Saturday, January 30, 2010

Da Bin Lou (Steamboat)

I had a steamboat dinner with my relatives one night in Causeway Bay.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get the name of the restaurant as I took this picture in a haste (there was a lift full of people waiting for me to get on).

Steamboat in Hong Kong is really different from that you get in KL. For one, its held indoors in an air-conditioned restaurant (there could be air-conditioned ones in KL that I don’t know about, but I don’t eat steamboat much).

Before you start, you have to choose from an array of sauces.

This is placed on the table, and you have to scoop up whatever you want into your own bowl before they bring the hot pot to you.

So I grabbed whatever I could recognise and scooped them into my bowl.

And because it’s my first time having a HK style da bin lou, I also opted to have the soy sauce separate (people just mix everything together into the bowl) because I thought I’d like to enjoy some of the food without having too many sauces interfering with the flavour.

I eventually mixed them up anyway.

Self-explanatory soup base (this particular one cost HKD30 more than the others I think).

Fish skin to be eaten on its own, or to be dipped into the soup before eating. Didn’t sound like it would work, but surprisingly it does. I preferred it dipped into the soup.

Chicken in wine. Served cold, but can be dumped into the soup to warm it up/cook it more.

Make small scoops of this and drop it into the soup, and you’ll get squid balls.

“What happens if I put the whole thing into the soup?” I asked.

One of my favourites.

Very nearly my favourite.

Needs more colour.

Fish head was good.

To be put into the soup to enhance the flavour of the soup, and can also be eaten afterwards.


Not a fan of liver.

Also needs more colour.

Self explanatory.

Ah. Fish paste on a plate. You squeeze it out into the soup and you’ll get noodles.

Ah. Tongue. My favourite. Had 2 plates of this when I eventually discovered that the entire meal was a buffet.

Quite enjoyed this, especially when dipped into the sauce (the one at the beginning).

Would like to have actually tasted this, but it takes a while to cook even in the hot soup, and it shrinks, so by the time you want to (and can) eat it you can’t find it anymore.

Char siew pao! Now this is different. They actually have char siew inside those mini buns (not really buns) which have to be cooked in the soup as well. Not too nice though, didn’t think there was enough char siew.

Self explanatory.


I like fish.

I think that’s about all we had. We had multiple of some dishes though.

A very good experience.

Mak Mun Kee

This is my vote for the best meal I’ve had in Hong Kong (Australian Dairy Co. would be a close second). It also happens to be right beside Australian Dairy Co. as well. Which means you can get 2 spectacular meals with only 1 bus ride without the need to walk at all.


Mak Mun Kee is a similar shop to Mak’s Noodle Ltd (but they are not the same shop), i.e. they are famous for their wonton noodles. Both places also have other things such as beef brisket noodles and the like. What’s different is Mak Mun Kee is also famous for their pork trotters.

I actually read about this place about 2 weeks ago, when I was looking up Australian Dairy Co., and although it had good reviews as well, I dismissed it because it was ‘just another noodle place’. The decision to come to this place came about when I was rewatching that episode of Anthony Bourdain (and discovering all the things about Wong Chi Kee and Lin Heung (post yet to come) after I went to those places) and one of the places he went was to have beef brisket noodles (Long Kee in Mongkok). So I was trying to look up that place on the net and I read one comment that said that the best beef brisket noodle that that person had ever had was in Mak Mun Kee.

(Anthony Bourdain actually came to Hong Kong twice. He went to Mak’s Noodle Ltd on his first trip here (as I mentioned in that post), but on his second trip here, he went to Long Kee.)

And since I still haven’t actually had proper beef brisket noodles in Hong Kong yet (the one from Mak’s Noodle Ltd was unspectacular), I decided that I had to try out both Mak Mun Kee and Lung Kee.

I asked for their english menu just to be safe, but I already knew what I wanted. Beef brisket noodles and pork trotters.

I read somewhere else that they use nam yue sauce to make this (something grandmother also uses), so the taste wasn’t unfamiliar to me, but it was just damn good! It was not too tender yet not too tough or tendony (I’ve had those where the tendons get stuck in between your teeth). There were 4 fairly large pieces in the bowl, and I shared it with the guy who’s jumper you can see peeking out above the trotters.

And their beef brisket noodles (we each had one bowl). Wah. So good! And they even have some tendon in it as well.

SO GOOD! The tendons were so tender, and the beef was very good as well. “This made my day,” my friend declared.

Mak’s Noodle Ltd can’t hold a candle to this. And neither can Long Kee, for that matter. No fight. I take back my statement that the sauce from the beef brisket interferes with the clear soup of the noodles.

The noodles need the beef brisket in them to make them spectacular.

Being the greedy guy that I am, I came back another day, and polished off the same whole bowl of pork trotters by myself, had a bowl of beef brisket noodles (damn good!), and because I liked the tendon so much, I ordered another bowl of beef tendon noodle.

This time, its all tendon and noodles. You can also see the other (finished) bowl of noodles at the top corner.

Absolutely amazing.

Worth flying all the way to Hong Kong for.

Long Kee

This is the shop in which Anthony Bourdain had his beef brisket and tendon noodles in his programme. My friend and I did the long trek from Jordan (after Mak Mun Kee, which you’ll hear about next) all the way to Mongkok looking for this shop.


It’s run by the 3 bodybuilder brothers, one of whom you can see walking towards the front of the shop in the picture there.

I looked through the menu looking to order what Anthony Bourdain did (I think he had some spicy beef brisket and tendon noodles), but the only spicy thing on their menu was the spicy beef tendon noodle (no brisket), and there wasn’t a brisket and tendon option (well, at least not on their english menu).

I ordered the spicy beef tendon noodle in the end while my friend had the beef brisket noodle (no picture of that).

Maybe we were just too full, but this wasn’t spectacular like Mak Mun Kee at all. Oh granted, the tendon was good, firmer than Mak Mun Kee, but I prefer the less firm version. The soup was also a tad spicy (the kind that doesn’t actually taste spicy at the beginning but you are very likely to choke on it) for my liking.

A celebration of muscle and tendon?

Maybe not.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

4 Season Pot Rice

When it comes to food, if I like something a lot, I’ll have to go back to it again at least once (this is evidenced so far by Australian Dairy Co.).

So I liked the rice pot a lot, and thus I had to go back to it again. This time however, I (we) went to the shop right beside Hing Kee.

4 Season Pot Rice (this is the name of the restaurant, and this is the one that Anthony Bourdain actually went to (yes yes, him again)).


This restaurant has a long line of people waiting to get in.

This time, I had salted fish and chicken. The chicken was good, but I didn’t particularly like salted fish.


And oyster pancake again. This was way better than the one from Hing Kee. But its still not fantastic though.

Note to self: don’t order oyster pancake anymore, but do go back and eat claypot rice again and again and again and again.

Wong Chi Kee

I shall write this post from 2 perspectives. The first one will be what I felt and thought when I was there at that time, and the second will be what I feel and think now that I have more information about the place.


The final meal that my friend from Melbourne and I had together, after the roast goose, milk tea and kaya toast, some Teochew kuihs that he had, the fish head and tomato soup, and some egg tarts, was in Wong Chi Kee, which is opposite Yung Kee where we got the roast goose from. From the menu, I gathered that this place is famous for its noodles.

The menu outside was promoting their Fried E Fu noodle heavily, and, wondering what ‘E Fu Noodles’ was, I decided that I was going to order that (it was more expensive than their other noodles. My friend was deciding between their wonton noodles, and some other thing, before settling on their noodles with shrimp roe.

This tasted good and everything, but its just ‘Yee Mee’. We get plenty of ‘Yee Mee’ in KL. I don’t like ‘Yee Mee’. I almost never order it. Why did they have to charge more for it? Nothing too special.

And this is what my friend had. I think his guidebook said that this was the dish to get. The noodles were a bit different from your usual noodles that you get in the wonton noodles, and the shrimp roe provided an interesting flavour to it. I preferred it the way it was, but my friend thought it was a bit dry so he mixed it with the clear soup that came together with the dish.

Would I have ordered this? Not really. Nothing too special.


ARGH! The handmade noodles with shrimp roe was the exact same dish that Anthony Bourdain had in his episode (except that he had it at the shop of the guy who actually makes the noodles)! He also described this as the ‘perfect noodle’, as handmaking noodles is a dying art (that particular scene is one of the most moving scenes in the whole episode). And he had the noodles mixed with LARD! Not clear soup! LARD!


To think that I had the perfect noodle without even knowing it was perfect, and thinking it was just a ‘nothing too special’ dish!


Apparently, this shops buys the noodles from the guy who makes it (his restaurant is in Tai Po, called Ping Kee, I think).

Would I have ordered that dish if I had know about it?


I would also have asked for the bowl of lard as well.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sing Kee Dai Pai Dong

One of the places that I wanted to eat at in Hong Kong was in some dai pai dong. I heard Anthony Bourdain say that in his programme (yes, I keep referring to him because his Hong Kong episode is the only guidebook that I have) that word, so I came here wanting to go to a dai pai dong without really knowing what the word actually means. It actually just means ‘hawker stall’ and we get plenty of that in Malaysia. Oh well.


I was fortunate that one of the people that works in the hall where I’m living now agreed to bring me to this dai pai dong in Central. I certainly would not have dared to go to it myself as I wouldn’t know (can’t) what to order there.

This is one of the last few dai pai dong’s available in Hong Kong as most of the places have been relocated into market complexes. This place is also recommended by the white bearded guy, Choi Lan, that I mentioned before here. I think that rectangular sign below the shop’s signboard says something about him.

The both of us had 3 dishes with rice.

The moment I tasted it, I knew that I was in for a treat. Good honest food. Very tasty. It’s like good home cooked food, with more oil.

None of this dishes are new to me, but its just that being in Melbourne for nearly one whole year and not having decent chinese food was a bit of a pain. This place reminded me of what good chinese food is supposed to be.

We had all 3 dishes with rice, which was hot and fluffy, and as close to perfect as you can get, but my camera refused to focus on the rice, for whatever reason, so I don’t have a picture of it.

I came back another day with my friend from Melbourne, who actually had a proper guidebook (I think he even had Choi Lan’s personal guidebook), and we shared this bowl of fish soup with rice. He was saying “Oh my parents will be so jealous that I got to come here and they didn’t!”.

This is basically a very similar soup to the Fish Head Beehoon dish, except without the noodles.

Again, the one thing that struck me when I first tasted this dish was how honest it is. That was the exact word that popped into my head.

Oh, and I just found out that Sing Kee was voted Best Dai Pai Dong by Time Out, a local magazine.

They didn’t give it a high rating for cleanliness though. Which, I suppose was deserved. There was a rat just a metre away from me as I was waiting for the soup.

Tsim Chai Kee

I did eventually go back to Mak’s Noodle Ltd for their proper wonton noodle (because I said that the beef brisket that I had with the noodles the first time I was there interfered with the noodles too much).

However, there was this shop directly opposite Mak’s that caught my eye.

Tsim Chai Kee is also a restaurant that’s been heavily reviewed on the net.

It’s a restaurant similar to Mak’s, except with a better looking interior decor, and they sell their noodles for half the price, and twice the size of Mak’s (seriously). This fact alone put’s it above Mak’s for me.

Trust me, even though it looks exactly the same size than Mak’s, its bigger. The wonton was also bigger, and had succulent prawns.

If I had to compare between the 2, then Tsim Chai Kee gets my vote for its price and size.

But in conclusion, I think that wonton noodles in its pure form (i.e. the yellowy egg noodle in clear soup with wontons) just doesn’t do it for me. Its just too bland. I need something like roast pork or roast duck in it to provide the flavour. Something like this. I guess the beef brisket noodle that I had in Mak’s was the better choice after all.

I don’t think I’ll be having wonton noodles (in its pure form) anymore during my time in Hong Kong.

Oh, I now (after having gone to Mak’s twice and Tsim Chai Kee once) also think that both Tsim Chai Kee and Mak’s is overrated.

Lan Fong Yuen

After our roast goose with rice, my friend wanted to go to this place famous for its milk tea.

As you can see, they have a lot of newspaper and magazine reviews on display there for people to see.

One of the pictures there features Choi Lan. Choi Lan (I call him the white bearded guy) is a celebrity food critic that appears on TVB (I think). He’s very popular, and even has his own food guidebook(s). My grandma watches his programmes, and on my first night in Hong Kong when I was at my grandaunt’s place, she was watching his program as well. I guess he’s like the chinese Anthony Bourdain. Except Anthony Bourdain lets other people bring him to restaurants, but Choi Lan recommends restaurants to others. If you go to a place and you see a picture of the white bearded guy, then it must be good (because if it wasn’t good then he wouldn’t have gone there in the first place).


Now, this milk tea is supposed to be different because the make it in a stocking (hence the word ‘mut’), and my friend said that it was much smoother than normal milk tea. I couldn’t really tell the difference. And the stocking is what people at home in KL make teh tarik with anyway.

Unfortunately, I was attracted by the picture of the kaya toast that they had on display and ordered that as well. Its like french toast, with butter and kaya in between. I thought there was more butter (I got rid of one whole chunk to the side as well) and I could hardly taste the kaya.

Conclusion. Ok ok only. So so. ~ ~