One of the best things about Hong Kong is the abundance of wet markets throughout the city. Almost every neighborhood has a dedicated market that sells everything from seasonal fruit to dried meat to fresh fish, and more! What you may not know is that the selection of fresh, local fish available in these markets is extremely high quality, not to mention delicious. In this edition of Just The Tips, Chef Matt reveals his tricks for choosing the best fish in the wet market (he usually visits the Aberdeen and Kennedy Town Markets). Read below to check them out!1. SKIN - Look for fish that are shiny and vibrant with skin that has a healthy sheen and firm flesh. If you press the flesh of a fish and the skin does not bounce back, don't buy it - it's not fresh!2. EYES - Look for clarity and brightness. A fish with cloudy eyes is an indication that it's well past its prime, and eyes that are sunken reveal a dehydrated fish, which means it has spent more time on ice than in the water before appearing in the market.3. GILLS - It's important for fish to have bright red gills as this means that their blood hasn't oxidized yet. Dull gills = old fish.4. SMELL - Fresh fish should smell of the ocean and have an almost briny scent, like cold salt water. Never buy fish that smells fishy!
Hong Kong's food and beverage industry makes around $141 million per year, which isn’t bad for a city with a population of almost seven million. The high rate of food export out of Hong Kong is largely due to its diverse mix of cultures, spanning from Great Britain to Japan. A history of colonization followed by a thriving independence has allowed the food scene in Hong Kong to utilize many international influences and while Hong Kong culture is heavily influenced by Mainland China, its food has a distinct character that's inspired by both the East and the West.
Sailors, Pirates, and Fishermen
Due to its location, Hong Kong has a similar culinary beginning to many other coastal regions of the world. A country of only 1104km², Hong Kong’s coastline measures an incredible 456km. With such easy access to the sea, the fishing industry was a huge food source for pre-colonial Hong Kong. Much like other ancient Chinese cities, growth in the region was dependent upon plentiful access to good nutrition.
Sailors (and even pirates) would often need something that sustained them during long voyages, and without the luxury of refrigeration, early sailors would hang dry fish to take with them on their travels. This later evolved into the Hong Kong classic -- salted fish or 鹹魚. The humble fisherman provided a solution to an ancient problem and in turn, created a timeless, traditional dish.
In 1842, when Britain took control of Hong Kong, there weren’t just enormous political and economic changes, but changes to the local food culture as well. In particular, the British introduced pastry to Hong Kong, which was incorporated into many traditional Hong Kong dishes, such as dumplings and banana rolls.
It was around this time that a duchess in England decided to take a regular tea break between lunch and dinner. This was quickly exported to the colonies, and while high tea between lunch and dinner is reserved for more special occasions, Hong Kong locals adopted this mentality of taking a break to enjoy a mid-afternoon snack of milk tea and a pineapple bun (among other choices). Walking around Hong Kong, you’ll also find plenty of pubs, revealing a clear British influence.
Following World War II, Communism was starting to take hold in China. Since Hong Kong maintained the capitalist and democratic ideals from the British colonization, many Chinese citizens fled to Hong Kong to avoid persecution and maintain a high quality of life. With a mass influx of immigrants arriving so quickly, the 50s and 60s saw even more change in Hong Kong cuisine. Coffee shops popped up all over the place, modernizing the culture, and the growth of factories meant mass production of instant food products such as sliced bread, peanut butter, and instant noodles.
Hong Kong has come a very long way from its fishing village beginnings, having been occupied and influenced by several foreign cultures. But all of these changes have resulted in a unique food and beverage culture that is distinctly and exclusively Hong Kongese.
Many Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong are defying traditional norms by incorporating unique beverage pairings on the menus. And while it's becoming more common to see classic Cantonese food paired with wine, other spirits like awamori and whisky are definitely unexpected. These non-traditional beverage pairings signify a cultural shift in Hong Kong food culture but it's one that everyone seems to be ready for! Not only do the pairings work well and highlight the best aspects of both the food and the drink, they demonstrate the versatility of Cantonese cuisine and the idea of experimentation.The Taste of Classics Pairing at Lai Bun Fu restaurant in Central, Hong Kong is a perfect example. Best known for their traditional Cantonese flavors, Lai Bun Fu pairs six signature dishes with four prized Scotch single malt whiskies. This menu was intended to be available for a limited time but was extended due to positive reception. Some of the pairings include double-boiled Angus beef brisket with turnip and chu hau bean sauce + Bowmore 15-Year-Old Darkest as well as braised sea cucumber with dry shrimp roe and pomelo peel + Glen Garioch 12-Year-Old. The whiskies pair well with classic Cantonese dishes because they provide balance and complimentary flavors to the different ingredients.Beverage pairings such as that of Lai Bun Fu and #AwamoriSalonHK are just the beginning of the evolution of traditional Cantonese cuisine in Hong Kong. And because Hong Kong food culture is so open to new ideas and flavors, a new trend in this arena is sure to be on the horizon.
March is always an exciting time of year, but some of our favorite events have to be the art exhibitions. Art Central 2018 returns for its fourth year at Hong Kong's Central Harbourfront event space. With a focus on progressive and contemporary art, this year's exhibition will feature 30 new galleries with a total of 102 international galleries in participation.This year's highlights include Chinese artists Ly Shanchuan and Li Hongbo, post-war French artist Yves Klein, and solo artists such as Hou Chun Ming from Taiwan and Mulyana from Indonesia. Check out the art, and grab a drink while you're at it. See you there!
Although Hong Kong is filled with an ample amount of restaurants, local food culture still starts at the source - at home with family. While dining out is easy and convenient, traditional family life still revolves around having dinner together, which is normally cooked with ingredients purchased the day of. Housewives and helpers usually spend their mornings shopping for fresh ingredients to be used for dinner that night, and the routine begins again the next day. There are a handful of chain grocery stores throughout the city, but the wet markets reign supreme in terms of choice, price, and freshness.Wet markets are a staple in Hong Kong and each district has at least one. Besides being a place to shop for fresh food items, wet markets also sell lifestyle goods and often house small, hole-in-the-wall restaurants that serve everything from classic Cantonese to Italian cuisine. Fresh fruit and vegetables are at peak freshness in the morning and fishmongers display swimming fish, shrimp, and clams throughout the day. There are also stations for butchers that can provide various cuts of pork on the spot. Some stalls even have live chickens that are butchered on site.While wet markets offer insight into the culture and eating habits of HK locals, they also provide an opportunity for them to run small businesses. Rent is usually more affordable because of the shared location and lack of amenities such as air conditioning and tablecloth service; however, grocery store chains have somewhat usurped the need for wet markets. These chains have become one-stop shops with buying power, allowing them to price their goods lower than wet markets can afford. But even though the convenience of grocery stores is alluring, it's important to appreciate and understand the significance of wet markets. They not only build communities, but consistently provide high quality, seasonal ingredients at their most fresh and, usually, straight from the source.
Art Basel is one of Hong Kong's biggest art events of the year, and 2017 marks the fifth edition of the art show in the city. The exhibition is a showcase of modern and contemporary art with 242 participating galleries from 34 different countries. Over the three-day showcase, visitors saw art pieces from big names like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, KAWS, Barbara Kruger, Shepard Fairey, Ai Wei Wei, Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Takashi Murakami, and more. Check out some notable pieces below.
The Hong Kong style egg tart is a staple in dim sum restaurants, cha chaan tengs, and local Cantonese bakeries. Its history stems back to the early 1920s in Guangzhou and is said to be a hybrid between the British custard tart, western fruit tart, and Cantonese-style steamed egg pudding. The egg custard is a mixture of egg, milk, and sugar while the tart crust is traditionally made with lard because butter was too expensive. Check out our favorite variations of the egg tart below.
Egg Tart 蛋撻
The traditional egg tart is normally enjoyed fresh from the oven while it's piping hot or during a serious dim sum session. This egg tart in particular features a cookie crust. While more old school style bakeries continue to use lard, Hong Kong's famous Tai Cheong Bakery (approved by British Governor Chris Patten) has made this buttery cookie crust a tourist attraction.
Flaky Crust Egg Tart 酥皮蛋撻
Similar to the cookie crust, the flaky crust egg tart uses a dough that features many layers. The texture is comparable to croissant dough as it's a bit heavier than filo dough. It's considered to be one of the three jewels of Hong Kong cafe culture (the other two being the pineapple bun with butter and milk tea). The flaky tarts from Kam Fung Cafe still use lard and have customers lining up in the morning every day.
Egg White Tart 蛋白撻
Other flavored egg tarts have developed over the years with everything from matcha egg tarts to bird's nest egg tarts. Egg white tarts are geared towards the health conscious since they don't use yolks in the custard. Different bakery chains have their own take to give a little variety to the traditional tart. This particular one from Arome Bakery is an egg white custard mixed with Hokkaido milk.
Portuguese Egg Tart 葡撻
The Portuguese egg tart from Hong Kong is an export of the Macanese. Based on the pastel de Belem of Lisbon (a tart with a paler filling which used corn flour) and English custard tart, the Macanese style Portuguese Egg Tart features a flaky, filo type crust. While their recipe is slightly different than the Pastel de Nata from Portuga, they still also have an egg custard center that is slightly burnt and crispy from the brûléed top. Macau's famous Lord Stowe's has been churning out tarts since 1989 with an outlet in Causeway Bay.
Already one of the best airports in the world according to Skytrax, Hong Kong International Airport has just received another upgrade. DFS Group has recently launched a space called The Whiskey House as part of its 30,000sq ft expansion in the airport.The concept is a collaboration with Scottish company William Grant & Sons (which owns the Glenfiddich brand) and showcases over 250 premium whiskies from around the world, with more than 40 products available for complimentary tasting every day.With rare single malt whiskies, blind tasting sessions, whiskey experts, discounts, and prizes, The Whiskey House will surely be a hit amongst enthusiasts traveling through Hong Kong. Source: Retail in Asia
Hitachino Nest Beer is one of Japan's largest craft brewers and here at Yardbird, we’ve been serving their beer since day one. With a cult following in the United States and beers distributed to over 30 countries, it’s safe to say that Hitachino Nest has made its mark on the international beer scene in a short amount of time. In August 2016, they opened a brewery in Hong Kong and last month, the Yardbird crew was invited for a tour. Not only did we learn about Hitachino Nest and their production systems, we got to taste some seriously delicious beers.About Hitachino Nest BeerHitachino Nest Beer started in Kousnosu, in Ibaraki prefecture. Hitachino was the province in ancient Japan which covered the area of the brewery - it was famous for fertile soil and the “Su” in “Kounosu” means nest (hence the name Hitachino Nest Beer). The iconic owl logo was inspired by the abundance of owls in the area.How Hitachino Nest Beer Was BornJapanese craft beer is relatively new as Japan had a strict alcohol tax law that only allowed four large breweries to brew beer. In 1994, the law was relaxed and Kiuchi Brewery decided to start a small beer brewery. Despite having eight generations of sake brewing under its belt, Kiuchi knew almost nothing about beer production. In September 1996, Hitachino Nest produced their first beer and by 1997, they won their first award in an international beer competition.Hitachino Nest’s Hong Kong BreweryTo meet outstanding and increasing demand, Hitachino Nest Beer decided to open a brewery in Hong Kong with local partners. With only 7,500 square feet in Fo Tan, this brewery not only helps supply Asian customers, it also brews limited-edition beers for the Hong Kong market. The Hong Kong brewery is run by Christopher Wong, one of the founders of HK Brewcraft (a home-brew company), who showed the Yardbird team their brewing and bottling equipment and even let us try a Hong Kong created beer straight from the tank. Hitachino Nest’s Japan-based brewmaster, Kouji Tani, also visits the Fo Tan brewery regularly.The next time you're at Yardbird, make sure to try some of Japan’s best craft brews with our range of Hitachino Nest beers. You can also visit Hong Kong’s Hitachino Nest brewery and tasting room in Fo Tan, which are both open to the public on Saturdays.
The popular Japanese ramen chain, Ichiran, has opened its first US shop in Brooklyn, NY. Ichiran focuses on what they call “low interaction dining” where guests dine alone in booths and focus solely on their food. Diners are not greeted upon arrival, nor do they need to speak to a server to order. Customers check their ramen preferences on a menu printed on a chopstick sleeve which is placed over an electronic eye on each table.While Yardbird’s motto is “sharing is caring”, Ichiran’s success reveals that sometimes, people just don’t want to share. Some say it's the delicious ramen, others say it’s the mindfulness of eating without distractions, but with 60 locations in Japan and Hong Kong that are open 24/7 and crowds waiting to dine at the new NY outpost, Ichiran is definitely on to something. Or maybe we just need a little solo time with a big bowl of hot noodles once in a while. Image Courtesy: Grub Street
It's easy to forget how spoiled we are in Hong Kong when it comes to great dim sum. Besides the Michelin-starred establishments found in hotels, there's also the hole-in-the-wall and family run restaurants that offer some of the best har gao (shrimp dumplings) and char siu bao (barbecue pork buns) in the city.Check out C.B. Cebulski, the talent scout for Marvel Comics, as he travels around Hong Kong in search of the best dim sum spots for Lucky Peach Magazine. He stops by our staff favorite, Dim Sum Square, renowned Tim Ho Wan, and more. Watch the full video here.Love dim sum? Check out the most affordable Michelin star restaurant that serves just that here.
Amongst the curry fish ball and stinky tofu stalls, you'll find the egg waffle or 雞蛋仔 - a Hong Kong staple made from egg batter that is crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Stick the waffle in a cup with a few scoops of ice cream and you get the newest Instagram food trend that is taking over North America.The concrete jungle boasts its own version of the waffle sundae from Oddies Foodies, known for their variety of flavor combinations mixed with gelato. Their eggette flavors include red velvet, Taiwanese pineapple pastry and brownie and chocolate chip, served with Italian soft serve.Over in North America, Cauldron Ice Cream in Santa Ana, California boasts that they serve the "OG Puffle," a cone made from the HK street snack with ice cream flavors such as milk and cereal, earl grey lavender and Vietnamese coffee for the month of March.New York City's Eggloo offers a similar ice cream experience with sweet and savory eggette flavors like green tea and Chinese sausage and chive. Top it with some Pocky and you have an Instagram sensation. Toronto's Bang Bang Ice Cream recommends getting two scoops of ice cream with their waffle cone, with a line out the door that can yield a half an hour wait time. Feature Image Courtesy ThatFoodCray !!!
Chef Corey Lee is expanding his culinary presence with In Situ, his new restaurant set to open next year in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. For the menu, Lee decided to do something different - he asked more than 80 top Chefs from around the world to submit their signature recipes with the full intention of recreating them.
In August 2015, Lee traveled to Hong Kong to learn 3 of these recipes bound for the In Situ menu, including one from Matt Abergel, Co-Owner and Executive Chef of Yardbird, RONIN and Sunday's Grocery. Find out more about Lee's "Imitation Game" HERE: http://www.wsj.com/articles/chef-corey-lees-imitation-game-1443804904
Since opening in 2014, Sunday’s Grocery has become synonymous with Japanese Whisky due to its ability to source and import rare and esteemed bottles from distilleries across Japan. On October 21st, 2015, Sunday’s will be adding to its diverse collection with the launch of its own single malt, produced at Akashi Distillery.Also known as White Oak Distillery, Akashi is considered to be the oldest Japanese Whisky distillery as it was the first in Japan to acquire a distillation license in 1919. Although its Whisky production is small, the relationship that Elliot Faber, Beverage Director at Sunday’s Grocery, developed with the Akashi brewers allowed for the creation of this exclusive single malt that is uniquely aged for 5.5 years in a single sherry cask. This Whisky shows notes of apple cider and cocoa nib on the nose. As you taste, the same aromas from the nose lay a foundation and the Whisky develops smoky on the palate with notes of hickory sticks and sultana raisins. On the finish, there is a suggestion of tannin and inflections of ginger candy and black liquorice.The Sunday’s x Akashi Single Malt Whisky will be available for sale during a special event at Sunday’s Grocery on Wednesday, October 21st. This event will take place from 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. and will be open to the public. With only 100 bottles produced, this Whisky will only be available while quantities last. During the event, each bottle will come with a limited edition, gold “Sunday’s Are Better Than Others” signature t-shirt.Sunday’s Grocery is a liquor store, curated convenience store and take-away sandwich shop in Hong Kong - a neighborhood establishment offering a variety of drinks, food and artisanal products, with a focus on quality and creativity.
Always a revealing reflection of their neighbourhoods, Bodegas have long been purveyors of niche groceries, boozy beverages and for some, the only friend you've got at 4AM. Sundaysgrocery.com is an extension of these brick and mortar microcosms with the same goal of providing an oasis of convenience and community - an online curated convenience store where you can discover the latest and most exciting developments in food, drink, music, design and culture from around the world. Take a look around - Sunday's Are Better Than Others.