A life-changing moment in a Hong Kong restaurant for a California Chinese chef: he discovered congee
From congee and pho to burgers and xiao long bao, Vietnam-born Dennis Wong picks his top places to eat in Hong Kong
I was born in Vietnam to Chinese parents from Guangdong. When I was a kid, we obtained the refugee status to immigrate to the US. To make a living, I started my career as a cook in a restaurant kitchen, eventually opening Le Soleil in 1993.
In the past decade, I have visited Hong Kong annually to update the menu at Le Soleil (3/F, The Royal Garden Hotel, 69 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East, tel: 2733 2033).
Whenever I am here, I need to go to several local eateries to satisfy my cravings for Hong Kong or Chinese regional food. I admit I never ate congee in the US before until [trying] a bowl of silky texture, freshly made fish mouth congee at Wing Ming Congee Shop (United Building, 1-7 Wu Kwong Street, Hung Hom, tel: 2356 7878). This is my must-have item to eat with their soft fried dough. If it is not congee, I will be gorging on a local favourite, the burger at Si Sun Fast Food (1A Whampoa Street, Hung Hom, tel: 2362 1279). The beef patty is very juicy, and the secret home-made dressing makes the burger irresistible.
Even though I have cooked countless bowls of beef pho,I am still attracted to the perfectly cooked rice noodles at Tak Fat Beef Ball (Haiphong Road Temporary Market, 390 Haiphong Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2376 1179). It’s a run-down joint inside the temporary market. My favourite is their beef balls and beef brisket rice noodles soup.
I head to Shanghai Lu Yang Cun (11/F, World Trade Centre, 280 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2881 6669) for a more refined northern Chinese cuisine experience. I am impressed by the cook’s knife skills and his presentation of the flower-shaped vegetarian floret marinated turnip and red chilli. I love its sweet and sour spicy taste and crunchy texture. Braised pork Hangzhou style is rich in flavour. The double-boiled pork balls in supreme Yangzhou style is succulent.
The long-standing Spring Deer (1/F, 42 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2366 4012) is my casual place to share a good quality Peking duck, and the nostalgic shark’s fin with chicken soup and steamed baos with a few people.
For xiaolongbao, Din Tai Fung (Shop 306, 3/F, Silvercord, 30 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2730 6928) is my first choice. I also love their braised gluten bean curd puff with black fungus.
I have not really explored the Western cuisine restaurant scene much in Hong Kong yet, so when I like to have some Italian food I usually just take a short walk from the kitchen to Sabatini Ristorante Italiano (3/F, The Royal Garden Hotel, 69 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East, tel: 2733 2000) for their linguine with scampi, clams and mussels, and a lobster bisque with croutons, crème fraiche, lemon, shallots, and chives.
To unwind, the bars situated on Alfresco Lane in Tsim Sha Tsui East waterfront are ideal for watching Hong Kong’s magnificent skyline while sipping a beer or cocktail.