Those mind-numbingly spicy, super-moreish noodles at TamJai: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
There are so many reasons why TamJai’s noodles are so popular. We love the Yunnan-style rice vermicelli, the variety of noodle bases with different spice levels, and delicious toppings from the likes of pork liver and cuttlefish balls to sprouts and bamboo fungus. Basically, as my friend and diehard TJ fan, N, puts it, “There is so much freedom for you to choose your own combo, so everyone’s guaranteed to find something they’ll like.”
Clumsily named in English, there are two TamJai chains running today. TamJai Yunnan Mixian literally translates to “Brother Tam Yunnan Rice Vermicelli,” whereas TamJai SamGor Mixian means “Brother Tam Third Brother Rice Vermicelli.”
It all began in the 1990s, when the Tam family first opened TamJai Yunnan Mixian. Typical of Hong Kong family-run restaurant empires, a feud between shareholders meant that some of the brothers broke away and opened TamJai SamGor Mixian, which was bought out by Japanese company Toridoll Holdings in 2017. Today, both chains operate in various branches around Hong Kong. (As a journalist who frequently reviews restaurants, I’d like to add that I have never received complimentary meals at either chain. I just love TJ, okay?)
And it’s not just about the food — it’s those hard-working ladies on the floor who, more often than not, speak with an endearing country accent. That part has even spawned parodies — remember this “Rap of TamJai” video produced by 100 Most, where actor Kenneth Ma plays a waiter at a TamJai Yunnan Mixian? Berated for not “speaking the TamJai language,” he is depicted working hard to pick up their accents.
Whichever TJ you prefer, the restaurants are so beloved by Hongkongers, there’s no question that they’ve entered the public consciousness. Hong Kong forums are filled with discussions about TJ — like how they want to find someone special who loves those spicy noodles as much as they do. Freedom of choice, delicious food, and loved ones to share it with — sometimes happiness in Hong Kong is easy to find. Wouldn’t you agree?
All Tea No Shade with Andrea Lo.
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