Hong Kong Part 4: Vegetarian Dim Sum

DSC_5888Let’s say you’re in Hong Kong and you’re a vegetarian or traveling with one and you or he wants dim sum. No problem! There’s a fully vegetarian restaurant at Admiralty, on a hill near the tea pot museum. It’s mostly a “drink expensive tea and eat snacks” place but it may be worth a visit for vegetarians.

The restaurant has a veggie version of no mai gai, which is sticky rice, mushroom and vegetable filling, all wrapped in a leaf. Kind of like a Chinese tamale, but more delicious. It’s comparable to the meat version, so if you like that, you might like this.
DSC_5873

A must-order dish at dim sum is turnip cake and this restaurant has the vegetarians covered. Each piece is crispy on the outside with a soft, tender interior. The weird thing about it was a sour taste, which I think may come from the pickled vegetables sprinkled throughout the batter. It threw me off, but my dining companion seemed to like it.
DSC_5870

We also ordered some “soldiers hat” dumplings, which were mediocre at best. For the prices this restaurant charges for food, I would have expected a higher quality dish. The dumpling filling itself was decent, but the skin hadn’t been steamed through, so it was dry and hard at the top.
DSC_5871

After the dumplings, Will was still hungry, so he ordered the Shanghai style fried noodles. They came in a small bowl, perfect for a serving for one.
DSC_5885

The novelty of an all-vegetarian restaurant serving dim sum items is worth the visit, but other than that, the food is okay at best and the prices are high. What really annoys me about the place is if you order tea, they insist that each person in your party orders their own tea set. We both wanted the same type of tea and wanted to share a pot, but nope, against store policy. It’s silly because it goes against Chinese tea culture in general. When people get together, they don’t all brew their own tea out of their own teapot.

Hong Kong Part 3: Dim Sum at Victoria City

When I think of Hong Kong, I think of Cantonese food, and when I think of Cantonese food, I think of bite sized food in bamboo steamer baskets, aka dim sum.  What’s a visit to Hong Kong without trying the dim sum there at least once?

I went to Victoria City which is part of a chain of high end dim sum places. For the two of us, and 3 dishes, the price was about $40-50 USD. That’s expensive compared to how much most people make in Hong Kong and it’s expensive in even US standard.

I’d like to say that part of the cost went to the view out the window, but as you can see, other than it being over some water, the view’s nothing to write home about, unless you have a thing for cranes and cargo boxes.

DSC_5863

I had some har gao and xiu mai, which are both ubiquitous dishes to order at a dim sum restaurant. The har gao was wrapped in a delicately chewy wrapper and filled with fresh, sweet shrimp. The xiu mai was decent and wasn’t at all that fatty, but I found it strange that even at a high end place like Victoria City, they couldn’t get the bit of fish roe that tops it to look a little more appetizing.

DSC_5867DSC_5865

Will found that there was a vegetarian dumpling on the menu he could order, which was surprising for both of us. It was the rice flour wrapper used in a har gao but filled with chopped mushrooms and vegetables. It was pretty good and not at all gloppy or saucy like he was afraid of.

DSC_5866

We were both satisfied with our dishes, but not the price. The place was almost dead empty when we sat down and the uneven ratio of staff to patrons was just too eerie. I think I would have enjoyed a crowded, noisy dimsum restaurant with ladies pushing steam carts around more than this one.

Considering the quality of the dim sum at Victoria City was similar to that of more expensive places in LA, I don’t think I would be missing out much if I skipped this place next time I was in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Part 2: The Food (day 1)

I won’t deny that one of the reasons I like traveling to Asia is for the food. Hong Kong is no exception.  Despite it being a very international metropolis with its fair share of Starbucks’ and KFC’s, there’s still more traditional, tasty Chinese food to be found.

On my first night there, Will dragged me around for at least half an hour looking for some vegetarian restaurant he happened to pass earlier that afternoon. He couldn’t find it. Hungry, cranky, and tired, I eventually plopped down at a busy corner in an outdoor night-market. The sign above the kitchen said Spice Crabs, but in my hunger-induced daze, I ordered spicy razor clams instead. They were indeed spicy, and clammy. The sauce was too gloopy to enjoy after the dish cooled down.

The rickety, plastic table I was sitting at was squeezed next to what seemed like dozens of similar tables, most of them occupied by people munching away on various creatures of the sea. I saw what I think were crawdads, shrimp, scallops, and of course, crabs. If I had been more awake, I would have liked to sit back, order a big plate of crabs, a beer, and enjoy the people-watching.

Ironically, after dinner and some more wandering around, we decided to give up looking for this fabled vegetarian restaurant but not five minutes later, I looked up and realized we were standing only a few meters from it. Unfortunately, it must have been prime dinner time because the two of us had to wait at least twenty minutes for a table to clear up.

Once inside and seated, it felt nice to be in a relatively quiet and calm atmosphere after the noisy, hectic, bustle of the nightmarket.

I tried to order some crazy item on the menu that was fried rice, put in a box made out of bread, with cheese melted on top of it, but the waitress kept doubting I could eat the whole thing myself and practically denied me the right to order it.  After a second waiter came around a few minutes later and asked if I was sure I wanted to order it, I got fed up and just cancelled the order. If they weren’t going to let me be a glutton in peace, that’s their loss of $5 or however much that crazy fried rice contraption cost.

The maddening thing was, after I cancelled it, another waitress brought it out and was about to place it at my table before I barked that I cancelled it like all the other waitresses had been urging me to do.

Will ordered a bowl of herbal porridge which came with gojiberries and white woodear mushrooms and a tofu claypot; no one gave him any trouble with what he ordered.

The porridge had a good flavor that tended to be slightly on the sweet side. The tofu, which was actually rolls of tofu skin was seasoned well without being too heavy on a gloopy sauce, something we were both in fear of when thinking of Cantonese cooking. I think they were deep fried or something first because a few bites I had were crunchy. The fresh crunch of Chinese celery helped cut down on its richness.

While our first night in Hong Kong certainly could have gone better, food-wise, at least we found something the cranky vegetarian could eat and neither of us had to go to sleep with an empty belly. But even as I’m typing this, I’m still shaking my fist angrily at the wait staff at the vegetarian restaurant that wouldn’t let me order the crazy box of fried rice.