At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

WAN CHAI IN HONG KONG: YAT JUNG LEUNG KIN

The Chinese phrase captioning this article (一盅兩件 'yat jung leung kin') refers to a quick breakfast at a dimsum place. One bowl of tea, and two dishes from the cart. Which was the norm at several famous restaurants in the district, such as Lung Mun (龍門大酒樓) located on Johnston Road (莊士敦道) near the intersection of O'Brien (柯布連道). Lung Mun no longer exists. For sixty years they served dim sum (點心) and very nice roast pork (燒肉 'siu-yiuk') and other fire-meats (燒味). Good place for lunch, very popular with office workers.

It was a classic old-style shop-building, that eventually faded into a parody of its environment.

But many people remember it fondly.

Red paint, gold lettering, mildew, and cigarette smoke.

Originally called 龍鳳大酒樓 in 1949, it was renamed a decade later.
Last I heard it's a hole in the ground, but maybe not.
Things happen fast in Hong Kong.


You could have gone there by double decker tram.
It was right near the Toishan Centre (台山中心), not far from the Tai Wo Street Playground (大和街遊樂場).

The tram still runs along Johnston Street, and riding it at night is a splendid way of seeing the densest part of Wanchai (灣仔). The route curves past highrise office buildings, commercial and retail densities, and tightly clustered residential estates. Well, except for an emptiness opposite O'Brien Road. Which may be filled-in by now.
The Vanville (海源中心 'hoi yuen jung sam') was built near there, in case you're looking for a good property investment.

[As a slight side-track, Wanchai is religiously more diverse than most of Hong Kong. Parsees, Sikhs, and Methodists were among the first non-natives to found places of worship there, and have thrived in the district.
Two places to visit, if you tire of shopping and bar-hopping -- and if you're a civilized person, you might not engage in those activities at all while visiting the place -- are the Hung Shing Temple (洪聖古廟 'hung seng gu miu') at 129-131 Queen's Road East (皇后大道東), near fabulous shopping (!), where Lord Hung Shing (洪聖爺 'Hung Seng Yeh') is venerated, and the Khalsa Diwan Gurdwara at 371 Queen's Road East, not far from Wong Nai Chung Road (黃泥涌道)). The main entrance to the gurdwara is on Q.R.E. at the intersection of Stubbs Road (司徒拔道), there's a back gate on Hau Tak Lane (厚德里), which is accessible from Wong Nai Chung, just south of the intersection with Q.R.E., on the right-hand side.
Both places are easy walking distance from where Lung Mun used to stand.]



What's remarkable is that this whole area, now so densely populated, was the most disease-ridden part of the colony in her first years of existence. Not only malaria, because of the marshy ground, but also rife with black death and tuberculosis. As well as rampant syphilis and gonorrhea among the British sailors, soldiers, and lower-level clerks.
Which accounts for the great number of hospitals.
And explains the numerous graveyards.

It was, as a famous American politician might explain, a kinder gentler era. And I'm relatively sure that that's a euphemism for nasty, brutish, and depraved.
Those are all stellar benefits of civilization.

For nearly half a century Wanchai has been a far healthier place to live, and it is the part of Hong Kong (香港) that tourists (啲游客鬼 di yau haak gwai) are most familiar with, seeing as many of them fear the vast interior of Kowloon (九龍半島 'kau lung pun tau') and the New Territories (新界 'san kaai'), and seldom venture there. Except, perhaps, for a brief expedition to Canton Road (廣東道 'gwon tung tou') for even more fabulous shopping (上街購物 'seung gai gau mat').


Really, other than shopping, what is there to DO in Hong Kong?


Well, you might eat. There's lots of fabulous food there. Not all of it need be expensive. You could have a bowl of jook and a yau tiu (rice porridge and a fried dough stick for dipping (一碗粥同埋一根油條 'yat wun juk tong maai yat gan yau tiu') as a midnight snack (食宵夜 'sik siu yeh') at a roadside food cart (大牌檔 'daai pai dung') with some friends. Very cheap and delicious (好平, 好味 'ho peng, ho mei').
Go to a noisy dimsum restaurant (茶樓 'cha lau') for yumcha (飲茶) at breakfast or lunch. Feast upon roast duck rice (燒鴨飯) or roast goose rice (燒鵝飯) at a tea restaurant (茶餐廳 'cha chan teng').

Those are just suggestions; the possibilities are endless, at any price range. There are even superior French and Italian restaurants in Hong Kong, and you need never leave Wanchai to explore the entire world.



On a smoke-filled evening last week, English Dave fondly mentioned two of his favourite restaurants in Chinatown -- the Utopia Café and Capitol Restaurant -- and talked about clay pots. The Utopia is known for claypot dishes, and the Capitol is very popular among families and middle-aged people. They have good chicken wings, and a large selection of other things. As well as clay pots.
Both places do home style food. You can go entirely off the chart at either place, but if all you want is steamed meat patty (咸魚蒸肉餅 'haahm yu jing yiuk beng'), or bitter melon and fish over rice (涼瓜斑球飯 'leung gwa pan kau fan'), they do that too.

K-chai wistfully mentioned one of his best meals ever, when he was still a child. He had been playing soccer with his friends at the Happy Valley Recreation Ground (跑馬地遊樂場 'pau maa dei yau lok cheung', 快活谷 'faai wut guk'), which is a short way uphill from the Sikh Temple previously mentioned, just off Wong Nai Chung.
After the ball game, the boys dispersed, and some of them found an eatery with duck and roast meats hanging in the window. Big scoop of rice into a Styrofoam, thick slices of juicy charsiu on top, and a splash of soy-sauce pan drippings over. Just sit outside on the curb scooping that into your mouth.
So good, so good!

[Just guessing, but Tung Shing (東成燒臘飯店) at Bowrington Road (寶靈頓道) has been around for a while, as has Hung Fat (鴻發燒臘飯店). Bowrington Road is very likely, being directly downhill from the sports fields, easy to get to. There's also a place right in the centre of Wanchai Road, between Bowrington and Canal Road West (堅拿道西 gin naa tou sai), where there are lots of food stores and groceries, very busy.]


He asked me which places in Chinatown did the best pork (燒肉 'siu yiuk', and 叉燒 'charsiu').
There are two I recommend: The New Hong Kong Kam Po on Powell and Broadway, where the Toishanese gentleman chopping the meats is hard to understand because I do not speak Toisan, and Gourmet on Stockton between Jackson and Pacific, west side of the street.
No tables at the second place, strictly to-go.

[This category of Cantonese food is called siu mei (燒味), sometimes siu-lahp (燒臘). Important elements: roast duck (燒鴨 'siu ngaap'), barbecue pork (叉燒 'charsiu'), roast pork (燒肉 'siu yiuk'), salt water chicken (鹵水雞 'lo-sui kai'), white boiled chicken (白切雞 'paak jek kai'), soy-sauce chicken (豉油雞 'si-yau kai').]


Kam Po is very highly regarded; there's a line outside right around dinner time. People get some roast pork, or duck, or soy chicken. They'll take it home to set alongside whatever else is on the family table. It's convenient and delicious. Be sure to tell the chopper fellow that you like fatty meat (鍾意肥嘅 "jung-yi fei-ge").

I actually prefer the duck at Gourmet, because it's richer and greasier, and heaven to just bury your face in when your alone and not trying to impress anyone. Newspaper on the table, wet paper towels.
Duck, rice, and oh heck eat with your hands.



蔘滿意粥 UTOPIA CAFE
139 Waverly Place, San Francisco, CA 94108.
Telephone: 415-956-2902
[Saam Mun-yi Juk.]

京都餐館 CAPITAL RESTAURANT
839 Clay Street, San Francisco, CA 94108.
Telephone: 415-397-6269
[King To Tsan-kwun.]

港新寶燒腊小食 KAM PO (H.K.) K.
KAM PO KITCHEN
801 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133.
Telephone: 415-982-3516.
[Gong San Po Siu-lahp Sui-sik.]

新凱豐燒臘店 GOURMET DELIGHT BARBECUE
1045 Stockton Street, San Francisco, CA 94108.
Telephone: 415-392-3288.
[San Hoi Fung Siu-lahp Diem.]



AFTERTHOUGHT: A little further down toward the water, at Canal Road East (堅拿道東), Goose Neck Bridge (鵝頸橋 'ngoh keng kiu') is long gone, but the area remains known as Ngo Keng. Now very built up, highrises, estates, commercial space.
Under the overpass at Hennesey Road (軒尼詩道 'hin nei si tou') you can still find a ta siu yan po (打小人婆) to curse your enemies. Highly recommended, solves all troubles, ensures business prosperity!




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