Hong Kong: Innards delight, fish balls
What a joy to be back in Hong Kong. Ok, the weather is a little grim for November, but the food is as wonderful as ever. I found myself in an innards mood, and found two good ways to satisfy that craving that nothing else but innards can touch.
Yunyan, the Sichuan place on the 4th floor of Miramar Centre in TST, has a dry-fried pig intestines dish that's just wonderful. What arrives is large pieces of intestine, almost hidden in a giant pile of dried chilis and sichuan peppercorns. They're delicious -- crisp outside, chewy and a touch creamy on the inside. My lips were tingling like a leg that had fallen asleep, and my tummy was happy. Also had some of their wonderful hot and sour soup, and a cold dish of tofu and preserved egg. I don't know whether that's traditionally sichuan or not; it seemed more like a Sichuan take on the Shanghai dish, with hot bean sauce substituting for the soy concoction that's used for the Shanghai version
Then of course I really wanted to find Cho Choi Koon, the home of the stir-fried pig innards dish recommended enthusiastically by Charles Yu. When I was here in March, I went looking for the place and had no luck. But that was before Charles Yu posted more details: a cross street, and a specific corner of Jordan and Nathan. So now I was searching along one line, instead of along every line of a # sign, if you follow me.
Yesterday, another Chowhound and I reassured Simon that he would have no problem getting around Hong Kong and finding great food. That's absolutely true, but it's also true that there are very Chinese places that don't do English, and the place I found is one of them. Still, I succeeded. At least I think I did. I can't swear that I was at the right restaurant, or that I ordered the right dish. But I think I did. What is inarguable is that I ate a truly superb stir fry of mixed innards with ginger and scallion.
So where did I eat? Well, I went to the SE corner of Jordan and Nathan, and walked east, crossing Tak Hing St, and coming to a restaurant on the right, at 10 Jordan Rd. There's a large black sign above the door with three Chinese characters on it, and a sandwich board on the ground to the left of the door with lots of small pictures of food. The sign is bordered blue on three sides, and seems to be strung with lights around the outside.
After some equivocating ("is this REALLY it? Should I look around more?"), I walked in the door and asked if they had an English menu. No. But the guy was helpful, asked me to wait, and came up with a menu with pictures. I looked through them, and spotted something (I think it had a number 53 next to the picture) that looked about right, and which sported what looked like a flat triangular piece of liver on the top. So I ordered it, and some Choy Sum, peavines not being available.
It was a small heap of innards in a dark sauce, liver and small intestine and a layered thing I took for some sort of ligament, with plenty of scallion pieces and chunks of ginger. It was really fabulous -- each different type of innard was cooked to a perfect texture (no overcooked liver here), and the sauce was rich and delicious. This would be a good introduction to innards, because the flavorful sauce smooths out any characteristic gamyness.
Whether this is the fabled innards dish or not, I plan to return to this place and eat whatever it was I had, again (I asked them to write down the name of what I had, to make sure I could get it again). Yum!
Then there was breakfast this morning, when I finally got to try Tsim Chai Kee's (Wellington street) famous fish balls. I was expecting something decent, but I actually wound up loving them. Large grey masses, each about the size of two golf balls, in a bowl with broth and noodles and Gai Lan, they were neither too bouncy nor too soft, had a tiny touch of appealing sweetness, and flavored the broth in a wonderful way. When I ate here before, I had the wontons, and I liked them, and the noodles, but I didn't really like the broth. Maybe all it needed was some fish ball exposure, because I liked the broth a lot this time. A great experience for less than HK$20. And, Simon, they have an English menu; it's even posted on the window so you can see it from the outside.
Re "Cho Choi Koon"... if you were at the place in the photo here: http://www.openrice.com/restaurant/sr... then you were in the right place. It's called "Tso Choi" in English, for those of you wondering why you couldn't Google it...
If you like Yunyan, I recommend San Xi Lou (7/f Coda Plaza, Mid-Levels). I live just a couple blocks from Yunyan, and let me put it this way - since SXL opened, I haven't been back to Yunyan. SXL is run by the same people that ran the (now closed) Man Jiang Hong in Causeway Bay.