On a flight to Hong Kong, I discover you don’t have to leave your airline seat to tuck into Australian abalone with jelly fish or wok-fried prawns with black truffle paste. Wok-fried prawns might sound fine but why would you want to eat jelly fish, you wonder?
Dining in the air
According to Cathay Pacific, jelly fish is rich in protein, minerals and Vitamin B and can help improve the functioning of the digestive system. One of the things I like about Cathay Pacific’s dining choices is the airline’s strategy of partnering with top Hong Kong chefs. In this case it was The Langham, Hong Kong. There are some things that are left to the experts and preparing jelly fish to the satisfaction of diners with a sophisticated palate is probably one of them.
OK, never mind about the jelly fish. I’m sure you’ll find the menu at The Langham, Hong Kong extremely palatable.
A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to dine at T’ang Court and I was impressed with the food, white table linen, designer décor, wine-pairing and attentive service. I particularly loved the golden-fried crispy “T’ang Court” chicken, moist morsels of chicken with deliciously crisp skin.
Back in the air, my braised abalone (contains high levels of calcium, iron, iodine and other nutrients and is good for the adrenal glands), chicken with black mushrooms, steamed jasmine rice and pak choy tastes just fine.
I want to try the black truffle paste (rich in a variety of amino acids, vitamins and proteins, helping to boost the body’s immunity and protect against ageing) but it’s not on the menu on my flight.
Watch a video of my in-flight experience here:
Dining on the ground
Down on the ground in a local food court in Hong Kong’s Central district, there are three others sharing my table. A young woman wearing large Prada sunglasses and a red-and-white-striped Tommy Hilfiger t-shirt studies the food list. A middle-aged woman has her nose buried in a newspaper while slurping noisily on a bowl of mushroom and prawn soup. The man next to me mumbles something unintelligible into his tea cup.
I nod and smile. No one returns the greeting. They don’t even look up.
Then the Prada lady shouts at the waitress. Minutes later, a bowl of soup, a plate of fried rice and four chicken wings drenched in soya sauce are slapped on the table in front of her.
I ask for an English menu politely – for the second time – and consider pointing at something on the Chinese menu. The characters are grouped in five columns labelled A to E with prices listed from HKD41 to 62 ($6 to 9). After all, how hard can it be to pick a delicious meal in Hong Kong?
I change my mind when a plate of tripe arrives for my neighbour who stops talking to his tea and starts shovelling.
For a brave moment, I consider ordering in Cantonese but I can’t muster up the confidence. The last time I tried, I asked for a fork. The waitress brought me a cup of tea.
The English menu eventually appears and has glossy photographs. I point to a bowl of pork wonton noodle soup. It’s the best I’ve tasted for a long time and costs a princely sum of $4.
This typical lunch-time scenario is an essential cultural experience in Hong Kong.
The subject of food is such an integral part of Hong Kong’s culture that a typical greeting among friends is “lay sik-jo faan mei?” (have you eaten yet)? Just pick any eatery with masses of locals and you’re bound to eat a cheap and delicious Cantonese meal.
But if you’re looking for a dining experience that is a cut above, Hong Kong’s Michelin guide narrows down the choice. While diners at Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe can expect to pay between $260 and $360 for food, the wonderful thing about Hong Kong is that dining at a Michelin-star restaurant need not break the bank.
At Tim Ho Wan in Mongkok, baskets of prawn dumplings and pork buns cost $1.40, making it the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world. The downside is you have to queue for hours to get in. The tip here is to take a ticket then go shopping.
I dine at the one Michelin-starred Ming Court, which is located in the contemporary five-star Langham Place Hotel in Mongkok. My meal of shark’s fin cooked in four different styles, drunken pigeon and Chiu Chow-style roast goose is impressive. The highlight was a deep-fried lobster creation prepared with cheese and simmered abalone and served with angel hair.
The Wine Guy plies me with wine from France, South Africa, USA and the 2003 Gewurztraminer from Vinoptima Estate in New Zealand. I learn that rosé is popular in Hong Kong, as red symbolises wealth and good luck.
Are you confused about where to eat in Hong Kong? Here is a list of recommendations from the chefs of the restaurants mentioned above.
Three Michelin stars
Lung King Heen, 8 Finance Street, Central, tel: +852 3196 8888.
Two Michelin stars
T’ang Court, Langham Hotel, tel: +852 2375 1133.
One Michelin star
Ming Court, Langham Place Hotel, tel: +852 3552 3388.
Tim’s Kitchen, Shop A, 84 – 90 Bonham Strand, Sheung Wan, tel: +852 2543 5919.
Hung’s Delicacies, Shop 4, 84 – 94 Wharf Road, North Point, tel: +852 2579 1108.
Tim Ho Wan, Shop 8, 2-20 Kwong Wa Street, Mongkok, Kowloon, tel: +852 2332 2896.
Fu Sing Shark Fin Seafood Restaurant, 353 Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay, tel: +852 2893 0881.