Friday, September 12, 2008

Adventures in a Wet Market

Today was supposed to be food trip day. I had a doctor's appointment planned, then lunch with a fellow food-obsessed friend at this hawker stall in North Point (specialties: duck rice and squid ink noodles), followed by a hot stone massage treatment in Causeway Bay. Ahhh, indulgence, every woman's best friend.

But plans change, and since I couldn't contact Tung Bo and my friend and I met late, we decided to eat at this noodle shop in Central serving a set lunch of 5 pieces xiao long bao with spicy noodle soup and cold soya milk. All for HKD38. Yum!

I headed off to my spa treatment, which happens only twice a year for me here in HK (but daily when I'm in Manila, where prices make me smile), and forgot about my cooked food market obsession for 2 hours. For those who are scratching their heads in wonder, a cooked food market is a series of food stalls selling a variety of cooked (what else?) food, usually located above a wet market. These wet markets are located in a building, with some vendors spilling out onto the street. All manner of items are sold at these wet markets, like meat, poultry, vegetables, noodles, fruits, seafood, desserts, flowers, roast meats, cloths, hardware items, plastic ware and sundry articles. At a second floor accessible by stairs or escalator you will find the food hall or cooked food market. Some sell forgettable stuff swimming in oil, but others are well-known, like Tung Bo at the Java Road Market.

I read about some stalls at the Bowrington Road (the address says Causeway Bay, but it sits in the middle of CWB and Wan Chai, and I always don't know where one district ends and the other begins) cooked food market and after my massage my OC-ness returned full blast and with a painful foot I hobbled out into the smoggy, humid HK outdoors and walked towards Bowrington Road.

A kind vendor showed me where to go, and even gave me a toothy grin with a thumbs up sign when she saw me walking out, my fingers laced around heavy plastic bags filled with food in styro boxes. Inside the market no one could speak English, so armed with a combination of sign language, the article I had cut up, and a determination to seek out good food wherever they may be I sought out three places.

The first is called Qing Zhen. The write-up said they serve roast goose to rival Yung Kee, so I immediately ordered half a goose and was pleasantly surprised to be charged only HKD 70. The old man minding the stall wanted to sell me marinated goose wings but I declined. This stall is over 60 years old!

Next up: Hoi Kee Roast Specialist, which chaxuibao blogged about here. Of course I ordered the curry lamb noodles. HKD 40 for a huge, huge serving.

A short trek across the hall brought me to Kan Kee Vegetarian, whose owner is Buddhist, to get some veggies for our dinner, but they had nothing cooked and I couldn't wait so off I went to the stall by the entrance selling seafood. A guy with a cigarette hanging form his lips greeted me and I asked for an English menu so I could order vegetables. Obviously they had none so he told me to enter their tiny (and dark, and dirty) kitchen and choose what I wanted. What an honor to be welcomed into a sacred place! I was greeted by steam, the odor of cooking food and the odor of those cooking the food, a grand slam in one go! I asked for the tung choi, which is like kangkong, and told the guy to cook it in whatever way he wanted. I also pointed to some sliced eggplant I spied sitting in a basket in the dining area, and he told me he would pair it with pork. Yes, whatever, surprise me!!!! I paid HKD68 for both dishes and trudged home.

So here are the results of my adventure today, costing a mere HKD170 (very cheap by HK standards, considering there's half a goose included).

The verdict? The goose was very meaty, which is a plus, but Yung Kee's skin is crisper and the meat more tender. Their sauce was quite nice, pale but not too sweet. The curry lamb noodles were some of the best I've tasted! And I've been to the popular one in Gough Street where luxury cars park outside waiting for their classy owners to finish up their noodles.(This one is better!) Yes it looks quite oily, but heck we only live once, right? The tung choi was overcooked but the garlic and chili flavors were pronounced and the seasoning, perfect. The eggplants were likewise overcooked, or perhaps they cooked in their own heat during my long walk looking for a non-existent cab and my subsequent trip home, but the pork was tender, and I wasn't expecting much.

In retrospect I should have waited for the vegetarian meal, but with prices and servings like these who am I to complain?

Bowrington Road Market, 21 Bowrington Road, Causeway Bay. All stalls located at the 1/F. Qing Zhen is stall number 5, Kan Kee is number 6, and Hoi Kee I don't remember.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Commercial Break No. 4

Me: You should try to wake up earlier each morning if you want time to play before going off to school.
Little Boy: But mama, it's so hard to get up.
Me: Then you should sleep earlier.
Little Boy: Can't you just plug me in every morning?

I asked him if he was an appliance and he said yes, he needed to be plugged in through his back to summon the energy to get up so early. :)