Tag Archives: Hong Kong cuisine

Nostalgic Dining in Hong Kong (2)

As we grow older–or if you prefer euphemistically, “as we mature”– we sometimes remember a place we visited or some food we tasted long ago and there is a desire to re-capture the same experience. I am a believer that every moment or experience is unique and to hope that things will stay the same only opens oneself to disappointment. However, it does not mean that I do not want to return to a place I used to know, because usually there is something new to be discovered.

I embarked on a culinary trip into nostalgia  to what used to be known as the typhoon shelter area in Wanchai, on Hong Kong Island and the restaurant was called Under Bridge Spicy Crab.

The restaurant is so-called because it is situated under the legendary Goose Neck Bridge (Canal Road Bridge) to the locals.

The typhoon shelter was long gone and replaced by reclaimed land. However the restaurant which used to get its ingredients fresh off the fishing boats at the shelter still remained. Over 20 years ago, it started off as a dai pai dong (a street stall where patrons eat sitting on an elevated bench facing the counter or at a small table in the open) at this location.  It has grown into a chain of restaurants in the same area. The owner now has to obtain his daily catch from other seafood markets. He picks crabs from Vietnam and Australia, among other seafood.

The spicy chili crab and the curry crab were equally famous and I chose the former. Spiciness came in five levels, and the “least spicy” was just good for me, in spite of my fondness for spicy dishes. So be prepared in case you want to challenge yourself. The aroma of the deep fried garlic and scallion tickled my olfactory sense. The crab was meaty and the crab cream tasted divine.

To balance the spiciness, I ordered a milder dish of stir fry garlic stalk and all went well with a bowl of steam rice.

The restaurant gets busy soon after six o’clock in the evening. It is always good to make a reservation in advance to save yourself lining up on the sidewalk waiting for your number to be called. Service is mediocre, because the waiters seem to be busy all the time. I asked for the steamed rice, which took a very long time to arrive. The bill was presented more promptly though, because I guess they wanted me to leave so that they could prepare the table for the next diner. I would recommend this restaurant to you, because the food is indeed excellent. The success of this restaurant is also a Hong Kong story in which hard work pays off. Furthermore, this place is now world-famous, having been featured on CNNGo.com.

Under Bridge Spicy Crab, 414-424 Jaffe Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong.

Nostalgic Dining in Hong Kong (1)

I grew up in Hong Kong and spent half of my life living overseas. Every time I go back to Hong Kong to visit, I cannot help but notice new buildings rising in the city and new neighbourhoods burgeoning in the older parts of town. Shops and restaurants I used to go to have gone out of business, and sections of the city in which I grew up have been torn down and rebuilt. I was only too happy to find two local restaurants that had survived all the changes and were still in business on my recent visit. They had transformed too, and fortunately for the better.

Tsui Wah Restaurant dates back to the 1960’s and 1970’s. From a modest cafe or cha chaan teng (tea and meal house to the locals) which serves tea, coffee and toasts, it is now the landmark of the cha chaan tengs with a restaurant chain with over 6 locations, and soon to become a public traded company. Its menu has also expanded to include lunch and dinner specialties. I frequent the Tsui Wah on Wellington Street, a side street in the city centre of Hong Kong Island. I normally like to go there for breakfast when I am in town, for I love their oatmeal and  french toast. On my recent visit, I went there for lunch and ordered something I had not had for a very long time.

The deep-fried fish skin is a rare delicacy. It is dog fish skin, lightly floured and then deep-fried. I dip the fish skin into the broth. There is a softness in the first bite and crunchiness to follow. The reason why dog fish skin is chosen is that the restaurant uses dog fish to make their fishballs. So nothing is wasted here.

My vermicelli comes with three shrimp dumplings and braised ribs. The soft part of the ribs is chosen and  its melts in the mouth. It is quite a filling lunch.

However, the meal would not be complete without a cup of tea, or milky tea as the order should go. It is strong and smooth, because they put  evaporated milk in Ceylon tea. This is the only tea I drink when I go to a cha chaan teng  in Hong Kong.

Patrons usually do not stay long in this restaurant in the morning or during lunch time, because they all have to go back to work. During peak hours, you may be asked to share a table, and this is commonly acceptable, as long as you do not elbow your neighbour and over turn the tea. On the other hand, dinner customers and late night patrons love to linger. (The Wellington Street branch offers 24 hours service.) There is a relaxed atmosphere here that makes one feel like home.

I strongly recommend this restaurant to any visitors to Hong Kong for an experience that is truly indigenous.

Tsui Wah Restaurant, 15-17 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong.   http://www.tsuiwahrestaurant.com