Street treats: 2 Michelin-listed outlets in Hong Kong’s busy dining scene that will get your mouth watering
Among the 23 eateries Michelin recommended in its guide to Hong Kong street food, only a few serve international food
Most of the 23 Hong Kong eateries recommended by Michelin in its new street food category this year featured Chinese food, but there are a rare few that sell food from other ethnicities. Here, the Post visits two — the Korean Kelly’s Cape Bop, and Tonkla Thai Snack (previously called Canaan Thai Snack).
Kelly’s Cape Bop
WATCH: ‘I want my customers to be lucky’: why Eun Ha Loo cuts her kimbap into eight
On Johnston Road across from The Pawn in Wan Chai is a cheerful corner eatery called Kelly’s Cape Bop, where there is a large flat screen showing K-pop videos and even step-by-step instructions on how to apply Korean-style makeup. It seems incongruous with this eatery at first, but owner Eun Ha Yoo, 44, is keen to spread Korean culture to Hong Kong.
Customers pop into the shop to pick up items such as kimbap — Korean rice rolls with a choice of fillings such as beef, pork, tuna, spicy squid, cheese, and a variety of vegetables wrapped in nori (HK$50).
“People like our food because we use fresh ingredients and it’s easy to eat and take away, and we put less rice and more vegetables,” explains Yoo.
Other popular items include fried chicken bites (HK$50), rice cakes (HK$50), and fried eggrolls with vegetables (HK$50).
The single mother from South Korea started the shop in April 2014 and named it after her 17-year-old daughter Kelly Kim.
“My daughter didn’t like eating vegetables so I was trying to figure out ways to get her to eat more healthy,” Yoo says. “Kimbap is easier to eat for lunch and I put less rice so there could be more space for vegetables,” she says with a smile.
Kelly liked the kimbap her mother made so much that they shared it with her friends. That’s when Yoo decided to make one of her dreams come true — open a restaurant to share healthy Korean food with customers.
“My food is mummy food,” Yoo says, adding her staff are also mothers and understand the importance of eating healthy. “I’m not a chef but I use fresh ingredients, both local and Korean, and make everything in the morning.”
Yoo has lived in Hong Kong for two years and loves the city for its vibrant scene, and how people here like to eat out. “They are very open to trying new things, which is great for me.”
The little shop caught the attention of the Michelin guide which added it to the inaugural street food list.
Upon hearing the news, Yoo was over the moon and immediately told her father, though he didn’t know what the prestigious dining guide was. Nevertheless, Yoo has added the Michelin man to her promotional stickers as proof her shop has earned a gourmet stamp of approval.
Yoo is stretching her entrepreneurial skills and will be opening Kelly’s Beauty Cafe on nearby Anton Street next Friday where hairstylists from Korea will be available for consultation and free coffee will be served.
Kelly’s Cape Bop, 57 Johnston Road, Wan Chai, tel: 2529 9984
Tonkla Thai Snack
WATCH: ‘Everything is imported from Thailand’: what makes these skewers special?
In early November Canaan Thai Snack was mentioned in the Michelin Guide’s street food category, but the owner of the small eatery on Java Road in North Point had already decided to pack it in due to health problems.
Thai woman Detsen Nida, 56, opened the shop four years ago and it quickly became a go-to place for locals in the neighbourhood with a hankering for pad thai, meat skewers, tom yam kung, boneless chicken rice, and roasted pork neck.
She recently sold the business to a young Thai couple, Pongphan, 32, and Onanong Aroonphong, 31, and Samret Bunwichit, a cheerful 61-year-old Thai woman, who considers the couple like godchildren.
The Canaan Thai Snack sign has already been taken down to make way for a new one that will say Tonkla Thai Snack, though everything else will be pretty much the same.
Pongphan Aroonphong says the trio took possession of the business from mid-November, and were not aware of Michelin’s inclusion of the shop, though he reports business is steady.
“People like our food because all our ingredients are fresh from Thailand – even the eggs and garlic sauce are from there – and they can watch us prepare the food in our open kitchen,” he says proudly.
“Diners can get a decent meal for HK$50. We get many office workers who come here for lunch or take away.”
Aroonphong has been in Hong Kong’s restaurant business for 13 years, having worked in several Thai restaurants in Central before becoming the boss of his own place.
“Before it was tough working for other people for a set salary each month. But now as the boss, I work long hours, but don’t feel it’s as strenuous,” he says, adding he works around 13 hours everyday.
The Post attempted to contact former owner Detsen Nida for comment but she could not be reached. According to Aroonphong, she returned to Thailand to cure a pain in her leg and will be returning to Hong Kong to open another restaurant in Choi Hung.
Tonkla Thai Snack (Previously Canaan Thai Snack), Shop D2, 72 Java Road, North Point, tel: 5242 2809
One more thing
Another small street food stall, Lan Ying Indonesian Snacks, located on Kowloon City’s Fuk Lo Tsun Road, rejected multiple interview requests by the Post. The owners, a middle-aged Indonesian woman and her husband, did not want any media attention, preferring instead to rely on loyal customers who work and study in the area.