If you are here for my HK eats map, here it is: Hanson's HK Eats Map
After a long 14hr+ flight from SFO to HKG, we got our bags (at the super efficient HK airport), ordered an UberXL to head to the hotel. As it was pushing 830pm, I pushed everyone out the door to grab some food (before accidentally falling asleep too soon and wondering when the breakfast place will open at 3am). As it was a new neighborhood for us (North Point) and not knowing where to go, I headed to the mall across the street and quickly sat down at the first restaurant available (it turns out to be a very good Malaysian restaurant). We could have wandered a little more to find Chinese food but I didn't want to take the chance of losing the family to a case of "are we there yet?" with the tiredness accumulated from the flight over.
To our surprise, we stumbled upon a random mall Malaysian restaurant with delicious Laksa, Prawn Mee, and Hainan Chicken Rice (better than anything in SF and prob in the US!). This def sets the tone ahead.
[Before we get to the food... My father passed away May 2021 in Hong Kong. He fell ill very rapidly and went from playing ping pong with his buddies on Easter to being admitted to the hospital with fluids in his stomach to stage 4 gallbladder cancer diagnosis to passing away - all in a few weeks time. I didn't make it back to Hong Kong in time. So the last time I saw my Dad was Dec 2019 - also the last time I was in Hong Kong. I am glad that I stopped over in HK for a couple of days on that 2019 trip. On this trip, I walked by the restaurant where he and I had a drink - the ground floor of Pacific Place - it was an Italian restaurant - now a Japanese restaurant. That was the last time I saw him and the last image was him getting on a bus homeward bound. I miss him.]
We stayed in North Point this trip at a pretty new Hyatt property right on the harbor. With pretty views of the harbor and Kowloon from our room, this made for a fantsastic way to fall in love with Hong Kong from dawn to night. Our hotel was also located in the middle of a bustling neighborhood - not tourist driven like TST or Causeway Bay, not downtown/office-ish like Central - but local neighborhood busy. This also means there were tons of eateries within a 5 minute walk - offering us all the food that we can't get in the US. From congee 粥 to fresh rolled riced noodle (腸粉) to streetside stalls selling the great herbal tea and medicinal tonic 苦茶 to all the HK Milk Tea 奶茶, we got our filled every morning. No hotel buffets needed!
Family gatherings in Hong Kong means a meal together in a restaurant somewhere. Our schedule was filled with dinners with family. Highlights included eating old school Hong Kong cantonese favorites at Yixin (soy-fried prawns 醬油煎蝦, baked egg with goose intestine 鵝腸烘蛋, lemon chicken檸檬雞), hairy crab (大閘蟹 the hyper seasonal delicacy from this one lake in China), to fancy hot pot 打火鍋. We hit up a cha chaan teng (茶餐廳 hong kong diner) where we cramped 5 to a table that probably would have sat 2 in the US eating baked pork chop/spaghetti, steamed rice with chinese sausage, and the iconic pineapple bun with butter 菠蘿油.
Let's talk lemon chicken for a second. Everyone talks about Orange Chicken being an iconic American invention and that sweetness being an adaptation to Americanized taste. Well, lemon chicken is a traditional Cantonese - in particular HK - dish that has a lightly battered chicken with a lemony sweet sauce. I mean, it's Orange Chicken! - albeit usually lighter and less sweet. Nonetheless, it's fried chicken with a sweet and sour sauce. (And let's not forget Sweet & Sour Pork 咕噜肉 - again a very authentic Hong Kong dish of deep fried battered pork morsel in an aggressively sweet and sour sauce.
One of my favorite hour of eating was roaming around SoHo-ish area just up from Central. We wandered down from the west side (starting at the church where the Li family has been going to for a 100 years), through Mid-Levels, and ended up on Hollywood Road and Wellington Road. As part of the family stood in line for Mak's 麥奀, C and I hit up this sandwich shop called Guzzle. Never heard of it but it had a beautiful photo of a spam + cilantro scrambled egg sando on its wall. While waiting for that sando to be made, I stumbled upon a very old looking diner that advertised its pork chop sandwich - an iconic food from Macau. For about US$2, I got a soft bun with a beautifully fried pork chop with a sauce that's very chick-fil-a like. While C waited for the sando, the fam got into Mak's and we quickly ordered bowls of the best wonton noodle there is.
[Mak' - The superlative broth - traditionally made with a heavy dried shrimp and flounder base as flavoring - is everything that's right to a bowl of noodles. The noodles - 竹昇麵 - is made with long bamboo pole and you use your body to bounce these poles upon and town on top of the dough; making the noodles super bouncy and with a snap upon eating. This distinctive texture is well beyond 'al dente' of Italian pasta and very different from italian pasta, japanese ramen/udon/soba, or the rice noodles of south east asia. When served a bowl at Mak's, the wontons are at the bottom and the noodles sit on top so that the soup doesn't soften the noodles too quickly.]
To recap so far - that's a spam sando, pork chop sando, and wonton noodle soup in about 40 minutes. We continued to wander and the family found a great egg tart place while I stumbled to a shop across the street with pan fried buns (生煎包). Box and chopsticks in hand, I carefully slurped these scorching baos on the street side. 5 incredible dishes, all under $8, in about an hour. That's Hong Kong!
Four more meals of note:
* Gathered with friends at a fancy food hall called BaseHall with a seletion of 'best of' throughout Hong Kong
* A wonderful wonderful meal at Yardbird - an award winning and great yakitori restaurant. Tempura corn balls, neck skin skewers (amongst many other cuts of chicken), and a chicken/egg rice dish were delicious.
* The dinner buffet at JW Marriott with all the foods. This buffet pretty much put any buffet in the US to shame
Our final dinner in Hong Kong was a neighborhood restaurant that we've never been to. We wanted claypot rice and found one with good reviews about 10min walk from the hotel. This was a no frills neighbor restaurant with some serious cooking depth. The 'soup of the day' was a soul satisfying almond/chicken feet/pork lung soup. Braised eel. Sweet & Sour Pork (served on ice to make the morsels actually crunchy). Claypot rice. All for about $20/pp (and that's because I accidently ordered 2 tureens of soup).
The last 4 years were both a long struggle and a quick blink of an eye. HK, by all accounts, was slower/sleepier throughout the pandemic with its heavy quarantine and borders being closed with China until March this year. The HK of this trip was bustling, beautiful, and bountiful. I'm glad. I'm glad that Hong Kong is still here.