Tag Archives: Hong Kong

HK: missing first #fatty date

“Ah can’t get no sleep.”

Looking back months after, I can’t believe how much insomnia in Hong Kong got in the way of so many of the plans me and Tristan had in place. Given that there was a great deal of overlap in when Billy and Anna were there, plans were made to hang with them.

I am really sorry to say lots of late morning, lunch type plans were botched. This one particular day, Tris and I had missed the initial Tim Ho Wan meet-up with the aforementioned wonderful #teamfatty. So much of this could have been avoided if I had met and brought/procured my current best friend (who is cheap, low maintenance and listens to all my boring stories. What is not to love, seriously?).

Petrified, Tris and I made the trek out anyway. I’m not sure how it always end up like this, but usually, Tristan cowers behind me and nudges me forward to find out what the fuck we’re supposed to do. It is almost comical given my crippling anxiety issues and given our relative heights, I’m sure it looks like a comedy skit in the making.

It is this one place that has made me decide that I must at the very least learn my numbers in Canto. This is how this Michelin-fêted place works, if you do not know Canto. Push your fucking way through to the door bitch and somehow communicate how many diners there are and fight for your right to a menu. I am forever grateful to the random dude that walked past me and said “er, I think you’d be better with this”, handing me the English menu.

Tim Ho Wan menu

Tick off what you want and hand it back and you’re told your number. I got a good glimpse at the door bitch’s book: it’s meticulous. A Chinese character is put next to the foreign diners’ numbers. If you miss your turn, you get put on another list and may God have mercy on your soul if you keep missing your number which they call out in Canto.

Once I’d got this sorted, I made sure to pass on this information to any remotely lost-looking foreigner that came past (which are many in number, comforting after the fact). Solely due to this, I managed to chat to a few struggling Melburnians and we bonded over the wait.

Which is worth it, I might add.

Behold, the best barbecue pork buns either Tris or I had ever experienced. Slightly sweet and feather-soft pastry encased marvels. I admit, given the first world trauma that was getting into Tim Ho Wan, I was mega pissed off that he decided that he deserved two of these because he enjoyed them more?! Whatever you reckon, mate.

Continuing with his executive fatcat decisions, I was allowed to have the extra roll of vermicelli wrapped pork liver. Ah the benevolence (what Tris was not admitting at this juncture is he was still NQR about offal). No matter, I got a good deal and looked less the tourist for eating offal: I needed the cred.

One of the most substantial offerings we chose was the fried glutinous rice with assorted preserved meat. This is definitely the sort of item I tend to neglect when I have yum cha back home and boy am I glad we chose to order this. Though the texture is markedly different to something like the vermicelli stuffed with pork liver, it wasn’t just delicious but pleasing. It actually reminds me of my (Filipino) grandfather because the rice was crispy though not quite burnt and both me and him love that almost burnt rice at the bottom of the saucepan, in Tagalog I believe it’s called tutong. This is like that, but of course with delicious other things added!

A simple but brilliantly executed yum cha item is the steamed spinach and garlic dumpling. I love how translucent the dumpling skins are and how jewel-like it makes the contents seem. So bloody good.

Similar such dumplings were the steamed fresh shrimp ones. In brackets, it has them marked as ‘ha jiao’ but my Google-fu tells me that we perhaps Anglicise this to ‘har gau’ and other variants Again, beautiful translucent skins perfectly encasing their succulent contents. Both these and the ones above didn’t really need much in the way of soy for dipping.

The other classic yum cha staple is the shu mai, marked on Tim Ho Wan’s ‘foreigner’ menu as streamed pork dumpling with shrimp, giggle. They look gorgeous and were so juicy.

Another item I tend to neglect when back home is congee. I like congee as it reminds me heaps of goto which I’ve since discovered is the Filipino version of congee. Though I call it goto, it is also more widely known as lúgaw, and sometimes by its Spanish term arroz caldo. In any case, if you want a dish when you’re sick or down, this is the one to lift and restore both body and mind. Sadly, it’s not very photogenic. The congee available was peanut and pork bone.

There were a few dessert items: upon reflection, I’m wishing we also went with the very exotic sounding tonic medlar and petal cake but what we went with was double doiled (sic: I assume ‘boiled’) snow fungus with lotus. Tristan isn’t as fond of these sorts of things as I am but after having dined at First Taste in Box Hill on similar things (my sincerest apols in advance for linking to a woeful post on my personal blog).

It’s sweet, but more of a thin, delicate broth with a slight sugariness. Again, the interest in is the texture of the snow fungus. It reminds me of seaweed. I loved it but Tristan admitted it wasn’t so much for him.

Whoops, silly me, I forgot to mention, no yum cha experience is complete without tea: both of us made sure to elect for pu-erh but tea is tea so we have no pretty picture to offer you.

So now we come to the damage afterwards.

Dining on some stellar dim sum for roughly $15 AUD. For two fatty-wannabes. As the youngsters say, epic win. I also highly recommend you read Billy’s take when him and Anna went: he recounts a remarkably different Canto-knowing experience, grin.

Where? Tim Ho Wan
Address 2-8 Kwong Wah Street, Mong Kok
phone 23322896
MTR this post gives excellent directions to it and I confess I don’t fully remember, sorry!

HK: withdrawal…

Gem and I had made it through Kuala Lumpur’s LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal) on nothing more than airline food and nervous energy. She’d been awake the entire time; I’d napped in a cramped half-daze.

Man, I could murder a coffee.

Unfortunately, I was in Hong Kong. Venturing out in to the city for my first coffee I came to a horrible realisation — apparently the only thing Hong Kong denizens like more than shopping and eating is Starbucks. I’m fairly sure south-east Asia single-handedly saved Starbucks from bankruptcy by ingesting their caffeinated swill. You get the picture — it was dire.

I kept an eye out for somewhere better, but came up with nothing. Aside from Starbucks you have Pacific Coffee — a similarly vile beverage dispensary. Forlorn, but not defeated, I contacted former Melbourne coffee heart-throb, @alexlobov. Prior to our arrival, Alex had alluded to some coffee oases in the otherwise stark coffee landscape that is Hong Kong.

Armed with information and Google maps to guide me (courtesy of my Jesus phone), I headed to Fuel Espresso deep within the bowels of the International Finance Centre. You’d be forgiven for walking past Fuel’s pedestrian exterior — more Gloria Jean’s than Seven Seeds; not a funky interior or cool barista in sight  — which is unsurprising given its pecuniary surrounds.

I assume it was America’s proclivity to bastardise food that made the thought of an ‘Americano’ (a long black) off-putting in a supersized kind of way. However, if you can get past the name, you will be presented with a good rendition of a long black. Failing that, all of the usual coffee suspects are represented (with their usual names).


The staff are friendly, the coffee is good (using a Italian house blend that is roasted in NZ). As this store spawned from a successful New Zealand franchise, Fuel Espresso the HK edition is well worth visiting for your caffeine IV.

However, my caffeine addiction was rampant and all-consuming (oh how droll!) so one place was never going to satisfy. Acting on another recommendation from Alex, I journeyed to my next cafe, hoping to appease my caffeine lust.

The beauty of Hong Kong for me is the fat-bastard-enabling public transport. I can gorge myself in Kowloon, then hop on a train and be across the water on Island stuffing my face within minutes. Said enabling transport allowed me to slip from Kowloon to Sheung Wan for my morning coffee(s) at Barista Jam. Barista Jam would not feel out of place amongst the emaciated and skinny denimed set of Melbourne’s coffee scene. Just like Melbourne you can expect some excellent nosh to go with your coffee — I can attest to the deliciousness of their sandwiches, seeking out their club sandwiches like a pig to truffles. Light fluffy ‘Turkish’ bread with tasty fillings left me wanting more and on revisiting with Gem, they were reordered.

But let’s not get distracted — the coffee!

My first coffee was a double ristretto. It was just right with a great acidic bite without being overpowering. I then moved on to one of the single origins (the exact name escapes me) as a long black (Americano) and finished my decadent spree with a latte of the house blend. All were excellent, and with Barista Jam offering a good rotations of singles and blends you shouldn’t go thirsty.

Upon ordering the double ristretto I received an approving nod from barista — you know, one of those ‘in the know’ things. While I consider myself inexperienced with regards to coffee, I have developed sufficiently to recognise a passable coffee and good interpretation of its style. I think in an odd way the barista appreciated my appreciation, did we have some sort of metaappreciation thing happening? Everybody appreciates sympathy within their day-to-day grind (apologies for the terrible pun), and I think this is especially true of the often under-appreciated  hospitality worker. While the people of Hong Kong are amazingly savvy consumers — especially with their food — they are still developing an appreciation of good coffee (as ‘evidenced’ by the 50 Starbucks on the Island alone) and especially of good beer (but more on that in a future post).

However, fear not, weary traveler – good coffee  can be found everywhere, if you are prepared to seek it out.

HK: first stop: Japanese food of course!


Grouchy, grouchy, grouchy.

I don’t sleep on planes. I’d love to be able to do so, but I just can’t. Tristan can quite happily but I can’t.

So after arriving in Hong Kong via a few hours in Kuala Lumpur, I was in a foul mood. Also, I hadn’t done any swotting and we were staying in Chungking Mansions. Barring some parts of the Philippines I’ve been in (my mother’s side is three hours’ drive from Manila and it’s…provincial in her parts, to say the least), it is the dodgiest, seediest place I’ve ever been to in my life.

Welcome to Kowloon. My fellow foodie now expat Melburnian friend Alex said “you know how north(ern Melbourne) is cool and gritty? Kowloon is like that, only just gritty.”

An excellent call (yeah, north of the Yarra all the way, sorry folks. South of the Thames as a kid too, booyah!).

I did a search for what was round our parts food-wise and recommended in the Lonely Planet HK guide and an authentic izakaya called Kyozasa came up. Oddly enough, raw fish is one of my comfort foods, so we headed up there. It’s not hard to find, but seeing as I can’t read kanji or hiragana anymore, Tristan and I were a little confused.

Things were most encouraging once we entered. It’s small and full of awesome Japanese knick-knacks which adorn the walls and shelves.

The menu is pretty rad too. I really, really wanted to steal one!

As is usual at izakaya, you just keep ordering dishes and drink to share till you’re sated. One of the more unusual dishes we chose was raw salted cuttlefish. The waitress politely said “it’s law…” and I indicated with a big grin that that was okay!

It tastes like the sea in way similar to fresh oysters, and yet slightly different to any I’ve ever sampled – the saltiness is very subtle and gosh, so very fresh. I probably would have believed them if they’d told me they plucked them right out of the sea just for us.

Look, I know they’re available fecking everywhere, but edamame is mandatory. Addictive little bastards.

Another unusual fancy was grated yam served over raw tuna. The yam was really, really sticky and actually pretty hard to separate. It felt a little like marshmallow on the tongue.

Pretty sure these lamps were out of wartime Japan. I recall seeing similar such ones in the animated tear-jerking film Grave of the Fireflies. Wish I could read what the illuminated sign says!

Again, I know people don’t go to Hong Kong for Japanese cuisine, but holy fuck, this was hands-down the best sashimi platter I’d ever had in my life. There was a larger selection of fish as well as prawns and scallops. Heavenly.

After asking the staff what sake they thought would go nicely with our food and whether or not it was best served hot, we plied ourselves with some flasks of it. To end our evening, I snuck in a cheeky long glass of warm shochu! It made for a pleasant night’s sleep on my first day in Hong Kong.

Where? Kyosaza
Address 20 Ashley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
phone 2376 1888
MTR Tsim Sha Tsui exit E

(note, sometimes the HK Lonely Planet guide stuffs up what MTR exit you should exit from but I think this might be right)