Wednesday, January 31, 2018


Last year the ABC (ABC大餐廳) on Jackson Street closed down, and while it was never one of my top ten eateries, I had quite enjoyed eating there at least once or twice a month for many years, for a variety of reasons.
Not all of it was the food. Indeed, they did have Sriracha hotsauce, but HK chachanteng menus are not know for excellence and Michelin-quality. Rather, speed, comfort, and convenience. Chachanteng cater to an audience that wants to be fed, and not bothered. The style of food is heavily weighed toward familiar uncomplicated stuff, washed down with strong milk tea, so that you can go out and climb the twenty story bamboo scaffolding again, pick up the kids from violin lessons, and play mahjong all night.

Or, in my case, read the newspaper and then go out to smoke my pipe.

Actually I rarely read real newspapers any more, the last one I bought at the newsracks near my house was the edition that carried the article about a conflagration at an oil refinery recently (煉油廠爆炸起火). The headline had suggested that a chili oil factory exploded, but it turned out what they meant was a disastrous pipeline rupture in an industrial park.
Which did not interest me nearly as much.

The ABC had been around for years, and they still are. They have other locations elsewhere, which it would take an expedition to get to because one does not live out in the avenues or suburbia.
My area is downtown, in the North Eastern part of the city.
Tongyanfau is the closest Chinese neighborhood.
Those other Chinatowns are not.
And they are far.

Their Baked Portuguese Chicken Rice was very decent, likewise the Black Pepper Sauce Porkchop, Singapore Noodle, and Salt Fish Chicken Rice. And, though I had it rarely because of a tendency to gout, I also fondly remember the Baked Curry Seafood Rice, which is a purely Hong Kong dish that most people will not think of as even remotely Chinese.

['gaa lei hoi sin ji si guk faan']

Mild mixed creamy seafood curry on top of rice, liberally sprinkled with shredded cheese and baked under the broiler. Superior with hot sauce.

It's so easy to make you do not need an exact recipe. Per serving, enough cooked rice for one person. On top of which you place slightly precooked seafood, your choice. Shrimp, scallops, crab, cod fillets, surimi, oysters, mussels, etcetera. Add enough curry sauce to cover, sprinkle the cheese over, and shove in the oven for eight to ten minutes till bubbly.

The curry sauce is very English, and almost unrecognizable to a Punjabi. Small cubed carrots and potato, sauteed in butter till starting to gild. Add milk or cream to cover, and enough curry substance to colour but not overwhelm. Cook gently for a few minutes, then add chopped onion and maybe a pepper or two (which is non-standard). Simmer a bit longer.
Instead of carrots, celery and green bell pepper are also an option.
And I prefer browned potato chunks instead of small cubes.

Heavenly with a cup of milk tea at one of the back booths, when the place was crowded and filled with people snarfing down goodies. Even if some of them were Northerners who didn't understand any of this Southern muck, or tourists limiting themselves to everything sweet and sour over fried rice.

The number of chachanteng in this part of the city has diminished, and Chinatown is changing. It's shrinking, becoming more white, and more acceptable to whites.
Immigrants are going elsewhere, we have tech bros now.


Someone recently mentioned the Dragon Ball Bakery (龍珠餅店), Kowloon branch, on Shanghai Street in Yaumatei. That may have been pursuant my flip comment that in most of HK you are never far from a Seven Eleven. There is, in fact, one right next door from the bakery, and another around the corner on Portland Street. Plus one on Dundas Street, one on Reclamation Street, and on Hamilton, and Pitt.

See, that actually proves that Chinatown is nothing like Hong Kong. There are no Seven Elevens here. The nearest ones are in the Financial District, so that the suburbanites won't panic.

In Hong Kong, Seven Elevens are as familiar as submachine guns in Honduras. Hector would know.

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