Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Donut wrapped in a noodle? Oh, why not.

deep-fried carbohydrate wrapped in steamed carbohydrate
We took a culinary walking tour yesterday. Very expensive but the guide, traval writer Daisann McLane, was encyclopedic in her knowledge and explained countless oddities in shops and markets, from bundles of dried fish bladders to sharks' fins and sharks' bones and a weird black grass that symbolizes prosperity and is sprinkled over dinner. We passed a dark little snake shop where cages of serpents surround a table at which customers can sit and consume bowls of reptile soup, a winter favorite. I wanted to do this and Daisann said it was delightful, but Isabel flatly refused.

Everything we ate on the tour was delicious. My favorite was a crusty wand-shaped cruller wrapped in cold, slippery rice noodles and cut into bite sized pieces. See above. You squirt hoisin sauce on top, sprinkle with sesame seeds and, if you wish, dunk this sweet-savory-cool-bready-fried tidbit into a bowl of warm congee. Isabel unpeeled the noodles and ate just the cruller on its own; she said that thus doctored, it was her favorite dish of the day as well.

Atkins friendly
My father most loved the Chiu Chow goose, which sat on a bed of tofu and came with a bowl of vinegar to offset the meaty oiliness. I loved this too. Isabel managed to resist. We also tried a bowl of Chiu Chow rice soup with baby oysters. Lots of baby oysters in this town.
good enough for Chiang Kai-shek
Superlatives apply to the noodles at Mak's, a shop basically everyone told us to visit. The broth was clear and flavorful, the shrimp-stuffed wontons tiny and adorable, the scallions dainty and white, the noodles very long. Isabel thought her bowl of noodles was too fishy, but made a big effort to eat some so as not to offend.

According to Daisann, people in Hong Kong mostly don't cook -- they go out for all their meals because restaurant food is fast, abundant, delicious and cheap and kitchens are minuscule and ovens almost nonexistent. If I could walk out my front door and find any of the dishes we ate yesterday, I wouldn't cook either.

Isabel said to me later, "I don't like Chinese food, but even I feel it's stupid not to eat Chinese food here. I blame you for that."

I have not labored in vain.


  1. I'm not sure why no one is commenting on this particular post, which i found pretty interesting. but perhaps it's because everyone really just wants to know what's going on out on the farm.
    so, as an earlier reader suggested, perhaps smoyer should give us a rundown on what he and owen have been eating for dinner.
    not to mention what his beloved goats have been up to.

  2. I have to admit I've had a problem with the concept of authentic Chinese food ever since I learned about the campaign to stop the practice of skinning and cooking live dogs. I know it is only a small percent of people who consider this a delicacy, but it's hard for me to think of Chinese food without those awful pictures popping into my head. When my mother was in China she took a lot of pictures of insects on a stick.

  3. I'm doing a cleanse, so reading your blog right now is basically torture.
    Now I'm fantasizing about getting as much hoisin sauce in my face as possible once the cleanse is done.

  4. Isabel reminds me of a friend we had when we lived in Mexico. We took her to a Oaxacan restaurant where the specialty was enchiladas wrapped in banana leaves and doused with a very dark mole sauce. Our friend steadfastly refused to touch them. Her words? "I don't eat black food."

  5. I've had those donut/noodle thing before. I remember feeling incredibly indulgent and guilty when i ordered them, and then being totally thrilled by how delicious they were. i wish i was there with you. your food photos are looking great btw- very appetizing!

  6. Interesting... I've eaten you tiao (the fried dough) and large rice noodles, but never together!

  7. I am enjoying your posts on HK. I was there almost 20 years ago after spending 6 months in Taiwan learning Chinese. The food in Taipei is amazing--there are restaurants that specialize in food from all the different regions in China. HK is much more familiar, but the seafood is very fresh.

    I've never had the crullers wrapped in noodles, but they are served sandwiched inside a sesame flatbread (shaobing youtiao), which is pretty good. You can also tear it into hot soymilk and eat it when it gets a little mushy.

    Hope you enjoy the rest of your stay in HK. Are you going anywhere else in Asia?

  8. Oh my goodness! Yu cha kuey wrapped in chee cheong fan noodles?! Good grief, I need to visit Hong Kong! I've even both but usually separately for breakfast; never thought to combine the two.

  9. Donut wrapped in a noodle? A classic HK dimsum dish. Growing up, I never saw it in the LA and SF dimsum restaurants, but it started to appear about 10 years ago. Found out from my parents that in fact it was RE-appearing - they were so happy to see an old-fashioned dish they missed!

    And Mak's! Looks like you may have gone to clean-Mak's; their wonton mein is wonderful and justifiably famous, but the branch I go to (my family's from HK) appears horrifyingly unclean to the Westerner. If I hadn't been there with family and spoke the language (and just shut my eyes to the surroundings), I would never have tried it.

  10. Also, wonton mein is a culinary benchmark in HK; shops compete to have the best, freshest, crunchiest shrimp, thinnest skins, elastic noodles, and flavorful broth. And the cheapest price. :) The best of the wonton mein shops are famous.

  11. Hi Jennifer! I can't believe I'm just coming across your lovely account of our morning together. Really nice to hear your dad liked the Chiu Chow goose.

    Sadly, our donut-noodle place is not long for this world I fear. They are building a massive people moving escalator at its doorstep, and once it's finished the rents in that area will soar and the yummy noodles, yao tiuh and congee will have to migrate elsewhere. Hope you can come back because I've found a old-school bun bakery at the far end of the island, which I think you'd enjoy. Thanks so much for the write up and lease keep in touch, our new website is at http://littleadventuresinhongkong.com

  12. The next time you come to LA, I would be happy to take you to restaurants that serve excellent versions of these dishes. My hong kongese friend agrees with me! The food is best finished with a $15 foot massage

  13. The next time you come to LA, I would be happy to take you to restaurants that serve excellent versions of these dishes. My hong kongese friend agrees with me! The food is best finished with a $15 foot massage