Monday, February 05, 2007

Hai-Ya Hong Kong!

For this year’s holiday season, I took my normal pattern of excessive eating and partying to another level – by doing the same exact thing in another country. Yes, in Hong Kong! I’ve already done the New York new year’s eve thing and it was lame. I love Asia and every time I watch the global countdowns on TV, Asia really puts on a good show.

Hong Kong literally means ‘fragrant harbor’, but one look at that green-colored water, you’d think otherwise. It’s like calling the waters off Venice Beach clean and fresh. But it’s ok, I’m not there to frolic in the waters of Hong Kong with those arm floaties and my 7 dolphin friends. I’m there to consume the eccentric city life. I had already gone to HK last year and thought every day about the fabulous food I ate. Being a noodle whore, I had many noodle dishes lined up at the eating range. Attack!

Wonton Noodle Soup (Wonton Mein)
I have dreamt of these every day since last summer. If I knew how to compose a song, I would chant about these beautiful medallions of goodness. The same way Michael Bolton sings so
passionately about women. I don’t know how HK does it but I think the hand mixing of the pork really adds bite to wontons. There is actually a nice ‘crunch’ to it. Maybe they use a grade of MSG that is as highly-coveted as the truffle. I consider Wonton Time in Alhambra to be one of the better wonton restaurants but compared to HK’s, it’s night and day. The heavily-flavored pork/chicken/fish broth, chewy noodles and the addition of red vinegar and chili oil make this one of HK’s most famous dishes. When I hear the words ‘hong kong’, I think of these. And the green sea water.

Beef Brisket Noodle Soup (Ngau Nam Mien)
China and Taiwan have their beef noodle soup, Vietnamese have pho and we have these. The meat is braised in a broth using soy sauce, dried orange peel and of course, star anise. The soup used is the same as wonton mein but a scoop of the braised beef sauce is added for flavoring. Man, it was like eating Kobe beef over noodles… so tender it broke when I picked it up with my chopsticks. At this particular restaurant called Chi Kei, it was packed. I had walked to their other location but got rejected because they had sold out of their noodles. I luckily found another chain across the street (like Starbucks) and ended up sitting with an old couple who slurped and splattered all over the table. They were so into the soup and probably would have enjoyed a bath in the stock pot.

Fish Ball Soup Noodles (Yu Dan Mein or Fun)
Oh man, these are disgusting in a good way. This dish is a product of the wonderful people of Chiu Chow province. When asked what kind of fish they use for this, my mom explained that these are basically the Spam of fish. Since the Chiu Chow province is near the ocean, they have access to a plethora of fish. The fish is robbed of its fillets and whatever is not used becomes a fish ball. That sucks… I’d hate to be resurrected as a delicious beef ball. Again, the hand mixing of these fish balls adds bite and ‘bounce’. So good.

Beef Ball Noodle Soup (Ngau Yuk Yuen Fun)
This is also from the Chiu Chow province. Amazing thing about these is that they are juicy inside. It’s almost like a Chinese soupy dumpling… one bite and there’s an explosion of juices. Anything served with a spoonful of scallions and fried shallots is my pal.

Fish Dumpling Noodle Soup (Yu Pei Gow)
Another delectable product from Chiu Chow. Here, the skin of the dumpling is made out of pureed fish, and so is the filling! It’s like bacon-wrapped bacon. Imagine the life cycle of this fish. He’s swimming one day. Gets caught and is then butchered into pieces. He is then rolled into a ball and then wrapped again by his own flesh. RIP Little Nemo.

Preserved Duck Egg and Pork Congee (Pei Dan Sow Yuk Jook)
This is like Chinese oatmeal minus the creepy old guy with the fake curls and pilgrim hat. Many Asian people devour this for breakfast because it’s light and not at all greasy. Of the many varieties of porridge to choose from, I love the combination of ground pork and preserved duck egg. No, it isn’t like the Filipino duck embryo. They actually have instant porridge out in the markets. Imagine seeing these packaged boxes out on the shelves of the market. Each one containing a random Asian prize like a face visor or dashboard decoration.

Chinese Donut (Yau Za Gwai)
There’s nothing like starting out your morning with a bowl of hot porridge and tetanus-laden Chinese donuts. Porridge and donuts go together like peanut butter and jelly. I was about to order a pair of these before I saw these rusty scissors on top of them. I then remembered that I took my tetanus shots recently and went ahead and spoiled myself. Heavy metal!

BBQ Pork Steamed Rice Noodles (Cha Siu Cheung Fun)
These are an absolute must when I eat dim sum. These beautiful crepes are made a few minutes before and when cooked right, appear translucent and thin. You can choose between fillings of minced beef, shrimp or bbq pork, which is my favorite. The best way to eat these is to let them sit for 30 seconds on each side and marinate. Flip each crepe over and make sure they have some frolicking time in the soy/sugar/sesame oil sauce. Weeeee!

BBQ Pork, Roasted Goose and Roasted Chicken (Cha Siu, Siu Ngoh, Siu Gai)
Ah yes, the standard window decoration in the majority of Chinese restaurants. This is the type of scenery that makes PETA activists hot and bothered. I call it the Chinese Zoo… where animals aren’t incarcerated within iron bars but are rather granted the freedom to roam… within your stomach. Freedom is tasty!

Mong Kok (Miu Gai Street)
Ever see people wearing clothing with logos that say…

“Seventy Jeans”

Well you can find them all on this street. This narrow path leads you through vendors selling all kinds of cheap stuff. On the outside, it appears to be a swap meet, but it’s also home to some very expensive fabricated goods. Many women come here to shop for fake purses, but you’ll be surprised as to how similar they are to the originals. Vendors will put out the really crappy fake goods but if they see that you’re interested in the higher end fake goods, they’ll bring you up to their office, which is tucked inside shady alleys. I got J’s fake purse which she thinks is real, here in ‘Miu Gai’.

You know you’re in a good place when you’ve got streets named ‘Soy Sauce Street’. Not far from ‘Miu Gai’ is this avenue of good street vendor food. I really think they should reconsider naming this street to Deep Fry Drive. Here’s why – the main ingredient is oil and the word of the day is ‘fried’.

Just looking at the previous photos has increased your cholesterol level. Sorry about that.

After a few hours of eating oily food, you get thirsty. Which is why there’s ‘Lan Kwai Fong’, HK’s version of Sunset Blvd. There are about 30 clubs and bars here ready to quench your thirst. This particular night was fun. It was Christmas Eve and a few hours later, barricades were setup to allow the thousands of party people to parade through the streets. By 11 pm, it was nearly impossible to walk around without being sandwiched on this small stretch of concrete. About a decade ago, 100 people were crushed to death during a holiday celebration.

‘Lan Kwai Fong’ actually has its own beer. I hope it’s not made with the green harbor water.

For those that haven’t been to Hong Kong, it’s awesome. There’s good food everywhere you go and nice fake clothing to sport. But if you don’t like to eat or shop, you’re better off in something more tropical because the water is uninviting. There are not too many historical places to check out. At night, the skyline is simply amazing. I took this shot from the $0.35 ferry ride across from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central Hong Kong. HK is very westernized and it is not hard to get directions if needed. The subway system is laid out in a user-friendly manner. Come to think of it, HK is truly a foodies paradise because it is basically an island food-court. Taiwan is next. Thanks for reading.