Monthly Archives: June 2011

Classic Dim Sum at Maxim’s Palace City Hall

I’ve eaten a lot of dim sum in my lifetime, having grown up in Los Angeles.  Monterey Park, Alhambra, and LA’s very own Chinatown are known for having some of the best dim sum in California and my family and I have tried many of them over the years.  As a result, I am somewhat of a dim sum fanatic and am absolutely thrilled to be in Hong Kong–a city (in)famous for its dim sum culture.

My first dim sum experience in Hong Kong was at Maxim’s Palace City Hall, a Hong Kong institution.  The Maxim’s Group, founded in 1956, owns hundreds of restaurants all over Hong Kong, ranging from traditional Cantonese restaurants to Western cafes to bakeries.  Maxim’s City Hall, one of the oldest locations, is renowned for its classic dim sum and elegant harbor views.  Tourists, locals, and food bloggers alike crowd into the huge banquet-style dining room, peering into each of the steaming carts that pass by.  (And non-Canto speakers–don’t worry! Each cart has signs with English translations of the dishes they are carrying.)

My friends and I started out with the shrimp and corn egg rolls and steamed beef balls.  While the steamed beef balls are a traditional dish, the shrimp and corn egg rolls were anything but–especially since they were served with mayo.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the combination.  The steamed beef balls, however, were fragrant and flavorful.

Siu mai (pork and shrimp dumplings), char siu bau (steamed pork buns), and cheung fan (steamed rice noodle roll) are all classic dim sum fare.  Maxim’s versions were excellent, as expected.  The siu mai, served steaming hot, were plump and juicy, while the char sui bau were fluffy and light as can be.  Cheung fancan be filled with either shrimp, pork, or beef, and are topped with a sweet soy sauce.  We opted for the barbecued pork version, which added a nice sweetness to the dish.

Sadly, we missed out on the har gau (steamed shrimp dumplings) and dan tat (egg tarts), but I will definitely be back another time.  Most dim sum dishes were around HKD $30-60, and I think the quality of the ingredients and the elegant atmosphere are worth the pricetag.  In sum, Maxim’s Palace City Hall is a wonderful introduction to Hong Kong’s dim sum culture, which I’m sure I will be intimately familiar with by the end of the summer.

Maxim’s Palace City Hall 
2/F, Low Block, City Hall
Central, Hong Kong

Exploring Macau

In an effort to ward off jet lag and make the most of my time before starting work, I decided to head to Macau on my second day in Hong Kong.  I’d read a lot about the “Las Vegas of the East,” but was not really interested in seeing the casinos.  I really wanted to get a feel for the old Macau and its Portuguese roots–especially through sampling its famous fusion cuisine.

After a pleasant ferry ride from Hong Kong, I arrived in Macau and boarded one of the many free shuttle buses provided by the casinos.  From the Wynn, it was a short (but slightly confusing) walk to the Leal Senado, where many of Macau’s most historic buildings are.

Up the hill from the Leal Senado is the Ruinas de Sao Paulo, one of the most memorable and majestic sites in Macau.  Souvenir shops and local snack shops (specializing in almond cookies and all types of dried meats) line the street leading up to the Ruins, making for a pleasant detour before the main event.  I joined the crowds of eager tourists snapping photos of the majestic facade, and slowly climbed to the top of the steps for an up-close view.

After hiking the steps of Sao Paulo, I was famished and ready for lunch.  A friend recommended that I try a pork chop bun, one of Macau’s specialties.  The pork chop bun (豬排包) was more like a sandwich than a bun: two soy sauce marinated pork chops nestled into a crusty roll.  I wouldn’t say this was my favorite dish–the pork was greasy and tasteless, and the roll was quite dry.  But if the dish were done well, I can see how it would be popular.

To allay my disappointment over lunch, I decided to treat myself to dessert.  I had read about a famous ice cream shop, Hung Heng Cocos, that specializes in coconut ice cream.  Little did I know that shop was really more of a shack, tucked behind the Ruinas de Sau Paulo.  It was a bit of a trek through many windy sidestreets, but I can wholeheartedly say it was worth it.  The ice cream is more like frozen yogurt–light as air and not too sweet.

With a few hours to kill between lunch and dinner, I wandered away from the heavily developed tourist areas and got a taste of the “real” Macau.  I was immediately struck by the disparity between the rich and the poor, the developed and undeveloped areas.  In the shadow of the glitzy casinos and skyscrapers are old, decrepit tenements.  Residents seem equally worn with age, passing the time playing mahjeong or practicing tai chi in the park, unaware or uninterested in the development around them.

For dinner, I went to A Lorcha, a very popular Portuguese restaurant recommended by my guidebook.  The crowd was quite international, with European families, mainland Chinese tourists, and local Macanese all congregating for the traditional Portuguese fare and rustic ambiance.

I ordered the spicy tripe and chickpea stew and bacalhau sauteed in garlic and olive oil.  The tripe and chickpea stew was warm and comforting, with a subdued level of spice.  The tripe was cooked perfectly, and its chewiness added nice contrast to the bite of the chickpeas.

Bacalhau is a dried, salted codfish used in many Portuguese dishes.  To my surprise, the fish was quite nice (albeit a bit slimy in texture), especially infused with the flavor from the garlic and olive oil.  The boiled potato on the side was a tasty accompaniment.  I’m sorry to say that I don’t remember the exact cost of my meal, but it came out to a bit over MOP $100–not exactly a bargain, but I was happy to have tried the island’s famous Portuguese cuisine.  The meal was a delicious way to end an exhausting but fun day exploring Macau.

Going Global

Hello, readers! After a hectic 2-month hiatus filled with final exams, I’m thrilled that summer has (finally) begun and that I can devote more time to blogging.  I have lots of updates since my last post, and am happy to be able to share them with all of you.

I’ve been traveling quite a lot since leaving the city of brotherly love.  After enjoying the perfect beach weather in Los Angeles for a couple weeks, I headed up to San Francisco to begin an internship.  From carbonara pizza at Delfina, to New Orleans iced coffee at Blue Bottle Coffee, to awesome chicken mole tamales at the Heart of the City Farmers Market, I can definitely say that San Francisco lived up to its foodie reputation.

Seven thousand miles across the Pacific, my journey continues in the truly amazing city of Hong Kong, where I will be staying for the next six weeks.  I’ve been here for 4 days now and can already say that I am falling in love with this city.  Its kinetic energy, ultra modern skyscrapers, lush parks, and of course,  fabulous food culture, make it worthwhile to brave the heat and humidity and explore the city.

My first meals in Hong Kong were simple and classic.  After wandering through Central District’s many office buildings and shopping malls, I stumbled across Can-teen, a local chain serving modern takes on traditional Hong Kong style dishes.  I ordered char siu over rice (HKD $38), which was excellent.  The char siu pork had just the right amount of fat and meat, making each bite rich and flavorful.

For dinner, I chose Tsim Chai Kee (沾仔記), a noodle shop that was mentioned in both my guidebook and Open Rice (Hong Kong’s version of Yelp).  Tsim Chai Kee has three locations in Hong Kong, two of which are in Central.  I ordered the prawn wonton noodle soup, which was a steal for HKD $19.  The egg noodles were perfectly al dente, while the wontons were savory and soothing.

After these first couple of meals, I could already tell that Hong Kong is a food paradise.  I’ll be sharing the rest of my eating expeditions, along with any adventures that happen along the way, right here for the next 6 weeks.