I’ve fallen to pieces on the blogging front recently as it has a long month. For some reason everything happened together which included having 4 wisdom teeth out, packing up the flat in Hong Kong, starting a new job in Seoul, flat hunting, unpacking belongings off a container ship etc.. This has all left me with not much time to blog about my passion for Hong Kong and why it is such a great city. And then I got hungry and the inspiration returned as I started thinking about Chinese or Asian desserts as they just aren’t as good here in Seoul…
One of the things I did not think would become an obsession when I came to Hong Kong were desserts. I come from England and I always thought we made the best puddings in the world. Big crumbles, fresh cream ladden cakes; all glory fat and butter. And when you want something a bit fancier Paris is just through the Eurotunnel (or you can go to West Kensington) for some fancy pastries.
Well stuff that. Having now lived in Asia and experienced the glory of Hong Kong (and Asian generally) desserts there can be no return. And the strange thing is when I arrived in Hong Kong they were the things which freaked me out. I found it far easier to get my head around chicken feet, blood, intestine, spine, spices and textures than the classic Chinese desserts. Which is kind of stupid.
I think it is because Chinese desserts assault you in a different way, they are cleaner and full of more individual monglot flavours than Western desserts. This isn’t to say they aren’t clever, precise or complicated. They are just a bit like high level Japanese cuisine; lots of small flavours and tastes bundled together with beauty.
They are also far more diverse than I realised. At its simpliest you start with the seasonal fruit from the old men and women with their stalls at the street corners. Not much in Hong Kong is actually seasonal or sourced but this is. Indian mangos or crazy little off shaped fruit that I still don’t know the English name for. You can also get the fruit packaged up and sold as smoothies from chains like Hui Lau Shan (you have to try their mango based drinks) or just as juices from the old men and women who sell them.
And then you get to the almond and black seasme soups which can look like modern art with their swirls (try Honeymoon Dessert or Xiao Tian Gu). Or light tofu based desserts with the sweetness coming from Hokkaido red beans or granulated sugar (try Kung Wo and see e_ting’s post here). And grass jelly with its translucent black squares (try Kei Kee Dessert’s B boy grass jelly). And mango, holy mango which is now US$8 in Seoul but was 20 cents in Hong Kong. And then mooncakes (Maxims for the traditional style) and Chinese custard tarts which you have only had as pale imitations in the West (Man Wah at the Mandarin Oriental fresh bakes them for you). And finally the really local Hong Kong style egg waffles covered with condensed milk, peanut butter and other death inducing ingredients (try Mammy’s pancake).
If you are coming to Hong Kong all I can say is go on a dessert trawl, the food you will eat will be more unusual than the things you think you should eat such as dim sum or char siu. Below are some addresses for the places recommended above but desserts are everywhere and this is just a kicking off point
- Tung Wo (tofu dessert) – 118 Pei Ho Street, Sham Shui Po
- Mammy Pancakes (egg waffles) – Shop 2A, G/F, Whampoa Street, Hung Hom, Hong Kong
- Hi Lau Shan (mango based smoothies) – everywhere. It is a chain
- Honeymoon Dessert and Xiao Tian Gu – chains again but incredible for the price and taste
- Man Wah at the Mandarin Oriental (egg tart and fancy mooncakes) – 5 Connaught Road, Central
- Kei Kee Dessert (grass jelly) – Shop 7, Chi Fu Centre, Yuen Long
- Tai Cheong bakery (egg tarts) – G/F, 35 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central