Friday, 8 July 2011

Hong Kong & Guangzhou Scrapbook

This is the last post in The Cantonese Season and to sign off, here are some images of two of the most beguiling foodie cities in the world.

It's often said that the Kowloon side of Hong Kong is earthier than the Island side. That's certainly true of Temple Street night market, which attracts both locals and tourists with its mix of counterfeit goods, special interest adult DVDs, and tasty street food.

As well as the seafood and hotpot restaurants with outdoor seating, there are also loads of little stalls selling stuff like meatballs, sausages, and fish balls on skewers. Despite having dinner plans, I couldn't resist a skewer or two.

Guangdong province is home not only to Cantonese cuisine, but also Chiuchow or Teochew cuisine (潮州菜). This style of food is hugely popular in Hong Kong where dishes like poached goose in master stock (滷水鵝) have become local favourites.

Sadly, other than the goose and a few snacks, I didn't get to really sample much of this cuisine, as we went to Chiuchow Garden for dim sum. However, we did get to finish our meal in the traditional Chiuchow way, with some kung-fu tea (工夫茶).

HK-style western food is a law unto itself, and these lunch specials at Tsui Wah had me scratching my head. Does anyone know what Cream of Queen soup is? How about Chicken Macmillan?

As we had a bit of time to kill before dinner at The Chairman, Tom took me to Cantopop. Without sounding too pretentious, this is a 21st century cha chaan teng (茶餐廳). We just had beer and snacks, but looking back I wish we had ordered some sous-vide cha siu.

Despite building an extensive underground metro, carving out express bus lanes, and banning motorbikes, Guangzhou's traffic is still terrible. Perhaps this bike-share scheme is the answer.

I kid you not, but my first port of call in Guangzhou was the fish market. The Huangsha Aquatic Products Market (黄沙水产交易市场) is one of the busiest in China, if not the world.

The market is open for wholesale and retail, and there's lots of weird and wonderful stuff to see. I was especially drawn to the geoduck or elephant clams (象拔蚌).

There are quite a few seafood restaurants in the market complex, and we pitched up at one for a spot of lunch. We kicked off with some whelks and other highlights included scallops, steamed fish and abalone.

Are you reading this, Matthew Norman? I ate loads of greens on this trip. I particularly enjoyed the vegetables in Guangzhou although I couldn't remember what many of them were called.

Sweet & sour is often seen as cheap and nasty but these posh sweet & sour spare ribs (生炒排骨) are a far cry from the No.27 at the local take-away. Not only were they served in a rice vermicelli nest but also there wasn't a single pineapple chunk in sight!

Alas, this is the end of The Cantonese Season. If you want to catch up on earlier posts, click here and scroll to the end for links. I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank family, friends and colleagues for their invaluable input.

Some Other Sites
If you're planning a trip to Hong Kong then there's loads of stuff out there on the interweb. Some HK-based blogs I found useful include:

e*ting the world
Food of Hong Kong & Macau
Life as a Bon Vivant
Tom Eats Jen Cooks

Of the mainstream media, the following are worth checking out:

CNN Go (surprisingly good)
Open Rice (bilingual HK version of Urbanspoon)
Time Out Hong Kong

Many London-based bloggers have also been to Hong Kong in the last year or so. If you're just stopping over for a couple of days then An American In London's succinct 48 hours of Eating in Hong Kong is a great guide. For those of you spending more time in Hong Kong, Hollow Legs and Pig Pig's Corner cover a lot of ground between them. As does CheChe's Blog on her recent series of posts.

A Few Words
Unless you look Chinese, people in Guangzhou or Hong Kong won't expect you to speak Cantonese. Nevertheless, it's useful to know some basic phrases such as:

zou san = Good morning
nei hou = Hello (lit. how are you)
m goi = Please/Excuse me/Thank you (for service, say in a shop)
do ze = Thank you (for a gift, or something tangible)
zoi gin = Goodbye (lit. see you again)
zou tau = Good night

By the way, the English words: 'hello' (haa lo) and 'bye bye' (baai baai), have both entered into the Cantonese vernacular. Indeed, there are many English loanwords in Cantonese. For those of you that can speak a bit of Mandarin, this will be of more use in Guangzhou than Hong Kong.


  1. I so want to go to Hong Kong, this must be a truly wonderful place. Thanks for your great write ups and all these wonderful tips! By the way, my Wales exile is nearly over, we should meet for dinner soon :)

  2. Ute - thanks! Methinks the Hong Kong Tourist Board owes me a dumpling or two! Glad to hear that your time in Wales is at an end - let me know when you're back in town.

  3. Hope you had a good if not great time passing by Hong Kong! Should have let me know as I know Tom as well (but he might not know we read each others' blogs!!)

    You back to London for good already right? And thx for the link. I'll share your post on Facebook and Google+. Cheers.

    HK Epicurus

  4. a wonderful series indeed! I have to agree the Cantonese phrases would be very useful at times! Do let me know when you return again in the near future!

  5. HK Epicurus/Jason - thanks! Sadly, I'm back home in London. I was only in HK/Guangzhou for 10 days (mainly on business) but I'll be sure to let you guys know when I'm next in Hong Kong.

  6. The sous vide char siu is cruddy! So you didn't miss out :)

  7. Tom - thanks! I subsequently saw on e*ting that the sous-vide cha siu was a bit crap, so no regrets!