Eat, drink, be merry? It’s happening at a special Hong Kong spot. Without fail, each meal is a sure thing, a feel good time – and if you’re lucky you might even get to see a beer bottle popped open with a chopstick. Sounds silly, but that alone is worth the price of the cash-only meal… Lucky for you and me, there’s so much more…
When you’re making a city stopover in Hong Kong, it’s very easy to be lured into Michelin-starred restaurants and of-the-moment eateries. But, between us, you want to head to where the locals hang out for no-fuss good food, and you want to do it the local way….
In the North Point wet market (99 Java Road), above the rows of fresh cut meat and glazed-eyed fish, stands a local food court otherwise known as “Dai Pai Dong,” which basically means lots of tables gathered in a space. The place is filled with hungry customers sitting down for their favorite local flavors. There’s no luxury here, plastic stools and wooden tables (though I do like the storage space underneath the tables for us punters to put our purses and shopping bags).
The atmosphere is already buzzing.
Luckily, I have friends who have already made a reservation with Tung Po Restaurant (2nd Floor, 2880–9399).
First up, let’s check out the menu … well it’s all in Chinese.
And today’s special on the wall?
Well that didn’t help either. But that’s okay, we improvise and just ask the friendly staff to recommend something good in beef, chicken, fish and some claypot of some sort and, hey presto, we anxiously wait…
Most locals rinse the bowls and cups with Chinese tea – it’s a Hong Kong and China thing.
We warm up with some local beer, there’s no other way to drink beer but to gulp it down in a rice bowl the old fashion way – no place to be ladylike here, be a man! I love it!
The food was served pretty quickly. Here’s what kept our tummies happy:
Cucumber and squid wasabi salad.
Some battered fish which you dip in a little seasoning – take it as your local fish and chips (minus the chips). It’s pretty good, you eat the whole thing, bone and all.
Vegetable rolls made with beancurd sheets.
This dish is a winner! Chinese style beef pate with a bit of mustard and cucumber, I would suggest go easy with the mustard, my eyes rolled over when I took that first bite…
This one has some funky name but it’s no messing around, fat prawns with heaps of garlic. A great tip: use that leftover garlic in that Chinese burger. Waste not, want not.
Finally the claypots arrive…
An aubergine and chicken one…
And then a Kai Lan Vegetable one – see that steam!
A few more bowls of beer later and satisfied tummies…. somebody turns up some woofers and you know what, it’s actually quite a good mix. Now what I thought was just a good night out with friends having good local food turns out to be some awesome night because owner Robby Cheung is in the house!
Robby is one of the reasons that Tung Po is so special. He’s outgoing, friendly, a true master of ceremony. In his white fish market boots, white button up shirt, Evisu dark blue sweater and Ace Ventura hair — Robby is not just mingling with his customers, he is RESPECT brother!
This Uncle shows us some moves that would put us all to shame, has a little twirl with me (to my embarrassment and to my friend’s entertainment) does the splits, rocks up a party and most impressive of all – shows us kids how to pop open a beer with one chopsticks.
Here’s some old funny YouTube footage of Robby removing the cap with skill and ease. Warning: a customer in the video shouts out some profanity. Cover your ears!
As we thank Robby for a fabulous dinner like no other, in true Hong Kong spirit, my friends and I all gather up for a group photo. But in true Robby style, he gathers the other tables and round up for one massive group photo.
I don’t know half the people in this group photo, and we’re actually stuck right in the back – but on a night like this in Hong Kong, we’re all friends having a good time.
This was one of Lindsay Cheng’s last posts from Hong Kong. Lindsay recently moved to Sydney, where she’ll be covering the ANZ scene for NewsWhistle. To contact Lindsay and wish her a warm welcome, please e-mail her at Lindsay@NewsWhistle.com.