Thursday, 10 December 2009

Fish Slice Congee @ Hung Tao (Cantonese), London

Why is congee called congee in English ? Wikipedia's not sure and besides isn't rice porridge, a more easily understood English term to describe this dish ? Congee isn't a Chinese word either and I hate using it. In Mandarin, it’s called zhou but I know it as juk from the Cantonese.

Etymology aside, I love juk as it's like 'a hug in a bowl' - help I'm turning into Gregg Wallace - but really it is the ultimate comfort food. That’s why the Chinese use it to feed toddlers and the sick. Needless to say, it's also a fantastic hangover cure.

This Southern Chinese dish truly is the breakfast of kings and whenever I’m in the Far East, I always track down a stall or caff for juk. But back home, I've never been impressed by juk when eating out in London so more often than not, I make my own.

Fast-forward to a dismal grey and wet Saturday in November in Bayswater. My original plan was to try some Cantonese BBQ at Gold Mine but as there was a massive queue, I just ended up buying some take-away siu yuk. That still left the dilemma on where to go for lunch.

Now you're not short of options on Queensway with so many foodie fave destinations such as Royal China, Mandarin Kitchen, Four Seasons and Kiasu. But I wanted to try somewhere a bit different which is why I ended up at Hung Tao.

Being such a grim day, I needed some comfort food so it was a toss-up between soup noodles and juk. The latter won out and I ordered my favourite of fish slice congee (yu pian juk). And I was so glad I did as this was truly a big hug in a bowl !

Even after making allowances for my mood, the juk was unbelievably soothing and full of flavour. I reckon they threw in a ladle or two of the masterstock they use for soup noodles as well as tonnes of julienned ginger to make it so moreish.

A minor complaint is that they could’ve used better quality fish but looking back this is me being a bit la-di-da as I use cod fillet in my home-made juk. Besides I shouldn't be nitpicking given the generous amount of fish in my bowl of juk that cost just £5.70.

Hung Tao is a bit of a hole in the wall and its decor and ambience reminded me of the cha chaan tengs of Hong Kong - in my book, that's a good thing. Service was pretty efficient and without the surliness that you sometimes get in Chinatown.

Verdict: Even allowing for my natural inclination towards places like Hung Tao, it has achieved the near impossible - decent juk in London !

Other Stuff: They have fully bilingual menus with some real goodies on there - I saw them making their own wontons in the open kitchen so I must try these and the siu mei and the noodles..........

{Update Jan '10 - Bought some excellent take-away siu yuk (crispy belly pork) here for a bargain £5.80/portion}

Hung Tao on Urbanspoon


  1. Really? Decent juk in London? My absolute favourite is pork with 1000 year old egg...

  2. This is a great tip - very close to my house as well so I will have to check it out - looks like perfect winter food.

  3. tings apart...this place does the best sing mai!

  4. Helen - Yes, really! I know its hard to believe! Mind you I was really in the mood for juk that day so I may have to pay a return visit to see if it consistently delivers.

    GC - lucky you, so many great places to eat in Bayswater. You can see from the photo of the restaurant why I had to order comfort food, it was virtually pitch black at 2pm that day.

    FL - sing mai aka singapore noodles! A definite foodie 'guilty pleasure'!!

  5. Great blog, Mr Noodles! Love the London reviews, Manchester memories (having lived there a couple of years), and Hong Kong and China updates (brother used to live in Hong Kong, yum... king prawn dumplings soups on Stanley Street, fantastic dim sum places hidden away in buildings, monastery food in Lantau...). Don't know if you'll come back to check this post, but I think congee must be something to do with the Tamil dish "kanji" (boiled rice and water) -the British probably thought it was the same thing, and more or less is-we South Indians love it as comfort food as well!

  6. Savita - thank you! I'm slightly embarrassed by your kind words but I'm glad that you enjoy my blog. I have heard of the kanji = congee theory, and it's probably the right one.