Our own little food paradise

Foodies in Hong Kong are a lucky bunch. Whether it’s street-stall curried fish balls, back-alley bowls of hot wonton noodles, our pride-and-joy dim sum, or many of Asia’s best restaurants, including Michelin-starred kitchens creating the most exquisite dishes, our city serves fine food to suit everyone’s taste. Universally, great food has a natural way of bringing different people together — something that’s certainly true in Hong Kong. And now that we can come together over great meals again, it’s time to enjoy all of the city’s many culinary delights you’ve been meaning to try.

Appreciating Hong Kong’s gourmet culture with Agnes Chee

Becoming a Hong Kong food critic is not all glamour: it requires a lot of hard work, too. Agnes Chee, a Malaysian food writer who has lived in Hong Kong for 15 years, can attest to that.

Chee, 43, vividly remembers her interview with Vincent Thierry, former sous chef of Michelin-starred restaurant Caprice at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, 10 years ago. Then in the infancy of her career, she had no clue what “broth”, “bouillon” or “consommé” meant.

“They sounded like an alien language to me,” Chee says. Embarrassed by her lack of knowledge, she spent hours googling every term the chef graciously wrote down for her and carefully studied French cookery books. She has been honing her skills and knowledge, including interacting with many of the city’s top chefs, on a journey of culinary discovery ever since.

Establishing her career in Hong Kong, where the “gourmet culture is of international standard”, has been a dream come true and she still marvels at the food industry’s exciting evolution.

“People’s taste has become even more refined, creating a robust food scene here,” Chee says. “Hong Kong’s unique geographical location and favourable business environment let us acquire produce from all over the world, enabling the diversity, richness and depth in its food culture.”

Chee’s favourite dining spots in the city are plentiful — and they are not all in Hong Kong’s Central district.

She recommends the crab soup udon at Snapper, a seafood restaurant in Quarry Bay, and — if you love your meals grilled theatrically on a hot metal surface — a trip to Michelin-starred I M Teppanyaki in the hip Tai Hang neighbourhood.

“Its owner, Lawrence Mok, has brought interesting modern twists to the dishes from his years of travelling,” Chee says.

However, the food industry can be brutally competitive — eateries come and go, sometimes without a trace, Chee, who is of Cantonese descent, says.

Inspired to chronicle Cantonese recipes before they vanish entirely, Chee wrote and published the book, Vanishing Flavours of Cantonese Cuisine, in collaboration with local chefs and cooks. Some of the traditional dishes Chee documented — lamb cheek and knuckle soup and double-boiled pig stomach stuffed with chicken and bird’s nest — are still available upon request at a few traditional Cantonese restaurants, such as Seventh Son Restaurant in Wan Chai.

“I think it’s a pity that the dishes are so little-known today and there are no published records of them, so I find it necessary to put it in writing,” she says. “This is my personal contribution to my own roots.”

Chee hopes that the city’s culinary scene continues to flourish, without people jettisoning traditions. “Hong Kong must preserve its local food culture and make room for young entrepreneurs to be a part of it, too,” she says.

Editor’s note: If you spot any elusive traditional Cantonese dishes on a local menu, send us a photo — it’s a rare find!

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Written by the South China Morning Post (Morning Studio)
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