Hong Kong Travel: Second Time’s the Charm
When I was 3 years old, I remember my Sugar Big Brother (Tong Dai Gor – 糖大哥 ) would take my older brother and me to the Cantonese movie theaters in Hong Kong to watch KungFu movies. During that time, Hong Kong was hip with Martial Arts Films and bustling street stalls or (Dai Pai Dong – 大排檔), of which only 25 remain. I didn’t recall much of my childhood in Hong Kong, aside from my fond memories with Dai Gor. My family moved to Philadelphia in the 90’s while Sugar Big Brother stayed in Hong Kong as a Chef.
I grew up in Philly and have lived there most of my life as a diehard Philadelphia Eagles fan (#FlyEaglesFly, #GoBirds). I haven’t gone back to Hong Kong until 2003 during my tea expedition in Fuzhou, China. My impression of Hong Kong was mixed since I had been there only for one day and did not have my big brother’s contact information.
Hong Kong felt a bit strange to me: The people seemed a bit rude and uptight and if you’re not from there, they will take advantage of you (I guess that’s everywhere). Food, drinks, and taxi were rather pricey. Maybe it was just me, so I thought nothing of it. I returned to Philly after my first China excursion with a case of wanderlust.
My life in Philadelphia was OK, and I couldn’t complain, but I wanted more…to travel more, document my journeys, and help other travelers learn from my misadventures. That’s what diostardumplings.com is essentially about: food, travel, and recipes I learned from my travels.
As we live in a world of social media, I finally got in contact with Sugar Big Brother in 2017, via using the WeChat app. After a few conversations on WeChat, Alev and I decided to visit Sugar Big Brother in Hong Kong, while planning our trip to Taiwan. After all, I haven’t seen him for over 30 years. He is my long-lost brother, so to speak…
Arriving at Hong Kong Airport
It’s roughly a 2-hour flight if you are flying from Taiwan to Hong Kong. Flight tickets are rather inexpensive, depending on the season of the year. After arriving at Hong Kong International Airport, we gathered our luggage. Sugar Big Brother was waiting for us at the arrival gate. I gave my big bro a hug, while we waited for the bus to our hotel room. Depending on the location of your hotel, the bus route may take at least an hour, but it beats getting overcharged by taxi.
Budget Hotel Room
Think of Hong Kong as the New York Chinatown but bigger and more expensive. We booked a budget room at Comfort Guest House, located inside the infamous Chungking Mansion (重慶大廈) where the movie ChungKing Express was filmed that. A total of $108.54 USD for 3 nights. The hotel room is located at Tsim Sha Tsui (尖沙咀), one of the main museums and shopping area of Hong Kong and also easily accessible to MRT and bus stop.
The Chungking Mansion can be intimidating because this building is the busiest area for ethnic minorities. Here, you can score cheap Indian and Mideastern food, along with good rates on currency exchange. Unfortunately, the smell of the food will permeate your room and stay there. I would not recommend this place unless you are really on a budget. The rooms are super-tiny, even with the bathroom (which is in the same room). It is also the type of place, where one must take safety precautions. Luckily cameras are installed throughout the building. Ignore the peddlers outside the building, who try to sell you fake stuff, and you’ll be fine.
Hong Kong Dim Sum
After dropping off our bags, Sugar Big Brother suggested having Dim Sum (點心) at the Majesty Chinese Restaurant (金御海家), where he used to work.
The dim sum is fresh and made-to-order. From left to right: Soup Dumplings, Crispy Fried Rolls with veggies and meat, Chinese Broccoli or Gai Lan with oyster sauce, Shrimp Dumplings, and Fishead Congee.
The Shrimp Dumplings or Ha Gow (蝦餃) are very tasty with huge size shrimp filling and super translucent and smooth texture. A must dish for dim sum.
Soup Dumplings or Xiaolongbao (小笼包) are very juicy and bursting with flavors. They come in big sizes, as well. In my opinion, the Xiaolongbao at Majesty is better than those we tried at Din Tai Fung in Taipei.
One of our favorite dim sum dishes in Hong Kong was the Steamed Milk Pudding or Dun Nai (炖奶). You can find this at any afternoon tea shop or restaurant, hot or cold. This one, in particular, is hot and served with a coconut. Sweet Milk, steamed to a pudding-like texture, is absolutely amazing!
Location: 3 Floor 216-228A Nathan Road, Jordan, Hong Kong, China
Tip: Watch out for hidden fees such as charges for tea, hot water even peanuts. Go with a local to restaurants because they tend to overcharge tourist.
Victoria Peak 太平山
After a great meal, it’s time to do a little sightseeing. Victoria Peak or Tai Peng San is a well-known location and major tourist attraction where you can view the cityscape of Hong Kong and Victoria Harbor.
Po Lin Monastery 寶蓮禪寺
Po Lin Monastery is the home of the big Buddha, Tian Tan, and other Buddha statues. Located in the high mountain area of Lantau Island of Hong Kong. Here is the main entrance.
Tian Tan Buddha 天壇大佛
The Tian Tan Buddha statue is a must-visit site in Hong Kong. The big Buddha sits approximately 112 ft tall at the Po Lin Monastery at the top of the steps.
There are 6 additional statues below Tian Tan “The Offering of the Six Devas” offering gifts to Tian Tan.
This place is a memorable moment for us….and also I place where I proposed to Alevtina with the help of Sugar Big Brother. (She said ‘YES’!)
Temple Street 廟街
You may have seen Temple Street throughout numerous Hong Kong action films. Here you can find cheap knockoff s of anything from bags to watches.
Mido Cafe 美都餐室
Not too far from Temple Street is Mido Cafe. A famous retro cafe from 1950 that was featured in many Hong Kong Films.
The food is nothing special and you may get the Hong Kongese attitude with your service, but it’s a worth trip to sit down with a cup of Milk Tea or Nai Cha (奶茶) and take a few photos of the decor (that’s if they let you).
Victoria Harbour 維多利亞港
The Victoria Harbour is a fantastic view of the city. Do you recall the scene, where Bruce Lee rode on one of these boats? It was in Victoria Harbour.
The Harbour comes alive at night when the people are active, and the city is vibrant. You can catch locals chilling and sipping beers while enjoying the view and the light show.
Follow Sugar Big Brother
Basically, Sugar Big Brother was our Hong Kong tour guide for 2 days. He would walk really fast while chatting about life and sharing recipes. Navigating the busy streets of HK can be hectic. Everyone in Hong Kong always seems to be in a rush, for some reason.
For a change of scenery, we followed Sugar Big Brother to Wong Tai Sin Temple (黃大仙祠). We lit some incense and prayed for health, wealth, good life, and to our engagement.
After our blessings at the temple, it was a bit early for afternoon tea or dinner. Sugar Brother guide us towards Ya Ma Tei (油麻地), which is a few blocks away from Temple Street. Ya Ma Tei is a perfect place for a morning getaway browsing through street markets.
Sampling exotic fruits from around the world at the Fruit Ally or Gwo Laan (果欄).
The best fruits around the world are located inside this market, but very expensive.
As 2 o’clock hits, it’s time for Afternoon Tea or (Ha Mmm Cha下午茶). Hong Kongese people enjoy afternoon tea either with dim sum or with light snacks. Prices are usually discounted during afternoon tea. It sort of like happy hour but with tea.
Sugar Big Brother took us to a local tea shop and ordered 3 Pineapple buns and 3 cups of Milk Tea Coffee or Yuenyeung (鴛鴦). The pineapple buns are nice and warm with butter inside that is to die for! Ever have coffee with tea? That’s what Yuengyeung is and a Hong Kong thing. Made with a mixture of milk tea and black coffee that can be served hot or cold. The smell and taste of the decadent flavors got us hooked at first sip!
Can’t resist, so two to go, please!
Hong Kong Food
Hong Kong is all hustle and bustle, all the time. The locals typically gobble up their food and quickly move on to their respective destinations. A simple, typical Hong Kong breakfast consists of two eggs sunny side up with a butter roll; a bowl of macaroni soup with luncheon meat, shredded Squid, and lettuce; and a cup of Coffee Milk Tea.
Elbow noodle soup with a slice of grilled spam and lettuce on top. So simple yet delicious and hearty.
You can’t help but notice the Roasted Goose hanging from the window on every corner. In the States we do duck, but in Hong Kong, they love goose, and I can’t blame them.
Crispy skin with juicy and tender meat soaked with sweet and salty duck sauce is absolutely stunning!
I recalled very distinctly this one incident where Sugar Big Brother, Alev and I ate dinner at a seafood restaurant in Hong Kong. As we walked in, the staff could tell we were not locals. Stunningly fresh seafood was on sale and we were able to pick our dinner from the tank. The prices are displayed on the tag are determied by weight.
We ordered a fresh lobster from the tank: The crustacean is baked and then stirred fried with ginger and scallions. The lobster was very tasty where the meat is tender and sweet.
We also ordered a side of stir-fry vegetables with garlic. Super aromatic and delicious!
The entire time, the staff was arguing with Sugar Big Brother in a weak attempt to rip us off by overcharging for the lobster. One waiter even tried to get my brother into a physical fight!!! They realized quickly that he is also in the food industry, and their little ripoff scheme was not working. The bill still ended up being rather high, even after all the arguing and calculations. In retrospect, the food was great but not worth the hassle.
Tip: Always go to a restaurant with a local.
Since the Food and Environment Hygiene Department control, street stalls are rare to find. Nevertheless, there are a few if you can find them.
A staple of Hong Kong street food is the Egg Waffle Cake (Gai Daan Jai – 鷄蛋仔). Lee Keung Kee North Point Eggette ( 利強記北角雞蛋仔) at Tsim Sha Tsui is famous for them. You can tell by the long lines and the pictures of famous Hong Kong movie stars that the place is wildly popular. And the lady is usually on the phone…hahaha…
The Egg Waffle Cake is one big layer that cost roughly around 22 HKD or $2.81 USD. The texture is crunchy on the outside and gooey soft on the inside with a hint of sweetness.
Another classic Hong Kong street food is the Curry Fishballs (魚蛋) Spicy, aromatic bright yellow fishball on a stick are cheap and delicious. You can find them almost anywhere in the city. They cost between $0.90 and $1.00 USD for 5 fishballs. Lee Keung Kee sells them as well.
Authentic Chaozhou Cuisine 潮州菜
Chaozhou, Chiuchow or Teochew cuisine originated from the Guangdong province of China. It is popular in both southern China (particularly Shenzhen) and Hong Kong. On our last night with Sugar Big Brother, he took us to this Chaozhou restaurant, the name of which I do not know in English.
To celebrate our reunite and to toast to our engagement, we ordered a few bottles of Blue Girl Beer (蓝女啤酒), a popular Hong Kong beer.
Chaozhou dishes are usually braised and marinated with a heavy dose of spices, sweet soy, and fish sauce. Here is what we ordered from left to right: Squid with intestine, Braised Goose, Jelly Blood Cake (豬紅), Braised Chicken Feet with Peanuts (鳳爪).
The Braised or Brine Goose (盐水鹅)is sweet and salty, packed with aromatic flavors from the sauce/marinade with peanuts at the bottom. Add a bit of dipping vinegar (a popular condiment in Cantonese cuisine ), and your taste buds will thank you! The Jelly Blood Cake (豬紅) is considered as a Cantonese delicacy in Hong Kong. The soft cubes, made with coagulated blood and a mix of spices, are soaked in Chiuchow chili soy sauce. The texture is absolutely amazing; firm on the outside and soft on the inside, bursting with flavor in every bite.
Every had chicken feet during Dim Sum where the skin falls off the bone? Chiuchow Braised Chicken feet (鳳爪) is somewhat simpler, but it marinated with 5 spices, star anise and of course more Chiuchow sweet soy sauce.
After a fantastic meal, Sugar Big Brother and I must part ways again, to follow our own path and lives. This particular trip was an emotional roller-coaster for me. Seeing my brother again and hanging out with him, if only for two days, reconnected us, as though we never parted in the first place. Hong Kong has plenty of good moments (especially those involving my brother), and, alas, a few bad ones. From my experience most Hong Kongers seem to have a high-and-mighty attitude about them, at least during the two times that I visited Hong Kong. Restaurants tend to take advantage of you if you are not familiar with their fees and policies. Don’t get me wrong: Hong Kong is an awesome place to visit with amazing food and culture, but keep in mind that it can be expensive and uncomfortable, at times. If and when I return to Hong Kong, I would stay with Sugar Big Brother in Shenzhen, China instead. Wow…I really miss this guy! 🙁