Sunday, March 15, 2015

{hk} kam wah cafe {金華冰廳}


#siansEATShongkong series takes on another local favorite quite heartily -- tea restaurants! or more lovingly known as cha chaan teng {茶餐廳}!

if dim sum was hong kong embodied (read: hk's tim ho wan), then cha chaan teng is the real heart deep into the local culture and the home to cheap food.

the short history | some hong kong people set up these cafes to target the local people by providing different kinds of canto-western cuisine and drinks at very low price led to them being regarded as "cheap western food" or si yau sai chaan (directly translated to 'soy sauce western dishes'). i've tasted some, you could say the food is chinese with a very minor flair of western influence.

my first cha chaan teng in hong kong was on the first day -- or rather night itself: kam wah cafe {金華冰廳}


while there were several restaraunts/cafes near our accommodation, this was one of the closest on my 'to-try-list' of food places. and highly recommended by many foodies as i scoured for food reviews on top places to try in hong kong. it was the only cafe that we've returned for seconds and thirds. 






stepping into kam wah cafe, i was quickly reminded of hk's tvb series that featured these tea restaurants but this had moree than just the basic white walls -- many tables were set up to maximize the dining space with the stools lined on both sides, while a few booths lined the deep red tiled wall where half of the walls were covered by mirrors plastered with the occasional specials menu. communal dining seems to be very typical at these food joints and our first time at kam wah cafe, we experienced the dining culture we had only read about.

[#protip] they have an english menu which is available upon request.


---[ visit #1 | quick dinner ]---

after a long-ish first day, this was our first official food stop in the city and a quick one since it was after 9 pm when we finally reached there.




noodles :: ham and beef in noodle soup (hkd 30)


starting with the noodle soup called gong zai mian {公仔面} -- hong kong style instant noodles as the base, i picked one of the local's favorite pairing in the form of ham and beef since i've always wanted to try it especially after watching the locals slurp them down deliciously in tv shows. i've found out from my local friend that the name gong zai mian comes from the animated mascot on the packaging of the instant noodles.



the soup itself was flavored like the typical instant noodle soup and the noodles were overdone by a hair. however, all these didn't matter when i took a bite of the beef. instensely flavored by the slightly sweetened and soy based marinade in a yummy proportion, the beef stood out even more when it was cooked perfectly - tenderly succulent. the ham was almost seemed like an afterthought and i would have gladly had more slices of the beef but it was nice to have some variety.


noodles :: pork chop in noodle soup (hkd 29)


{mh}'s pick had the same base of instant noodle soup but topped with a different go to meat -- the beloved pork chop. in fact, it is almost the national protein of hong kong. {mh}'s comment: pork chop was fall off the bone tender.


drinks :: milk tea (hkd 16)


a must try food in hong kong -- THE milk tea that i have heard a lot about. at first sip, i was taken aback that it didn't have any sugar since it was my first cup of nai cha then i began to understand the reason for the pot full of sugar at the table. generally served unsweetened, you can the right amount of sweetness to the tea + milk that fits your taste buds. here, the black tea flavor was so strong that it overshadowed the milkiness of the tea served in a tea cup.


---[ visit #2 | pre-breakfasting ]---

bread :: pineapple bun (hkd 6)



an early pre-breakfast treat, i've read that kam wah serves one of the best pineapple buns in hong kong. although this beloved local bread is called pineapple bun or polo pau {菠蘿包}, the traditional version does not have any pineapple in it but its name originated from the top crust of the bun that resembles the epicarp of pineapple. in fact, it has been instated as hong kong's intangible cultural heritage by the local government in june 2014.




arriving at the cafe at the early hours on a weekday, there was already a small crowd waiting for the fresh-from-the-oven buns. starting with the aroma of baked bread that leads your way towards the cafe, the bun was still warm in its paper bag. the crispy top contrasted the soft buttery bun with just the right amount of sweetness. it was a treat indeed and should not be missed!


----[ visit #3 | brunching local style ]---

busier than our prior visits, the saturday brunch brought so many diners here that sharing of table was inevitable. communal dining, hong kong style. probably good to know that pork/chicken chops are not available in the mornings.




pastries ::  egg tart (hkd 5)



since we didn't have enough time to visit the famous tai cheong bakery (sad face!), i still wanted to get a taste of hong kong egg tarts in comparison to its macanese portugese counterpart. a bright yellow, smooth custard that filled the crust that tasted a tad lacklustre -- wasn't as flaky or as crumbly as i'd like. and it was too sweet for my liking that it overpowered the flavors of the custard.


breakfast :: bbq pork pineapple bun (hkd 20)




beginning with the fresh, delicious polo pau that cushioned the bbq pork or better known as char siu with just the right amount of meat to fat ratio, was cooked to point it is tenderly succulent. the creamy mayonnaise injected an additional dimension to the flavor and elevated the moistness. these two aspects contrasted the texture of crisp sweet crust atop the pineapple bun with its soft insides where the flavor combination of savory and sweet shone although learning more towards the sweet. a party of textures and flavors in a single sandwich.




kam wah cafe on bute street left its positive mark in my hong kong foodie-logue with its polo pau + char siu and the flavorful beef in noodle soup. on top of their delicious renditions of succulent, tender meat and the crispy yet soft pineapple buns, the authentic cha chaan teng efficient, attentive service and bustling experience is definitely another reason to make a visit to this quintessential family run business.



kam wah cafe | location
47, bute street,
mongkok, kowloon
hong kong
{opens daily 6:30am - 12am}
nearest mtr station: prince edward station, b2 exit

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

{hk} tim ho wan


follow me as i trace my tasting footsteps, sharing the yumminess in the city of hong kong and macau for five days. it kick starts with the most memorable meal highlight. 

chopsticks dance on cue;
dim sum, from cart to table;
hong kong embodied.


at arrival, we breathed a sigh of relief.



there was barely a line -- we smiled as we took our number. ten minutes passed and we were the only ones left waiting outside. the maitre'd seemed to have entered the restaurant for a bit too long but thankfully we caught the attention of a waitstaff who finally ushered us in.



as we searched for a empty table to be seated at, the familiar morning chatter and chopstick sounds filled the traditionally decorated dining space. framed chinese calligraphy decorated the white walls fringed by dark wooden panels. occasionally, a diner called out in cantonese as the waitstaff in green shirt and apron whizzed past to pick up order forms and brought it to the kitchen in exchange for bamboo steamers full of made-to-order dim sum on trays. the steam emanated from the bustling kitchen at the front of the restaurant while the delicious aroma of familiar bbq pork buns and chinese dumplings permeated the room. 



it was morning on a wednesday. there was already a crowd despite it being only an hour and a half into their day but there were still a few tables available for the taking.

that didn't last for long though.

as soon as we were seated, a jug of chinese tea followed by two sets of bowls, chopsticks, spoons and cups were plonked down in front of us on the table. the illustrated menu and order form was waiting patiently at the table as we pondered on what to order. 




a mere unforgettable snapshot from my dining experience at the favorite local joint famed to be the cheapest michelin one-starred restaurant in the world since 2010, tim ho wan {添好運} in sham shui po, mong kok -- the original store started by mak kwai pui.



in fact, it was the first place my hk friend recommended as a MUST HAVE in hong kong. it was all the convincing i needed and it rocketed to the top of my food itinerary.

"$2/one person for pu-erh"
chinese tea is a must but pu-erh is the only option they offer.





steamed :: steamed fresh shrimp dumpings (hkd 26)
"ha jiao" aka "har gow"


four steaming dumpings -- two shrimps enveloped lovingly by the thin dumpling skin, translucent where the pink hue of the shrimp done well, peeked through. as i lifted one of these morsels off the wax paper it rested on with a pair of chopsticks, the dumpling skin remained sturdy without tearing but slightly chewy as i took a bite off it. while it was good, it was missing a touch of seasoning and i was searching for the natural sweetness of the shrimp.




steamed :: steamed pork dumplings with shrimp (hkd 26)
"shao mai" aka "siu mai"


easily recognisable by its thin yellow wrapper, siu mai is probably the most well known variety. an open top dim sum, its filling of ground pork, crowned with a succulent whole shrimp, making up a plump dumpling and finally garnished with goji berry. moist and succulent meat, well seasoned -- bursting with umami flavors where it contrasted by the light sweetness of the fresh shrimp echoed by a mild herbaceous sweetness of goji. to top it all off, perfectly cooked.



definitely worthy of its spot in my top eats of 2014.


steamed :: glutinous rice dumping (hkd 26)
"lor mai kai"



bundled up in a dried lotus leaf, the strong herbaceous floral aroma wafted to the nose as the steam rose from splitting the heap of rice to find the marinated chicken and mushroom. the sweetness with a whisper of light bitter end note from the leaf seeped into the sticky rice as it naturally flavors the rice to go with the soy marinated juicy pieces of chicken.


the huge amount of rice eclipsed the disproportionated amount of chicken and mushroom so the umami wasn't as pronounced as i'd expected. a decent rendition of the dish but i think i am more accustomed to a slightly sweetened version that i grew up with.


vermicelli :: vermicelli roll stuffed with bbq pork (hkd 20)
"char siu cheung fun"


these smooth layers of rice noodle, thin enough to be slightly translucent for a glimpse of the filling are rolled into tubes and topped with a lightly sweetened soy sauce. the broad noodles were almost silky smooth as i slurped down (so smooth that it slid out of the chopsticks --needed help of hte spoon) with just enough of the light sauce to chew into the mildly sweetened moist diced bbq pork chunks.


the ratio of the ingredients was balanced exquisitely to arrive at flavors of savory intertwined with a light sweetness. so satisfying that it was reason enough to add it to my top eats of last year.




[#protip] dining at tim ho wan

o1. may have better luck with the crowd on weekday mornings -- try to get as early as possible, should be less people.
o2. if there are other waiting diners, get a number at the counter. if not, walk in to see if there are any available tables.
o3. wash the bowls, chopsticks and cups using the pot of chinese tea into the big bowl provided before using them. 
o4. ask for the english order form if you need it.
o5. modus operandi: look at the illustrated menu - fill out the order form - pass the order form after successfully grabbing the attention of the waitstaff - wait for food to be served.
o6. pay at the counter after the meal.


tim ho wan's continued success is attributed to the chef's mastery of the classic favorites, in concentrating delicate flavors into "little eats" to impart complexity, using just a few fresh ingredients. making dim sum may not be easy, even more an art to make scrumptious ones that left me craving for an encore (at least for a few)



in chinese, dim sum literally means "a light touch on the heart". and tim ho wan at sham shui po has left a lasting yummy one on mine.




tim ho wan | location

g/f, 9-11 fuk wing street,
sham shui po, kowloon
hong kong
{opens daily 8am - 9:30pm}
nearest mtr station: tsuen wan line, sham shui po, exit b2

disclaimer this is written based on personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others.