From plane fare to deli heaven
Kowloon City's grid of seven skyscraper-less streets is packed with tempting restaurants, groceries and delicatessens, making it a foodies' paradise.
In the era of Kai Tak International Airport, the district was better known for its Chiu Chow and Thai restaurants. As the area has become slightly more gentrified, the flavour has become more international.
Typically global is Manner Club de Gourmet (63 Fuk Lo Tsun Road, tel: 2383 8370). Enjoy the wine and Franche-Comte, Munster and Camembert cheeses, and foie gras from France or Italian truffle p?te and oils. How about Spain?
The shop's speciality is its Iberian ham, shoulders of which dangle in an overhead can-can. 'The 48-month ham usually sells for HK$9,000, and the 36-month version for HK$7,500,' the salesman says, pointing upwards perhaps in an ironic salute to the high prices.
In Hong Kong, Himalayan rock salt is a rarity outside high-end steakhouses. Here it comes in 'mini-boulders' - the idea is to place these on the dinner table with a small grater, so diners can help themselves (HK$298). About 20 doors down is Manner Fresh (81 Fuk Lo Tsun Road, tel: 2383 7711), an upscale restaurant by the same owner. The menu reads well, but the prices are in the same league as the hams.
At just three months old, the Sun Fine Food Company (shop 2, Fook Chi Building, 59-61 Nam Kok Road, tel: 3689 0745; sffc.com.hk ) is one of the newest arrivals to the district. The shop caters to Kowloon City's sophisticated palates; like many outlets here, it is stocked with upmarket items. Specialities include scallops, prawns and crab and prime cuts of meat such as sirloin, bacon, ham, prosciutto and salami. Local customers clearly know their food.
If you're looking for a sit-down Chiu Chow meal, Chong Fat Chiu Chow (60-62 South Wall Road, tel: 2383 3114) is the place to go. But expect to queue for dishes after dusk and don't expect soft furnishings. It's one of few places where da lang Chiu Chow food is still served in Hong Kong. These are home-style dishes traditionally served late at night, often a favourite with movie stars after a hard day's filming. Ask for the cold jellied pork (HK$40 per dish). The pork shank, trotter and pig skin in gelatin served with salty fish sauce takes four to five hours to steam, says manager Chan Yu-ka. Pick at cold fish and seafood or slurp the warming chun choy soup made from spring vegetables.
There are plenty of desserts in the Chiu Chow kitchen. Disappearing from other menus but available here are deep-fried taro fingers (HK$6 per piece). After being fried, they are plunged into a sugary soup before being fried again and plated. They taste like doughnuts.
Shun Hing Restaurant (56-58 Nga Tsin Wai Road, tel: 2382 1550) is a legend among Hong Kong foodies. Like Chong Fat, a meal at this cha chaan teng is about nostalgia. The capacious eatery has a moody quality: a grey-green tiled interior and leatherette booths. Time frayed, it looks older than its 38 years.
There's a comforting familiarity to the offerings. The shortened English menu is nonetheless comprehensive, with home-style choices: toast (from HK$11), sandwiches (from HK$16 to HK$31 for a club), snacks (hot dog for HK$15; chicken wings with French fries cost HK$20; and the quaintly named 'cheese hamburger' HK$18) and omelettes (from HK$32). Unusual for such an outlet is the salad section - a respite from the cakes and breads.
The price of that piece of 'intangible Hong Kong culture', the egg tart, is HK$4.50, with other pastries costing a little more. The flaky crusted rounds that melt in the mouth, if they haven't collapsed between the fingers, have a brightness accentuated by the dark surroundings. 'The egg tarts were made 10 minutes ago,' says a waitress. 'They're made in batches of 36. We do about 400 a day.' She says the fried dough balls (HK$6), unappetising looking sugar-frosted blobs, are labour intensive. 'We make them at 11am and keep them warm through the day,' she says. They still taste fresh at 3pm.
The biggest concentration of foodie finds is on Hau Wong Road and Fuk Lo Tsun Road. Among them is grocery and deli Amigo (89 Hau Wong Road, tel: 2716 4488), which sells not only oysters and marinated and fresh meats, but also Jamie Oliver seasonings. Look out for the whole fruit such as apples, mandarins and coconuts, sliced in two and stuffed with a sorbet of their own flesh. Meanwhile, the fruit stall on the corner of Hau Wong Road and Nga Tsin Wai Road has not only a smart display but watermelons that are disconcerting both for being cubes and their price tag of HK$398.