There is an intimate connection between food and memories. The dishes we have savored as kids — whether it’s munching through a bag of roasted chestnuts on a winter’s night or stopping for egg waffles on the way back from school — are imprinted on our minds and take us back to the happiest times of our lives. But with Hong Kong being such a fast-paced city, some of our favorite street snacks are becoming increasingly rare to find. So, we take you on a trip down memory lane dotted with some of Hong Kong’s most nostalgic treats — some of which you may still find in nooks and corners of the city.
Despite the name, this dish is actually an assortment of many fried items, from eggplants and tofu to bell peppers and bitter melons — all stuffed with minced fish paste and sometimes served with soy sauce. Though perhaps not the healthiest way to have veggies, it sure is tasty enough. The ones at Wen Kee Traditional Che Zai Noodle Restaurant (文記傳統車仔麵茶餐廳, G/F, 55 Ngau Tau Kok Road, Kowloon Bay, 2707-0082) are worth a try.
This golden-colored goodie is pretty elusive these days, but was quite popular in the 1950s and 60s, thanks to its perfect combination of crisp saltine crackers on the outside and sweet, gooey maltose syrup on the inside. Held together by a pair of chopsticks, the maltose crackers are ideal for consuming on the go but can be a bit messy if you’re not quick enough. Today, you won’t find them in most shops, but the good news is that they’re pretty easy to make at home. If that’s too much of a hassle, then have a look around Kam Sheung Road Flea Market (錦上路跳蚤市場, Kam Sheung Road, Yuen Long), which is known for stocking forgotten snacks of yesteryear.
Old-timers in Hong Kong would remember vendors roaming around with olive-shaped green buckets, selling bite-sized snacks “airplane olives” marinated in licorice. The snacks got their name from the way the trade was conducted – as the buildings were then only a few stories high, the sellers would take an accurate aim and throw their treats onto the balconies, and people would throw down their money in return. As buildings got taller and taller, these treats became rarer, but you can still get them at traditional shops like Taiwan King of Kings Food Co. Ltd (台灣皇上皇食品有限公司, 65 Hau Wong Rd, Kowloon City, 2382-0678).
While shark fin soup has been condemned for its cruelty to sharks, its cheaper, more eco-friendly version has been widespread on Hong Kong’s streets since the 1960s. Along Temple Street, small-time vendors would collect the broken parts of shark fins discarded by Chinese restaurants and mix them in a broth of vermicelli or glass noodles, mushroom, pork and beaten eggs. It became an instant hit due to its low cost, varied ingredients and sumptuous flavours. Later on, an edible gelatinous substance —or ‘fake fins’ — came to be added to the soup. Sample it yourself at the Michelin Guide-recommended Tower 18 Doggie’s Noodle (十八座狗仔粉, G/F, 27A Ning Po Street, Jordan, 2153-0369).
This soft tofu pudding is everything you can ask for in a dessert – sweet, smooth, silky and melting in you mouth. Typically served cold with a generous helping of red sugar, it’s just the kind of treat you need to endure Hong Kong’s heat. It’s also considered to be good for your health because of its cooling properties and very high fiber content, so it’s perfect for a spot of guilt-free indulgence. Head to Kung Wo Tofu Factory (公和荳品廠, G/F, 118 Pei Ho Street, Sham Shui Po, 2386-6871) for a taste of the real thing.
Red bean, rice flour and sugar may be humble ingredients in themselves, but combined, the resulting red bean pudding makes a perfectly delicious dessert molded into porcelain bowls or aluminium cups and propped up on skewers. These warm, sticky, chewy treats are said to have originated in Taishan in Guangdong province, China. They are most popular around Ching Ming Festival, but you can also get them all year round at local dessert shops such as Kwan Kee Store (坤記糕品專家, 115-117 Fuk Wa Street, Kowloon, 2360-0328).