Here’s how I might describe my eating experiences in Hong Kong and Taiwan: If I were a Build-A-Bear, I would be so overstuffed that there would be barely any room to jam the cute red gingham plush heart into me. Yes. That’s how much I ate. It was legendary.
There’s a whole horde of things to talk about, so I’m going to treat you all to a two-part post, one for HK and one for Taiwan. I’m feeling rather generous.
For half of our time in Hong Kong, we stayed in an area called Ma On Shan, which was apparently dubbed so because the green mountains there create the shape of a horse’s back when viewed from above. The flat we stayed at was attached to a large mall, typical of many flat buildings. So we often ate at restaurants at the mall, especially for all those dindins with relatives.My sister ALWAYS wanted to eat at McDonald’s for some reason. We also constantly huddled around a spot next to a cafe there called Italian Tomato trying to snag the free wifi. It was kind of pathetic.
Overall I’d say that we mostly ate hearty, simple Hong Kong comfort food. Pork and beansprout chow mein with deliciously crunchy fried egg noodles, steaming servings of chicken and pineapple fried rice, piles of Chinese broccoli dipped in hoisin sauce, wonton mein (pork and shrimp dumplings swimming in rich broth and egg noodles), and cheap café food that tries hard to emulate Western fare with pasta salads thickened with mayonnaise and fried meat cutlets accompanied by eggs and toast. Best of all, a drink could be added for six HK dollars, or less than one US dollar. Talk about a stellar deal. We could opt for the usual sodas and whatnot or order classic, iconic Hong Kong style drinks. These included lemon honey tea, milk tea, and a brew that features a mixture of coffee and tea (called “yin yeung” in Cantonese, translated into “phoenix and dragon”). However, unlike the British way of adding half-and-half cream to tea, Hong Kong natives whip out the evaporated and condensed milks to concoct this silky, creamy texture that enhances the notes of black tea and turns the tea color a rich, deep brown.
Hong Kong boasts bountiful bakeries as well. Cakes are intricately decorated with fresh fruits (mango is all the rage) and shelves are lined with all kinds of bread. Not the French style with long baguettes and flour-dusted rustic loaves, but soft individual little mounds of carb that may be stuffed with things ranging from coconut flake filling to dried pork bits. You can basically get breakfast for a dollar. Bright yellow egg tarts are also celebrated in Hong Kong, eaten best when fresh out of the oven. The sweet egg custard filling and buttery, flaky pastry always melted in my mouth and I ended up with crumbs all over me in my haste to gobble down this delightful treat.
(The beloved egg tart.)
On the second day in the motherland, we heaved ourselves out of bed at 7:30 am to have dim sum with my grandma at 8 am. My siblings and I were also the only young adults there in the entire restaurant at that hour. Otherwise, old Asian men and women held court. But it was the first time in a while since I’d tasted dim sum, so I wasted no time ordering steamed barbecue pork buns and wolfing down siu mai (shrimp/pork meatballs) and shrimp cheung fun. Everyone in my family especially dotes on shrimp cheung fun. It’s sort of like a crepe made of rice flour that envelopes plump shrimp and is doused in soy sauce. If you’ve never tasted dim sum before—do it. There aren’t any scones or cucumber sandwiches available with darling porcelain china cups, but it’s one of my favorite styles of eating food. People are always offering to pour you tea with those white ceramic teapots with stumpy spouts or trying to take turns moving the rotating table to snatch up food with chopsticks. And there’s always that awkward moment when only one dumpling remains in the metal tin and half the table is secretly eyeing it. Ah well.
Of course, there were also the copious family banquets. Roast goose, suckling pig the crackling skin is the best part), Alaskan king crab, lobster, fried calamari cakes, giant Chinese mushrooms that took me eons to chew, sticky fried rice. Unfortunately I wasn’t particularly fond of the desserts at the end, but the most entertaining part was when I challenged my brother to put an entire giant block of this red bean gelatinous cake into his mouth, much to the askance of my mother.
Strolling the streets also provided opportunities to taste tantalizing food, from curry fish balls to gei dan zai. I was on a serious hunt for gei dan zai during the whole trip. They taste like waffles, but they’re shaped in honeycomb-like molds that have round hollows so that the finished product looks like bubble wrap. These are best eaten piping hot. Word to the wise, everything is best eaten piping hot. And if only Amazon packages were packed with this Hong Kong snack—my life would be complete. It’s sold on street corners all over the place, and they can also be filled with sweet desserts like red bean or chocolate.
(Egg puff bubble wrap? I apologize if that doesn’t sound very appealing.)
Winter break in Hong Kong was also highlighted by several other dessert escapades. I bought a tiramisu crepe for three dollars. At Honeymoon Café in Sha Tin mall, I devoured matcha ice cream topped on a bowl of fresh fruit swimming in red bean and star-shaped lychee pieces. At the Intercontinental Hotel on New Year’s Eve, my siblings and I channeled our inner gluttonous pigs and selected every single kind of dessert from the table and proceeded to sample each one. I fell in love with the earl grey cake and the chocolate poppy seed meringue. There was also a beautiful display of macarons. I died at first sight. Naturally. Typical Yip behavior, picking dessert over the heaps and heaps of lobster fresh for the taking.
(The matcha ice cream.)
Mmm, an iced milk tea and a fresh egg tart sounds like the perfect midnight snack right now.