We take a quick dip into the wonderful world of Hong Kong's Cooked Food Centres in Sheung Wan.
We've only got a day and a bit in Hongkers and our mission is to eat in Cooked Food Centres every chance we get. We tried one on a previous visit to Hongkers and we're hankering for more.
Cooked Food Centres are like food courts, an indoor gathering of hawker stalls. From what we gather these are government run, usually installed in stunningly brutal government buildings, and decorated with white tiles and government health posters. Pure romance.
By chance there's one right around the corner from our hotel (Ibis), The Queen's Road Cooked Food Centre. Couldn't have unplanned it better.
Queen's Road Cooked Food Centre is jumping on a Friday night. It's a little different to our daytime adventures in these joints. Tables are set out for group dining, there's even menus and waiter service (my god!) There's also non-Chinese folks in here, maybe because it's so close to Central. Even more surprising is that there's an Italian stall in the corner and tables with chequered tablecloths with punters sipping red wine. It's not what we expected but we love it. In true Hong Kong style it's noisy and chaotic.
We order from one of those stalls above, we're not sure which one, not that it matters...
There's an English menu which is sadly about a fifth of the size of the Chinese menu, but we're too tired to care.
Scalded Screw (whelks) with a little dipping sauce of hoisin and chilli and a couple of skewers to prise the meat out. Great fun to pull out and munch with your Blue Girl beer.
Strange little alien beings emerge from the shell
We order stir fried greens with fermented tofu, a favourite dish of ours in this part of the world. We order by dragging the waiter to another table and pointing at their dishes. We're so posh.
Baked pork ribs - HK $48. Turns out to be a a sweet and sour style dish, but with much more depth of flavour than your regular Aussie sweet'n'sour. A real burnt caramel sugar taste, almost caramelised. Miss Chicken usually sticks her beak up at sweet'n'sour, but she's super clucky about this dish.
When we travel we usually rate the potential food prospects on a trip by the 'law of first meals': however good the first meal is will dictate the quality of your meals for the rest of the trip. And this one is a beauty.
At breakfast there's not much happening at the Queen's Road Cooked Food Centre so we waddle down to the Sheung Wan Cooked Food Centre.
Sheung Wan Cooked Food Centre is pretty quiet at breakfast time, mostly old uncles sitting around taking it easy, a few are having an early morning beer. One bloke must have been on about his sixth Tsingtao beer as he greets us like old friends because we are from Australia, and he visited in Canada twenty years ago.
There's very little English spoken down here so we order using the point'n'pray method. We get congee (juk) with pieces of fish, pork and mystery meat and steamed rice rolls with tiny flecks of prawns inside. So simple, so perfect.
For morning tea we get some steamed cake to take away. Most of it gets eaten before we even get to morning tea.
To fill in the time between eating our plan is to go hiking. We get a train to Shau Kei Wan MTR station to get a bus up the hill to Shek O. Across the road from the bus station a market is in full swing. We buy some roast pork but it's kind of old and average, can't win them all.
The Dragon's Back Trail is a great urban hike. It's a fairly gentle hike once you get past a few sets of stairs at the start. We never considered hiking in Hong Kong until a friend put us onto it (thanks Sam!). Around 40% of Hong Kong is parkland. Who would have thunk it? We rarely hike at home but we love it here because we can do it with lots of tops old Chinese Aunties and Uncles.
The ultimate hiking lunch - half a roast duck with plum and hoisin sauces. Oh the envy we created! This half duck set us back about AUD$8 and it was delicious, with loads more flesh than we get back in Australia.
One option on the Dragon Back Trail is to finish at Tai Long Wan or Big Wave Bay Beach. A small, laid-back village with a couple of low key restaurants.
At the cafes along the beachfront the locals were tucking into fish and chips, but we went for the Hong Kong classic of fishball noodle soup and a Tsing Tao at the Tong Kee Store. Fishballs are so much tastier in Hongkers, they seem freshly made.
For din-dins we head back to the Sheung Wan Cooked Food Centre. Like Queens Road the night before, it has become more like a restaurant, with table service and menus. We pick a stall that serves fish and do our best to order. We walk around the immediate area eyeing off everyone else's dishes and then pointing and grinning at the waiter like the idiots.
Our dinner is under way.
Steamed Fish head with preserved vegetables. We tried to get a different fish that someone else was eating and this ended up on our table. Still happy. There's loads of flesh on this fella, it's not a dinner of eyes and lips.
Beans and pork mince, a good standby dish. Nicely wok fried and salty.
Mr Shawn though he ordered more vegetables but somehow managed to order more fish. Grass carp with black beans, split down the middle and steamed.
The food court nerve centre.
The next day we get up way earlier than anybody ever should on holiday, we've got a boat to catch at the China Ferry Terminal. We hit the Macau Restaurant in Kowloon for breakfast.
Classic Hong Kong\Macau coffee shop fare.
How we love these joints. The food is so average yet so much fun.
Usually the last thing you want to order in a Hong Kong coffee shop is coffee, it's weak, milky and watery. But this one is actually quite good. Go figure.
A breakfast set of porridge (surprisingly good!) with a spam and egg bun. Yay! About HK$30.
Luncheon meat, fried egg and meatball (instant) noodle soup. HK$29
We've got a ferry to catch to Zhaoqing. Wish we could stay in Hong Kong longer, but we have China exploring to do.
We love Hong Kong!