Al fresco dining: the local way

You may easily associate alfresco dining with fine dining and expensive restaurants. This can be so true in Hong Kong. On the other hand, alfresco dining can be simply like this: This is a local restaurant in Chevalier Garden, Ma On Shan, New Territories with simple round tables and plastic chairs placed outdoor. I ate afternoon tea here today, enjoying some gratifying moments after a 3-hour hike.

I ordered a dish of Singaporean style fried noodle with a cup of milk tea. The Hong Kong style milk tea using the branded evaporated milk was smooth, and the noodle, as expected, was ordinary. The tea time costed me HK$25 (US$3). That made me happy – to enjoy the warmth of autumn sun and al fresco dining can be so simple and can cost so little.

Yum Cha in old way

The yum cha scene in Hong Kong in old days was different. In restaurants, staff pushed trolleys around with dim sum on them, yelling out the name of dim sum. If you liked the dim sum, you got it direct from the staff.

Now, you are given a paper menu and you mark what you want and then food will be delivered to your table.

The old way was much more mesmerizing, of course. Kids are very intuitive of what is good and that is why my two little nieces like going to Maxim’s restaurants for dim sum where trolleys are still being pushed around.

I have been to the Maxim’s Palace in City Hall in Central and Taikoo Shing. Dim sum is pricy but of high quality. And the atmosphere is good because of the old way. Avoid the crowd on weekends, though.

Here’s a list of the Maxim’s Palace restaurants:

Maxim’s restaurants, with comfortable seating and some innovations in producing new types of dim sum, still represent the modern version of yum cha. If you want to try the really old way of yum cha, the renowned century-old Lin Heung Tea House (No. 160-164 Wellington Street, Central) is the place to be.

Its patrons and its waiters/waitresses are all middle aged and above; the decor, the tea ware and dim sum are very traditional; you have to find seats yourself; it is noisy, crowded and probably a bit unclean, and don’t expect good service. But that is the place for the real old way.

Wonton-noodle restaurant with character

The noodle restaurant is hidden in a street in Central. It is quite small. You won’t step in if you do not know its history and reputation. It is among the town’s most famous wonton-noodle restaurants.The restaurant’s owner is the third generation of a wonton-noodle master who operated a very successful business in Guangzhou, before moving to Hong Kong in 1938 when the Japanese occupied the city. The master’s son Mak An inherited his dad’s wonton noodle making skills and ran a DaiPaiDong (once a very popular open air food stall in Hong Kong) in Central.

The business has been passed on to two of his sons who now run two separate wonton noodle shops on Hong Kong Island. This one (Chung Kai) in Wing Kat Street, Central, belongs to the elder brother.

Here, a small bowl of wonton noodle sells for HK$26, an exorbitant price for such a small bowl. But customers keep coming. There is reason, of course. The restaurant has kept the very tradition of making wonton noodle and all three elements – the wonton, the noodle and the soup base – all taste exquisite. Just look at the bowl of noodle: the spoon is at the bottom, the wonton in the middle and the noodle at the top, a way to keep the noodle crunchy, from absorbing too much of the soup base.To taste the real and exquisite wonton noodle, this is the place. I really like its low-profile. It is like an ordinary noodle restaurant, but there is so much character with it. Despite its repute, it has no comfortable seating and no frills. A noodle restaurant in Hong Kong usually offers a dish of vegetable or drink alongside the noodle if you are willing to pay a few dollars more. Not here. It sells only wonton noodle and noodle of other types. It is the way it has been. Be reminded that a small bowl of wonton-noodle is good for snacking and afternoon tea, not for a proper meal. So come here for afternoon tea. Its business hours are: 10:30am to 8pm (except public holidays: 10:30am to 7pm).

Mak An Kee Noodle(麥奀記忠記麵家)
Address: G/F, 37 Wing Kat Street, Central

Onset of another food craze

After the Taiwan bubble tea, it is the frozen yogurt that captures the food imagination of Hong Kong people. Frozen yogurt shops are seen in just about every major shopping mall and every busy street.

Tuttimelon, a frozen yogurt brand from the USA, is probably the best in town. By chance I tried it and liked it immediately. It has a big variety of yogurt and toppings including fresh fruit to choose from. Later, it was reported  that it sold over 100,000 vouchers at a local group buying website, a record in Hong Kong’s online grouping buying history.

Address: The One (a shopping mall newly opened in 2010), 100 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui (opposite Park Lane and Kowloon Park).

Taste of local breakfast

A typical breakfast in a typical local restaurant in Hong Kong is like this: a bun with ham and egg, instant noodle, and a cup of Hong Kong style milk tea. Price: 24 HKD.It is not very healthy, as you can see. But it is extremely filling.

I seldom go for a breakfast like this, but that morning, on a weekend, I had the urge to savor one, in a Hong Kong style tea restaurant (called “cha can ting” 茶餐廳 in Cantonese). Not really for the food, but for the atmosphere.

If you like your milk tea with less or more milk, just tell the staff and they will do it for you.

You don’t have a bill for the food. The staff yell to the counter how much you should pay and you pay at the counter.At the entrance to the tea restaurant, Hong Kong style bread made by the restaurant is sold for any customers, including the restaurant customers. Its bread is popular, especially when it is freshly made in the afternoon. So people also come to the restaurant for afternoon tea, just to savor its bread with tea or coffee.

Restaurant: 英發茶餐廳 (without English name);  No. 16 Fu Yan Street, Kwun Tong