Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Grill the Foodie: Hong Kong

Our regular series “Grill the Foodie” is all about getting inside a country’s food and eating experiences from the perspective of travellers and expats living abroad. Why travellers and not locals? Well sometimes locals don’t know what makes their country’s cuisine so unique and wonderful they may not have any other points of reference as their own food is all they have experienced. We will delve into what makes world cuisine great and why travellers love to eat so much. We want you to be inspired by what is happening around the world, how others enjoy their food and how food can unite cultures.
Photo courtesy of www.ninamcgrath.com

Nina’s family have been linked to my family for as long as I remember, long enough that my memories of spending time with Nina and her sisters Emma and Leah as children on their family farm in Queensland, Australia consist of strange disjointed visual memories that I cannot piece together into any form of cohesion.

Apart from the time Nina and Emma were showing myself and my sister Fiona how to throw pegs at the family bull Joe it is all a blur. That one memory stands out enough to make up for it though. The doubtful look on my sisters face who was older than the rest of us is seared into my memory. Deep down in the pit of our stomachs we knew this wasn’t going to end well but hey, who were we two suburb dwellers to question the authority of these hardened farm girls, if they thought throwing pegs at a bull was totally cool then why not.

Joe on the other hand didn’t think it was a good idea and as he turned and made his charge myself and my sister ran screaming into the house whilst Nina grabbed her baby sister from the pram and went running across the paddock. Joe pursued them in muscled rage and as Nina fell to the ground, baby in arms huddled in a protective arch over her Joe revealed his fake and let them go. Joe knew it wasn’t their day but had done enough to ensure that never a peg would be thrown at him again.

We have grown up a little since then, Nina has since left our shores for the not so sunny climes of London living as an Aussie expat and then onto Hong Kong where she currently resides. I knew from reading her blog ninamcgrath.com that Nina is a Foodie so I thought she needed a bit of a grilling to discover more about her international Foodie adventures.

How long have you lived in Hong Kong for?

My husband and I have been living in Hong Kong for 2 years.

What area of Hong Kong do you currently live in?

We live in the Central/SoHo area of Hong Kong.

What inspired you to move to Hong Kong?

We had spent 4 years in London, once you’ve moved overseas once, subsequent moves aren’t as daunting. Hong Kong presented a great opportunity to travel in Asia, and we can pop back to Australia for a weekend so we don’t need to miss any more of our family and friends special events.

Do you find yourself eating out or cooking at home whilst living in Hong Kong?

We have a small flat and no car so I order groceries online and have them home delivered so I can cook meals at home. There are various convenient meal options in Hong Kong. I often order from Secret Ingredient (http://www.secretingredient.com.hk/) , a company that provides prepared ingredients for a meal for you to cook at home. There are some excellent ready-made meal options, so it is very easy to pick up a healthy meal on the way home.

We and our friends all live in small flats, so rather than entertain at home, we meet at restaurants for a meal to catch up. We are absolutely spoilt for choice in Hong Kong, whatever cuisine you feel like, Nepalese, Moroccan, Vietnamese, Peruvian, you can find it here.

What are your favourite local dishes when eating out, those you go back for again and again?

Everyone had a favourite dim sum dish. Some of my favourites are char siu (BBQ pork), served on its own or as the filling of char siu bao (BBQ pork buns), har gow (prawn dumplings) prawn in a translucent rice flour skin and lo mai gai (lotus leaf rice) glutinous rice with various fillings (vegetables, egg, meat and seafood) steamed wrapped tightly in a lotus leaf.

What are your favourite local food haunts?

Some of my favourite local restaurants are steakhouse Craftsteak, Italian restaurant Posto Publico, French restaurant Les Fils a Maman, Greek restaurant Souvla and Vietnamese restaurant Nha Trang.

What has surprised you most about food in Hong Kong?

The cosmopolitan variety of restaurants available, and the short lifespan of some in the cut throat Hong Kong restaurant scene. You’ll often hear the location of a new restaurant described as “where x used to be’. With high rents and fierce competition for diners some new restaurants just don’t survive.

Is there a street food scene in Hong Kong and if so where is the best place to find it and what are the best dishes?

Hong Kong is known for its open air food stalls with plastic chairs and folding tales called ‘Dai Pai Dongs’ which can be found in Graham St Central and Temple St by the night market. These tend to sell rice or noodle dishes.

There are also food stalls in Causeway Bay and Dundas St in Mong Kok and near Sham Shui Po MTR station. Follow your nose and look for the crowd of hungry diners. The food includes egg waffles (a waffle made up of egg shaped spheres), egg tarts (egg custard in pastry), pineapple buns and pork chop buns (a pork chop in a soft roll). You’ll also find dim sum favourites cheong fun (rice noodle rolls) and siu mai (pork dumplings), meats on sticks (chicken, pork, beef and curry fish balls). The more adventurous can try stinky tofu, intestines, squid tentacles and a ladleful of something from the bubbling pots of assorted organs. If you only try one street food in Hong Kong, make it the egg waffles.

As an expat are there any local Cantonese dishes that you have a total disconnect with e.g. don’t understand or outright hate?

Chicken feet are a popular local dish that doesn’t appeal to me at all. I’ve seen them on many menus, but have always ordered other delicious dishes. Perhaps I should give them a try.

What is your favourite food memory or food story from Hong Kong so far?

Not long after we arrived we were served century eggs. The century egg (also known as a 100 year old egg, 1000 year old egg or millennium egg) is an egg preserved in a mixture of clay, lime, ash, salt and rice hulls for up to several months, far short of the durations the name suggests. The result is in an egg with a dark grey liquid yolk and a tea-coloured jellied egg white, served with pickled ginger. The century egg looked unappetizing, but we were brave and took a bite. It tasted like an egg - a strong egg - but an egg just the same!
I haven’t had a century egg since, but I often enjoy a salted duck egg, (a duck egg soaked in brine) with my char siu.

For tourists, what local foods would you say are must haves on their trip to Hong Kong?

No trip to Hong Kong would be complete without going for dim sum and trying local snacks egg waffles, egg tarts and pineapple buns while you are seeing the sights

Are there any Cantonese dishes or experiences that make you feel close to Australia?

There aren’t any Cantonese dishes that remind me of Australia, in fact I sometimes miss the Australian Chinese dishes that can be hard to find in China such as sweet and sour pork, lemon chicken, beef in black bean sauce and fortune cookies!

If you ever return to Australia for good what foods or food experiences will you miss most from Hong Kong?

I’m not sure how I will cope without a steady supply of delicious char siu (BBQ pork). Perhaps I should take a cooking class before I leave.

You can read more about Nina's food adventures in Hong Kong on her blog: ninamcgrath.com

Hong Kong Chow Chat: http://ninamcgrath.com/index.php/asia/category-hongkong/76-chow-chat

Originally posted on Tuesday, 5 August 2014 by


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