Monday, July 27, 2009


Our first introduction to Hong Kong’s gastronomic fare was a plate of tofu dumplings stuffed with bean curd. Open-minded as we were, it was a tall order to enjoy beans with every meal, even if they were disguised in a purple gelatine substance or as a soft pink fish…

Daniel’s cousin Dave treated us to a range of Asian cuisine, and we came away with fond memories of pho, soft-shelled crabs and Peking duck pancakes. Not even the somewhat twisted allure of a whole duck strung up in a shop window could deter us from these hoisin delicacies, especially when they were washed down with Tsing Tao beer.

The seafood in Hong Kong is amazing (although often imported due to the high sea pollution) and we enjoyed various crab, prawn and fish dishes. We did not succumb to selecting our own lunch from the tanks outside the restaurants; although the menu was spectacular, we drew the line at eel and stingray! Dried fish was also a no-go, as the stench alone was enough to put Chub-Chubs off his chocolate cake.

Local delicacies can pose a threat to any unsuspecting visitor, and Daniel was no exception. He suffered the welcome tequila shot in silence, but grimaced as he choked down a nibble of chicken’s feet. He also got a surprise as his freshly-caught squid deposited its black ink all over his hand. However, he got his revenge when the deckhands fried up the squid for dinner. The real challenge was the Sichuan pepper dish which numbed Daniel’s mouth in a matter of seconds. A pity his taste buds weren’t killed before the chicken feet arrived!

Flea or Spree?

Hong Kong is synonymous with fashion shopping and designer boutiques, but the real deals get made in the busy market places. The city boasts every single kind of market imaginable, from clothes, handbags and accessories to birds, flowers and even fish.

Stanley Market, on the southern tip of Hong Kong Island, is a typical tourist trap, with a myriad of narrow alleyways lined with tiny stalls manned by pint-sized vendors. Daniel and I quickly got lost in the labyrinth of shops, but remained unimpressed by the slightly-too-grubby flea market vibe. We passed up the opportunity to buy “discounted labels” and miniature Chinese dragons in favour of watching the Lions-Springboks match.

I was equally disappointed with the Ladies’ Market in Kowloon, but the heat and the smell of frying noodles in the roadside kitchens may have contributed to my unwillingness to navigate the rows of stalls. I have been called into question several times for not purchasing fake handbags, but it’s not really my style.

I was particularly delighted by the Flower Market, with shop after shop boasting beautiful bonsais and spectacular blooms, and I bought a small contribution for Daniel’s growing bonsai collection. The Bird Market succeeded in freaking me out more than amazing me, and I beat a hasty retreat after I discovered the bags of live crickets for sale. I enjoyed the unusual Goldfish Market, especially the shelves of Siamese Fighter Fish in soy sauce containers.

Markets are undeniably a part of the Hong Kong culture and lifestyle, and while we appreciated them from a tourist perspective, they were a just a bit too local for our taste.