After eating our way through a wide variety of South East Asian countries, coming back to Hong Kong is a big step toward heading home, with plenty of foreigners, a high use of English language, and certainly more familiar foods; not just from the use of Western ingredient but also because the Cantonese cooking is that most common to the Chinese cuisine that we are used to in Toronto. And while I feel as though I have spent weeks ogling strange and beautiful foods in fresh market settings, this is a really big, busy modern city. We are surrounded by skyscrapers filled with tiny apartments and offices, each window either littered with drying laundry or the signs of computer work. If you lived here you would have a high tolerance for people and “personal space” would not be on your radar. But it’s cool, it is hip and stylish, plenty of signs of extreme wealth (woops, another Tesla and two more Rolls Royce, or is the plural Ryce?) and also wonderful vestiges of clinging to the past kinda culture. Wonderful paradoxes like looking down onto a park and seeing ancient old men doing tai chi and reflecting quietly on life while just metres away, a fence indicates the beginning of a schoolyard filled with the noise of play by a thousand little kids, a cacophony of laughter, shouts and screams of joy.
We walk forever, tucking into alley ways and looking at strange store signs, looking up always, things here go up 5 or 10 or more stories. A single tower might house 20 or more restaurants. I look at what appears to be a menu board for a restaurant when in fact it is a listing of the 18 restaurant located within.
Noodles, wonton and braised greens everywhere, yes. A more formal lunch is a destination place where we dined on the famous soup dumplings nearly 4 years ago. The dumplings are made to order, with a filling of meat and vegetables with a cube of gelled meat stock reduction, which turns to liquid while the noodle cooks. Eating requires training – first place in spoon with chopsticks, bite a small hole to suck out the juice then add a few drops of a ginger spiked vinegar sauce, woof – really spectacular stuff. We also dine on a mapo-dofu (tofu with spicy sweet sour pork ragu) and a chicken dish with chilies and peanuts, the chefs add a handful of Szechuan pepper, or numbing pepper which, unlike the ones back home truly leave your mouth with the feeling that you have just touched your tongue to a 9 volt battery. Zoinks.
Next, we figure out the underground train so that the rest of the week can be made easier with public trans, we travel so far underground that I suggest to Anna that “ any deeper and we’ll be home soon” har har.