The rules of thumb we've adopted in New Zealand don't seem to apply either. Here are some ideas that have been well and truly crushed.
Western fast food franchises should be a last resort
You've got an excuse if you need to refuel quickly or have an inexplicable craving for fast food, but otherwise, there are just so many better (healthier, tastier and probably cheaper) choices out there, right? You've travelled half way up the globe, so surely you should be trying out the local food instead. Well, fast food outlets have a particularly useful function in Hong Kong, as a supplier of... erm, toilets. Never mind that they are usually really dirty and you have to queue for ages to use them, when you've walked up and down several blocks looking for a bathroom, you are just grateful that there is one available at all.
Fast food outlets are also interesting in terms of offering items not in your home country. We were particularly excited to see taro pie and gingerbread lattes for sale at McDonald's.
|Sweet taro pie|
|Gingerbread latte and mint mocha|
Avoid food courts in shopping malls
In Auckland, places like Food Alley = good. Stalls at your local Westfield mall = bad, especially if there are warming drawers involved. We realised this might not be true in Asian countries, when we found our best meal in Malaysia in the basement of the Lot 10 shopping complex. We can't say the same of a Hong Kong shopping centre, but there are perfectly acceptable meals to be had in them, from dumplings to mini burgers.
Restaurant chains will have poorer quality
There aren't actually too many restaurant chains in Auckland. But when I see them, unless I hear otherwise, I assume that the original chef has been distracted by all the branches and the standard of cooking will be lower across the board as a result.
Hong Kong provides a counterexample to this theory in the form of Lei Garden. Its Mong Kok branch has two Michelin stars, and a number of other branches have one. In fact, the first time we ate at one of these places was when we saw the huge queue for Lei Bistro at the bottom of Times Square. This was before we had purchased a Michelin guide so we didn't know what to expect, and we were blown away by the food. This was dim sum that was delicate and light, familiar dishes that had been improved upon.
|Unexpectedly good preserved vegetables, deep fried pumpkin and taro balls.|
|The egg tarts and bo lo bao (not pictured) were smaller than at bakeries, but very light and delicate, fresh and crispy at the edges.|
Another chain that sells consistently amazing food is the Yee Shun Milk Company, which originally came from Macau, I believe. Their steamed milk is silky smooth, and rich and delicious, and we have confirmed this at both of their Hong Kong branches.
|Half eaten bowl of steamed milk, which has the smoth texture of tofu jelly but a strong milky taste.|
|You can watch the fried bread sticks being made through the front window.|
|Congee, fried turnip cake with XO sauce, and zhaliang (fried bread stick wrapped in ricesheet roll). We went a bit overboard with the sauce, and also added chilli sauce by mistake.|