Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Our trip to Hong Kong and Macau

C says:

We’re back from our too-short trip to Hong Kong and Macau, where we satisfied two urges – jumping off the Macau Tower, and stuffing our faces silly. Without further ado, here’s a rundown of the gastronomic highlights of our trip.

Hong Kong

We had so many recommendations for Hong Kong – from friends, colleagues and eating guides – that 4 days just wasn’t going to cut it. There are definitely places that we didn’t get to visit, but there’s always next time, because surprise surprise, A actually didn’t hate it, and is fairly keen on coming again (yay!).

Somewhere near the top of the list is probably Mak’s Noodles. The portions are tiny, but they’re also a good excuse to have more than one bowl per person. We tried the zha jiang noodles with chutney pork, a plain dry noodle with oyster sauce and prawn roe, the wonton noodles and beef brisket noodles (clockwise from top left).

Next time I’m not wasting time with any of the others, because the wonton noodles here are simply in a class of their own. The broth is insanely sweet but not in an MSG way, and the noodles are thin, springy and flavourful on their own. The wontons themselves are ok, not spectacular, but I’m more interested in the noodles and the soup.

I have to wail, though. After traipsing along Wellington Street to find it, on the very last day on our way to the Causeway Bay MTR station, we suddenly noticed that there’s a branch right on Jardine’s Bazaar, like TWO MINUTES walk from our hotel! AAARRGGHH!!! And with later opening hours than the Wellington Street branch (they close at midnight compared to 8 pm for the Wellington Street one), this place would’ve been a great stop for a first night meal, instead of the claypot rice at New Chui Wah, which I liked but A really didn’t.

I brought A to Yung Kee, where we had the pigeon, fried rice, porridge and vegetable. I wanted to try their goose liver lup cheong bun, but that’s not available at dinner so instead, I asked them to fry the Hong Kong gailan with some lup cheong just so I could try it.

Their home-made lup cheong was heavenly and for me, the best part of the meal. It was really fat, but very rich, smooth and fragrant. If we hadn’t headed off to Macau and flew straight home instead, I would’ve bought some back. Never mind, next time.

The pigeon wasn’t as good I remember, but the fried rice and the porridge were pretty good. That being said, while Yung Kee probably warrants a pilgrimage each time just for old time’s sake, I do appreciate my friends’ comments that the standard has dropped of late. Maybe next time we’ll just come and have a light meal, and take out some lup cheong.

Another place that’s worth a mention is Tasty Noodle and Congee House. This was a surprising find because while the main outlet is in Happy Valley, they’ve opened a more convenient branch in the IFC Mall. The beef hor fun here RAWKS – every mouthful is full of flavour, probably because each morsel is coated with oil. It also has an unbeatable wok hei, and the beef is tender without tasting chemically tenderised.

The you tiao chee cheong fun here is also very good. Expecting a rather hard crunch that could potentially injure the roof of my mouth, I was surprised to find a crisp yet yielding texture. Not at all heavy like I imagine it would be.

Turns out the owner of this place also owns Ho Hup Kee, which is a noodle and congee shop near Times Square. The beef hor fun there is good too, but second to the one at Tasty. However, at Ho Hup Kee I had the best bowl of porridge. I ordered the pig giblet one, which came with pig’s stomach, intestine, liver and meat balls. I’m quite the innard girl, but somehow the stomach and intestines didn’t do it for me – the intestines were crunchy rather than the smooth ones I’m used to, and the stomach was a bit flat-tasting. The liver, however, was amazing. I’ve never had pig’s liver so fine and smooth before. It was perfectly cooked so it wasn’t tough and grainy. The porridge itself was the star here, though, and the ingredients secondary. The porridge was smooth, silky, and packed full of flavour. They probably use an incredible stock and spend hours simmering the porridge to reach that texture.

We tried egg tarts from two bakeries – Tai Cheong and Honolulu Café. The Tai Cheong ones use shortcrust pastry with ground almonds, whereas the Honolulu ones are puff pastry. We did a taste test, and both of us prefer the Honolulu ones. At first bite, the Tai Cheong ones are quite good because the shortcrust pastry has more bite, and is both buttery and a tad salty. But the Honolulu ones still won in the end – the crust is buttery, light and flaky, and the custard is soft and perfectly set. A far cry from the egg tarts you get here.

Of course, no visit to Hong Kong is complete without Krispy Kremes. We couldn’t bring any back, because we went to Macau first, and the ferry back bypassed the area in the airport with the Krispy Kreme store. We tried the limited edition Chokkolate Original Glazed, but they were a tad heavy and I still prefer my plain ol’ Original Glazed.


While we’re on the subject of tarts, you can’t go to Macau and not try the ubiquitous Portuguese egg tarts. Lord Stow’s Bakery in Coloane Village, Macau is supposed to be the pioneer of these tarts, and apparently still bakes some of the best ones. While I prefer the Hong Kong style ones, A prefers these because the custard is sweeter.

At Café Nga Tim, we finally tried the infamous Bacalhau – a salt cod that’s at the heart of Portuguese food. Granted, we had it in fried rice so that may be somewhat of a cop out, but you can’t blame us for not wanting our first experience with it to be neat salt cod! Turned out pretty ok – it was like a milder, softer form of giam her.

I’ve written about Fernando’s before - I was so enamoured with the food when I went there for an office trip that I really wanted A to try it too. Turns out he was less than impressed; maybe it’s because their absolute best dish here, the roast suckling pig, really isn’t his kind of dish. Though I’ll never figure out anyone who doesn’t like crisp crackling that just breaks apart at the slightest nibble, or juicy, tender pork.

Well, while A seems pretty keen on heading back to Hong Kong, I don’t think an extended trip to Macau is on the agenda any time soon. Plus Fernando’s really is a place that you need to come in a larger group, because there are so many specialties that two people are hard pressed to order any more than 3 dishes. Any takers?

We’ll leave you now with a couple of hilarious menu entries, both from Portuguese restaurants in Macau.

A says:

Day 1
Ho Hup Kee – Good and cheap beef kway teow, but I prefer Tasty IFC.
New Chui Wah – I don’t like claypot.

Day 2
Café De Coral – Nothing outstanding but it’ll be hard to go wrong at this HK chain.
Happy Garden – Good and cheap. A definite find opposite swanky Harbour City.

Day 3
Mak’s Noodles – Rawk. I recommend the chutney pork noodles.
Honolulu Café – Nice and light egg tarts. Caution, the crust is super flaky and will disintegrate on touch though.
Main St Café (Citibank Tower) – Bloody rip-off HK$46 milkshake that didn’t use real ice cream
Jungle Juice – Much better gwai loh sandwiches at the top of the Peak
Yung Kee – Good, but considering how many people swear it’s THE place in HK, highly over-rated. Best service of any place we went though.

Day 4
Tasty (IFC) – Best overall meal with everything being excellent.
Tai Cheong – Sweet egg tarts but the pastry was a bit heavy.
Pret A Manger – I couldn’t resist a salmon sandwich, but was let down by the lack of salmony goodness.
Mak’s Noodles – So good we went back for more.
Honolulu Café – Ditto.

Day 5
Krispy Kremes – Can’t not have some.
Macau Ferry Snack – Surprisingly good. I guess paying for the Super Class is worth it after all.
Camoes – Good, but it’s all a bit too touristy. (As evident by all the large tour groups eating there.)

Day 6
Nga Tim – Definitely value for money.
Lord Stow’s Bakery – The egg tarts definitely lived up to their reputation. Best egg tarts of the trip. Absolutely perfect.
Boost – Got a much needed shake from this stall at the Venetian food court. Was looking for a simple coffee or OJ after a huge lunch but couldn’t resist the call of a King William’s Chocolate Yogurt Shake
Fernando’s – After all of C’s raving about the place, I was very disappointed. I think I just don’t like Portuguese/Macanese food.

Day 7
Horrible food poisoning left me without any appetite and running from toilet to toilet. C claims it was from the yogurt shake. I refuse to malign a good milkshake.


Anonymous said...

Wah eat till you drop indeed. Where's this Honolulu bakery btw?

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this report! Off to HK, Macau and Beijing for a 16 food fest and am looking forward to it very much. And thanks for tip on Maks' on Jardine's Bazaar, as I'm staying in Causeway Bay, so that will be handy!