The Hong Kong I Love 2019

In early August 2019, I went to Hong Kong for a week (and yes, I am writing about this in mid-October 2019). 

I had not been to Hong Kong for more than a decade, and my memories of the city were fuzzy at best. What I did remember most, prior to my trip this year, were all food-related memories.

But of course.

I think my favourite memory of Hong Kong was that my parents indulged my love for congee as a child/ tween - specifically, congee with fried Chinese crullers.


When I say indulged, I mean 3 - 5 continuous nights of going to a nondescript congee shop which name I do not know, and just eating congee every night for supper.

Even I cannot explain my obsession then with Hong Kong congee, except that it was a taste that I felt I could not get in Malaysia, so I just kept wanting to eat them.

This year's trip to Hong Kong was work-related. The political atmosphere in Hong Kong, with the protests and potential violence, made it a trip that I was constantly warned about by relatives about how "dangerous" it was.

Hello. I am going to work. Ya'll paying my bills and my future dream studio apartment home? Mmhmm. Didn't think so.

Anyway, as can be safely evidenced by this post, I went to Hong Kong and came back. The worst injury I received was an insect bite and also gaining one kilogram.

I do not know enough about the political situation in Hong Kong to comment on anything. What I would like to write about, though, are the parts of Hong Kong I loved this trip.

Well, one part in particular. The food.

There is a special place in my heart for Chinese food, but particularly, Cantonese cuisine. No matter how rude the (dim sum) staff, no matter how cramped the eateries are in Hong Kong, no matter if I need to sit at the same table with strangers, Cantonese cuisine has been a staple of most of my life and I will brave most obstacles to sit down and have it.

Dim sum! Roast goose! Congee!

Yes, please.

When I knew I was going to Hong Kong, I immediately sat down with a list.

It was not a list of things to do in Hong Kong. It was a list of places to eat in Hong Kong, most of which I did not go to. If I did actually want to go to all of them, I would probably have to stay a month at least.

I also have food lists like this for most countries I visit, but in Hong Kong the food list is closely related to my memories, my culture, and the food I love deeply and fiercely.

I did not seek out new places to eat at - I sought places to eat at based on which online list told me was The Best at cooking a particular dish that I loved already.

I had a crappy beginning to my trip to Hong Kong. In addition to the protests, a stage 8 typhoon hit on the day I was supposed to go to Hong Kong. My delay ended up being four hours and more. I could have reached Hong Kong by the time I actually did set off on my trip.

I arrived at the hotel past midnight - the last proper meal I had was brunch, because obviously I was too cheap to buy food on AirAsia. I only actually sat down to a meal 24 hours later.

To... this.


Thick, juicy char siew slices with rice, topped with a fried egg at Men Wah.

I was so hungry I scarfed all of this down, and finally felt alive again.

It was not my first choice of meal in Hong Kong, but it was a good start.

I finally had my dreamed off congee at night, at a random congee place that was near my hotel. It was good, but I no longer felt that pull of wanting to eat it for supper every night.

I was not surprised by this - there have been a few other restaurants which I adored in my childhood and teenagerhood, but found them just okay when I revisited them as an adult again.

Childhood memories are a funny thing.

I wish I could say that I have had a ton of great food in Hong Kong, but in reality I was really wowed by only a few. I was limited by location and trip purpose. Hong Kong also had a day where everyone went on strike on 5th August 2019, so there was one day gone in attempting to find delicious food.

I also attempted to make my way to a Tim Ho Wan, only to be foiled because the protests had grown violent in that area, so I had to make do with something else.

I am pleased with what I did manage to have, however, including the Shake Shack I waited 30 minutes for in the rain. It is now a mission of mine to eat Shake Shack in every country, apparently, just because Shake Shack is not available in my own home country.

What up, Shake Shack?

(Yes, I am aware that Shake Shack is not Cantonese cuisine)

If I had to crown my favourite meal in Hong Kong this trip, the winner stood out by a mile.

It was this plate of fuss-free roast goose by Yat Lok Roast Goose in Stanley Street that I had on a rainy Saturday afternoon.


😍


Before I went to Yat Lok, I was already mentally preparing myself for all that I had read online. The staff were made of middle to senior-aged ladies who were reported to be SURLY. According to online lore, they would hurry you to eat faster, and chase you off if you were done with your plate.

I read that the lines would be long, and that they could go up to two hours or so.

I read that Yat Lok was cramped, and that I would be sharing tables with complete strangers - my idea of a nightmare.

Best of all, it was raining on the day I set out to find Yat Lok. I also walked past Yat Lok without realising it, and spent about 15 minutes trying to locate it even though I was on Stanley Street.

Being geographically-challenged is challenging.

Still, I was SO determined to find this one Michelin-starred roast goose that received raving reviews from a majority of people.

It HAD to be roast goose from Yat Lok for me that day, no matter the obstacles.

If I put in this much effort into other parts of my life in pursuing something, I would probably be a happily married CEO with 3 kids now with my own mansion or something.

Yet I am not.

Food over everything else, basically.

Anyway.

SURPRISINGLY, I had the loveliest time at Yat Lok.

A) There was no line. NO LINE! I could walk in and just plop myself down at an empty table!

B) SURLY staff? Um, they were plenty nice to me, actually, for Hong Kong staff standards. They waited patiently for me to order and didn't rush me. To be fair, I already knew what I wanted.

C) That roast goose changed my gloomy, typhoon and protest-filled Hong Kong trip for the better from the first bite.

I was balking at the fact that this dish of roast goose and rice already costs about RM60 - RM70, but when in Hong Kong, right?

At the first bite, though, I was already thinking of how I wanted to come back and eat this again. The rice was just normal white rice, but the flavour benefitted so much from eating the rice together with the roast goose. The skin was juicy, each bite was tender, and the meat melted away after chewing a few times. It was a lovely symphony of flavours that blended well together. The meal I had for dinner felt far subpar after that, but then again, what wouldn't after this?

Maybe I was just really hungry, but yes, I fell in love.

Then I added the chili sauce that was on the table to the rice, and I started crying silently.

Tears were literally running down my face at how good the flavours mixed together. Yes, the unexpected spice level made me cry - I am normally excellent at handling spicy food - but if there was deliciousness to be crying over, this roast goose rice was it.

I never did get to go back to Yat Lok for my second plate, and this is probably my sole regret about my Hong Kong trip this year - that I did not get to eat more delicious food.

Food definitely makes up the majority of what I love about Hong Kong - the food that I had been raised up on thousands of miles away.

Sure, these foods were also available where I lived, but there is something to be said about eating at the birthplace of where these food originated from. It is an attachment that is hard to explain, but closely tied to my psyche as a person and things I hold dearly.

Hong Kong is not a city that makes me desire to be back there immediately - that spot is only filled by one country anyway - but it IS a city that holds cherished memories for me, especially for those that are now gone.

It was good to be back a little this year, even if in not-so-ideal times.

I am now deeply craving roast goose rice.

Why do I even do this to myself.

*

Sidenote:

This trip I also had the pleasure of seeing Takashi Murakami's "MURAKAMI vs MURAKAMI" exhibition in Tai Kwun Contemporary Museum, and also Studio Ghibli's 3D exhibition in Portal 6311.

I guess I can also say what I love about Hong Kong is also its love of Japan, similar to mine?


I spammed Instagram with so many Stories and posts from the MURAKAMI exhibition and the Studio Ghibli exhibition that I was asked if I was actually in Hong Kong or Japan. 😂

No, it was just me seeking out Japan in all places I go to. I definitely wish I lived in Howl's Moving Castle so that I could transport myself anywhere instantly.

Oh, and with Howl, of course. #daydreaming

🤩





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