Hong Kong – Western comfort food

 

Generally I tried to make a point of avoiding Western food during my visits to HK although there are undoubtedly many fantastic, and very expensive, French and Italian restaurants here. So by ‘Western comfort food’ what I generally mean is Hong Kongified desserts, sweets and bakery items, along with the odd baked potato.

Many of these places are what is called a ‘cha chaan teng’, literally a tea restaurant. You’ll find everywhere mentioned on this Google map here.

Hong Lin (Intermediate B), 143-145 Tung Choi St, Mongkok

The Pineapple Bun or ‘bo lo bao’ (corrupted to ‘polo bun’) is a Hong Kong institution, so much so that in 2014, the local Government listed the pineapple bun as ‘a part of Hong Kong’s intangible cultural heritage’. Hong Lin is one of a few cafes that is famous for its buns.

I had mine with butter which is known as ‘bo lo yaa’. The bun is the perfect complement to milk tea, a British influence originally but now a much stronger brew made with Black & White full fat evaporated milk. It wasn’t a looker but it was very tasty (B).

If you’re brave you could try their Yuenyeung, a hot or cold drink made with three parts coffee to seven parts milk tea.

Kam Wah Cafe (Intermediate B), 47 Bute Street, Mongkok

This place is also famous for its pineapple buns however I came to try their French Toast at the urging of my friend Dominque who has local ties. French toast is another sweet treat beloved by Hong Kongers and according to Foursquare, this is one of the best places to try it. I wouldn’t disagree (B+).

Australia Dairy Company (Intermediate B), 47 Parkes St, Jordan, en.wikipedia.org

Another legendary place, established in 1970 by a local man who had worked on a farm in Australia in the 40s, hence the name.

Service is famously unrefined (brusque but efficient for me) but people put up with it for the sake of their renowned Milk Puddings which are stacked up in the window sills (A).

Their scrambled eggs are also famous (A) even if the soft white bread they are served on was a bit too retro for me (B-). Iced milk tea makes a nice change (B).

Kee Tsui Cake Shop (Initial B), G/F, 135 Fa Yuen Street, Mongkok, open 7:30am to 8pm

This dispenser of baked goods is actually a stall rather than a shop as such.

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For thirty years it has been a local institution and has even garnered a Michelin recommendation.

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Personally I don’t see what all the fuss is about. I tried the ‘Baby Chicken Cakes’ but found them quite dry and uninteresting (C+).

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I enjoyed the  ‘Wife Cakes’ more (made with a filling of winter melon, almond paste, ground sesame, and five spice powder) but still wasn’t completely wowed (B-).

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Next time I might try the glutinous rice cakes with red bean paste or the Egg Tarts.

For American style cookies, a very famous company with branches all over HK is Jenny Bakery. I can also recommend their main competitor, Mrs Fields Cookies, which has outlets in many of the MTR station.

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Their Sugar Butter and Chocolate Chip cookies are dangerously moreish.

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Lee Keung Kee North Point Mini Egg Cakes (Initial B+), 492 King’s Road, North Point, open 10am to 11pm

Another sweet snack much beloved by locals is the Egg Waffle, or mini egg cake, known locally as ‘gai daan tsai’.

This place in North Point has the rep for making some of the best as the many press clippings covering its walls show. It’s just a hole in the wall but easy to find as there’s usually a queue outside.

There are now eight branches but it’s this one that attracts all the attention.

I enjoyed mine but it’s not something I’d get religious about. The exterior was nice and crunchy but I thought it was a bit too dry on the inside (B+).

Tsui Wah (Intermediate B), 41 Pitt St, Yau Ma Tei, www.tsuiwah.com

Tsui Wah is the Hong Kong version of an American diner, described by some as ‘the Denny’s of Hong Kong’.

Established in 1967, they have now over thirty locations (some open for 24 hours).

Despite being a chain, each branch has its own character.

I particularly like the 70s retro stylings of the Yau Ma Tei branch.

My own house is also filled with moulded plastics from past decades so I feel quite at home here.

You can get a pineapple bun and milk tea here too but the extensive menu has a varied and reasonably priced choice of fusion dishes from Cantonese, Western and other Asian cuisines.

I had the Indonesian dish Nasi Goreng which wasn’t a pretty sight but it pressed all my comfort food buttons.

Tsui Wah is not fancy in the slightest, but it’s defintitely an experience, as recommended by Frommers, Where Chefs Eat and Anthony Bourdain amongst others.

3 Potatoes (Initial A), 30 Nullah Rd and Tung Choi Street, Mongkok, www.facebook.com

A Michelin-recommended Baked Potato stall! Michelin have only recently arrived in HK and they are sensitive to the charge of being elitist so they have gone out of the their way to suggest more accessible eateries such as this.

I had the sour cream and cheese baked potato which was great (B+) but it’s just a potato at the end of the day.

If you find this a bit too bland, the more daring among you can pop around the corner to Delicious Food for a slice of grilled pig intestine on a stick (see next post).

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