Chinese food means different things to different people. To some of my friends Chinese food means dim sum and dim sum only, which is understandable given that Vancouver has the best dim sum in the world. Chinese food to most is a family style meal of rice, noodles, meat, fish, and vegetables served on a lazy susan at a large round table. To others, Chinese food is the oily, thickly battered, deep-fried stuff served over steamer table noodles or rice in a styrofoam box that you buy at the food fair in the mall. I admit that I crave the mall version of my people’s food from time to time but end up regretting it a few hours later just like everyone else.
When considering Chinese food in Hong Kong the only thing I really care about is comfort food. Found in little noodle shops and cafes in every corner of the city are very simply made, flavorful, and affordable dishes that reflect the working class origins of Hong Kong. While the last 40 years have brought incredible wealth to many Hong Kongers, even the richest of the rich can be found sitting in front of a steaming bowl of noodles in a dirty little hole in the wall shop at a “stacked table”. These little places make the most of their limited space by seating strangers together when there is room at a table, and no one seems to mind because the quick turnover from “stacking” keeps prices down. Even those richest of the rich will complain loudly if the quality of the food drops or the price of the noodles goes up past a couple of US dollars.
This is the first part of a multi-post feature on my favorite Hong Kong Comfort foods.
Macaroni Soup is a very common breakfast option and is usually offered as part of a combo served with sides such as fried eggs, toast, and milk tea. The macaroni is almost always a little past al dente, comes in a slightly over salted broth, and is covered with strips of a barely recognizable ham-like meat substance. Taken with the right attitude, the mediocre components plus some nostalgia and cheap cheap prices results in an synergistic combination that is much greater than its parts. If you didn’t grow up with it you probably won’t like it at first but spend any significant time in Hong Kong and you will learn to love it. The two plates pictured above plus a mug of hot milk tea cost a little over $3 CAD.
You can’t go wrong ordering this anywhere because the dish is not at all about presentation and quality ingredients. If you see locals eating it you should feel free to follow suit. Of course, your biggest obstacle to ordering this is the fact that these breakfast combos are typically served at places without any English on the menu. If you’re in the Central district you might find a more westernized place with it on the menu, but for authenticity try to find a slightly sticky place filled with locals and point it out to your server.
I don’t have a favorite place for Macaroni soup but there is a shop near where my family lives that we go to all the time. I don’t know if it has an English name but it is located around 229 Electric Road in North Point [maps.google.com]. If you come out of the Fortress Hill MTR station on the Island Line, go one block towards the water and turn right on Electric. The shop will be on your right hand side. I’d say to look for the orange lettered sign and the cooked meats hanging in the steamy window, but that probably describes more than one place in the area. Check the photo below to be sure.
Another place that’s well known for Hong Kong style breakfast is the Australian Dairy Company [openrice.com]. I haven’t been there but one my favorite HK food bloggers Janice [e-tingfood.com] recommended it as part of my Hong Kong Foodie 5 feature.
This is the first post in my Hong Kong Comfort Foods series:
This post was submitted to Travel Photo Thursday hosted by Budget Traveler’s Sandbox, Photo Friday by Delicious Baby, and Friday Daydreamin’ by RWeThereYetMom.
I admit it – macaroni soup for breakfast would take some getting used to. What you grow up with really has a huge impact on what you consider comfort food.
After you try macaroni soup you can try some of the spicy breakfast soups that are popular in other parts of Asia.
That looks great, but I don’t think I could do it for breakfast!
Funny- When we were in Hong Kong I expected Dim Sum places to be opened at all hours, but they only opened at 10am. You can bet we were lining up right when they opened. We couldn’t wait to try all the dim sum!
Yes, Dim Sum is usually eaten between mid-morning to mid-afternoon. If you like Dim Sum you have to come to Vancouver!
Macaroni soup (minus the “ham-like meat substance”) for breakfast actually doesn’t sound half bad, if accompanied by the other foods you mentioned 🙂 I’m looking forward to reading more posts on Hong Kong’s comfort foods!
I hope you’re ready for more because I’m running out of content. It’ll be nothing but HK Food around here for at least a few weeks until my summer travel starts. I can’t wait to replenish the stories and photos!
mmm…Don’t find it that apetising…but I’m sure the smell would convince me otherwise!
I’d also like to let you know that I’m hosting a 100 dollar accommodation voucher giveaway if you’re interested. Here’s the link: http://goo.gl/uUVqA
Macaroni soup looks like a dish that both of my kids would be quite happy to have for breakfast – they have both been known to eat mac and cheese first thing in the morning so it wouldn’t be much of a stretch.
there’s nothing better than comfort food (and I love macaroni) =D
Ah yes the macaroni would definitely be in the comfort food category! The broth would be very soothing and warm which is comforting too. I like trying different things for meals when traveling.
I would try this, although I’ve never been a huge fan of macaroni. Even after all the years I’ve lived in Asia, i find soup for breakfast unappealing. Especially, if it’s fish soup, which is often the case here in Korea.
It would take some getting used to, I’m sure but I probably could as I love soup.
I wouldn’t have thought of macaroni for breakfast, but you may have convinced me. Looks pretty tasty.
I’m not particularly fond of soup but like macaroni so this looks like a good bet for comfort food. It reminds me of how they turn macaroni into every sort of salad in Hawaiian dishes so I guess why not soup minus the ham looking thing. My kids would like this a lot though.
Always interesting to find that food you think “belongs” some specific places is favored in an entirely different part of the world.
I actually grew up with a slightly different version of this as a soup to go with dinner. My mom replaced the ham-like substance with pork shoulder and added tomato. That’s still my go to feel better soup when I’m sick.
Though I love Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese food this might be an acquired taste.
Yes, but I’m saving the *real* acquired tastes for future posts…. 😉
This brought back some adventurous culinary memories from my time in Hong Kong!
I’d eat macaroni soup anytime for breakfast. Yum.
I don’t know – breakfast? Really? Kind of like when we went to England and they served baked beans with their breakfast. Yuck. I guess it it all what you are accustomed to.
Thanks for linking up this week.
Mmmmm. Baked beans, sauteed mushrooms, rashers, black pudding, and rubbery fried eggs. Now I’m craving a traditional English fry up!
Interesting. I seemed to have missed it when we visited HK. Lately, I haven’t made it out of the airport my last few times through. I wonder if they serve it there.
I’m not sure but I took a look at the restaurant list and you might be able to find it at the Windows Cafe: http://www.hongkongairport.com/eng/shopping/dining/t2/chine/winc.html Terminal 2 Level 6.
The meat substance looks enough like balogna to turn my stomach. I think I’d have to ask them to hold the meat. 🙂
I definitely got used to the idea of salty foods and soupy dishes for breakfast when traveling in Asia, but the meat on this kind of grosses me out, but that’s my problem–I’m not much of a meat-eater and definitely not processed meat. However, I can imagine that this could be tasty with tea in the mornings. I like that you are covering typical foods!