It really sunk in only when I got out the subway exit onto Nathan Road. This was Hong Kong, where Chow Yun Fatt and Tony Leung reined. It was where WKW freeze framed Aniki Jin and made him eat pineapples. Where girls looked like Maggie Cheung, Lin Ching Hsia or Cecilia Cheung. In some ways, it felt strangely familiar, as I half expected, my childhood and teenage years having spent some time immersed in the cultural export of this former British colony. This was where one grandad and 2 grandmas came from so in some sense, it’s the OG motherland. Random fact: I’ve even got this nephew who lives in Hong Kong who I don’t know who’s 15 years my senior somehow.

I loved the grittiness of the place. The density and the immediacy of life struck me but let’s be honest I’m way too chilled to wanna be a hustler in the fragrant harbour. I suppose that side of HK, the materialistic side I didn’t enjoy quite as much. But the chaos was enthralling. I was mesmerised by the crazy multi level highways and pedestrian crossings and mish mash of tunnels throughout the sland side. Then on Kowloon it’s still madhouse with tight streets and neon and signs sticking out way over the street and mad throngs of people, relentlessly moving, writhing.

Every which way I looked I saw humanity trying its best to eke out a living. Everywhere I went I felt the hustle. It’s either mad cheap or ridiculously expensive. Case in point is possibly over expanding Tim Ho Wan which just swung the doors open at its Sydney outpost. I’ll say that in Hong Kong we spent 136HKD or 23AUD for two people. Not stuffed but enough. Yet despite that paltry figure, I completely agree with the Michelin inspectors that it deserves a star. It may be hyped to death and all that but I loved it and it is fantastic value. The money we spent is like 1 dish at Mr. Wong in Sydney. And yet I reckon THW is way better. You can argue about different countries costs etc but you can’t fight good flavour. Spare ribs > perfect rendition. Shumai > brilliant. Hargow > superlative. Because you’ve eaten all these classics it’s easy to miss the perfect textures or delicate seasoning. They’re really good. For the record I think the charsiu bao are overhyped.

Onto Yung Kee. Awesome awesome roast goose drenched in drippings. Charsiu > nonevent. But $50ish for a goose drumstick even if its massive is pretty damn steep. I think Joy Hing quoted my mom $60 for a whole goose. Aud. It is good, no doubt about that but my moms surprise at the gold clad three storey building of today compared to the humble store of yore that she remembers is testament for sure.

I also had a mini egg tart hunt, mostly around Wan Chai. I liked Kum Kee the best. Just don’t get Tai Cheong, which has branches everywhere. The main difference with egg tarts in HK and everywhere else is they’re served piping hot and there’s less sugar. So you basically get this balance between unctuous hot custard and crispy rough puff and it’s quite delightful.

I’m sure there’s loads more food in HK than the little I’ve discovered but I’m also relatively certain that I’m more into the Tim Ho Wans and Sun Kee cheese pork neck noodles or Australia Dairy Co scrambled eggs or Sing Kee congee with awesome pork liver. I wanna delve more into stuff like that and less into restaurants that swop my plates out when they’re full of bones and shit.

Also my Chungking Express dream was mostly a wash. I did however discover a lovely walk from the top of the mid level escalators down to the peak tram station.

All in all I gained much insight as to just what makes HK HK and how it produces people like John Woo or Alvin Leung or Li Ka Shing.

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