I am so delighted to welcome Wee Ling, the talented writer behind chopchopcurrypok, a beautiful blog about travel and visual culture in Asia, back to notabilia!
In her own words: “I was born in Singapore. While in university, I made up my mind to move to Beijing but ended up in Shanghai instead. I was a tax consultant who became a business/financial news editor. Now I live in Hong Kong and, by some surreal twist of fate, am back in tax consulting once more.
“I love writing and started to pursue writing a little more seriously after I landed a gig with Singapore’s main broadsheet as a freelance youth journalist because of my then blog. I am still looking to balance my creative interests and background in accounting/finance. Visual communication inspires me and I bring my camera everywhere.”
Now, over to Wee Ling…
o o o o o
I wish I had the deep pockets, patience for month-long reservations, and coordination of dining companions that private kitchens encompass. Safe to say, I haven’t been to a lot but of the few I’ve gone to, I’ll gladly head back to TBLS for splurge-worthy special occasions. That probably says a lot since I hardly get excited over posh Western grub these days (my increasingly heartlander Asian-favoring palate is to blame). Creative and tasty, fancy yet unpretentious. Advance reservations a must.
For Cantonese comfort food, my regret is that I’ve only just recently discovered Wing Hing, a laidback Cantonese restaurant with middle-aged male wait staff that’s about a five minute walk from home after two years in Hong Kong. They do up a mean rendition of the shrimp omelette that’s wobbly-tasty like mom’s steamed egg even though it’s fried. Oh so perfect with rice. Chicken in scallion oil is what they are famous for so don’t forget to order that.
I go to On Lee Noodle Shop because they do wanton/ fishball noodles tossed in sauce well. It’s been a challenge finding an eatery that doesn’t just give you noodles on a plate and a tiny dollop of oyster sauce. Add some of their spicy chilli sauce into the mix and it quite hits the spot. Shau Kei Wan also makes for an interesting neighborhood to check out while you are there—local with a small town feel sans tourists with DSLR cameras.
Everyone comes to Hong Kong for dim sum but I have a soft spot for hotpot, its lesser-known cousin. For a truly Hong Kong hotpot experience, I have no qualms heading to Fong Wing Kee Hot Pot Restaurant in Kowloon City famed for its satay hotpot. The atmosphere’s great. (And by great, I mean local, no-frills, and fluorescent lighting.) Be sure to stir the thick, slightly spicy, satay broth often as it burns easily. Otherwise, closer to home, I go to San Xi Lou for a split hotpot of clear soup on one side and mala on the other. Half the fun is in concocting the accompanying dip; mine’s a throwback to my Singaporean roots with a base of soy sauce and chilli padi slices.
Likewise, Hong Kong-style western food, which had sprung up during British colonial rule when most Hongkongers could not afford to dine at Western restaurants, is another aspect of local cuisine worth exploring. Goldfinch of Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love and 2046 fame is where I bring my friends to, both for the atmosphere and black pepper steak on hot plates, even if the old-schooled waiters always seat us in the unglamorous back area of the restaurant.
On the street, gai daan jai (eggette) makes for a sweet between-meals snacking as I explore Hong Kong. For something savory, do as Hongkongers do. Boiled fishballs and squid dunk in curry sauce (choose level of spiciness) are a convenient eat-as-you-go option.
Hong Kong ought to be proud of its multi-brand fashion powerhouse Lane Crawford. It’s a joy to browse even if shopping is not on the cards. I like their strong retail display concepts and how everything’s well-edited and quite put together, especially their Confetti System collaboration last year at their Pacific Place store (now closed, boo) and Pacific Place home and lifestyle flagship (still around).
Ironically, some of the more interesting Hong Kong stores aren’t brick-and-mortar (just yet?). My attempts to be less reliant on disposable fast fashion have meant that I’m always keeping an eye out for emerging independent designers. I’m currently obsessing over Tangram, a quirky cheery clothing and accessories line by husband-and-wife duo Paola Sinisterra and Ignacio Garcia, as well as Barnett, spunky statement necklaces by self-trained jewellery designer sisters Kate and Bridget Barnett.
To me, the best bar in HK is not exactly a bar. Definitely head to Happy Valley Racecourse if you are in town on a Wednesday. For a whiff of fast horses, serious local gamblers, and foreigners out for a social pre-drinks mixer before heading to Lan Kwai Fong, you can’t find a better atmosphere than at the racecourse. HKD10 entry buys you an unbeatable atmosphere and lots of fun whether you bet or not!
The terrace at Dharma Den and the roof garden at Hong Kong Fringe Club are my perennial favorites when it comes to chilling out with a drink in hand away from the chi chi crowded sidewalks of Wyndham Street and the tourists of Lan Kwai Fong. Tai Lung Fung is a similarly good option, but in Wan Chai, and away from the buzz of a different sort of ageing male tourists on Lockhart Road.
001 is a hyped-up basement whiskey bar hidden in a side street where there is a strict no-photography rule. Cocktails are pricey but well-mixed and they serve up probably the best version of Old Fashioned in Hong Kong that I keep coming back for.
Summer in Hong Kong, unbearably hot as it is, is a great season to look forward to, weekends of barbecue and sitting in the crystal-clear shallow waters of Long Ke Wan beach, clam-picking at Pui O beach, and lazy afternoons at islands such as Peng Chau and Cheung Chau.
Too many Singaporeans head to Hong Kong for a convenient slice of the shop-and-eat weekend getaway formula. It’s a shame as Hong Kong has plenty to offer in terms of nature—beaches, hiking trails and islands—sometimes as near as just 30 minutes away from downtown Hong Kong. What’s easy to work into the schedule of a whirlwind trip to Hong Kong is a visit to Dragon’s Back. It takes half a day maximum and is conveniently located on Hong Kong island, which is not too much effort really for a fantastic alternate landscape of HK beyond skyscrapers overlooking Victoria Harbour.
There’s also small pockets of interesting neighborhoods like Tai Ping Shan Street, Tai Hang and Star Street which make for interesting strolls. I suppose they are great places to while the time away if you like subtleties and idle wandering in urban neighborhoods.
Clockenflap is a two-day arts and music festival typically held on a weekend in November/ December featuring a good mix of local and overseas indie bands. It’s free to enter but prior online registration is necessary.
Steering clear of the commercial art galleries on Hollywood Road, I usually go to Saamlung, Above Second, and Para/Site for a refreshing perspective of emerging and edgy contemporary art.
Like Singapore, Hong Kong is easily explored via the MTR and taxis. For a flavor of nostalgic and everyday Hong Kong, you can’t beat the Star Ferry and the trams (do hop on before they are all replaced by the new modern tram model).
(Additional credits: Photographs by Wee Ling; photo layout via Pugly Pixel.)