Three random thoughts by a Hong Kong millennial.
Last Sunday, Peter Lam Kin-ngok, businessman and outspoken critic on controversial movie “Ten Years” (which won the grand prize at the Hong Kong Film Awards) negatively compared the movie to a wonton noodle shop. “If I tell you that Hong Kong’s best restaurant is a wonton noodle shop, would you be convinced?”
This, everyone, is the chairman of the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
To be fair, I also used to look down on local Hong Kong food. As a kid, I thought the BEST things in life were buffets, steak dinners, and sushi restaurants. If my parents had asked me to pick a dinner place, never, ever would I pick a wonton noodle restaurant.
But then I became a reporter. I talked to chefs that specialize in making local food like milk tea, congee, and wonton noodles. And oh my god, you wouldn’t believe the effort needed: for wonton noodles, the dried flatfish needs to be grilled, not deep-fried, before using it to make the soup base; to make chewy noodles you need a nice egg to water ratio and careful treatment of the alkaline noodles; the wonton requires the right amount of fatty and lean pork as well as thin, tender wonton skins.
Ironically, it took some time abroad to figure out that my favorite foods in Hong Kong are actually not found at fancy restaurants. What I missed while studying overseas were fishballs, steamed fish, and ham and macaroni in broth. These are the food that best represent my home turf culturally and emotionally. I’ve even got to a point where I’d rather eat at a dai pai dong for my birthday or Valentine’s Day. So all this is to say, “Yes, the best restaurant in Hong Kong is probably a wonton noodle shop.”
While writing profile interviews, I’ve found that most people think that the everyday person’s story is less interesting than that of a celebrity or public figure.
I used to do two types of interviews: celebrity interviews, and interviews featuring regular old, everyday Hongkongers. People wowed when I told them I was interviewing directors, actors, and politicians. But when I gushed about talking to a sand artist, a guy who organizes funerals, or a roasted chestnut street vendor, they weren’t so interested.
When I told my family I preferred profiling everyday Hongkongers, they said that people respect celebrity interviewers and that there were no prospects in profiling of non-famous people. (Somewhat fair point, because you do need a good catch or packaging to sell these stories, like HONY.)
And that is really infuriating, because these everyday stories deserve equal respect. While they usually have no “success stories” to tell, their life journeys are often survival stories. They survived the daily grind of life, death of a loved one, the exhaustion of pursuing a dream or growing old, which are equally poignant tales that we can all relate to.
That is also why we’re doing the Hong Kong Homies section on The Loop. To be honest, I totally get why celebrity interviews have more appeal, but check out the section if you can, and let us know what you think, even if you find them utterly quotidian.
I’ve never even thought about this before I read this Quartz article but it’s good to keep in mind: “The diamond industry is notoriously shadowy, but aggressive consumers can shop for engagement rings with the same informed and holistic approach they might take to, say, fair-trade coffee or organic produce. Here, some tips and sources for shopping for a symbol of everlasting love that’s not diminished by having caused harm elsewhere.”