That of course, isn’t me! She’s one of the tour guides herding her sheep, err, make that dazed flock of guests in lovely Macau. I say dazed because the Portuguese colonial architecture in Macau is just wonderful. No, I wasn’t part of that tour group at all. That makes me the lost sheep that didn’t want to be found.
My Hongkong-Macau experience, traveling solo, was one amazing, memorable immersion into the real Hongkong and Macau, not from the eyes of a tourist just wanting to see the sights found in the guidebooks and proclaim to the world, “I’ve been here!”
Well…we can never really take away the tourist in us. Even Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, couldn’t deny the tourist in them.
But it is far more rewarding and enriching when we move out of the tourist mode to simply try to blend in discreetly and get to know the locals and their culture.
I love markets and Hongkong is market paradise. Selling live chickens dressed to order. The SARS epidemic affected the chicken trade. Location: Mongkok
Now that we’re in the subject of food, that which is the dominant theme of this blog, allow me to share with you some photos of the checked items in my HK-Macau food bucketlist. This is not to brag about it but to give you ideas for your next travel to Cantonese land.
Before leaving for HK, I did days and nights of internet research for HK and Macau’s food icons and made a random list of the things I wanted to try. Many, I proudly searched by myself, others, I discovered through a food tour I took with http://www.eatingadventures.com.
For people who do not have the luxury of time in a place and are not in the mood to do pre-travel research, a food tour allows one to taste a number of delicacies and beverages from hard-to-find food shops in just one go.
Ms.Grace Wong, tour guide from eating adventures and her assistant, Mary. They took me to this roast goose place at teatime in Mongkok. At teatime, around 2-5 pm, selected food items are marked down.
The ultimate foodie dish on this trip: snake soup! Surprisingly, it was delicious and energized my sore body. “It’s a healing food,” explained Grace.
I’m proud of myself for finding this hole-in-the-wall. It’s one of the last 28 dai pai dong allowed to sell on the streets of Hongkong. Well, they haven’t actually gone extinct. The HK government brought them indoors, into their cooked food centers in every district. A dai pai dong is actually a neighborhood carinderia with specialty dishes, usually family recipes.
This is, for instance is Leaf Dessert. Memorable indeed, not just for the cold dessert I ordered consisting of monggo beans and humongous square sheets of black gulaman. It was the lady owner’s loud personality, when she threw a continuous barrage of Cantonese remarks (sounding like a reprimand) to my innocent question (meant to be a praise)– the only Cantonese phrase I remember, because it’s an instant noodle brand in Pinas, “Ho Mei?” Oh, help! how fast can I learn Cantonese?!
Food servings in HK are large, good enough for two persons. So even if I couldn’t finish that gulaman-monggo dessert, I tried my very best, smiling as the lady passed by, hoping that universal facial language would make up for my faux pax. Mm, I think it did!
Another feat! A check in the bucketlist! Tim Ho Wan, that cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world! I found it tucked near the end of a very long street, that wasn’t projected clearly on the map. (Oh, speaking of maps!)
That’s the place. There’s a queue lining up already when I arrived. There is a blessing in traveling solo. They ushered me ahead of the rest who were in groups. I was surprised to see the tea house so full. I suspect most were locals. One could spot the tourists, even the chinky-eyed ones when they’d take out their cellphones or cams and take a food shot. Rare were selfies.
The star of Tim Ho Wan’s is their pork barbecue buns. It’s actually siopao filling, but the buns are baked. There’s something about the bread baking technique perhaps, for a singular bite into this pork bun can really elicit a silent exclamation of praise for such excellent food creation. But it must be had in situ. The magic is lost once taken home.
The other dishes were also above par. The steamed dumplings of vegetables and peanuts, the vermicelli rolls with slivers of pork liver, the shrimp siomai, and for dessert, that tonic medlar something. Almost everyone was drinking hot tea with their dim sum. I finished more than a pitcher. Hahaha.