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My favorite Chinese cuisine is Sichuan, but when it comes to comfort food and nostalgia, I love Cantonese Hong Kong style. First meal off the airport express train brings me to the IFC mall, level P3 at Tasty Congee and Wantun Noodle Shop (正斗粥麵專家). This is usually my last meal before I board the airport express when leaving Hong Kong. Today it is my first.
I almost ordered the house special shrimp wonton noodle soup, but I spied a plate of something heaped on a plate blanketed under a double fried egg. I changed my mind and went for the honey glazed barbecue pork and fried egg on rice (86HKD). Jielan (Chinese brocoli), pork, egg and rice — my four basic food groups on one plate take me back to many mornings spent in San Francisco with my family.
My dad is an early riser. When his eyes open, his feet walk him to the morning paper and his mouth speaks for a cup of black coffee. When he wakes the family too must rise and into the car we would pile. A few rounds of parking spot hunt and a few quarters into the meter then we were ready for whichever hole-in-the-wall dad’s appetite dictated. I remember such a place on Kearny Street called Silver Dragon. This old place doesn’t exist anymore. There were no tables, just counter seating. The lady knew my dad by name and she knew the plate he wanted – a plate of rice of lap chong (臘腸) and fried eggs garnished with chopped spring onions served of course, with bottomless coffee in a white American diner cup. That dish is a basic and no matter who makes it or how they do, one style may trump another but any will bring me back to those mornings.
My mom made lap chong with eggs and rice at home as well. Sometimes is was lap chong, other days bacon and occasionally Filipino longganisa sausage.
Well, here I am in hong kong and I’ve been pining for wonton noodle soup but the old flame of pork-eggs-and-rice steals me back and I postpone my yearning to wonton noodle another meal time.
Just yesterday I ate dim sum with my friend Lillian Chou in Beijing and we ordered our dim sum ‘litmus test’, charsiu bao (叉烧包). It was fair but not impressive. Lillian found the filling too sweet. After eating the charsiu bao (流汁叉燒飽, 3 steamed barbecued pork buns/29HKD) here in Hong Kong, I realize what she meant. The charsiu bao I’m enjoying today allows the bread to be slightly sweet while the filling stays savory. Each part plays it’s flavor role and is definitely better than the one I ate yesterday.
I squeeze in a feicui cai miao jiao (翡翠菜苗餃, 3 dumplings/28HKD). The shrimp inside has the bouncy bite. I love dim sum. Beijing dim sum gets as good as making you dream of the real thing. Bless my luck for having the opportunities to sample the difference. While some of us can’t eat good dim sum in hong kong, Californians have it really good and still better than those in Beijing.
Hong kong isn’t home but the food has a way of taking me back to San Francisco, strolling the streets with my family, passing windows of roast duck and pork, and ordering gigantic charsiu bao packed in pink boxes tied with red string.
If IFC Central is your first stop in Hong Kong, take the elevator up to level P3 and rest awhile for a first bite. Picture menus, English translations, and lots of good food spotting off other tables to inspire your meal.