HK trip report -- not off the beaten path
Spent three days in HK, coming from the Bay Area in the US. Stayed around the Jordan MTR; some of our choices ended up around Jordan in part because of convenience. A lot of my research was done on this board and Open Rice. Basically all of the places we ended up at are well known to locals on Chowhound, so this report will not uncover anything new. I'm also including the locations for the places we went to; when I was planning this trip, I was unfamiliar with the geography of HK, so getting a sense of restaurant locations was very helpful. A very tasty trip with many revelations.
Man Mak Kee, near Jordan -- Wonton noodles and braised beef lo mein. The highlight here are the noodles, which are the best lo mein I've ever had. I usually do not favor these kind of noodles, but these were especially elastic and bouncy. The wontons and braised beef were good, beef tendons better, but noodles the best.
Ser Wong Fun, near Central – The weekday lunch crowd fills the restaurant. We were here just to do a quick hit on snake items, so we shared a snake soup (蛇羹) and a stir fry with of snake fillets with mushroom and bamboo shoots. I can’t quite pinpoint the dominant flavor of the snake soup. Perhaps lemongrass? The bowl is not big, but it’s a pretty heavy soup with its thick texture and fried tofu skin. The snake stir fry comes with a price tag shock, at something like HKD 580 per dish. The vegetable are done well. The snake meat is pretty dense and meaty, cut into long fillets like a fish fillet stir fry. It doesn’t taste like chicken to me, but I’m not sure I enjoyed it either, just as I’m not sure I enjoyed the soup, so this ended up being a novelty meal. People all around us got beautiful looking roast meats and sausages over rice, and we left the restaurant regretting that we did not order the roast meats here. The selection of double boiled soups on the menu also looks very impressive.
Tai Cheong, near Central – We had the egg custard when still somewhat warm, and it was great. These are not the bruleed, Portuguese style. The custard itself is very delicate, barely set. We also bought a salted egg pastry and laopo bing (老婆餅) to eat later, but they didn't make as big an impression.
Federal Palace, near Jordan – This was the only one chosen by someone other than myself, when we had a meal with my wife’s relatives. We had a platter of roast duck, char siu, and cold pork knuckle slices. I don’t think I’ve ever had pork knuckle on these appetizer platters before, and it was very enjoyable. The standout dish was a braised goose web with sea cucumber. The goose web was cooked to very tender, having some of that soft, slippery, gelatinous texture. We also had fine but unmemorable stir fried green beans with beef and a soup that’s escaped my memory.
Australia Dairy Company, near Jordan - Huge line on a weekday, but takeout is quick. I liked the almond milk steamed egg more, but my wife enjoyed the more delicate egg white steamed milk. Both were very smooth. The egg sandwich was not tempting my wife, but I insisted to try it since that seems to be the most popular item online, and we were rewarded with fluffy eggs (likely cooked in butter) and nicely toasted bread; very nice.
Pierre Hermé, IFC - When we went to Ladurée in New York, we had to line up for more than ten minutes, so it was a surprise that no one else was in the store when we showed up in the morning. After our lunch at Lung Keen Heen, we saw some people in the store when walking by, but not a line or big crowd. The lack of a line is misleading, however, as we thought these were the best macarons we've ever had. Unlike others that only have ganache as filling, these macarons also had little chopped of pieces of the flavor in the ganache, e.g., pistachio or lychee bits, which in retrospect, seem like a no brainer, superior choice. All of the flavors were intense; all of the crusts provide a tender and clean bite. In particular, a seasonal white truffle macaron was awesome. It's the same price as the others, and was to be packed separately as to not let the aromas comingle. We of course ate it immediately. The only downside is we left a couple to be eaten the next day, and the crust was not as fresh tasting as the first day, so buy and eat the same day.
Lung Keen Heen, near IFC – Closest we came to a blowout meal. We ordered:
Three meat appetizer with char shiu, suckling pig and roast goose, lobster and shrimp dumpling, shu mai, shrimp and scallop dumplings, abalone puff, crab shell stuffed with crab, house fried rice, and South African abalone.
The main impression I had was that the food was cooked with an uncommon light touch. Nothing tasted remotely salty or oily, with the natural flavors shining through. The shu mai at LKH, for example, made the run of the mill shu mai taste like MSG bombs; the pork flavor here is much more subtle and delicate. Similarly, the little pieces of lobster in the fried rice maintained their flavor. Everything on the dim sum menu was good except for the shrimp and scallop dumplings; the seafood was steamed very well, but the skin was thick and sticky to the plate. In particular, the lobster & shrimp dumpling and the abalone puffs are amazing. They really know how to steam their dim sum so that the seafood maintains great texture and flavor. Biting into the dumpling is like eating perfectly cooked shellfish, with a tender snap. The abalone puff contains cut up pieces of abalone with sauce in a pastry shaped like an abalone. Both the pastry and abalone pieces are outstanding. If here for dim sum, these two are must order dishes. Of the three roast meats, the suckling pig was amazing. That skin is so delicious that we contemplated ordering just a big plate of pig to eat.
We also ordered abalone and the crab shell off the regular menu. My wife has had more experience with whole abalone, and she thought this was the best version she’s ever had. I’ve never quite understood the appeal of a pool of supreme sauce before, but here it is very good and not overwhelming the good flavor of the abalone itself. The crab shell had shreds of crab meat stuffed back in the shell. Again, the delicate touch of the kitchen made you taste the natural sweetness of the crab.
In the beginning they brought out a vegetarian XO sauce, so we asked whether they had the normal XO sauce, and they brought a small plate of that out for us, which was very tasty. They sell the XO sauce in bottles to go. I have no basis of comparison between LKH and other high end Cantonese places in HK, but was very pleased with our meal.
Joy Hing, near Wan Chai – We each had a three item combo with rice, duplicating on the char siu and roast pork, with my wife getting the roast duck, and me the soy sauce chicken. We arrived sometime after 8:30 in the evening, and they had run out of the bbq pork ribs. I believe the char siu is the most famous item here, but unfortunately the pieces we got were very tough. These were pieces with a lot of connective tissue; I don’t know if this had to do with the restaurant only having poor pieces left during the relatively late hour, but this was a big disappointment. On the other hand, my wife liked her duck so much that we ordered another roast duck main dish. The duck glistening in its own juices was indeed a beautiful sight. I also thought the ginger scallion sauce/condiment with the chicken was outstanding, not overly salty or overwhelmed by ginger. The rice with the meat juices was very good.
Yee Shun Dairy, near Jordan - A block parallel to Australia Dairy Company, we decided to do a comparison a day later. We had the cold coffee steamed milk, hot ginger flavored steamed milk, and the egg and ham sandwich. The ginger steam milk was much better than the cold coffee milk, in both texture and flavor. The sandwich could not compare to the one at Australia, with indifferent eggs, untoasted bread, and bad ham.
Tim Ho Wan, IFC – Sunday afternoon at 3 pm is still a 30 minute wait, with people sprawled out on the floor and hovering over the hostess stand. We ordered:
Char siu bao x 2, shu mai, chicken feet, har gao, shrimp spinach dumpling, shrimp cheong fun, goji jello, pork spareribs, shrimp fried spring roll, and lo mai gai.
You could say the wait made us over order. To be clear, we did not make two orders of the char siu bao initially, but once my wife had one, she insisted on getting another order. I had read about previously about the bun being a bo lo bao, but knowing that had not prepared me for it. Crisp on the bottom, tender on the top; if this were just a bo lo bao, I’d already love it. With the pork inside--it is delicious. The other standout was the shrimp and spinach dumpling. These were better than the shrimp and scallop dumplings at Lung Keen Heen, with both an equally vibrant favor and a superior skin. I also loved that every hot dish was piping hot, most noticeably on the cha siu bao and spring roll. The shu mai at Lung Keen Heen was clearly better, but these were fine. Everything else ranged from okay to good. We were stuffed at the end and took more than half of the enormous lo mai gai to go. All things considered, including price, this was my wife’s favorite stop this trip.
Yung Kee, near Central - We did takeout for a half roast goose and preserved eggs with ginger shortly before we left for the airport. Eating part of the roast goose at the airport, I felt the meat was not as tender as it could have been, but the skin and fat were rendered very well; my mother enjoyed the remainders in Taiwan after we landed. My wife didn’t see the big deal about the preserved egg, and my mother made fun of me paying for the pickled ginger, but I gotta say, that was the best preserved egg I’ve ever had.
Thanks for the review and the bringing back of some fond memories! Guess what? Some photos of the food would be perfect!!
glad you enjoyed, those are some good places to go
btw at joy hing, you have to tell them you want the fatty meats (i usually get half and half) bc the regular cut can be dry. also its better to go to those places earlier, cha siu really tastes alot better the fresher it is
We don't tend to take many pictures, but we might have some for Lung Keen Heen, so I'll try to get those uploaded sometime.
I will try to get together a Taiwan trip report, but it won't be as comprehensive in part becauae I was sick during the trip, in part because we had more food at home or regular neighborhood places.
Thanks for the report! In early January I had the pleasure of finally meeting Paulina, whose grandfather is the founder of Ser Wong Fun, during a dinner there. She graduated from Cal State Hayward, so understands the Bay Area and also speaks fluent English. All I had was a bowl of roasties over rice, double boiled soup, and a vegetable dish, and it was extremely fulfilling. The double boiled soup had pork lung in it and I believe dried date, and it was one of the best I had...probably even surpassing the conch head with melon signature (which is also quite excellent for a first time). Roast goose, cha siu, and poached chicken with the ginger scallion dip sauce, are very very good. You can also get pretty outstanding roasties at Lung Kee which is right across from Lan Fong Yuen and next to ABC Bakery on Gage street...Lung Kee's crispy skin roast pork is supposed to be very famous.
Australian Dairy is they say, a must for those who are visiting HK for the first time or recommended for expats who have not visited in a long time. I have to say it is an extremely efficient restaurant and a perfect case study for businesses. Food arrives pretty quickly and in some form of quality. For me the highlight was the double skin steamed milk custard. For runny smooth scrambled eggs my go to place is Shun Hing 順興 in Tai Hang (a dai pai dong), where it is paired with cha siu on a rice plate. Some prefer Wah Sing/Capital Café in Wanchai which is an Australian Dairy competitor/clone headed by ex-Australian Dairy folks.
Yung Kee apparently gets their century eggs from 順興行 in Sheung Wan, but maybe gets a slightly better quality batch than what the storefront sells to the public, although it's quite affordable compared to what YK might charge. 順興行 is very easy to miss, since when I dropped by to take a look, the entrance gate was down but the door shaped orifice was open, just enough space for you to request what you want, extend your hands to pay for goods and receive.
Wife cake 老婆餅 - some of the best in town are all the way in Yuen Long, 恆香老餅家 Hang Heung and 大同老餅家 Tai Tung Bakery. But if you want to get a gift box, Hang Heung has locations in Causeway Bay and Mongkok....although nothing beats a trip to flagship. The pineapple version at Hang Heung seriously reminds me of Taichung style sun cakes. Hang Heung has century egg pastry as well.
re: K K
KK, your knowledge on all things Chinese food is amazing.
We definitely got the feeling that no one around us were ordering the expensive snake items (fillet stir fry or the double boil snake soups) at Ser Wong Fun. Do most people consider those items as novelty dishes, or are the snake dishes held in high regard?
Australia Dairy was obviously on all kinds of tourists' radar. When we contemplated lining up, we heard Chinese accents from Taiwan, the Mainland, and American accent English. Thankfully we figured out takeout was available, so we didn't have to wait for 20+ people already in the line.
Yung Kee's takeout section also included an impressive display of Chinese sausage and bacon. included a lot of sausage and
Yung Kee was also very famous for Chinese sausages at one point, and even Ser Wong Fun suffered bad publicity in the past (according to tabloids) for selling bad sausages with foreign objects in them. These days food tabloids seem more concerned with fusion styles like some containing weird crap like black truffles, or a Sichuanese inspired version. But the gems are finding folks doing it the traditional and artisanal way. SWF has fans and haters, but it is a brand name.
SWF is not getting cheaper. But it is anyone's guess as to the lack of ordering those things. Snake season may be nearing the end (though it was 9 degrees C not too long ago), or people locally have had enough or don't want to splurge, and instead focusing on comfort food, which is perfectly fine. I actually never had snake soup at SWF, just the double boiled soups. There are other options for snake soup around town and purists have picky preferences.
re: K K
SWF's sausages are great although charles yu i believe said ser wong yee's are better, but i havent been to ser wong yee in a really long time.
haha that's very true about people liking the noveau stuff or the different stuff i.e. sichuanese inspired as its a novelty. i totally agree with you though re: traditional and artisinal way...so good
If you are coming from places like California and NY, anything average in HK will taste infinitely better. I don't doubt SWY at all and they are very famous even recommended by some relatives, but also we can't discount some of the independent lesser known shops, including that one snake shop that sells snakes to SWF that also can whip up a snake bisque, although not matching the quality of the famous shops, but good value.
Then of course there are the higher end versions like Tim's Kitchen, where the chef supposedly learned from one of the descendants of Tai Shih or something like that...whatever the media and bloggers wants us to believe :-).
I was told that SWY is only open during snake season (winter), and rest of the year they close (is this true?). Which makes me wonder how the hell they pay the astronomical Causeway "bling shop" Bay rent during non snake season.
Completely agreed on the char siu bao at THW. even my dad liked them (high praise indeed). I still dream about them /drools
Looked through our pics, and indeed we did not have many. The first few from LKH are lobster shrimp dumplings, shu mai, abalone puffs, roast meats (goose, suckling pork, char siu), half eaten crab shell, and abalone. Then there's the white truffle macaron, and finally the roast duck at Joy Hing.