Friday, February 13, 2009

Hong Kong - an idyllic day on Cheung Chau

As you step off the ferry onto Cheung Chau, the unmistakable waft of drying and dried seafood envelops you. Of course, this is an acquired smell but like it or not, it is synonymous with Cheung Chau's history which began as a fishing village.

Of course, with the smells you do actually see it all in action..

Shrimps drying in the sun... and these are not those tiny ones we see and use in SE Asian cooking, these actually qualify as prawns and they are! Bigger than what we are used to and probably sweeter in any stock it makes its final appearance in.

Stalls like these with a guhzillion varieties of finished product (ie. all sun dried) line the streets of Cheung Chau. From anchovies, to shrimps, to oysters and fish roe, you name it and they probably have it.

With the sights and smells, I wasn't terribly impressed with the local fare. The strategy was to try as many things as we could but there are always limits given the small group.

Lunch was not spectacular. But the one thing I hadn't tried before was baby oysters in cheong fun. Sounded weird but the combination of the oyster juices with the sweet soya sauce was pretty good - and this my dear reader, was the humble beginnings of the grand dame of Chinese cooking - oyster sauce! (My theory but it has to be true!)

The afternoon's most impressive meal was at Cheung Kee (张记)- touted as being fishball specialists since 1959. And it is the best bowl of fishballs I've ever had in Hong Kong because of the texture. Springy as the Chiu Chows meant them to be, the bouncy texture captured the freshness of the catch in the little ivory ball. Very good. Perhaps a craving might make me brave the choppy ride back to this sleepy village..

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