Wednesday, November 05, 2008

It's all about local knowledge

Sometimes the only way to get into a subject is to get some local knowledge. w and I had just that experience in Hong Kong when we hooked up with her cousin Michelle, her childhood best friend who she hadn't seen for 28 years!! We met she and her brother late one afternoon and were sitting at a table in a mall café (Did I mention there are malls everywhere in HK? Not just here and there, miles apart, but literally EVERYWHERE! You can't walk two or three blocks without finding a mall. Probably because that's where the A/C is and it's either find a mall or perish of heat and sweat in the streets) and we were about to order and were talking about food, of course. w mentioned that I had been wanting to find a dai pai dong, simple street cafés in HK that are harder and harder to find. This turn of conversation led to w telling Michelle how I had been eating all the street food I could get my greedy hands around, and her ears perked up and she said (and this endeared her to me forever) "How about if we leave here and go out to Kowloon to eat?" Turns out that Michelle is into food about as much as I am...she takes pics of her food too...which speaks very well of her I might add, and we bailed on the mall and hit the MTR across the harbor to Kowloon, where we embarked on one of the greatest food odyssey's I've ever been on.

I can't tell you the streets or even where we were in Kowloon, (late addendum: w has informed me we were in the Sham Shui Po neighborhood. There's an MTR stop with the same name) but I have a feeling there are tons of places like these. We started at a jammed little spot where they directed the four of us to a six top that already had four people at it. Whatever, we grabbed the little plastic stools, everyone scooted over a little more, sat down, and Michelle got it going with our first incredible treats of an evening filled with them....

I know there are somethings you have to get your head around. This is one of them and it was delicious. That's cooked pig skin resting against pieces of turnip. The skin was tender, slightly porky-fatty, but really good.

One of the best small plates ever. Rice noodle rounds that you squirt some sweet & sour sauce and some chili sauce on, then sprinkle with sesame seeds, then stick long toothpicks into and eat with abandon!

I had been telling w all along that I had heard about this classic HK street treat that was called Stinky Tofu, which are crisp fried cubes of fermented tofu and the word was it was one of those love it or hate it deals. Which of course means I had to find out for myself, so Michelle led us up the street toward a corner stand. About 50 feet away and I was getting this distinct sewer-ish odor. I started to look around to see if there was something on the street I shouldn't step in when I realized that was the alluring smell of stinky tofu. Hmm, okay. Well, I didn't travel 7000 miles to back out now, besides, when in Hong Kong......

Stinky Tofu, with a slightly sweet/spicy sauce around them. I thought it was really good, although w didn't share my enthusiasm. Crunchy outside, soft and warm inside, and the sauce was amazingly perfect with them. And for those who have delicate olfactory tolerances, if you hold your breath while you eat it, it really isn't all that bad.

Then it was up the street a couple more blocks, where I am proud to say I impressed Michelle when I spied something sizzling away in vendors wok that was calling to me. I had zero idea what this vaguely sausage looking thing was (actually, I thought it was a sausage thing). All I knew was I JUST HAD TO HAVE IT! Turns out "it" was a stuffed crispy skinned intestine that they slice crosswise and stick a skewer through. I have no idea what it was stuffed with. Probably the various leftover parts of whatever animal's intestine it came from that the cat wouldn't eat. Anyway, I was so busy eating it that I forgot to document it, but Michelle was like "You really like that? I can't eat those anymore. Too much cholesterol" Well, I'd already had my ticket punched on the C-Train so many times I wasn't worried. The joys of ultra-low cholesterol, thank god!

Our next stop (left) was what the whole point of Michelle's Magical Mystery Meat Tour. It seems there's this storefront restaurant where the guy is famous for his crispy skinned pork (goddamn I love this place!). He's got copies of newspaper articles about his place all over the front window, including one of him with that "Yan can cook" guy. Another place where you jam your way into and wait for the goodness to appear. With food this good I don't even mind their slightly cranky service. They've got tables to turn, dammit! They have a printed menu (no English), but along the wall it looks like this (you can see our fearless leader Michelle at far right perusing our options) where the specials are written down. Normally a gwai lo like myself wouldn't stand a chance in a place like this, but thanks to Michelle, Paul, w and their blessed fluency, we ate some truly awesome food....

Our three course meal. Beautifully fresh whole boiled shrimp, perfectly cooked greens, and oh my fucking god, the crispy skinned pork! Freakish...Crazy...Insanely fabulous!!! This is one of the best things I have ever out into my mouth.

Another picture of the pork (just because I wanted to see it again...sigh) with its dipping sauces.

This was incredible food all afternoon/evening. And so damn cheap. I'm guessing that everything we ate and drank came to about $15 a person...maybe. Just incredible, and another reason that I am really sorry to have to leave. It kills me to know I will never be able to eat like this back home in Portland. Hence the need to embarrass myself here with my shameless gluttony!


Wandering Chopsticks said...

Haha! You can eat like this in SoCal. :) Looks like such a great trip. Am rapidly scanning everything you've posted in the past week.

bb said...

Thanks for rubbing it in. When the longing gets too much here, I'm coming down! And it was an awesome trip. Huge!!