho Wan

  • Char Siu Bao (酥皮焗叉燒包) – These are THE signature item at Tim Ho Wan and they are surely not to be missed. The savory filling of the char siu matched perfectly inside a freshly baked “pineapple” bun. Definitely the best char siu bao I ever ate.
  • Steam Rice with Chicken and Chinese Sausage (臘腸滑雞飯) – This simple tin bowl of rice, marinated and diced chicken, and Chinese sausage might not look special, but it was very tasty. It might not be exactly a bowl of claypot rice, but all the ingredients had nice flavor and I ate every last rice kernel.
Steamed Rice with Chicken and Chinese Sausage at Tim Ho Wan

Steamed Rice with Chicken and Chinese Sausage at Tim Ho Wan

I also ordered the har gow, siu mai, and a plate of poached lettuce. The lettuce mainly happened because I typically feel the need to balance my protein rich dim sum meals with some vegetables, though this lettuce was wholly mediocre. The har gow and siu mai were fine, in fact they are likely to beat at least 2/3 of all LA area dim sum restaurants with better quality and cheaper prices. However, as many seasoned local and frequently visiting dim sum enthusiasts note, their non-specialty items are fairly average for Hong Kong standards.

Kung Fu Dim Sum (功夫點心)
Shop 1, G/F, 98 Java Road
North Point

My last dim sum stop of the trip was Kung Fu Dim Sum’s branch in North Point. Kung Fu is a decent sized Dim Sum chain with a few outlets across Hong Kong. I was always intrigued walking by one, not sure what to think, but as luck would have it a friend I made in town decided that our last meet up would be here.

Because I was with a dining companion, Kung Fu Dim Sum ended up being the place where I sampled the most dim sum items. Of course I didn’t mind that and we ended up ordering 7 items. The 3 that stood out the most included:

Tripe at Kung Fu Dim Sum

Braised Ox Tripe at Kung Fu Dim Sum

  • Braised Ox Tripe with Black Pepper Sauce (牛雜) – Yes, the tripe was excellent. It was cleaned, marinated, and steamed perfectly unlike the overcooked and marinated versions you would find in the US. The daikon underneath was steamed fantastically as well, with texture that was tender yet crispy and soaked some of the sauce.
  • Malay Sponge Cake (馬拉糕) – This “Malaysian” sponge cake was probably the best I ever ate as it was just sweet enough, fluffy, and steamed just enough to be moist but not soggy.
  • Mango filled Mochi – The fresh mango pared really well with the chilled rice cake and were a perfect bite size dessert to finish the night and end my last full day in Hong Kong.
Malay Sponge Cake at Kung Fu Dim Sum

Malay Sponge Cake at Kung Fu Dim Sum

We also got har gow, siu mai, jook, and a shredded diakon puff pastry. All tasted decently, and the diakon puff pastry added interesting texture. The quality here was probably more consistent than Tim Ho Wan, and I can see why the restaurant turned into a busy yet under the radar chain. However, if I were to chose I probably would go to Tim Ho Wan first because the Char Siu Bao are that good.

Post Trip Thoughts

All in all the dim sum was excellent in Hong Kong, as one might expect. Nearly every one of my favorite dim sum items in North America had an even better version in one of the places I went to in Hong Kong. Those that weren’t beaten during my trip in Hong Kong (like the prawn spring rolls at Kirin in Vancouver) may be only surviving in my top dim sum list because I never tried the dish during my rather limited time in my parents’ birthplace. And I look forward to eating them on my next visit.

Up next in my series, the ubiquitous Hong Kong cafes/cha chaan tengs (茶餐廳) around the city…