My two FAVORITE comfort foods are Jook (congee) and Cheung Fun (rice noodle rolls). I could eat these every single morning. When in Hong Kong, we pretty much do.
There’s a tiny network of narrow alleyways in Sai Kung, away from the fishing boats and seafood emporiums. I first visited 15 years ago, and this area was as yet “undiscovered” by the tourist guides.
On my first visit, we passed a guy shrouded in a cloud of steam, fronting a five table, stool seating, quintessential hole-in-the-wall. He was sporting the Hong Kong chef’s outfit. Stained sweaty tank top rolled up passed his generous belly, cigarette (mostly ash) dangling precariously from his snarling lips. After a minute or so, we saw that he was making Cheung Fun. To order!! Did I mention I lOVE cheung fun??
That first time, I couldn’t screw up the courage to wade into that super local joint. The whole scene was intimidating to me, as a western outsider. I never took pictures of this Hole. I was almost afraid the guy outside would grab my camera if I dared darken his threshold for any reason other than to buy and slurp down his goods.
Every couple of yearrs since, I’ve longingly beelined pass this place, surreptitiously drooling at the sight of Fresh Made Fun. Yet unable to conquer my timidity and take the plunge. Always reluctantly walking away with no small amount of self loathing, until yesterday!
Yesterday was The Day. Walking to Seafood Row, we passed “my” (although I’ve not actually eaten there) cheung fun place. The chef this time was a pleasant young lady who kept up a constant stream of cheerful banter with the almost completely local crowd.
My wife suggested we at least do a take out, and cross this albatross off my bucket list. I happily agreed. We ordered from the chef, who was busier than heck, yet still the epitome of grace and hospitality under fire.
As we enjoyed the show and waited patiently for our order to hit the steamer, my eagle eyed wife saw that a couple was eyeing their check and about ready to vacate their piece of precious real estate. Didn’t take much persuasion before we were awkwardly (and self-consciously) positioned to pounce on their stools. Scored!!!
We happily traded in a fancy seafood feast for a Bucket List check off meal of favorite simple comfort food.
Cheung Fun wrapped Youtiao. These beautiful sticks of fried dough were streaming in from the back kitchen, fresh out of the fryer.
Cheung Fun with Beef, the other with Pig Liver. Freshly made no more than 5 feet from our seats. The stuff of future dreams.
Jook with Fish Belly, and one with Pork Intestines. No wimpy delicate slivers of fish here, this bowl was loaded with ginormous pieces of bone-in fish belly. Pork offal was velvety and porky. Both bowls excellent.
Sorry for the overly loquacious ramble. This was one food experience that I will remember and savor for all time.
And THAT’S why we trekked to Sai Kung, and didn’t gorge on seafood!!!