Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Must haves in Hong Kong -- an adventurous visitor's guide

Happy New Year! I'm in Hong Kong again, and this time around I promise I will be updating regularly (... mostly because I won't be taking biochemistry online, aka the darkest period of my life). Many times when my friends visit Hong Kong, I will get asked where to visit and what to eat. I always have a list prepared of noteworthy neighborhoods, sites, and activities, but now I have a detailed list of things you have to eat when you're here. Some are entirely unique to Hong Kong, but most are just things that Hong Kong does best. Not all ingredients are familiar, but if you're here, you might as well, right? 

To begin: My favorite street hawker food is fried pig intestines. Sliced and skewered large intestine is dipped in boiling hot oil until crispy then served with an optional sweet hoisin sauce. Every bite it crispy, chewy, and incredibly aromatic. What's not to love? But I do understand if it really is not for you, so the other popular option is the shumai. Shumai at dim sum eateries are usually made with pork, but the street side ones are just doughy goodness drizzled with soy sauce. 

However, the most popular street side food by far are the fishballs (...not testicles). They're bouncy, chewy, and usually laden with spicy chili sauces. They're usually made with a combination of minced fish and flour and rolled into individual balls. They're boiled in water then served on a skewer. All these street side snacks can be found on virtually every few blocks on side streets and main avenues in Hong Kong. They're stalls with very high traffic that have a variety of other fried or boiled snacks such as squid, eggplant, and many others. 

Turtle herbal jelly can be found at many of the herbal tea shops that dot the streets of Hong Kong. It's a traditional remedy for a long list of ailments ranging from inflammation to digestive issues. It's a slightly bitter jello that is served with a sweet syrup. Definitely worth a try, especially if you are breaking out or have a sore throat from all the fried pig intestines. 

"Western toast" or Hong Kong styled French toast is always a treat. It's usually a thick slice of white toast (sometimes spread with peanut butter) dipped in egg batter then deep fried and topped with a generous pat of butter and served with syrup. Definitely decadent. Definitely a guilty pleasure. 

Who doesn't love a good egg tart?? I loosely translate it as the Chinese version of creme brulee or flan because it is essentially an egg custard baked with either a flaky or tart-like crust. And trust me, great egg tarts are hard to come by. It really is an art to get the desired consistency and flavor of the custard plus the perfect texture of the crust.   

Pineapple buns, like egg tarts, are a product of British colonization. Let's be real; Chinese people did not use ovens (it's an inefficient use of resources) until the art was introduced by the west. Do not be fooled because there is no pineapple in a pineapple bun. The topping just of the bun just makes it vaguely resemble a pineapple. A popular breakfast and tea time option, pineapple buns are a supple baked delicacy with a slight chew topped with a sweet crumbly crust. It really is special and can be served with a hefty slice of butter, which I actively avoid. 

When you're in Hong Kong, you have to have a wonton noodle soup. Wontons were by no means invented on the island of Hong Kong, but it is sure where it was popularized. There are numerous stores that are solely dedicated to serving these succulent wrapped balls of shrimp and pork splendidness. There are also numerous schools of thought on what an authentic wonton should be. They can come in bite size or larger balls, some contain only shrimp, and many chefs take pride in having the thinnest silkiest skin wrappings. But what everyone can agree upon is this: a wonton soup is nothing without bouncy thin egg noodles. Be sure to enjoy your wonton noodle soup with some red vinegar and chili oil sauce. 

Another thing that Hong Kong is great at is Cantonese barbecue. You know those perfectly browned poultry hanging from all those window fronts? That's the right stuff. There's barbecue pork (char siu), roast pork, roasted duck, roasted goose, soy sauce chicken, and many others. Get it over white rice or with a range of different noodles in soup. Adding a salted egg is always a plus! 

And finally, you cannot leave Hong Kong without at least a few meals of dim sum! Almost every other restaurant serves dim sum, and you will surprised at how packed they can get on any given day. Order all the staples such as shrimp dumplings, shumai, and rice rolls, but definitely try anything that looks unique because there is some serious dim sum master competition, and chefs churn out very creative specialties. 

So where exactly do you get all these delicacies? Favorite spots update is coming soon! Research is still underway :) 

1 comment:

  1. I always thought pineapple buns had pineapple in them, I'll have to try them now! :)