何洪記 Ho Hung Kee @ Hong Kong
Over our numerous trips to Hong Kong, we’d tried quite a number of 雲吞麺 wantan mee joints. I remember vividly the first joint we’d visited eons back was 池記 in Causeway Bay. It was with a 拜碼頭 mentality that we went as they were purportedly very good. Or so said those who recommended the place to me. The experience was disappointing. The serving was too small to justify the price and the soup was laced with so much MSG we probably gulped down multiple times more water to ease our throats and clear it out of our system. And the price of one small bowl of wantan mee at 池記 Chee Kee was easily 2-3 times of what one would expect to pay in Singapore at that time. In short, the experience was pretty nasty. Oddly, the place was swarmed with tourists from across the border, Mainland China. As we watched those who shared the table with us slurp the noodles and down the soup with much relish, we couldn’t help wonder if there was something wrong with our tastebuds or theirs. in retrospect, I guess it was essentially not a case of one being inferior to the other but more of being different. Some aspects of Chinese cuisine have been dubbed as being liberal to a point of being relentless with their use of salt and MSG. Perhaps 池記 had changed their recipe to better suit the tastebuds of their comrades from the “Motherland”. All purely speculative…
Our experience at 池記 inhibited our sampling of many other wantan mee places. Most notable are amongst the 香港5大雲吞麺家 “Wantan Mee Famous Five” in Hong Kong, that is 麥奀雲吞麺家 “Mak An Kee” in Sheung Wan， 麥奀記 (忠記) 麵家 “Mak An Chung Kee” Noodle in Central， 麥文記麵家 “Mak Man Kee” in Jordan, 何洪記 “Ho Hung Kee” in Causeway Bay, and 正斗 “Tasty Congee and Noodles” in Happy Valley. Their roots can be traced back to the original 池記 “Chee Kee” in Guangzhou China, where all of the “founders” of the Famous Five apprenticed. Our “logic” then was if their grandmaster tasted crap to us, the disciples couldn’t stray too far from being unpalatable.
Our first visit to Tsim Zai Kee 沾仔記 along Wellington Street in Sheung Wan was good. We were overwhelmed by the size of the wantan dumplings there, literally the size of a baby’s palm. And the prawn filling was succulent and crunchy (which we later learnt could be the work of borax). We thought we’d found our favorite wantan mee joint in Hong Kong, one which we could go back repeatedly to get our fix whenever we crave for it. Apparently some good things are not meant to last. After trying several times, we noted a severe dip in their standards. The soup was turning salty, void of the natural sweetness and umami flavours from dried sole fish which we had experienced in our initial visits. 沾仔記 was becoming more and more 池記-like. In our most recent visit, we saw a couple of Korean tourists in a table next to ours exiting barely 10 minutes after sitting down, leaving most of their bowl of noodles unfinished. I couldn’t understand Korean of course, but the perplexed and somewhat disturbed look on their faces said it all. That was probably the last time we would be visiting 沾仔記. So the quest for a good wantan noodles fix in Hong Kong continues, and made us relook at the placed we’d missed in the past. This is when we’d decided to visit 何洪記 Ho Hung Kee.
What raised and rekindled our curiosity on 何洪記 Ho Hung Kee … why their one Michelin star of course! To be more specific, it was their conferment of the one Michelin star five years consecutively since the inauguration of the prestigious F&B ranking list in Hong Kong. Realy affordable Michelin star establishments, the “success story” that started with添好运点心專家 Tin Ho Wan, seems to be unique to Hong Kong’s culinary landscape. And to be able to hold it 5 years in a row must surely speak something about this place.
We arrived past dinner time and the weekday crowd dining at their new establishment at Hysan Place was already starting to disperse. So we didn’t have to wait at all for a table. We order our “staples”, i.e. their signature 正斗鲜虾雲吞麺 wantan noodles and 南乳猪手麺 pig trotters noodles. 柱侯牛腩麺 braised beef brisket noodles was sold out that day or we would have ordered that as well. So how did they fare? Are they worth their one Michelin star?
The noodles were really springy and chewy, a characteristic of wantan mee in Hong Kong, or at least the better ones we’d had. The noodles permeated a strong waft of ammonia used in their making, something only to be expected. The strands were not as thin as those we’d had at 麥文記麵家 Mak Man Kee Noodle Shop in Jordan but the texture was good.
The dumplings were a fraction of what is offered at 沾仔記 Tsim Zai Kee and there wasn’t whole prawns in it. But one could make out the bits of coarsely chopped chunks of shrimp amidst the minced fatty pork both visually and texturally, which is good as well. Apparent but not insistent. At least the various parts of the filling are well worked into each other as a concerted whole.
And for me, the most important is the soup, the cradle which the noodles are nested in. The taste was definitely more mellow than what is offered elsewhere. I cannot vouch for the lack of MSG in the soup but I do sense a certain level of sweetness in it. So for me, the mildness in the soup base yet making it no less flavourful is definitely something which I welcome. Less is more…
Pickled white radish and carrot in vinegar, available as a refreshing side dish to whet one’s appetite, which i ate as a palate cleanser before sampling the next bowl of noodles.
The pig trotters were braised beautifully, full of flavour yet keeping things under control. The collagen was delightfully wobbly and soft, and yet the chunks of meat clung to the bone and held its shape.
I especially like the noodles which had become a blazing orange after soaking up the gravy from the braised pig trotters. Needless to say, they were flavourful, yet retaining the lovely crunch as with J’s bowl of wantan noodles.
Yes the portions ain’t big and at HKD35 for the wantan noodles and HKD 46 for the pig trotter noodles, it ain’t cheap as well. But our experience at Ho Hung Kee was far more gratifying than 沾仔記 Tsim Zai Kee and 麥文記麵家 Mak Man Kee Noodle Shop added together. So we would probably be back to try their beef brisket noodles and the congee which they are also supposedly very good for. So have we found our favorite wantan mee place in Hong Kong? Well… we don’t know for sure but we certainly hope so.
何洪記粥麺專家 Ho Hung Kee(1946) Congee & Noodle Wantan Shop
1204-1205 Hysan Place
500 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay
Phone: 2577 6028
Opening Hours: 11:00 – 00:00