Tour de Gastronomie. Cart Noodle with Exotic Toppings. Beating the Petty Person.
05.04.2012 25 °C
After the trip with Etta's dad, we made a stop in HK. Whenever we make a trip to China, we always make a point of stopping in the gateway to PRC - HKSAR for a shopping spree, and an eating binge (ok, my only consumption is through my mouth). Singapore, the place we call home right now, is also a shopping paradise like HK. Except HK has more shops not only to cater to its larger local population (HK has 7 mil, and Sin City has 5 mil), but it has far larger inbound tourists as well. Especially the ever prosperous flood of Mainlander from the north.
It's the food that HK won me over hands down. Not only it has much larger variety than Singapore, but more importantly, its appeal to my palate. Ok, I admit I've a Cantonese tastebuds, and HK dishes out Cantonese food better than anyone bar none (ok, the Mainland Cantonese are increasingly rival their southern culinary cousin).
Very few cities in the world matches HK in its cooking excellence (especially in the Cantonese fare). I take HK over Paris and Rome any day in the Tour de Gastronomie. Don't get me wrong, I love French food as much as anyone who grew up in Saigon (for you youngsters, that's Ho-Chi-Minh City. To me, it's viva la Saigon).
People around the world are surrendered to French bakeries and pastries for good reasons. But the French main courses are a bit rich for me. Its high calorie dishes were evolved to cater for their cold winter. For somebody who grew up in mild climate, I prefer to stomach low calorie dishes. I stick with national cuisines that are localised within the bands of 35 °C latitudes. Let me make it clear that I like everything about French cuisine except for their pièces de résistance - the main course. I like everything around the main course - their bread, their entree, the soup, and the dessert - all side dishes. Just don't care for their mains.
I also has a weakness for pizza and pasta. In fact, some of my fave cooking repertoire are pasta dishes. To me, at the end of the day, no city beats HK in its breath and depth of palette of palates, especially the local Cantonese cuisines. One thing that HK offers but Paris or Rome doesn't is cheap/small/street eats. This is where HK shines as eating paradise. The breadth I'm talking about is they cater for the quick, cheap and dirty to the upmarket fine dining complete with eye-blinding chandeliers, and tuxedo waitstaff. The 2 eternal European cities just wouldn't give you the whole spectrum.
This Babylon of the Far East had me by the balls the 1st time I set foot on it some 30 odd years ago. The only thing that put my knickers in a twist was the city's rough edges. The kinda rough edges the people said about NYC some 4 or 5 decades ago. Its rough edges have being trimmed in the last 3 decades by economic development and internationalisation of the city state. Now HK people are saying about Chinese Mainlanders today what other people were saying about them sometimes ago. Well, the earth is round.
We stayed in Butterfly Hotel on Morrison Hill Rd. An areas that sits somewhere between Causeway Bay and Wanchai. So it's a reasonably convenient location. The view outside the window is anything but awe inspiring. It consists of the typical residential high-rises. There's a glimpse of Happy Valley Sports ground from the hotel window if I craned my neck really hard. It could be worse, but we don't make too much fuss about the view. All our eating joints in our itinerary are only a stone throw away.
The pin in the google map indicates our hotel. As one is walking from the hotel towards Hennessey Rd, Morrison Hills Rd changes into Ting Lok Lane without any warning. Not the tiniest bend to signal the change of name. Ting Lok ends in Hennessey Rd, and if you cross the street with the tram line, turn right and walk about 20m, you arrive at Marsh St. A few shops from the corner is the food joint for one of our top favourite eat out 強記 (Keung's or Kueng Kee) for the sticky rice, and other local HK street eats.
======== Google Map here ======
View Larger Map
Most of the quintessential HK street food stalls had been cleared away by the government in the 1990s in the name of better city public image, and rid itself of any association with 3rd world street scenes. Of course, street stalls also affected traffic flow adversely. Kueng's is one of the few remaining place that gives you a glimpse of what street food stalls that once scattered HK were like.
Another of my favourite HK local dishes is the cart noodle. And I was introduced to this food delight in Sydney, Australia. The dish itself was imported from HK. My tongue was smitten by this HK cultural icon ever since. In fact, the restaurant that sold the delicious cart noodle had closed down. My jaw dropped when I heard the news.Now that I'm in HK, I made a point to hunt down such cuisine. And not surprisingly, that's one in Tang Lung street, not too far from our hotel.
For none-Chinese speakers, Tang Lung St (登龍街) is the street just north of Russell St. We crossed the flyover on Canal Road to get there in 5 mins. The flyover is known to local as Goose-Neck Bridge. Below the bridge are always a few stands - usually operated by old women - providing a totally unique HK service called "Beating the Petty Person" (打小人). In the West, say in the Medieval (or modern) times, if you hate somebody's guts, one way to get back at them would be pushing pins into a voodoo doll that's supposed to represent that person. In HK, you go to Canal Rd under the Goose-Neck bridge. I guess during these tough economic times, they would do brisk business. This article will tell you some interesting background. So next time you walk pass there - just opposite Wan Chai Fire Station, you would know what's that all about when an old woman is hitting a piece of paper cutout on the ground with a shoe.
Behind the sleek modern supertall skyscrapers lies the old ways that are still practised in HK. Actually behind many modern glittering skyscrapers in HK are the designs based on fengshui principles. No major buildings are erected without consulting the fengshui master.
Anyway, the cart noodle restaurant I went is located at the east end of Tang Lung St. 新記車仔麵 or New Records Car Noodles is in fact the shopfront photo in the wiki link that I included above (if wiki won't change their picture). This is clearly a popular joint. The toppings as shown in the wiki link is what you would find in this or any other typical car or cart noodle shop (cart - not car - noodle is a more accurate name).
My fave toppings in descending order: omasum, pig skin, curdled pig blood (or pig blood jelly), Chinese radish, beef ball, fish ball and wonton. You must include radish. And I prefer thick noodle. They also have different types of soups, and nothing beats the original. The standard o this noodle shop is slightly above average.
Score: 8 / 10.
Tang Lung St turns out to be an eat street with a number of pickings in the multicultural fares in the Causeway Bay area. While we were on our way to our cart noodle shop, a long queue outside a
Read the rest of this article here...