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Jun 16, 2011 10:22 PM

What food/food experience does Hong Kong do better than any other city?

I am curious...

For those on this board who have lived and eaten in other major world cities (Paris, NYC, Tokyo, London, Rome, Mexico City, etc.) what food/food experience have you had in HK that far surpasses the same in other cities?

Where does HK stand head and shoulders above the rest?

After 20 months in HK, I would say that the preparation and presentation of *pork* is a high art here. The meat itself is more delicious. The myriad uses -- pork intestine, windpipe, lungs, kidney, lard-based pastries, etc, etc -- are dazzling. The skill with which it is prepared is awe-inspiring. The pork I've eaten in HK will most certainly be the standard to which I compare all pork in the future.

So, where do you think HK outshines other cosmopolitan cities gastronomically? Seafood, duck/goose, noodles, dim sum, etc.

What should world-class foodies travel to HK to experience?

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  1. I think you've answered your own question:

    "Seafood, duck/goose, noodles, dim sum, etc."

    I would say all of the above, Cantonese style cooking.

    1. Definitely dim sum in a good restaurant. And fine Cantonese cuisine.

      2 Replies
      1. re: klyeoh

        I am with Klyeoh on this HK is unbeatable for dim sum and obviously cantonese food. Not certain I would rave about much else as lots of it is sub-standard and suffers from supply chain issues i.e. accessing great European, SE Asian or Japanese products.

        I can't agree on the pork, beef or fish argument, there are obviously lots of great examples of dishes in all of these types in Cantonese cuisine but there are also lots in other cuisines. For Pork isn't French charcuterie also amazing? Aren't the classic French beef stocks or Vietnamese Pho's equally as brilliant as a clear broth? Are the fish consumers in Europe, Japan or Australia and less knowledgeable,obsessive and demanding than the HK fish fans?

        And to be more controversial I am not totally convinced about Fish and Seafood quality in HK when compared to other markets, there is far too much farmed fish here which lacks the quality of wild, freshly landed, line caught fish you get in other markets. Although that said we are off to eat tons of seafood this lunchtime, which I am looking forward to.

        1. re: PhilD

          Hey Phil,

          I am hoping we're going to spend some quality time in Paris on our upcoming world-ramblings. Would happily have my world turned upside down by French charcuterie!

          If/when we make it there, I hope you'll point me in the right direction ;-)

      2. There are very specific names in Chinese that the Hong Kong Cantonese use and refer to for specific obscure cuts of pork and beef that have no proper translations in English, offer no particular hints as to where the cut comes from, and are particularly delicious. This goes beyond "pork belly" or "pork cheek" or the more recent fad of "pork neck meat". Or even old school cuts of pork like lau mui, mui tau which some say is the best cut used to cha siu (I have yet to find a proper explanation of where mui tau is on a pig).

        The high level of execution with beef brisket, particularly the clear broth stewed version with noodles, especially at the top 3 places in HK (Taipo, Central, Tin Hau area) already outsmokes anything overseas. You won't find this kind of exact style in SF Bay Area, and even if the high end seafood restaurants source a similar cut of beef to make, it won't come close as clear broth brisket claypot are not their specialty dishes.

        The same can be said of local seafood, farmed or wild (expensive and inexpensive boney fisherman's meal kind of fish that used to be fed to cats). The variety available is breath taking and 20+ years ago the demand for fresh fish has grown leaps and bounds, where now folks in the know go to certain areas to get what they need. Those with a knowledge of the seasons and fish species really know how to get the best out of the sea, on top of knowing the best way to prepare the fish.

        13 Replies
        1. re: K K

          Regarding quality of fish.
          If one orders ' Cantonese style steamed whole fish' from a reputable restaurant like ' Xin Dan Ji ' in Jordan. The fishes are guaranteed wild caught in the South China sea by fisherman. You can even see them swim around huge tanks on display inside the restaurants before being prepared for you! However, expect to pay an arm and a leg for them!!

          1. re: Charles Yu

            Steamed whole fish (from live) is a technique very hard to master, best way to bring out the true freshness of a fish if done right. It is probably done best in Hong Kong. I also prefer to eat fish this way rather than pan-seared, fillet, deep-fried, roasted, grilled ...what a waste to fresh fish. Also agree with KK that seafood variety is just breath taking in Hong Kong.

            Also, nowhere can prepare "dried seafood" as good as HK.

            1. re: skylineR33

              I am going to have to try harder and search out better fish experiences in HK.

              So far nothing has really wowed me in the way top chefs like Nathan Outlaw in Cornwall (Uk) or Greg Doyle in Sydney, or many of the chefs on the Atlantic coast of Spain or many of those in France can deliver amazing seafood and do justice to great fish.

              I also can't really see why you deride other cooking methods so much, isn't it best to choose the appropriate method for both the fish and the dish? Steaming is good but often I find the delicacy is then lost by being swamped with soy sauce, ginger or finished with hot oil.

              As I love great fish and to help me understand what I am missing what would your top recommendations be in terms of dishes and restaurants in HK?

              1. re: PhilD

                Yes, I prefer to have the fish deep fried or grilled if it is not live. If you steamed the fish, it will show it's unfreshness and not-so-delicate texture very clear. Of course, you can also prefer to have a piece of fresh fish deep fried, it is your personal preference. If a restaurant uses bad soy sauce, not a premium one, it will affect the taste of the dish. I once go to the "staff canteen" in the Hong Kong Fish Market at Aberdeen to have a pre-arranged meal, there is a wildly caught sesame-spotted grouper. It is steamed to prefection with meat still attached to the bone, it outshined the fish dishes I had in fish specialist such as the NYC's Le Bernardin ......

                1. re: skylineR33

                  What amazes me is that even the nitty gritty kind of fish that once was poor man's food from the sea, like "lai mang" (the English name escapes me a the moment), is now rarer in numbers, but yet still enjoyed by gourmets via steaming with saltwater (and some oil). The word was that nobody eats the area near the stomach which is toxic (but not lethal).

                  Long time ago when I was a kid,my friends and I did amateur fishing by the piers, one time near Star Ferry area and buying those cheap $10 kite holders with string and bait hook at the end, buy some worms just to catch lai mang that were plentiful at the time. We did catch miniature ones, and that was the thrill. Ended up giving the fish to a guy who looked very tattered, and his eyes glowed when we gave it to him. Looking back I wondered how it tasted.

                  Some places like Kin's Kitchen now are famous amongst gourmets for preparing cheaper wild boney local small fish, not all are entirely steamed...but one species in particular with celery and pickled vegetable (almost Hakka Cantonese style). In a way the growing trend cheaper alternative to deep sea exotic species that are getting more out of reach.

                  1. re: K K

                    Interesting that the Chinese has mastered the art of steaming fish PLUS other preparation methods such as sauteing ( wok stirred frying ), deep frying, poaching, baking ( in leaves or parchment paper ), pan searing...etc. However, both Italian and French cuisine only excel in all the other methods EXCEPT steaming!! Wonder why???!!!

                    1. re: Charles Yu

                      Charles - that's easy, bamboo isn't indigenous to Europe so nothing to make steaming baskets with...!

                      But to be serious, I wonder if it comes down to how cooks add flavour. In European cookery flavour is added during cooking by using something like a court-bouillon as a poaching liquid, whilst in Chinese cuisine isn't it more common to add flavours just before serving with things like ginger and soy?

                      European chefs also tend to use less assertive flavours in the stocks whilst Chinese flavours are more robust. If you poached with these assertive flavours they would dominate, better to garnish with them to maintain balance. In Europe the more delicate flavours would have little effect if added as garnishes.

                      That said the European method of cooking "En Papillote" is essentially a way of steaming, whilst it is cooked in the oven it differs from baked fish because the fish steams in its own juices.

                    2. re: K K

                      I had the good fortune of attending a bbq with Lau Kin Wai last year and he brought some small local fish (can't for the life of me remember the name), which we grilled plain and simple. Really nice!

                    3. re: skylineR33

                      "Of course, you can also prefer to have a piece of fresh fish deep fried, it is your personal preference" - I didn't really say that, whilst deep frying is good for fish and chips and tempura it doesn't add a lot to most fish IMO.

                      I like, poached, pan-fried, grilled, baked and of course steamed it depends on the fish and dish.

                      Any other recommendations other than the fish market canteen - it sounds great but I suspect it isn't easy to get into?

                      1. re: PhilD

                        Hello PhilD,

                        I am hoping to recommend a few HK seafood/fish specialist establishments to you that are equivalent to say a Le Bernardin of New York or a Le Dome or Le Divellec of Paris.

                        However, may be I haven't been around enough or may be I am still green to the HK dining scene or may be this is just how things are operated in HK?! Apart from an outfit like Xin Dan Ji in Jordan ( where they buy their fish and seafood directly from fishermen and then placed them in tanks inside their restaurants) or places like Chuen Kee Seafood, Sai Kung. Fish and / or seafood dishes are usually treated on a case by case, establishment by establishment basis.

                        For example, during my trips to HK, I/we like to order the following%3

                        - Oil poached ' julienne ' of sea bream at places like Shanghai Fraternity association or Liu Yuan Pavilion in Wan Chai

                        - Smoked whole yellow Croaker from the 1* Hong Zhou or Tien Heung Lau.

                        - Steamed whole 'boney pond' Carp with Chinese mushrooms, winter bamboo shoots and Chinese ham from the 1* Hong Zhou.

                        - Stirred fry filet of star Garoupa with dried shrimp eggs and wild mushroom medley from the 2* Ming Court

                        - Steamed ' Lai Mang' Mud Crocker with dried aged tangerine skin and diced pork from Temple Street's night market hawker stall

                        - Deep fried baby yellow crocker from the Chairman....etc

                        The afore-mentioned dishes covered various cooking styles/techniques but they are all house specialties from different stand alone establishments. Steamed dishes, you'll notice, are not just 'ginger, scallions and soya sauce' option.

              2. re: K K

                just ate at tim ho wan again. for the price and taste, places in CA can't match.
                had a meal at fu sing and was impressed. vermicelli in the sizzling clay pot was deceptively simple in appearance but complex in flavor.
                i wish places like lung king heen existed in the US, but high end chinese is best left to hk
                also getting a reliable XLB even at a chain such as Crystal Jade is a lot easier and better than CA.

                1. re: ankimo

                  Did you try Tim Ho Wan's shark fin XLB?


                  (5th and 6th pic down)

                  1. re: ankimo

                    I agree with you about the crystal noodles at Fu Sing. That dish just works!