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Mar 14, 2013 02:32 AM

A ' TRIPLE A ' Seafood Chowmeet at Aberdeen Wholesale Seafood Market Canteen Restaurant.

In addition to the main Chowmeet at Above & Beyond, a smaller splinster group of adventurous Chowhounders decided to have a follow-up 'Seafood Chowmeet' at Aberdeen Wholesale Seafood Market.

Again, with the help of Chef Lai, we managed to secure a place and pre-arranged an all seafood 'Omakase' tasting menu.

Wearing casual attire, our group descended on this 'Hole-in-the-Wall' place with plastic table tops, wet floor and barren walls. However, we were not at all deterred because we all felt that what is to come will be an experience that would blow our minds away!! And were we Right!!

The incredible experience that followed was indeed 'Triple A'!!! - Adventurous - Amazing - Awesome!!! Instead of taking photos, I should have taken videos instead to capture the Ooos and Ahhhhs!!

The once-in-a-lifetime menu ( Yes! They will be closing their doors in August! ) consisted of the following delicacy dishes:

- Cold Wild Caught Sea Bream - Chiu Chow Style
- Poached Wild South China Sea Prawns ( Jun Ha )
- Steamed Shell-on Local Jumbo Diver Scallops with Minced Garlic &
Rice Vermicelli.
- Wild Caught Baby 'Thread Fin' ( aka Ma Yau ) steamed 2 ways
- With premium top soya sauce
- Salt cured overnight and steamed with ginger and oil
- Grilled Live Shelled-on Abalone with Crispy Minced Garlic and
peppered Salt.
- Steamed 'Local' ( not the common Thai or Malay varietal ) Mentis
Prawns sans Dressing.
- Steamed Local Baby Geoduck Clams on the Shell.
- Seafood and Fish Soup.
- Steamed Duo Flower Crabs with Egg White.
- 'Chinese' French Toast with Condensed Milk

Every one of the above dishes was a winner in its own right!
- The flesh of the salt cured Seabream was prestine fresh and taste of the sea, we ended up eating the whole fish without paying any attention to the dipping sauce.
- The Prawns were crunchy and sweet. Nothing like that from where we were from! Again, we ignored the accompanying dipping sauce.
- The 'Thread Fin' steamed 2 ways gave two different taste sensation and both were good. However, we preferred the salt cured version more since this way of execution highlight the fresh natural taste of the fish more!
- The Mentis prawns ( usually prepared fried with peppered salt ) was a
challenge to eat due to the hard Langoustine like shell. However, the effort and end result was worth it.
- IMO, the Abalone was the OUTRIGHT WINNER of the meal! So unique and flavourful. First time I've eaten Abalone that was 'crispy' on the outside and chewy inside.
- The Geoduck Duck Clams was cooked just perfect! Barely cooked we can taste the sea as well as savour a 'sashimi' like sensation.
- Coming in at a close second was the Seafood and Fish Soup! Sooo creamy and delicious. This must be the best soup I have eaten for a long, long while!!
- Final dish was the super expensive Flower Crabs which we were charged an amazing ' at cost' price. They were as good as any Crab dishes I had in Hong Kong during my past decade visits!!
- Lastly, the dessert of fried mini- French toast cubes were surprisingly good but by that time we were all too STUFFED to really appreciate it!

All in all, a MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE!!! After two days, I still have dreams about it!!

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  1. Everything looked and sounded fabulous from your description, Charles. Did you say they are closing for good in August? Why?!

    17 Replies
    1. re: klyeoh

      apparently someone else was willing to pay more rent

        1. re: klyeoh

          Brilliant report! Thanks Charles for sharing! If only your meal had local lobster (also very very hard to procure), then it would be complete!

          Aberdeen/Ap Lei Chau is a hotbed for fantastic locally caught seafood. The shrimp from the meal is just one of maybe 10 or more varieties of species available. The small ones like "red rice" have their own interesting flavors but the middle sized to larger sized ones have a fantastic crunch factor and sweetness to it. The various shellfish are also very interesting (and insanely delicious). But they say you shouldn't eat too much of this stuff (pollution)....though if you are on vacation and in this area, I say eat it up...a better bet with this stuff than inorganic produce imported from the North!

          After August there will nothing like this....will be up to the local gourmands to uncover the next best thing and I sure it will happen.

          In the meantime one can still enjoy a cheap fresh delicious seafood meal across the bridge (or a sampan ride) at Ap Lei Chau City Government building that houses the wet market. Buy the seafood downstairs, take it upstairs and have one of the cooked food stalls prep it for you for a fee. The biggest difference is that unless you have connections, you are likely not going to score those deep sea treasures so easily, and certainly not at the seafood market. But if you want to sample the best of locally caught seafood from the southern island of HK, that's a great place (e.g Babylon conches/"eastern wind" sea snails, local shrimp with upwards of 5+ varieties, geoduck the size of a watergun). Yiu Kee is my pick, but they close around 4 to 5 pm, and the retail seafood market there can sell out of stock in the early afternoon.

          Forget izakayas and dim sum. Get some local seafood like this, a few cold beers and friends. It's the penultimate HK dining experience. I normally don't eat deep fried stuff outside, but must make an exception at seafood venues like this.

          1. re: K K

            do you know when they are closing in August?

            1. re: ckshen

              No, sorry!
              Google search them, get a phone number and give them a call?!

              1. re: Charles Yu

                Last day is Aug 4. Fully booked from now till then. they said they were unable to renew the lease. I asked then what they are going to do but they don't know yet. they said they are going to keep the phone number so I think interested hounders can call them up some time to see what they are up to.

                its a shame. i used to pass by the market all the time. never even realized there's a canteen inside. and this time i am in HK just after they closed.

                1. re: ckshen

                  Darn August 4? Too soon...guess I'll still with Ap Lei Chau on my next trip back.

                  1. re: K K

                    I think I read somewhere either from Charles or you that you can buy fresh fish from the Ap Lei Chau market and take the fish upstairs for the food vendor to cook. Is there any reason why you can't do that at the Aberdeen market? I am not familiar with either market but was just thinking that the Aberdeen market is a bit more accessible since its close to the main road across the southern district.

                    1. re: ckshen

                      From what I've read online and from a few books, there is no menu for you to pick at the canteen for seafood, but you can order HK café fare like spam egg instant noodles or their famous cubed French toast with condensed milk. The seafood selections are based on what is caught and available from the wholesale market nearby, which the canteen deals with for getting (whatever is caught, whatever is in season, hence Charles using the term "omakase"). You can probably put in a request with the canteen, but there is no guarantee on what you end up getting...maybe you can request a deep sea wild fish, but it's luck of the draw what kind it is and whether the price is acceptable if it is a rare prized catch. While it appears that you can walk around the wholesale area, I don't believe you can purchase fish there to bring to the canteen to cook. All of this is moot after August 4 or whenever they close anyway, unless you can be there before that.

                      Charles went with a local chef who has a connection and/or an "in", so was able to get the good stuff (which just so happened to be the canteen's choice), and this was planned in advance for best results.

                      My comment was more the fact that by time I go visit HK again, the canteen will no longer be in operation at that location. Also the canteen only keeps lunch hours, 11:30 till about 2 pm.

                      Ap Lei Chau market opens till vendors sell out of what they have...and the cooked food stalls upstairs, some operate lunch hour, and the others do dinner only, with maybe an hour or two of each other overlapping. Even if you are unable to score seafood from downstairs, a few will have some seafood selections available (but limited). Sure it's no comparison as you'll likely not find some prized catch there, but still a fantastic local flavor that's very affordable with a ton of variety to choose from (depending on the season and what's available). Otherwise it's some trip to Lau Fau Shan or Lei Yu Moon (or Sai Kung)...

                      1. re: K K

                        ooops. i should be more clear. i was referring to whether its possible to grab fish from the Aberdeen retail market (vs the Ap Lei Chau retail market) and have some vendors cook the fish.

                        I may be staying at a place fairly close to the Aberdeen town centre, so going to the retail market in Aberdeen is a bit closer, if the vendors there is willing to cook the fish.

                        1. re: ckshen

                          This thread might help you in deciphering the Aberdeen Market's operation.

                          1. re: ckshen

                            No idea. And I've never been to Abderdeen retail market nor do I know if they have their own cooked food stalls (and whether they are capable or knowledgeable of cooking your purchases). At least the food media in HK never reports on that beyond the canteen + wholesale fish market.

                            But Ap Lei Chau city government building, the cooked food stall vendors upstairs will accept seafood from anywhere...all they do basically is charge a fee for each preparation you request (or they recommend). So even if you were to buy a batch of prawns and want half of it steamed, and half soy sauce supreme stir fried, that's a dual charge (one for each stove). So whether you buy it from downstairs Ap Lei Chau market, or the other Ap Lei Chau market on the eastern side of the island (don't bother it's at least 25 mins walk if you walk fast, and it's no fun carrying bags of seafood while you smell car exhaust on the way), or random seafood purchased off the boats near the pier (if you are really lucky you might encounter a fishermen selling his catch, usually stuff the locals and fishermen themselves eat).

                            If you are bringing seafood into the Ap Lei Chau building to have vendors cook them, it's just so much more convenient to buy from downstairs. One quick trip up the escalator (or was it two flights) and you're there. No time wasted.

                            There are other wet markets in town where the upper floors have cooked food stalls, but I have not read or heard anywhere, not even online or in newsprint, about anywhere else that does a bang up job with seafood or know how. e.g. Happy Valley's market does not have food stalls that cook seafood (like Cheong Kee for brick toast and its competitors offering similar fare, but there is a seafood dai pai dong...tho nobody brings seafood to them to cook that I am aware of).

                            Hope that answers your question and concern.

                            1. re: K K

                              thank you KK and Charles! I googled a bit more. From this website,
                              they say,

                              the Tin Wan market has
                              Cooked Food (10
                              )Fish (12)

                              the Ap Lei Chau market has
                              Cooked Food (6)
                              Fish (16)

                              the Aberdeen market has
                              Cooked Food (9)
                              Fish (24)

                              for some reason there is no information about the Wah Fu Estates market.

                              I will go find out whether any of them is able to cook fresh seafood and report back. a friend also used to live around that area so i will ask as well. and perhaps I will ask the workers in the wholesale market where they eat too.

                              1. re: ckshen

                                At the risk of sounding like a dead horse, I'd say you are really better off just going to Ap Lei Chau post Aberdeen Wholesale Fish Market Canteen closure (unless the canteen announces plans to be somewhere nearby), buying from the market there, and taking the seafood upstairs. Just try it once! Really, a sampan ride from Aberdeen pier side to Ap Lei Chau is not inconvenient at all and is actually quite fun to be on. There are supposedly other stops on Aberdeen side to ALC, so make sure you find a boarding location that works for you (we got off one stop too far away by accident when leaving ALC, and had to walk 8+ mins to the bus terminal area of Aberdeen to take transportation towards Mongkok/Sham Shui Po for our Lau Sam Kee, Wai Kee, and Hop Yik Tai carb eating binge.).

                                The 8 or so seafood vendors at Ap Lei Chau city government building have family as fishermen and they tend to specialize in different things, although you may see similar offerings between them. As far as knowing how to cook seafood at the stalls upstairs, you will be in great hands for the most part, since Yiu Kee and Chu Kee have been doing it for quite some time (some come from a family line of fishermen as well, like Steven, owner of Yiu Kee) and they used to operate as dai pai dongs on Ap Lei Chau main street before being moved indoors. I cannot say the same or have not read or heard anything similar elsewhere.

                                Going to Ap Lei Chau for seafood has been a well established and known fact throughout HK newsprint/media/celebrity online media and TV host whores for the last 3 years at least.

                                It might also be worthwhile to find out where are the other fishing boats selling random local non prized catches to the public are. Some might dock on the Aberdeen side (by the typhoon shelter). Just keep an eye out. And on the way you might even smell some dead seafood being sun and air dried for "hoi mei", like shrimp, squid, or fish.

                                1. re: K K

                                  thanks KK! not all cooked food vendors are created equal! i did not know about the fisherman connection at ALC. that would explain why they are more widely reported. I originally thought its just a matter of short distance between the cooked food centres and the wholesale market.

                        2. re: ckshen

                          KK sums it up pretty good!!
                          For someone who does not have any 'chef's' connection...etc. He or she can still talk to the person in charge whilst making the reservation and give them an idea what type of seafood you would like. For example, a 'local water' Garoupa instead of the Threadfin or Sauteed sea prawns with Maggi or Top Soya instead of poaching..etc. Some might like flash fry Warsaw Garoupa filet with yellowing chives instead of steaming whole fish?!.Choices are unlimited!! Note! We did not order any clams or whelks in our meal. One can add that as an appetizer on request!

                      2. re: ckshen

                        It's not a case of "unable to renew the lease"... it's a case where someone else outbid them for the spot. The place has become more popular among foodies in the last couple of years so someone else decided that they wanted the location more than the current operators and were wiling to pay more rent...

          2. wow omg...this is like ridiculous food porn for me, im really jealous and ill also never get to eat here ugh