Snake soup and other food favourites of a Los Angeles native in Hong Kong
Zora Benhamou has sampled cuisines around the world and, after four years in Hong Kong, the nutrition coach knows where to find dishes that are both exotic and simply delicious. She’s big on organic and sustainable fare too
Los Angeles native Zora Benhamou is a sport nutrition coach, longevity activist and founder of the online health platform, HackMyAge.com. She also is an organiser of the Inspire Wellness Seminars.
I moved to Hong Kong almost four years ago with my husband and two teenage children from Spain. Having lived in eight countries has exposed me to a variety of cuisines and Hong Kong offers opportunities to indulge in many of them.
When guests visit, I let them try exotic local dishes like snake soup at She Wong Lam (13 Hillier Street, Sheung Wan, tel: 2543 8032). This 130 year-old cafe is simple and small with the original wood snake-holding boxes lining the wall.
Ask the staff for a peek at the snakes and learn about the youth-preserving properties of orange peel and ginseng. Snake soup is surprisingly tasty, especially with the lime leaf and crispy wonton skin. My guests are always pleasantly surprised.
Another favourite is the old-school LockCha Teahouse (The K.S. Lo Gallery, Hong Kong Park, Admiralty, tel: 2801 7177). This charming little place not only has a huge selection of quality teas, but also some of the best vegetarian dim sum in town.
I love the antique wood furniture and the tiny traditional tea cups while I pick at steamed vegetable and mushroom balls or fresh cucumber salad with anti-ageing ingredient cordycep mushroom.
For celebrations, I indulge at Zuma (Levels 5 and 6, Landmark Atrium, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Central, tel: 3657 6388). We enjoy sitting at the bar watching the chefs master their creations. I have never had home-made tofu as delicious and creamy.
The presentation of each dish is one of a kind, like the thinly sliced sea bass with yuzu, truffle oil and salmon roe. What we all agree on hands down is the gindara saikyo-yaki͟ – black cod wrapped in hoba leaf.
I am a big fan of Japanese food and I will indulge at Okonomiyaki Dohtonbori (Shop 210, 2/F, K11 Art Mall, 18 Hanoi Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 3468 2264). The whole family gets into the cooking mode with the tableside grills making our own okonomiyaki pancake. We always go for the squid and the vegetarian with smoked bonito shavings.
As a health practitioner, our Sunday brunch choice is Grassroots Pantry (108 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, tel: 2873 3353) for unprocessed, sustainable and organic meals in a bright, airy and spacious atmosphere. Even the water is pH balanced.
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I’m amazed how their hedgehog mushrooms taste like chicken in the Lebanese platter and by the popcorn chicken. Also, I get sushi made of jicama and cauliflower and noodles made of kelp. Don’t leave without a guilt-free caramel square.
Isoya Japanese Vegetarian (9/F, 83 Wan Chai Road, Wan Chai, tel: 5500 8812) is my best kept secret. The decor is simple and unpretentious. The food is unique, but the best part is the passionate owner Joe who explains in great detail the origins of each ingredient and how to appreciate the flavours.
Go for the 10-course dinner menu to try a wide variety of delicately constructed dishes such as home-made sesame͞tofu, ͞sushi made of eggplant and red peppers to look like raw fish, and a bean curd skin hotpot with plenty of vegetables. Health tip: ask for Japanese konjac noodles for a healthier option.