Despite Japan's proximity to China, Chinese food here is pretty atrocious. "Japanized" Chinese food is not Chinese food. Sure, it's presented nicely and looks appetizing, but the taste... it takes everything that makes Chinese food so explosive and tones it down for a Japanese palate.
I even miss Americanized Chinese food: strong, if simplified flavors, full of oil and salt. (Let's be honest--who doesn't love Panda Express?)
But growing up in California, I was blessed with access to some pretty authentic Chinese food. There are places where you are at a disadvantage for not speaking Cantonese. Or there are places where the menu is only partially translated into English (to get the good stuff, you need someone who can read Chinese). That's a sign of authenticity.
That's the Chinese food I miss.
So I can safely say living in Japan, I haven't eaten real Chinese food in a year (Taiwan in February 2011).
This trip to Hong Kong was long overdue.
What did I do? I ate. A lot and often. I ate when I was hungry. More often than not, I ate when I was full.
And it was fantastic. Hong Kong truly is a foodie's paradise. I'm not normally one to take pictures of food or rave about the restaurants I went to, but Hong Kong warrants an exception.
Here are some of the highlights:
Dry Beef Chow Fun (乾炒牛河)
Growing up, this was my family's staple, go-to Chinese takeout. It's the dish I missed the most, and possible to hardest to recreate/find in Japan. It was my first meal in Macau, my first meal in Hong Kong, as well as my last meal at HK airport before leaving.
Pork Ribs in Black Bean Sauce (港式點心–豆鼓排骨)
From the Michelin starred, yet extremely affordable, Tim Ho Wan (添好运点心专门店). Though I've had this dish many times in my life, this one is the best version I've ever had.
Cha Siu Bao (叉燒包)
At a market. So simple, yet amazing.
Egg Waffle (鷄蛋仔)
I don't eat sweets but damn, this was really good.
Tak Fat Beef Balls (德發牛肉丸)
Stinky Tofu (臭豆腐)
Smells so bad, yet tastes so good... you can literally smell this one from a block away. This is right after eating lunch.
Claypot Rice (煲仔飯)
I've never tried this before in my life--it's a claypot with sausage, meat, and sauce over rice. Perfect on a chilly HK night.
Disneyland Little Green Men
Only at Hong Kong Disneyland. Dim sum at the Crystal Jade Restaurant, Disneyland Resort. It was strangely satisfying to bite into these.
After this whirlwind, gastronomical tour, you'd think my craving for Chinese food would have been satiated. Or at least, partially subsided.
Nope. If anything, it made it worse.
So even if it's just an extended layover, I definitely foresee a trip to Hong Kong in my near future...