Classic Hong Kong food stores: Hung Fat, Sham Shui Po
Hung Fat has been trading in Guangdong's sweet secrets for generations, writes Janice Leung Hayes
Every day around 3pm, Wong Hei-cheong sits at the booth of his 58-year-old cake shop, waiting to greet his regulars. Most of the time, they're silver-haired ladies or men who were his friends long before they started having to use an umbrella, cane or shopping trolley to help them walk.
Sometimes these old friends bring along their grandchildren and he serves them a slice of steamed brown sugar cake, or a little boot jai goh (glutinous rice flour pudding with red beans, steamed in a small cup), like he used to when he started the shop in 1955.
"Lots of children used to come on their way to school, or on their way back home. There aren't so many now," he says.
Born in 1921, Wong left Taishan, in southern Guangdong, when a family friend asked him to help out at his siu mei (barbecued meats) shop in Hong Kong. When Wong took over the shop, he started making Taishan-style steamed cakes, on the side. "I'd been eating them since I was a child, so I knew how they were supposed to taste," he says. "The cakes sold better than the siu mei. I stopped serving it very soon [after taking over the shop]. Maybe I wasn't so good at it."
The shop's interior has hardly changed since those days. The white tiles on the floor are cracking and old crates and equipment are piled in corners. "We still have the glass and chopping station at the front," he says.
At the entrance sits a giant steamed brown sugar cake. Made with brown sugar slabs and rice flour, it is a moist, elastic, and subtly sweet cake.
Also on display are other sticky, steamed sweets, which to the untrained eye may look more at home in a haunted house.
Some of the more bizarre offerings are small black coins with the unsavoury name of gai see tung, meaning chicken excrement cane, or Chinese fever vine, which is its main ingredient, and olive green wormwood cakes, both of which are said to aid digestion.
Aged 92, Wong no longer makes the cakes but he continues to supervise, and hopes that the recipes of his childhood won't be lost.
Hung Fat, 251 Ki Lung Street, Sham Shui Po, tel: 2386 1034. Open: daily from 7am-6pm