Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Great Laksa Debate

After staying inside for the past 2 days due to Hurricane Irene and having gone through my food rations for the weekend, I found myself fighting back a strong craving for…laksa.  To the uninitiated, it might be quite a random dish to crave, especially in the middle of a tropical storm.   But for those who have tasted this heavenly Southeast Asian concoction of rich coconut curry broth, noodles, and seafood, then you’ll understand my addiction.

I was fortunate to try several varieties of laksa while in Hong Kong.  Here are my top 4, an attempt to settle the great laksa debate:

Malaymama

My love affair with laksa began at Malaymama in Sheung Wan.  With a cute logo and clean storefront, this tiny Malaysian spot usually has a long line outside at lunch, with diners eager to try the restaurant’s famed laksa and prawn mee (another famous Southeast Asian noodle dish).  Malaymama uses a mild, slightly sweet curry coconut milk broth in its laksa (photographed above) that is deceptively flavorful.  Served with fried tofu, shrimp, eggplant, and a mix of egg and rice noodles, this is a solid version that will appeal to laksa newbies and pros alike.  (Tip: Malaymama offers a teatime/dinner special.  $120 HKD for 2 people: each guest has choice of drink, laksa or prawn mee, and kaya toast.  Call restaurant for specific times.)

Shop 11A, Mercer Street, Sheung Wan
2542-4111

Katong Laksa Prawn Mee

Located directly across the street from Malaymama, Katong Laksa may seem very similar to its counterpart at first glance.  However, there is a world of difference between the two, especially in their laksas.  While Malaymama serves the Malaysian nyonya laksa, Katong Laksa specializes in the Singaporean version, which is most famous in the Katong region.  Though both versions are coconut milk-based, the noodles in katong laksa are often cut into smaller pieces.  I found Katong Laksa‘s version to be satisfactory.  I liked the addition of fish balls, which added a nice chewiness.  The broth, however, was a bit on the salty side for me.  Other standouts at Katong Laksa include prawn mee and mee siam, a sweet and sour noodle soup dish.

G/F, 8 Mercer St., Sheung Wan
2543-4008

Yeoh’s Bah Kut Teh 

My favorite of the four, though I think it may be the least traditional and heaviest on the coconut milk.  Yeoh’s Bah Kut Teh is a Chinese-Malaysian restaurant also located in Sheung Wan.  Though most famous for its claypot bah kut teh, Yeoh’s also serves a sinfully rich, artery-clogging laksa.  The broth was thick, creamy, and full of coconut milk, with both a sweet and savory flavor.  And as if the broth were not doing enough damage to your arteries already, the laksa is topped with a whole prawn, hard boiled egg, dried shrimps, and fried tofu puffs.

Shop G61-62, G/F, Midland Centre, 328 Queens Road, Sheung Wan
2543-2181

King Laksa 

Tucked into a nondescript alley in Central, King Laksa wins for the best toppings.  King Laksa serves an Indonesian version, featuring a savory yellow curry broth that is slightly lighter than the others.  I ordered their deluxe or supreme laksa, which came with fish balls, imitation crab, oysters, scallops, shrimp, and a hard boiled egg.  The bowl was swimming in seafood!  King Laksa’s noodle selection also sets it apart.  I ordered mine with the silver needle noodles, which were delightfully chewy and complimented the broth well.

G/F, 20 Gilman’s Bazaar, Central
2581-1871

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Best Hong Kong Style Dessert Shops

In addition to cheap dim sum, cha chaan tengs, and awesome Malaysian food, one of the things I miss most about Hong Kong is the plethora of Cantonese dessert shops.  While I love ice cream, cakes, and pies, I have found that American desserts tend to be heavy on the sugar and carbs, which can be unpleasant in this summer heat.  In contrast, Cantonese desserts are light and refreshing–the perfect ending to a hot summer night.

So where can you find the best mango sago and sweet tofu (豆腐花; doufu hua) in Hong Kong?  Here are my top 3 favorites.

Honeymoon Dessert (滿記甜品)

With several locations around HK, Honeymoon Dessert might win (only by a slight margin) as my favorite dessert shop in the city.  While the menu features many traditional Canto desserts, it also offers modern twists on the classics.  My friends and I decided to go wild on our last visit, and ordered watermelon doufu hua, tang yuan in almond milk, and coconut mango sago with pomelo (pictured at the top, from right to left).

The watermelon tofu was a perfect summer dessert–cool silken tofu topped with a refreshing, not-too-sweet watermelon puree.  Tang yuan in almond milk, in contrast, was served warm.  A classic Chinese dessert, tang yuan are sweet glutinous rice dumplings filed with either black sesame or peanuts and sugar.  We chose the peanut variety.  Each bite was pleasantly chewy, with the sweetness tempered by a sip of almond milk.

The best dessert at Honeymoon, one that I ordered everytime, was the coconut mango sago with pomelo.  For those unfamiliar with this dessert, sago is a type of starch very similar to tapioca–almost like mini boba, but less chewy.  Served in a cool mango and coconut concoction with slices of tart pomelo interspersed, this dessert was addictively fruity and fresh.

With all of the desserts at Honeymoon priced below $40, it’s no wonder there is always a line out the door.  For modern takes on classic Canto sweets, head to a Honeymoon Dessert near you.

Shop 303, Podium 3, World Trade Centre
280 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay
2852-2606

Hui Lau Shan (許留山)

Arguably the most famous dessert chain in Hong Kong, Hui Lau Shan is best known for its plethora of mango offerings.  From drinks to soups to puddings, Hui Lau Shan is a mango lover’s dream.  More grab-and-go friendly than Honeymoon, Hui Lau Shan has take-away service for its drinks, which range from $28-34 HKD.  For those eating in, my favorite was the mango puree and coconut milk over purple sticky rice (pictured above).  And for those less adventurous eaters, beware of another of HLS’ most popular desserts: snow frog spawn and birds nest, served in a coconut (snow frog spawn and bird’s nest are supposed to be good for the skin, making it popular with the ladies).

Hui Lau Shan has several locations throughout Hong Kong, but my favorite was in Mong Kok:

58-60 Sai Yeung Choi Street, Mong Kok
2871-1626

Wu Dai Tong Tang (五代同糖)

Wu Dai Tong Tang definitely wins for presentation.  Its desserts are whimsical and light-hearted, with some offering a Cantonese take on Western classics.   Huge sugar-dusted souffles are popular here, along with Asian-style panna cotta and molten chocolate cakes.

My friend and I shared a taro ice with grass jelly and red bean and an egg custard.  In addition to incredibly herbaceous grass jelly, the taro ice was served with corn flakes on the side.  I’m still a bit confused by this and am not sure all of the flavors worked together in the dish, but the corn flakes did add an unexpected crunch.  I much preferred the egg custard, served in the most adorable and apropos dish ever.  If you’re looking for more out-of-the-ordinary HK style desserts, Wu Dai Tong Tang is the place to go.

Shop G11, Elizabeth House
250-254 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay
3486-8528
(Note: The building it is housed in is on Gloucester Road, but Wu Dai Tong Tang is actually in the back entrance.)

A Transcendent Bowl of Beef Noodles

Although I returned to the US last week, there are still lots of meals in Hong Kong that stick out in my mind and deserve a mention on this blog.  One such meal was the beef noodle soup (牛肉麵) at Qinghai Beef Noodles, a.k.a. Beef Noodle Box (according to HK Magazine), a shoebox of a restaurant located near the North Point MTR station.

I’ve had many versions of beef noodle soup and I am usually not a fan because the broth is much too greasy and the meat much too fatty and boney for my taste.  But Qinghai Beef Noodles is nothing like these other versions and puts them to shame both in terms of flavor and quality.

Topped with verdant green cilantro and scallions, the noodles arrived steaming hot at the table.  The herbs added freshness to the heavy, but heavenly rich beef broth.  According to HK Magazine, owner Jeff Wong slowly simmers beef bones and over 20 different Chinese herbs to make the broth each day.  The result is a masterpiece–fragrant, aromatic, and earthy, each sip reveals a new layer of flavors.

While the broth itself is a major feat, I was also impressed with the quality of the noodles and beef.  Diners can choose from la mian (ramen) or knife cut noodles.  I ordered the la mian, and loved how the noodles slowly soaked up the broth.  I also enjoyed the beef, which was much leaner and more thinly sliced than other versions I’ve had.  For $39 HKD at lunch and $42 HKD at dinner, these noodles are a steal.

When I look back over my time in Hong Kong, Qinghai Beef Noodles certainly stands out as one of several truly fantastic meals.  It’s not the type of meal where diners wolf down and slurp up their bowls; rather, the soup is meant to be slowly sipped and savored for its soothing and soulful flavor.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy a truly transcendent bowl of beef noodles.

Qinghai Beef Noodles

G/F, 27A Kam Ping Street, North Point
北角錦屏街27A號地舖

852 2151 0506