This year, I attended the Michelin announcements for Hong Kong and Macau 2016. There was a bit of controversy within the media as to the validity of some of the picks, and also, those that were overlooked. In Hong Kong, Michelin awards both high end and also, cheap eats establishments. I managed to have a few moments with Michelin Guides International Director, Michael Ellis, and ask him why Michelin decided to leave Los Angeles. He didn’t give me a straight answer, but said they pulled out of Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Austria, but have plans to return again in the future.
In this post, I want to focus on the Michelin cheap eats I visit on this trip. I am craving Cantonese wontons and my dad takes my mom and I to Ho Hung Kee, a Hong Kong institution founded in 1946. It started as a stall on the street making its way to a brick and mortar in 1973 to now, in Hysan Place located in Causeway Bay where the rents are the highest in the whole of Hong Kong. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that rents dictate menu pricing, making a humble bowl of wonton noodles extremely pricey. Ho Hung Kee earned a Michelin star in 2009 and has held steady for the last seven years, retaining its one star for 2016.
I crave Cantonese food because it is really difficult to find well executed versions here in southern California. San Francisco is much better, but still, doesn’t compare to Vancouver, B.C. where some of the Cantonese cuisine even tops that of Hong Kong. We do not want to fill up on carbs so we order House Specialty Wonton in Soup (HK$55/USD7) without the noodles.
Shrimp Dumplings in Soup (HK$58/USD7.50) is also in order because I like the mixture of shrimp, pork and wood ear mushrooms in the filling. Both the wontons and dumplings are solid, with a very thin wrapper and filling that has a crisp texture. A special dried fish is used to make the stock giving it its distinctive flavor.
I see Rice Noodle Rolls filled with Twisted Cruller (HK$48/USD6) and I am not able to resist. Some restaurants here offer this item, but never as refined as those found in Hong Kong. The rice noodles are paper thin and the cruller, light and crispy. Here in the US, I will usually unroll several layers of the rice noodles before consuming. This is absolutely incredible, and I am utterly satisfied, eating most of the plate.
I’d like stress that Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong will typically charge “tea service” per person. At Ho Hung Kee, it is HK$3/USD0.40 per person even if you do not drink tea. The tea service charge includes tea and the sauces — chile, soy etc — that they provide you with. There is also a 10% service charge added to each check so there is no need to leave additional tip. What I usually do is round up a check — if it’s HK$58, then I will leave an even HK$60.
On another day, I meet my ex-colleagues at Yat Lok for roast goose. Yat Lok is another hole-in-the-wall with a Michelin star.
The restaurant is crowded and they will not seat you until your entire party has arrived. The restaurant seats about 30, extremely tightly, and it also adopts the “dap toi” method where you will share a table with other diners. Basically, you’ll get whatever seat is available.
My friends order Roast Goose Leg with Lai Fun. These noodles are made from rice flour and tapioca starch possessing a chewy texture. You can find it here in Vietnamese restaurants known as bánh canh. I am not fond of lai fun because of its texture.
I opt for a mix of Roast Goose and Soy Sauce Chicken over Rice. I am disappointed by the goose. The meat is dry and the skin not as crispy as I’d like. The soy sauce chicken, however, is excellent, so moist and juicy I wish I had ordered more. The accompanying ginger scallion sauce is absolutely delicious. Since they paid, I’m not sure what the exact bill was, but the noodles are around HK$60/USD7.75, while my duo combo rice dish is probably around HK$68/USD8.75
Finally, there is Kam’s Roast Goose, a spin-off from the legendary Yung Kee which started off as a modest food stall in 1942. When I was in high school, and all through the 90s when I was working in Hong Kong, Yung Kee was the place to go for roast goose, but as the prices rose, locals started looking for more affordable options for this Hong Kong delicacy.
Several years ago, a legal battle involving Kinsen and Ronald Kam — sons of founder Shui Fai Kam — split the family. The case is still on-going with the court giving the family 30 days to solve their issues. This was two weeks ago. The result is still up in the air and I am waiting with bated breath to hear what will happen to this Hong Kong institution.
Hardy Kam, one of Kinsen’s sons opened up Kam’s Roast Goose in Wanchai last July, and the restaurant has already earned one Michelin star. My good friend Bernice Chan, a food writer for the South China Morning Post has interviewed Hardy and on a recent trip there, she introduced me to him as we wait for a table on an extremely busy Saturday night. At 7pm, they’ve run out of food and have stopped to-go orders. Those waiting for a table are told there is a chance there may not be any roast goose left. We are lucky as Hardy saves half a roast goose and half a soy sauce chicken for our meal. He also treats us to goose kidneys on him.
The goose is tender, juicy and oh so plump. The skin is the way it should be. I am in heaven. Half a roast goose goes for around HK$250/USD32.25, a whole goose will set you back around HK$500/USD64.50.
The soy sauce chicken is insane and I eat until I’m bursting at the seam.
We also order other things such as lai fun, which is typically what most people eat roast goose with.
Since I am not a fan, I opt for Kam’s special noodles.
We also order some vegetables, and the daily soup which have been simmering for hours on end. This is the true cuisine of Hong Kong and should not be missed. The line forms 30 minutes before the restaurant opens in the morning so be prepared to wait. However, I promise you, it is well worth it!
Ho Hung Kee
12/F, Hysan Place
500 Hennessy Road
G/F, 34-38 Stanley Street
Kam’s Roast Goose
226 Hennessy Road