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What I 8: The Best Noodles and secret places in Hong Kong with @hungry.bear.hk
The popular Hong Kong-based Instagram foodie Hungry Bear HK (@hungry.bear.hk) calls himself “animalistic hungry food-tographer”. And there’s no better way to describe his food adventures more than that.
In this What I 8 interview withBestPlaceFor.com, he shares his thoughts on the best food finds in the city.
Jackie, What’s the key to growing a great food account, and give us a tip for taking a good shot of your favourite food.
I’d say the key to growing a great account is to be relevant to your audience. I like to keep abreast of the current trends and new restaurants as much as possible. I’d try to be informative and unbiased, and above all, support other fellow food bloggers because they love food as much as you do. As for taking a great shot, I adhere to the philosophy that natural light is your best friend, and along with a simple background, even the most mundane dishes would look utterly mouth-watering.
Pick one of your favourite food categories and tell us what you look for when you’re looking for the best there is in that category.
Noodles! It’s definitely something I cannot get enough of whether it’s on a weekly or even a daily basis. I’d look for the texture of the noodles, and as most Asian ones are soup base, the flavor of the broth is pertinent. The thickness of the noodle should also match the broth too, while of course, the toppings carry an important role.
List the top 5 places you’ve eaten the best noodles, with a little insight into why each one is great.
Nam Kee is a local favourite in Hong Kong which I can die eating, with my go-to bowl being the signature spicy pork ‘Mai Sin’ (4.7 out of 5). Its soup base is mildly sour with ample heat from its homemade chilli sauce, making it addictive drinkable. Noodles here are white, thin and slurpy, married with thin slices of pork belly which is surprisingly not overly fatty. It’s the perfect cure for a cold winter day.
Yau Yuen Siu Tsui is a Michelin Bib Gourmand eatery near my home with a focus on the cuisine Xi’An, a northern Chinese province. The Biang Biang Noodle (4.8/5) is a must order here, which is an elongated strip dripped in ample chilli. For this, my order would be the dry version so I can fully taste its ‘al dente’ texture. This is complemented by the braised spare ribs which are soft and tender with its meats sliding off its bones. As I’m a greedy fellow, an order of marinated fried chicken wings, which is juicy and crispy is also a must.
Ichiran may sound like a very generic selection, but the global chain deserves every bit of its success. With its razor-thin Noodles (4.8/5), the broth here is full of classic Tonkotsu umami and the red chilli powder adds an extra kick. While the thin slices of pork are nothing to cry home about, I do love the soft-boiled egg here, which is well-marinated and oozes of goodness at the core. I’ve had both the Fukuoka, Tokyo and Hong Kong editions, and renders it the perfect end after a long boozy night.
Ginza Kagari Honten is yet another Ramen joint but unfortunately can only be found in Tokyo for the time being. Its signature bowl is a chicken-based “tori-paitan” Ramen (4.9/5), which is rich and creamy. This is all topped off with tender pieces of chicken breast and I do admire how beautifully-plated each bowl is. One caveat is that the noodle shop remains a small shop despite recent expansion, so a lengthy line up ensures.
Shui Keeis a representation of Hong Kong in its truest form, in that it’s a small food stall with outdoor seating in the midst of Central. Beef Brisket (4.6/5) is the signature here, which is bold and flavorful in a broth that’s well-simmered. I always enjoy adding extra wontons which are traditional Cantonese dumplings that are pockets of joy, packed with shrimps.
What is something you’ve eaten that just blew you away because you did not expect it to be that good? It might have been an out of the way place or an unexpected flavour combo.
I recall that from a trip in Taiwan, a former colleague of mine suggested Yi Yuan at the Westin Taipei, which was a restaurant specialized in Beijing cuisine. A Peking Duck (4.8/5) ensures, which is a serving of skin with little meat wrapped in pancakes. However, a second serving of the meats is often mundane; consisting of lettuce wraps or a duck soup, but this rendition carried a lot of surprises. Fried with hoisin sauce, the delicately diced duck was served inside mini sugar cones which was a bold marriage of sweet and savouriness. While it sounded odd at first, the flavors worked magically. Unfortunately, the hotel has been closed since the end of December 2018.
A pandemic lockdown kicks in but there’s a new rule, you can visit one restaurant only for the next six months. Where do you pick and why?
The easy answer would be my top pick for noodles — Nam Kee. Being locked down amid a pandemic is a depressing scenario. It is only with true comfort food that can uplift my spirit.
Which other foodies do you love to follow and why?
As for three bloggers to check out, here are my selections:
@marcosora – a true master of photography who works magic with his DSLR. Also as an active foodie, Marco is able to not only find the best angles for each shot but present food in the best light. He truly makes the most mundane foods exciting, while his heart and soul is felt in each post.
@szeliang888 – a former colleague of mine who’s based in Singapore. Sze Liang is a passionate “bon viviant” who travels the globe for best dishes. Unfortunately, the pandemic has kept him grounded for the time being, but his food adventures will surely resume once the opportunity arises. I’m also dying to feast with this fella once again – whether it’s Hong Kong, Singapore or anywhere in the world.
@viv.com.hk – another Hong Kong-based foodie slash cafe hunter, Vivian works relentlessly to keep herself updated on the city’s latest offerings. I surf her page for the latest and greatest plus of course, when I truly need a cup of Joe.
Let’s go to Quick Bite Questions.
Best Pastry? Bakehouse‘s Egg Tart is owner Gregorie Michaud’s creation through vigorous research. The small delicacy brings a warm eggy custard and surrounds it with a croissant sourdough shell. While egg tarts are a staple in the city, chef Michaud elevates this by introducing western elements in bringing an offering that ensures long queues for months to come. (4.5/5)
Best Ambiance? Ranked as the top restaurants in the world for many years, El Cellar De Can Roca in Girona, Spain is not only a marvel in its dishes, but in its setting. Now housed in a modern home that’s custom-built, the institution feels of a Spanish winery yet with a modern decor, coupled with floor to ceiling greenery in the middle of the dining room. The overall ambience feels of true fine dining, relaxed and not overly stuffy. (5/5)
Best ‘Meat’ dish? Barbecue goose is one of Hong Kong’s staples and Yung Kee is one of the renown institutions for locals and tourists alike. While the original branch’s quality has slipped in recent years, its VIP floor – the Yung’s Club serves one delectable poultry. The classic signature is utterly succulent with the thinnest of crispy skin and juicy in each bite. (4.8/5)
Best Burger? In a city full of burger joints, The Butcher’s Club Burgerremains a favourite. While many burger renditions have surfaced, the classic remains a favourite with its renown dry-aged Black Angus patty from Australia. The meat treatment brings upon an utterly powerful patty that’s also juicy and tender, met with the perfect bun-to-patty ratio that ensures equal deliciousness in each bite. (4.5/5)
Best Veggie or Vegan dish? While many vegan and vegetarian eateries have surfaced lately in Hong Kong, MA… and The Seeds of Life is a new addition that’s exciting. Here, chef Tina Barrat’s take on the Caviar uses Chia seeds instead, mixed in with seaweed, agar agar and soya sauce to recreate the delicacy’s briny taste. This dish exemplifies the chef’s true understanding of flavors at its best. (4.8/5)
What’s on your hit list? Can you give us five dishes you have to eat in the future that we can expect a post on? Even if you have to wait for travel bans to lift!
Noma – Rene Redezpi re-reopened its doors at a new creation several years ago in Copenhagen, and now ranks as the #2 restaurant in the world. The boiled brown crab on flatbread is sure to signify the country’s fresh produce and inevitably, an Instagrammable classic.
JL Studio – A two-Michelin starred eatery in the city of Taichung, JL Studio marries Southeast Asian flavours with fresh Taiwanese ingredients. Chef Jimmy Lim Tyan Yaw’s ‘satay’ is a re-imagined classic with peanut sauce as an ice cream shaved on frozen foie gras, onion, cucumber and fried chicken skin. These are bold mixtures of flavors indeed.
Ginza Iwa – This is a recently incarnated sushiya in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay with a playful chef Taichiro Motoyama at helm. Photos of the sushiya’s bafun uni and ikura looks mesmerizing and I can’t wait to taste its shari at the hands of chef Motoyama.
Jai Fai – A street food gem that was recently discovered by the Michelin guide and Netflix’s Street Food series, Jai Fai serves delicious comfort in the streets of Bangkok. The Omelette is supposedly a must-have here with ample crab meat, prepared by a namesake chef. Tables here are hard to come by and not that I’ve not attempted to secure one, but my perseverance shall pay off one of these days.
Pheromone – A local favorite that opened last year but relocated to a new location in Hong Kong’s Tai Hang. Pheromone is a steak frites specialist that prides itself on its delicious USDA cuts. Tables are also hard to come by and the menu has changed since Hong Kong now has dinner restrictions. Hopefully, this shall change in time.