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: