Here’s a little recap of the Hong Kong layover so far….
Our first night in Hong Kong we had dinner at the Shanghai Gardens Restaurant in Admiralty and the meal was ginormous so we had to walk it off before going to bed. The next day we woke up feeling bloated and got fitted for tuxedos [bad idea by the way] before having another equally filling dim sum lunch with Louie the Hong Kong tailor, which we also had to walk off. You seeing a pattern here? Our three day layover in HK was quickly turning into one of those “so much to do so little time” jam-packed itineraries, but the doing was pretty much eating….which my brain said “yes” to, while my stomach screamed “finger down throat please!”
“When’s the next time I’m going to be in Hong Kong?” I asked myself repeatedly. And since the answer was “who knows?” I figured now was the time to suck it up and soldier on to the next gorge-fest.
Our break between dim sum and dinner was short, but we tried to make the most of it. We decided to take the train from Tsim Sha Tsui a few stops up to Mong Kok to do some shopping, aka, “the fine art of ninja negotiation,” as my brother likes to say. I will admit, he’s gifted and as annoying as it is to spend 30 minutes going back and forth over two dollars, it really is a spectacular sight to see him exercise his shrewd Semite skills.
So here’s the thing about Hong Kong. It’s packed! Tight like a can of sardines or bundle of whole fresh crabs like these.
There are people everywhere and if you don’t like bumping into strangers and get frustrated when you can’t walk three feet in a straight line, then it’s not the destination for you.
But what’s crazy is that everything gets even more francic and crowded in the subterranean subway stations. People are moving at lightning speed as they bob and weave around each one another. I suggest standing against the wall and out of the way of the stampede until you know exactly where you’re going and then pick up the pace or you’ll get trampled by some Chinese hipsters ruling the world from their smart phone that wont be available for another three years in the States.
Once we knew where we were going we followed one another like a family of quail to the train headed toward Mong Kok. Everyone but my father made it through the turnstiles without a problem. For some reason his ticket wasn’t working and he was suddenly the bottleneck holding up thousands of travelers hurrying to make it to their destinations. Since the rest of us had already gone through we couldn’t go back or we’d have to buy another ticket and between the group, we only had enough exact change for one ticket. So we gave dad the change and told him to buy another ticket from one of the vending machines.
This was one of those moments when I realized my father was old….let me rephrase….that he’s of a generation that isn’t hardwired to intuitively understand simple technologies like touch screens. He struggled for 20 minutes with no luck going from one machine the next with a blank look on his face. He looked small and helpless as taller (if you can believe that), younger, and more tech-savvy teenagers purchased train tickets in seconds as if it was just another thing they were born knowing how to do like breathing. We ended up flagging down an English-speaking local and pointed out the helpless looking bald guy with the confused look on his face. “Can you help my husband purchase a ticket to Mong Kok please?” my stepmother asked.
The Ladie’s Market in Mong Kok on Kowloon
Eventually we made it to Mong Kok where we did some shopping in the Ladie’s Market, which as it turns out sells everything but women! It’s like Paddy’s Market in Sydney Australia if you’ve ever been. You can buy whatever you want there and you can pretty much plan on getting it for about 40% off, especially if you buy more than one. From Bluetooth music speakers shaped like your favorite angry bird to knock-off Louis Vuitton wallets and purses, if you can imagine it, they’ve got it at the Ladie’s Market. iPad cases, sweaters, shoes, paintings, tea pots, decorative fans, chops, fake jade bracelets, chopsticks, etc. etc.
I shopped and shopped and then stopped when Jonathan reminded me of our lack of suitcase-space due to the piles of Thailand tchotchkes we purchased earlier on the trip. Well guess what? The solution to that problem is purchasing another suitcase! And the colorful Le Sport Sac duffel bag I bought was the perfect size for the rest of the Hong Kong magnets and children’s gifts I had in mind.
After the Ladie’s Market we headed back to Tsim Sha Tsui (this time chaperoning my father through the train station) so we could walk along the bay and enjoy the lightshow at night. Laser show aside, the illuminated skyline of Hong Kong island was spectacular, and since it was the week after Christmas the buildings were still decorated with red and gold displays celebrating good fortune and a happy new year for all.
With the light show over, and our stomachs now trained to beg for more food, we stopped by the Fugar Jewelry Company on Mody Road to say hello to my stepmother’s old friend Mr. Bau aka “the Hong Kong Jeweler.” At first sight of our group, he smiled and insisted we allow him to host us for dinner. Our ears perked up at the thought of yet another fantastic meal curated by a local.
QuanJude Rost Duck Restaurant
So we walked down the street and got a table at QuanJude Roast Duck Restaurant and had another fantastic meal. And you know a Chinese restaurant is the real deal when they have aquariums of seafood delicacies near the entrance where you can watch your meal swimming its final laps around the pool. This was the first restaurant we’d been in on the trip that served soft-shelled turtles (they have the pointy noses) so I knew we were in for a treat. I’m not 100% sure, but I think this was a more Beijing-style cuisine. Lots of crossover with Shanghainese and Cantonese considering Hong Kong is the melting pot of cultures in the region, but Mr. Bau seemed to think it was some of the best food around.
Here’s what we got:
The Chinese equivalent of an antipasti consisting of bean curd noodles with sesame dressing, gelatinous pig ear terrine, beef tendons, cold poached chicken, and cucumbers.
To be honest, I’d rather wear a coat made out of the pig ear terrine than eat it. Something about the chewy consistency that I can’t get over. But I love that pattern and those earth tones!
Another take on the chicken soup like what we had at Shanghai Gardens Restaurant, only this version had pieces of chicken, mushrooms, and bok choy too.
Fried sweet chili shrimp. And now that I think about it….I think this is the authentic version of sweet and sour shrimp, which is just sweeter and more fried in the US.
We got another Peking duck, which was carved tableside. Again, this was amazing and some of the best duck I’ve ever had especially since this is what QuanJude is known for. I mean, if they’re going to put “Roast Duck” in their restaurant name, it better be good!
Steamed yu choy (yu choi or yu coi) which is also known of rapeseed or rape.
We got an order of dou miao (pea shoots) stir fried with garlic and vegetable oil. When they first put this down in front of me, I thought there were croutons or pieces of tofu mixed in….but no, that was the whole cloves of sweet garlic.
Another simple chicken soup with noodles and chopped vegetables….and to be honest, I skipped this one because I was already stuffed and who needs two soups in one meal?
Steamed buns (bao) stuffed with vegetables and glass noodles. These were great for sopping up the chili, soy sauce, and mustard on my plate.
And for dessert (remember Asians don’t usually do sweets in a big way) they brought us this plate of unsweetened coconut Jell-O topped with a layer of sweet red bean gelatin.
Thanks for dinner Mr. Bau!
Again we waddled across the bay to our hotel feeling like we’d just lost a battle against the wait staff of the QuanJude Roast Duck Restaurant in Kowloon.