Over a bridge to Yunnan
WHAT is not as thick as lai fen (white noodle) or as thin as mai fen (rice noodle) and has a texture which is smoother than both? Mai xin, a Yunnan speciality which satisfies even the most fastidious noodle eater.
Where can you find it? At the humbly named Quite Good Chinese Restaurant, which has two branches in the territory - one in North Point and the other in Sai Wan Ho.
But mai xin is not the only speciality offered by the two restaurants.
This unique dining experience begins with the menu, or rather, what is printed on it.
The menu tells a story, one that gives its famous dish 'Bridge Crossing Mai Xin' its quaint name.
The story runs like this: there was a scholar living in Yunnan who had retired to an island to prepare for his imperial examinations.
His wife had to bring him food every day from home, but her efforts often went to waste because the scholar never ate his food while it was hot.
One day, while crossing a bridge, the wife was inspired by what she saw - that the fish could still swim in the frozen lake below a thin layer of ice - and found a solution to the problem.
She went home and boiled a pot of hot chicken broth and covered it with a layer of chicken oil. She put thin strips of meat and mai xin on the side.
Whenever her husband wanted to eat, all he had to do was to put the meat and the mai xin in the soup to let it cook. The thin layer of oil retained the heat.
This method of cooking mai xin became popular and is called 'Bridge Crossing Mi Xian' because it was inspired by the bridge.
Mrs Chan Chow Pui-shuen, one of the four partners of the restaurants, said: 'I was told by my partner, who recruited our chefs from the mainland to cook mai xin, that it is a well known story in Yunnan.' She said there were only two similar restaurants to hers, both in Kowloon.
The restaurants serve about 80 MSG-free dishes in eight categories including: mai xin, steam pot, side orders, fish, poultry, snacks and set menus.
The food is invariably tasty, light, healthy and prepared using minimal oil. Prices are reasonable and service reliable.
Bridge Crossing Mai Xin, served with spicy and salty Yunnan ham, salmon, sliced chicken and vegetable in hot chicken broth, costs $48 per portion.
The vegetarian version costs $28. Plain Yunnan Mai Xin is $15.
Dishes are not served in big portions, but our order of five dishes for three left no room for dessert.
The Strange Tasting Chicken ($50 small, $80 middle, $125 large), another Yunnan dish, was not at all strange to the tastebuds.
It is a cold dish with a unique taste - a little spicy, sweet and salty.
Another cold dish - vegetarian bean curd sheet roll ($22) was prepared with mushrooms and carrots.
It is oil-free and simple and one could eat plenty of this dish without feeling full.
Also worth trying is the steam pot chicken soup with Chinese herbs. Portions range from small to jumbo, serving one to six people. Prices range from $38 to $168.
The chef recommended the sweet and sour chicken meatballs ($60) and sweet and sour salmon ($148).
Since we skipped desert, the pear drinks after the meal ($10) were refreshing.
The restaurant is perhaps the closest you can get to Yunnan authenticity in Hong Kong. Our dinner for three cost $262.
Quite Good Chinese Cusine, G/F 100 Electric Road North Point, Hong kong. Tel: 5716862.