Do you miss HK? We do too!
Hong Kong is truly an unparalleled city with equal parts of modernity and tradition. Through the years, it remains up to date with the latest technology, finance, convenience, and healthcare, and it has not lost its charm in food, craftsmanship, and culture.
Whether you’re a born and bred HK local, a visiting tourist, or an expat who has made HK your home, some Hongkong quirks will always find a place in your heart.
But while we stay in place to put our health in priority with the continuous threat of the pandemic, here’s a treat from CHiNOY TV as we take you on a virtual tour of this beautiful, vibrant city.
From a writer’s lens
Lindsay Varty is a writer, journalist, and rugby player. Half Macanese and half British by birth, but 100 percent Hong Kong local by heart, she has written a book called “Sunset Survivors” about ‘the trades and craftsmen of the real Hong Kong.’ For Lindsay, the authentic taste of Hong Kong lies in visiting a dai pai dong.
“These iconic eateries are typically set up in alleyways and outdoor spaces with a tarpaulin overhead and simple set up below. They serve all sorts of Hong Kong classic dishes—from HK-style French toast to an amazing tomato macaroni broth,” Lindsay shares.
Lindsay, who has traveled the world, believes that the food and the no-frills set up make them unique from stalls you may find in other parts of the world.
“I suggest everyone try a dai pai dong! My pick for anyone visiting the city – a visit to Sing Heung Yuen dai pai dong in Central is a must as the food and service is great, the owner Irene Lee is my friend,” she adds.
Lindsay also admits that she is a huge fan of dim sum. Dim sum is often made in bamboo steamers, but this process is becoming increasingly mechanical—usually caused by factories in China.
“To watch a unique local art form, drop by Tuck Chong Sum Kee Bamboo Steamer Company in Sai Ying Pun. Watching the craftsman at work through the little window at the shop is a privilege, and you’re sure to be tempted to pick up a steamer or two yourself,” says Lindsay.
Talking about machines replacing the human touch, it’s also evident when making mahjong tiles. Mahjong playing is very popular in Hong Kong, with some locals playing all weekend. However, nowadays, cheaper, plastic mahjong tiles are replacing the traditional hand-painted ones.
“Painting them takes a long time and a lot of effort. The handmade sets can cost about HK$4,000 (approximately US$515). One of the few remaining traditional mahjong artists, Master Cheung Shun-king, or ‘Uncle King’ as he is more commonly known, works in Biu Kee Mahjong in Jordan. He still hand makes entire mahjong sets and hand paints and engraved the tiles himself using a traditional method passed down to generations in his family,” Lindsay shares.
Want to see what it takes to hand paint mahjong tiles? Try one of the workshops in the city as this art form is seeing a revival of sorts. Then, get in touch with Uncle King or Karen Aruba, and make your unique connection with Hong Kong’s rich culture and history.
From an artist’s point of view
While Lindsay grew up in this city, author and illustrator Christine Cappio came to Hong Kong from France to follow her heart. Christine’s book “Gweimui’s Hong Kong Story” follows a young French woman discovering the city’s wet markets, colorful decorations, and fantastic cuisine. While she insists she is not a food enthusiast, she couldn’t help falling in love with the many food customs in the city.
“I loved learning about the Hong Kong food culture and using local ingredients. One of the specialties that I like making is wife cake or lou po beng,” says Christine.
The legend about this cake is of a wife who sold herself as a slave to help her family. Her husband started selling small pies with candied watermelon and almonds to win her back, eventually earning enough to repurchase her. So naturally, you can imagine how delicious this flaky and light pastry is! You can buy the traditional Cantonese pastry at Hong Kong-style bakeries and enjoy it as a teatime snack.
“A few years ago, I learned to make Tea Cake. The Hakka have long settled in Southern China, and their food culture is present in Hong Kong. The small glutinous rice dumplings are stuffed with either a savory or a sweet filling and steamed on a banana leaf. Each dumpling is decorated with a peanut or red bean on top,” Christine shares another one of her favorites.
Tea cakes are usually pre-cooked and eaten during Ching Ming Festival (Tomb-Sweeping Day) or Chung Yeung Festival (Double Ninth Festival). Hakka tea cake is not as typical as wife cake, but you can find them at dessert shops in Tai O or the Cooked Food Centre in Tai Po Hui Market.
For a ceramic designer like Christine, Hong Kong is a place of wonder, with many beautiful porcelain pieces on display in shops.
“I love Hong Kong painted porcelain, also called Guangcai. Before the ’60s, there were four large hand-painted porcelain manufacturers in Hong Kong. Today, Yuet Tung China Works is the only one left,” she shares.
Yuet Tung China Works was established in Hong Kong in 1928 by the Tso family from Guangzhou. Today the factory is run by the third generation descendant Joseph Tso. Since the ’60s, the porcelain wares have been decorated by hand (no more hand-painted) using rubber stamping and decals. Yuet Tung has served clients such as the Vatican, royal families, and government officials of foreign countries and continues to make bespoke pieces for famous hotels, corporates, and individuals from all over the world today.
“Guangcai is traditional craftsmanship and one of Hong Kong’s intangible heritages. The shop is full of excess stock, and if you take time to explore among the huge piles of china wares, you will certainly discover something you like, such as a Guangcai hand-painted piece by Joseph Tso’s grand-father! You can also make a unique and personalized gift with a custom-made design on a plate or another china piece. I would love to have one of my designs on a plate,” Christine explains the uniqueness and value of this art.
Want to try this for yourself? Today, many people like porcelain painting as a hobby, and porcelain painting workshops are rising in Hong Kong. Joseph Tso’s wife runs porcelain painting workshops at different venues in Hong Kong (group or private lessons).
Do you miss Hong Kong? Let us know your most memorable experience in the city in the comment section below!