What an amazing place Hong Kong is. It really is a melting pot of east meets west,
old and new
A truly international city, so full of life, hustle and bustle.
I went in search of the old Hong Kong and its food traditions.
My guide William was a fountain of knowledge. One of 7 children, he grew up on a farm in the north of Hong Kong. We went to see the local food markets and the very small food stalls dotted around the steep streets of Hong Kong.
In the evenings these stalls can be locked up and secured.
The food looked so fresh. The fish, prawns and crabs were still moving around in their containers.
What amazed me was there was no smell and no flies. ‘That is because they are so fresh’. William said his father used to get up at 3 in the morning to pick and select watercress to take to the market. The buyers could detect if it was picked the day before.
A housewife goes twice a day to the market, in the morning to buy her ingredients for lunch and in the afternoon for her dinner preparation.Everything has to be super fresh.
Of course you also have all the dried foods, including some which you take for medicinal reasons.
There are dried mushroom, fungi, sea cucumber, abalone, squid, shrimps and many more. These enhance the flavour in their soups.
Being Chinese new year, I saw these bundles of vegetable and herbs, wrapped in the traditional red and gold paper. These are the basis of a vegetarian soup eaten during the whole week after new year.
What amazed me, the Chinese cook all their food. There are no raw dishes, even the lettuces are cooked. This must have grown out of concerns for food safety.
We went to a very authentic Yum Cha. Yum Cha means ‘ food to accompany tea’. We were the only westeners there.
We got a largish bowl on our table with very weak, boiling tea to wash our cups, bowls and chopsticks. Fresh tea is poured into our clean cups. To thank the person pouring the tea, you tap three times with two fingers on the table top.
The food was incredibly fragrant, without the heavy ‘gluggy’ sauces I often associate with Chinese food. One of their specialities were dumplings of all sorts.
William also took us to the first coffee stall. This tiny stall was set up during British rule, to please Chinese taste. They loved the idea of drinking coffee, but did not like the taste. So they made a mixture of very weak coffee mixed with tea and milk. To me it tasted more like milk tea than coffee.
Not far from the coffee stall I tried the most exquisite custard tarts. The pastry had many layers of super fine, light and crunchy, unsweetened pastry. They use pork fat to achieve this light crunchiness. The dollop of custard on top was very light and sweet.