Finding Hong Kong food
You’re in Hong Kong, you’ve been on the Star Ferry one too many times, you’ve seen the big Buddha, and if someone merely mentions Dim Sum again you’ll explode like a xiao long bao being brutally destroyed by an amateur. And now it’s time. You crave the real deal; not just food made in Hong Kong, but food eaten by Hong Kong.
This is that food. Tung Po 東寶小館 (pronounced “doong bo”) isn’t really a restaurant, or at least not in the normal sense of the word. No, to find this place you need to venture to the northern tip of Hong Kong Island, or North Point as those smart Hong Kongers decided to name it, a sprawling, heaving mass of people, restaurants and high rise buildings, and home to the Java Road Wet Market. Walk inside, and ignore your growing suspicion that you’ve taken a wrong turn - this is genuinely your old school, salt of the earth Hong Kong food market, and you are bang on track. Head upstairs, enter the Cooked Food Centre, and prepare for some Bruce Lee level food.
Once you’ve found Tung Po, no easy task given there are no real boundaries between each establishment, you’re in for a treat. So good is the food here they even called that gone-too-soon and oh-so-missed legend, Anthony Bourdain, a fan. If you’ve ever been to Cantonese restaurants in other parts of the world, you’ll be familiar with some of the dishes here. But at the same time, delete these from your memory banks, as this is how it should really be done.
Once seated, proceed to step one of Hong Kong style hawker centre dining; washing up your own tableware, before you eat, with tea. If you’re wondering whether this makes your bowl, plate and cutlery all wet, and tea-like, the answer is yes, yes it does. But suck it up, and wait for the food.
Speaking of which, order this aubergine dish, a true Hong Kong classic, and as far as this blog is concerned, the best version anywhere on the planet (trust us, we’ve tried a fair few).
Also try the roast chicken, smothered in crispy garlic and with a skin so crisp and yet delicate.
Other specials will depend on what’s on offer from the market below, but look out for mantis shrimp, more expensive than lobster and with a gentler, sweeter meat, and also the Hong Kong style steak, perfectly grilled and then sliced into bite-sized pieces ready to be slathered in the peppery dipping sauce.
Order some beer, and soak in another of those wonderfully local experiences; the Hong Kong beer girl. We finished ordering food from our waiter, although you could have swapped him out for a Triad member and not notice, and then enquired about some Tsing Tao. At this point, our gangster friend barks an order at a girl who’s come to work dressed as Sailor Moon, and she swiftly takes our beer order. Moments later, shouts of “Yam Bui” (Cantonese for “cheers”) ring out, and rather appropriately, we’re drinking not out of glasses, but out of rice bowls, because, actually I’m not sure why, but I like it.
Hong Kong may have an endless supply of great local food options, but for some of the very best you need to go outside of your comfort zone, and this place is that.
2F, Java Road Municipal Services Building, 99 Java Road, North Point
+852 2880 5224