There had been an influx of 拉麵店 “ramen ten” opening in Hong Kong over the last couple of years. Some are “imported” like 一蘭 Ichiran while others are practically “homegrown”. Together with other related F&B joints from convenient conveyor sushi delis to haute restaurants offering more elaborated Kaiseki meals, Japanese cuisine has become integrated into the gastronomic landscape of Hong Kong and woven into the social fabric of the daily lives of the people. But way before all this Japanese food craze had begun, there are some restaurants which started way back and have since tamed the palates of the locals which helped to pave the way for those who reached the shores of the “Pearl of the Orient” subsequently. One of these early “settlers” is 橫綱拉麵 Yokozuna Ramen, opening back in 1987. This year marks Yokozuna’s 30th anniversary as the first ramen ten opened by a “ninhonjin” in Hong Kong, so here’s a timely review on them. If you have not been there, read on to find out why you probably should.
Yokozuna Ramen is opened by 山本浩一Yamamoto Koichi, a Japanese who came in search of business opportunities back in 1987, naming it after the highest rank in sumo wrestling, traditionally a national sport in Japan. Nested on 永星里 Wing Sing Lane, a very short side street along the forever busy Nathan Road in Yaumatei, the shop has gradually built a name for itself over the years attracting a steady crowd especially during the lunch and dinner peak hours. Yes we do see slightly shorter queues in recent years, given the wider range of choices available now with many more noodle joints with very similar concepts dotted all over the Kowloon Peninsula as well as on main island, there is usually still a crowd nonetheless so do expect a bit of a waiting time, especially when the small shop can accomodate no more than two dozen diners in it at one go.
We tried the signature, 九州拉麵 Kyushu Ramen whose tonkotsu broth base is most definitely up our alley. The noodles are typical of ramen from that region, Hakata style, i.e. long, thin and straight. They have a nice chew to it, cooked most timely and provided good “slurp” too. Rather generous with the toppings, very classically Hakata style too charsiu, beni shoga, and sesame seeds over poached spinach alongside corn, bamboo shoots, narutomaki and bean sprouts. Very thinly julienned negi leek, a testament to good knifework though I would have preferred it to be lesser “refined”. The broth was decent too, flavourful yet not too overwhelming. A little too “clean” and “healthy” for me though, being almost completely void of the little droplets of oil/rendered lard which one would find floating on a tonkotsu broth but still rather good nonetheless. The slices of char siu were more than just a condiment. Like the broth, the char siu is what constitute the soul of a bowl of good ramen. The char siu we had that day was very good. Wonderful ratio of meat and fat, very well braised to almost fork tender yet still able to retain their shape.
Then we tried their 味玉拉麵, also tonkotsu based with a smaller spread of toppings but makes up for it with a generous amount of char siu chunks and of course the beautifully made 味玉子 ajitsuke tamago which lends this bowl of ramen its name. The char siu chunks had considerably more bite compared to the sliced version in the earlier bowl. Also they tasted a tad more “smokey” probably from a brief “aburi” treatment given which was a nice touch. The broth is slightly more satisfying than the first bowl though, with more dimension from, yes you’d guessed it, the oil!
While the char siu chunks were very good, the stars of the bowl for us were clearly the egg halves. This ajitsuke tamago was probably the best we had eaten so far in all our ramen eating days, putting some of the others, even those we’d had in Japan to shame. The yolk was runny just the way we’d loved it and golden like a brilliant sunset. The white was firm yet wobbly at the same time, delightfully flavoured from the overnight steeping in the shoyu based marinade. In short, it was perfect, or perhaps a little more than perfect.
I’d ordered a unadon as well to share. The rice was slightly softer and a tad mushy than what I would have liked though I absolutely loved the thinly sliced omelette which obviously had a higher yolk to white ratio from the gorgeous golden hues it carries. The chunks of unagi was decent but not quite stellar. Most definitely frozen and imported rather as with most and not “kabayaki-ed” in situ but it costed only a fraction of what one would have to pay in a proper unadon ten. Only an additional HKD22, as a tag on to our bowl of ramen as a lunch set deal to be exact. What was more important to me was their devotion to details, as with that small sprig of 木の芽 kinome which seemed no more than an embellishment, not unlike curly parsley to most, was really what brought this seemingly ordinary bowl of unagi rice to possibly the next level. Kinome is the young shoot of the 山椒 sansho i.e. Japanese pepper plant. It sprouts as the days get warmer in spring, timely so as it was when we’d visited. I broke off the leaves from the stem, crushed them slightly by rubbing them between my fingertips and ate them together with the rice and grilled eel, to which those few leaves lend their unique aroma and flavours which helped set this dining experience at Yokozuna apart from my other unadon episodes, making it all the more memorable.
In summary, we’d enjoyed our dining experience at 橫綱拉麵 Yokozuna Ramen. Their ramen ain’t the best we’d tried but we loved the display of effort and attention to details to make things more pleasurable. The shop wasn’t that crowded when we went so do take it from us and try to avoid the meal peak hours when you visit.
橫綱拉麵 Yokozuna Ramen
G/F, Yun Kai Building, 466-472 Nathan Road, Yau Ma Tei
（5 min walk from exit D of Yaumatei MTR station)
12 am to 11 pm, Mon to Sun
Hong Kong, a metropolitan city often described in books as the “Far East” or “Pearl of the Orient”, is a commercial and financial hub bursting with energy from all the hustling and bustling around. Take a walk along one of the many busy streets be it Nathan Road or Times Square and one would be quick to “get lost” amdist the towering skyscrapers that loomed above while folks skirted around and scurried below, everyone seemed to be in a frantic hurry. The pace of living here is incredibly fast, so fast that one becomes easily breathless trying to stay in pace and keep up with the daily episodes that rapidly unfold, be it you like it or not. Yet just an hour or so away from all this frenzy, there is a place tugged in one small corner of this once-British colony that seemed to have been transfixed in the past and lost in time, where tourists and even the local folk would visit, especially over the weekends, to catch a glimpse of the yesteryears and also keep their sanity in check. And that place is 大澳 Tai O Fishing Village on 大屿山 Lantau Island.
Dimsum is one of those things which you would probably not wanna miss when you are in Hong Kong. It is one of those things which Cantonese cuisine is symbolically known for, amongst other dishes of course. In the past, dim sum was largely enjoyed as breakfast, i.e. a few bamboo baskets of steamy hot savory and sweet treats, alongside a pot of Chinese tea, not forgetting the daily papers and weekly gossips. This is still a common sight in many traditional Chinese restaurants for the regular Hong Konger. However, dimsum culture has extended its hours way beyond sunrise, right into the day. In fact, while many of the more traditional Chinese restaurants known for serving dimsum open really early in the morning, many of the newbies who sprung up over the last couple of years and rose to stardom as “dimsum specialists” start their daily operations only just before lunch-time!
For our recent trip, we stayed at a hotel which offered breakfast, serving croissants, scones and my favorite fruit conserves, which we have no reason to refuse. So our dimsum breakfast plans in our itinerary were conveniently shelved. But fate has it that we should be in the Mongkok area when it suddenly poured. Determined not to be deterred by the wet weather, we opted for a contingency plan, one which involves eating but of course! I remembered that there is a Tao Heung outlet near where we were and a quick navigation over GPS confirmed that we were in fact just steps away. So dimsum breakfast we were meant to have, nicely worked out to be dimsum lunch instead!
港式鮮蝦雲吞蝦籽撈麵 Shrimp Dumplings with Shrimp Roe Noodles is a must-eat for me whenever we visit Hong Kong. My usual joint would be Lau Sum Kee 劉森記 at Sham Shui Po, together with his uber yummy braised beef brisket, not forgetting the wonderfully braised pig trotters… My oh my, I can feel my salivary glands churning up some juices already as I recollect my dining experiences there when I pen this. Incidentally, here is also one of the few places in Hong Kong where one can still find traditional egg noodles known locally as 竹昇麵 zhuk sang meen, whose dough is manually compressed and plied using a thick bamboo pole with someone applying his own weight by sitting on it. We’d eaten shrimp dumpling noodles umpteen times over our countless trips to Hong Kong from the earliest ones more than a decade ago to popular tourist traps like 池記 and 沾仔記，to the other more local joints like 麥文記， 麥奀雲吞麵世家 and 何洪記, not to mention the very many “nameless” stalls all over the territory. Oddly, I’d never mustered enough courage to try and make it my own, probably because after eating the noodles at so many joints, we’d somewhat formulated our own benchmark of what good shrimp dumplings should taste like, seemingly unattainable by my then-understanding of the ingredients for making it. But after observing the workers prepare the filling and wrap the dumplings right before our eyes during our numerous visits to these noodles shops found all over Hong Kong, chatting up with some of the cooks with my impoverish Cantonese trying to steal a trick or two in the process, and of course, reading up some credible recipes from various blogs and books, I think I’m ready to give it a shot. So here’s my rendition of the dried form of the ever-popular 港式鮮蝦雲吞蝦籽撈麵 Shrimp Dumplings with Shrimp Roe Noodles.
Of all the Chinese regional cuisines, I especially love Cantonese-styled cooking. One thing which attracts me to it is the wide variety of dishes cleverly whipped up by the Cantonese chefs, be it the morning fare of 粥品 porridge, 肠粉 cheong fun, 点心 dim sum, a quick luncheon of 雲吞竹昇捞麵 shrimp dumpling noodles to the late night street hawker stir-fry，colloquially known as 大排档 dai pai dung. Some of these are very challenging and tedious to re-create at home, like a good 干炒牛河 Beef and Rice Noodles Stir Fry，without adequate 火力 ” fo lek aka fire power” in our kitchen stoves to produce the 镬气 “wohei” which characterises good Cantonese stir fry. But some are more home-kitchen friendly, like my favorite 柱侯牛腩焖萝卜 Braised Beef Brisket with Daikon in Chu Hou Sauce which I’d cooked umpteen times to the pleasure of family and friends who had tried it. Despite the simple procedure, it does take quite a bit of patience for the brisket to be cooked down to become uber soft and fork tender. Hence, when I want to cook something fairly quickly but no less gratifying, I would whip up yet another Cantonese classic, 柱候酱焖鸡 Braised Chicken with Chu Hou Sauce instead.
We‘’d tried quite a number of patisseries in Hong Kong over the last couple of years, from those who herald from France like La Maison du Chocolat, Pierre Herme and Jean Paul Hevin, to the local names like Petite Amanda. Some were reasonably good, like Passion by Dubois but some like Paul Lafayet seem to have fallen short of something. There is a lot of room for improvement and reflection, vis-a-vis the patisserie standards of its neighbours Taiwan and Japan. Yet we remain very hopeful as the pastry scene in Hong Kong is growing increasingly exciting yet at the same time. On our most recent trip, we made a point to visit a highly raved patisserie which we’d yet to try. They have been the Number 1 choice under the “desserts” category on a local Hong Kong food guide chart for quite sometime now. Is it as good as what’s been said?
For folks who are familiar with beef noodles in Hong Kong, 華姐 and 九記 should immediately come to mind. Unlike their Taiwanese counterparts whose recipes originated from largely Szechuan and Zhejiang cuisine to become what is uniquely “Taiwanese Beef Noodles” as we know today, Beef Brisket Noodles in Hong Kong can be traced back to its ancestry in traditional Cantonese cuisine. Flavours wise, the two varieties couldn’t be more different. While Taiwanese Beef Noodles swear to be rich and robust in flavours through the liberal use of spices and condiments, the Cantonese rendition opts to occupy the other end of the spectrum where simplicity and clarity are the key notes highly played. But as most foodies would know, the simpler the dish may seem, the harder it is to get it right but I think 華姐清湯腩 Sister Wah Beef Brisket definitely nailed it. (more…)
Odd it may seem, my favorite dish to order whenever I walk into a traditional chinese noodle shop in Hong Kong is not a bowl of 云吞麵 wan tan meen or 水饺麵 shuei gau meen. For years, it has always been 柱侯牛腩麵 ngau nam meen aka braised beef brisket noodes for me. Not sure why but I’d always preferred this over the popular pork or shrimp dumplings for its robust flavours and the melt-in-your-mouth bites of beef brisket as well as succulent chunks of beef tendon which had been braised to the right texture and consistency. It was until more five years ago when I first visited 劉森記 in Sham Shui Po where I found another love. Their 南乳焖猪手 Braised Pig Trotters with Nam Yu Fermented Beancurd was cooked to perfection I thought. Delightfully aromatic and with flavours which are strangely familiar and yet alien to me at the same time, it was love at first sight… or taste rather. Since then I’d been going around trying out various noodle joints not only for their 柱侯牛腩麵 but also their 猪手麵 whenever possible. We braise pig trotters at home all the time, from 卤猪脚，the traditional dark soya sauce version which is prevalent in local Hokkien and Teochew cooking, to 猪脚醋, the richly vinegared version for the occasional indulgence of sweetness and tang. It didn’t take long for me to try and cook 南乳焖猪手 at home for myself, to satisfy my own cravings for this dish whenever I could, whenever I want.
Our recent trips to Hong Kong have been more exciting than ever! The local pastry scene has picked up considerably over the last couple of years and it has never been short of new joints to try or places which we’d enjoyed to revisit. Passion by Gerard Dubois is one of the latest addition to the growing number of new places to go for fine pastry in Hong Kong. Being a patisserie, boulangerie and confiserie all at once, it opened in 2012 in Wanchai, the heart of the CBD district in Hong Kong. So for our latest trip in 2013, it only seemed right to pay them a visit.
No trip to Hong Kong is complete without trying their street food. No doubt, there’s a lot of good food in Hong Kong, be it dim sum from the tea houses or roast goose and char siew at the Cantonese restaurants but for many of us, what characterises the cuisine of a place is its street food. It is eating what the locals eat that makes travelling to these places a truly remarkable experience. And Hong Kong is not short of good street food. Everywhere we went, it is always easy to pick up some local delights, be it 碗仔翅 “faux shark’s fin soup” or 臭豆腐 smelly beancurd. For those with sweet tooth, there is 雞蛋仔 crispy egg waffles or 砵仔糕 red bean rice cakes. And if one doesn’t have the time to even stand by the roadside to savour these delicacies, one can always grab a skewer of 咖哩鱼蛋 curry fish balls or 鱼浆燒賣 fish paste siew mai to go! We’d been to 勝香園 Sing Heung Yuen before during our earlier trips, and we came back again during our most recent trip to reprise the roadside dining experience at a 大排檔, something truly 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.
Wondering down the streets of Central, Hong Kong after our morning walk in the Mid-levels/Soho area, we were feeling a little hungry and could sit down somewhere for a pitstop. In between meals, we didn’t want something too heavy so high tea seemed like the perfect choice. There are many 5-star hotels dotted along the coastal stretch overlooking Victoria Harbour from Sheung Wan all the way to Causeway Bay. Since we just came out of H&M along Queen’s Road Central, it seem to make sense to head in the direction of Pedder Street to a place which I have on my “to-eat/do” list. We didn’t make reservations as high tea here isn’t part of the travel itinerary but we are here nonetheless to try our luck. Thankfully, it was a lazy weekday afternoon and there were empty tables available, though not very many. High Tea @ Le Salon De Thé de Joël Robuchon it seems destined to be…
We love to have desserts whenever we are in Hong Kong. The Cantonese folks are very much dessert lovers like us, and they are extremely well-known for their assortment of 糖水 “tong shueis” which are both delicious and therapeutic at the same time. The desserts are available all year around, with a menu that changes with the seasons. Summer welcomes the ice blends and chilled items, most notably being 楊枝甘露 Mango Pomelo Sago which is immensely popular especially with the young to combat the heat. For those who are looking for more traditional desserts, there is 南北杏木瓜炖雪耳 Double-boiled White Jelly Fungus with Papaya which is not only sweet, but boast to have a hoard of beneficial properties like soothing the throat and clearing phlegm. As the weather turns cold, the hot desserts become immensely popular, be it the “paste-based” desserts like 芝麻糊 sesame paste, 花生糊 peanut paste, 核桃糊 walnut paste, 杏仁糊 almond paste or even a simple bowl of 番薯姜汤 ginger soup and sweet potatoes with 汤圆 glutinous rice dumplings to warm the tummy.
As such, dessert parlours and tong shuei stalls are found literally everywhere in Hong Kong. Strange it may sound however, one of the places to enjoy these sweet numbers is not at dessert joints like 許留山 Hui Lau San and 大良八記 Dai Leung Pak Kee, but at 牛奶公司 “dairy companies”. And to further bewilder the already perplexed, these “dairy companies” do not produce milk but are actually tea shops or cafes affectionately known to the locals as 茶餐厅 “cha tzan teng“. Now are you confused already?
While walking through Sham Shui Po during our recent trip to HK, we’d decided to stop for a quick bite at 合益泰小食 which we’d read about. This is a small eatery located very near to Ap Liu Street Market and is well known for the local street food it provides. Food is kept very simple and unpretentious here and it is precisely this that attracts hoards to this place, especially the lunch and dinner peak crowds. Lucky for us, it was just after the lunchtime rush hour, so no queues. But as with most local Hong Kong eating places, sharing tables is something which one should almost expect. When in Rome do what the Romans do…
I remember eating at 麥文記麵家 Mak Man Kee Noodle Shop once many years back and it was seriously good. But in Hong Kong, one is literally spoilt for choices when it comes to wantan mee. Noodle shops selling wantan mee can be found practically every other street! But when it comes to getting to know the “reputably good”, one must mention the 香港5大雲吞麺家 “Wantan Mee Famous Five” in Hong Kong, 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 “Hung Man Kee” in Causeway Bay, 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 Famous Five apprenticed. Since then, they have been highly regarded and held as the benchmark of wantan mee in Hong Kong. But are they really that good?
The grand masters of French pastry arts seem have to shifted their attention to the East and this comes as no surprise. With an already intensely saturated populace of macaron lovers back home and the vast potential of an ever-growing market from China, it makes perfect sense for these big names in French cuisine to stretch their tents and earn the Asian dollar. Ladurée, Alain Ducasse, Joël Robuchon are already here and it is timely that they are now joined by one one of the most esteemed colleague, Pierre Hermé.
Pierre Hermé has been in Japan for quite a number of years now, with boutiques in several of her cities, most notably a flagship store in Aoyama, Tokyo. But interestingly when I’d visited his boutiques in Tokyo, I chanced up not local Japanese but tourists from China and Taiwan who have specially come to sample his creations. A sort of culinary pilgrimage I’m sure it was for them as it is for me. Surely Monsieur Hermé would have noticed that too. And a store in Hong Kong was nothing short of being strategic, with visitors from all over Mainland China flocking here at all times of the year. The potential would have been too great to miss and so presents the temptation and desire to venture into the Mainland China market. Hong Kong would be the ideal gateway.
Think cheapest Michelin-star food joints and 添好運 Tin Ho Wan immediately comes to mind. Just google for “michelin dimsum” and pages upon pages of reviews pour forth, some raves and others rants. It had been under much limelight as THE dimsum deli with a michelin star. Yet little known to most, it is not the ONLY dimsum deli which rose to join the stellar cast of other michelin establishments and most certainly not the only one in Hong Kong. Just two years after Tin Ho Wan shot to fame with its conferrment by the reowned food guide, yet another little restaurant, One Dimsum 一點心 specialising also in these little morsels of savory and sweet shot to stardom (pun intended!). Despite having earned its one Michelin star two years back, it seems almost puzzling that there is so much less hype over One Dimsum 一點心 compared to Tin Ho Wan. Why so? Let’s try to find out…
添好運點心專門点 Tin Ho Wan Dim Sum Specialty Shop, is opening their first overseas branch in Singapore at Plaza Singapura this week! Only did I realised that I had not blogged about our visit to their “flagship” shop in Mongkok 3 years back! Grr…. oh well… here it is better late than never!
Tin Ho Wan was the hot topic of foodie forums and blogs a couple of years back when it was awarded a Michelin star. Overnight, they were suddenly on the “must-try” list of dim sum aficionados and visitors to Hong Kong. Since then, this little dim sum deli which had its humble beginnings under the void deck of a residential building in Mongkok which could barely house two dozens of diners in one seating, rose to stardom and of course, was much under the limelight from both online and printed media as the “cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world”. Well, judging by how affordable dim sum generally is in Hong Kong, this is probably true. But is it doing enough to warrant its Michelin star, to be more than just being the cheapest?
Eating our way the patisseries and dessert places in Hong Kong, it seemed almost mandatory to pay a visit to La Maison du Chocolat. And pay a visit we most certainly did! And what a small little chocolate feast it was!
A fashion model who struts confidently on the runway and a pastry chef who works furiously a pot for choux pastry over the stove are hardly two scenes one can easily put together. One bathes under the explosion of blinding camera flashes while the other bears with pearls of sweat beading down one’s forehead and neck by a hot kitchen oven. Spotlight glamour and kitchen sink grime just ain’t things one can piece together readily. One can hardly image how these two seemingly distraught and disjointed characters could be living as one in a single person! Schizophrenia? Haha thankfully it is not. Amanda Strang is one such example, and might I add, a rather successful one! The Tahiti-born fashion supermodel turned celebrity currently based in Hong Kong, blessed with ravishing beauty owing much to her exotic French and Taiwanese parentage, Amanda Strang had a highly sucessful and illustrious career under media limelight, suddenly discarded her catwalking stilettos and traded them for kitchen clogs to enrol herself into the Parisian campus of the famous French culinary school, Le Cordon Bleu for training to become a professionally accredited pastry chef. Becoming a successful patissiere she most certainly did, and a couple of years down the road, after a string of stints at high profile establishments like Laduree, Jacques Genin and the three michelin star restaurant, Caprice, Amanda Strang felt that she was finally ready to take on the world and opened her first pastry shop, Petite Amanda at the IFC, Central Hong Kong last year. We knew that we have to pay this joint a visit during our trip to Hong Kong this May!