Cheap and tasty an essential part of real Hong Kong dining
This past Sunday was spent on some rather intensive eating - more intensive than usual, I should say. The editor of the Observer Food Monthly, Allan Jenkins, had e-mailed to ask if I had time to take him to eat at a few places on his four-day visit to Hong Kong; he expressed an interest in trying street food.
I put out the call to a few foodie friends, and after a long discussion to narrow down our list, we took him to six places around Tsim Sha Tsui and Sham Shui Po. We ate beef balls, white radish puffs, three types of beef brisket, ha ji mien (shrimp roe and lard noodles) with goose intestines and omasum tripe, sweet dofu fa (lightly curdled soya bean milk) and a whole, roasted-to-order suckling pig - for five of us. After a two-hour rest, I took Jenkins to a long-planned dinner at one of my favourite Chinese restaurants, The Chairman.
It's a pity visitors aren't usually given the chance to see and taste the real Hong Kong. Yes, Jenkins had to go along (mostly) with the itinerary of the hotel that was hosting him - which meant eating at the hotel's restaurants (not such a bad thing); but even on his day off he was taken by the Hong Kong Tourism Board to try the dim sum at the upmarket Sun Tung Lok (which Michelin awarded three stars, although I'm not the only one who thinks it doesn't deserve them), rather than somewhere more interesting.
Of course, not every visitor here wants to eat at humble, inexpensive places. Some people are star chasers and eat only at places that have received the blessing of some guidebook. Others believe (incorrectly) that cheap means dirty.
As much as I like to eat at top restaurants, it's not something I want to do every day. When I'm on my own, doing errands on a weekend, I don't want to spend an hour or more to eat lunch: I'll take 30 minutes (or less) to eat a bowl of noodles. But just because I want a quick meal doesn't mean I want a bad one. Fortunately, there are plenty of good, inexpensive places.
But it's obvious there's a demand among certain food lovers for 'off the beaten track' places to eat in Hong Kong - all one has to do is view the many threads on this subject on websites such as chowhound.com. Someone could start a business catering to adventurous food tourists. Even if it doesn't pay that much, at least you'd be meeting other passionate foodies and eating well.