As you might remember, my relationship with the US was like a friendzone, there was something that I like about the States, but it didn’t ‘click’ at the end. One of the things I loved about living in the USA was the variety of food I could eat. Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Hawaiian, Jamaican, Korean, French, American – you name it, I can point you where to eat it.
Did I mention the amount of Hong Kong-style cafes and dessert places was really satisfying? Huge Cantonese community and lot’s of Hong Kong international students made it possible. I wanted goodies, I had them.
Since we moved to Ireland, specifically to Limerick, we hardly can eat any Asian food that is not made by me. Why? Because I make it more ‘real’ than the restaurants here. The food is OK, but they usually add too much sauce, it’s always too salty. And did I mention they have a combo where they add both rice and french fries?
Now you can imagine how we are craving for some good Hong Kong food. We’re like 8 or 10 weeks ahead our trip and we probably already have studied like 50% of foodie blogs. I won’t lie to you – the main purpose of our trip is food, I dream about clay pot or a sizzling pork chops on my cow-shaped dish. I know the more correct answer should be ‘Oh, I want to meet my Readers’ or ‘See our dear friends we haven’t seen in a year’ but let’s face it – FEEDERS BEFORE READERS. I know it’s probably the lamest thing you’ve heard in a while, but give me a point for trying.
But I wouldn’t be myself if I haven’t forced Sing to look up some desserts. Even he loves HK-style desserts, because they usually are not as sweet as western ones, have different kinds of flavors like red beans, green tea etc. Gosh, I already feel all those extra kilograms coming, but once a year I can treat myself.
For those who are unfamiliar with local desserts, we made a list of our top Hong Kong desserts. These are the must try, doesn’t matter if it’s your first time or fiftieth time. And by ‘dessert’ I mean ‘anything sweet’ because Sing and I had a discussion what is and what is not a dessert so we just stick to my awesome definition. Because I love anything that’s sweet.
砵仔糕 – Put chai ko
It is said that put chai ko has its origins in Taishan, but it’s extremely popular in Hong Kong and that’s one of my husband’s childhood memories. The cake is made from white or brown sugar, long-grain rice flour with a little wheat starch or cornstarch; it’s made by steaming the batter until it’s cooked through and left to cool down to the room temperature. It used to be served in aluminium (or porcelain) bowls, but we got the ones sold in bags. You should eat them by sticking two skewers in. I love the plain white with beans!
雞蛋仔 – Egg waffle
There’s not a single person who wouldn’t love it. Even my friend who for some reason hates going to HK-cafes loves it! It can be served with some fruits or sweet sauces (if you go to a cafe), but mostly it’s eaten plain – it’s already delicious! It was ever ranked #1 Hong Kong street snack and if I have a chance I just stuff my face with it, trying to eat as much as I can before Sing reaches for the waffle. You know that new song by Rihanna ‘Bi*ch better have my money’? I’m more like ‘Bi*ch better have my waffle’ – that’s how much I don’t want to share the waffle with my very own husband. I actually should make a T-shirt like that for myself.
Anyway, egg waffles are made from a sweet, egg-rich batter that is cooked on a hot griddle, a special frying pan with small round cells (you can get one for yourself on eBay!). The batter is poured over the pan and heated forming small waffle bubbles. I like them plain with their original taste, but in some places you can get them in a variety of flavours such as chocolate, green-tea, ginger, etc.
There are many types of tofu and many ways to prepare it – mapo tofu, pickled tofu, my husband’s favorite stinky tofu. It all depends where you try it, in Northern China it’s usually served with soy sauce, in Taiwan, on the other hand it is served with sweet toppings like cooked peanuts, adzuki beans, cooked oatmeal, tapioca, mung beans, and a syrup flavored with ginger or almond. During the summer, douhua is served with crushed ice; in the winter, it is served warm. But since we talk about Hong Kong we should mention the Cantonese version (although I think I would love the Taiwanese one as well). This version is served with sweet ginger or clear syrup, or a mixture with black bean paste (Sing gives both thumbs up) , you can also find a version with coconut milk which is personally my favorite. Traditionally it is made in wooden bucket, which is sold a木桶豆腐花 as part of dim sum.
(pic source garycwm.blogspot.ie)
燉蛋 – steamed egg dessert
There’s a chance you ate some steamed eggs in your life. I often make a Korean version of steamed eggs, it’s really fast, easy and tasty. And with a slight change of the ingredients you can get my runner-up in a dessert competition. You can make it yourself at home in minutes! You know you made it well if the texture is soft, silky, similar to soft tofu. I’m sure you can find plenty of recipes online, I stick with this one (click here) and I always recommend it to my friends. Therefore I recommend it to you!
(pic source food.ulifestyle.com.hk)
番薯糖水 – sweet potato soup
I hate it, it should never be on MY list, but Sing threaten me with silent days if I don’t put it here as ‘the best ever dessert’. So I put it, here you go. I’m probably the only person who doesn’t like it, even Momzilla can eat it all day (of course the hot version, cold is bad for your stomach and you die – her logic). The recipe is simple, you just boil the sweet potatoes (depends on a type you use, I use the orange color one, our old landlord’s wife uses the purple one) for a long time with rock sugar and ginger (although I don’t add ginger, usually because I just forget). With its simple recipe and large crop supply, sweet potato soup is one of the most accessible and affordable tong sui.
And since we mentioned tong sui…
There’s no Hong Kong dessert post without tong sui (糖水). It literally means sugar/sweet water and it’s a general term for any sweet, warm soup or custard served as a dessert. Tong sui are a Cantonese specialty and are rarely found in other regional cuisines . because non-Cantonese-speaking communities don’t generally recognize, soupy desserts generally are not recognized as a therefore the term ‘tong sui’ is not used. In Hong Kong and Malaysia, there are often stalls which are just to sell different types of desserts, Sing sometimes points it out as ‘See, there’s no dessert in menu because after a meal we just go to a dessert place’. These dessert stalls have also gained prominence in oversees communities, in San Francisco Bay Area we had many different tong sui to eat at. Sadly, tong sui no more. Another great slogan for a T-shirt.
Types of desserts you can find there: sago, red bean soup, mung bean soup, black sesame soup, sweet almond soup etc. – there’s no way you won’t find anything that would suit your taste.
Which one you have tried or wish to try? Maybe you have your favorite (not necessarily) Hong Kong dessert? Share your experience and favorite spots. And I hope you gained some weight just by reading about those goodies!