Hong Kong Foodie Sham Shui Po tour

Back in September, I bought Tom a Hong Kong foodie tour ticket for his birthday (as I mentioned here). Of course, I bought myself a ticket too! Tom had to choose between the Central tour and the Sham Shui Po tour, and he picked the Sham Shui Po (SSP) tour as this is an area of Hong Kong that we don’t know very well. We went on the tour in October (while our parents were around to babysit!) and it was such good fun!

First of all, I have to mention that the tour isn’t cheap (you can go to the website to look at prices) but it’s a lovely thing to do for a treat, a special occasion or if you want something a bit different to do while you’re visiting Hong Kong. We were the only people living in Hong Kong on the tour, all the other people were tourists. Also, if you’re having trouble picking between the two tours, I think the main difference is that on the Central one you are introduced to more of the standard Hong Kong dishes, whereas on the SSP you have more of the unusual ones (but nothing too weird!). If you’re visiting Hong Kong for the first time you might like to try the Central one, but if you’ve already tried a fair amount of Hong Kong cuisine or you want to see a really ‘local’ area of Hong Kong then the SSP one would be great. We were particularly pleased to go on the SSP one because there’s not a lot of English spoken there, and not many restaurants have English menus, so it’s probably not somewhere we’d be able to try to go for food on our own!

What was really great about the tour actually was that it wasn’t just about the food. The tour is 4 hours long so I think 4 hours of eating would just be too much anyway! It included a walking tour around parts of SSP and an insight into the area, the way people live and some traditional aspects of the culture. I’d not really noticed before, but there’s very little in the way of high rise in the area. Most of the buildings are less than 10 stories, and there are very few new buildings. It’s actually an area of Hong Kong that’s changed very little in the last few decades. It was great to see some old businesses in the market area that have been doing the same thing for decades, such as a noodle shop that makes noodles by hand on site – a rare thing these days.

Of course, I can’t go without mentioning the food! We stopped off at 6 restaurants (well, 5 and one bakery) and had a small dish in each. Despite having tried a fairly wide range of cuisine since moving to Hong Kong, neither Tom nor I had had any of them before, apart from the pineapple bun – and this one was by far the best we’d had – so warm and soft! I think my favourite were the rice rolls though. We’ve had rice rolls with meat in before (usually as part of dim sum) but these were just thick rolls of the rice itself – it’s a bit like pasta but made from rice, if that makes any sense! So tasty!

Anyway, here are a few highlights:

Hot, fresh pineapple buns! (which don’t have pineapple in, the sugary crust on top is supposed to resemble a pineapple)

Pineapple buns at the Kowloon Restaurant

Yummy rice rolls :)

Yummy rice rolls

Fiona, our guide, showing us how best to prepare our rice rolls (I think this involved a mixture of vinegar and sesame oil?)

Sham Shui Po Hong Kong Foodie Tour - how to prepare rice rolls

Traditional noodle shop, all different types of noodles!

Noodles galore

We could also see the man making the noodles in the back of the shop

Making noodles the old style - Sham Shui Po

Dried seafood shop, so smelly!

Dried seafood

Tom enjoying(?) some tofu pudding! We were shown the way that this little business makes tofu pudding and soybean milk. Both are very labour intensive for such a cheap, small dish!

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A former pawn brokers shop in SSP. There used to be loads here, and there are still quite a few but unfortunately mainly patronised by domestic helpers these days.

Former pawn brokers in Sham Shui Po

And finally, one of our more random stops – a knife shop! The owner of this shop went to Sheffield to learn his trade and came back to Hong Kong afterwards and has been making knives ever since! (I love the name!)

Leung Tim Choppers Factory

So those were some of the sights of our trip. It really is a great way to spend a morning, I’d recommend if if you want something a bit different to do in Hong Kong!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Useful Android apps for visiting or living in Hong Kong

Today I thought I’d share with you the apps that I have found most useful since living in Hong Kong. I have an Android phone so these are all Android apps, but most of them are available on Apple. I’ve provided links to download the apps from Google Play. These apps are mostly local to Hong Kong, and mostly free (with one exception). I’d recommend them to anyone who lives in Hong Kong or comes to visit!

I’ll start with the travel apps.

Google Maps

Google Maps

This is a bit of an obvious one, but I find Google Maps so useful! Not only is it great for figuring out where things are, but a recent upgrade included a journey planner which covers a great range of Hong Kong public transport information, including green minibuses! (I don’t think it has the red minibuses in but I’ve not checked). I use it all the time for finding the best way to get from A to B. However, be careful as occasionally it shows the closest bus stop as the crow flies and doesn’t take into account some of the sharp cliffs in Hong Kong – one of the first times I used it, it wanted me to scale a small mountain on foot!

CitybusNWFB

CitybusNWFB app

Not a very sophisticated app but very useful for finding out where buses go and where bus stops are. You can search by location or route number. If you have GPS it can tell you when you are approaching the bus stop you want to get off at. Some bus routes have live bus information on the app, telling you when the next bus will arrive at your stop (but I think this is currently limited to Express and Airport buses). This app covers Citybus and First buses (mainly Hong Kong island).

KMB & LW

KMB bus app

Very similar to the Citybus app but covers the KMB buses, which mainly go on the Kowloon side.

MTR Mobile

MTR Mobile app

I don’t use this app very often but if you’re not familiar with the Hong Kong MTR system this simple-to-use app would be useful for finding your way around. You can use it to find the best route between MTR stations and it will tell you the cost and roughly how long it will take. It also provides alerts when there is a major problem on the MTR system (although this is pretty rare).

HKFerry HD

Hong Kong Ferry app

This is quite a basic app but it does all it needs to, which is to give you the timetables for pretty much all the ferries in Hong Kong. It’ll also tell you when the next one is leaving so you can see if you’re going to make it in time!

Taxi Translator (Paid app)

Hong Kong Taxi Translator app

This is the only non-free app on my list, but in my opinion it’s totally worth the money (which is only HK$7.70, approx. £0.60). It has a Cantonese translation of every street, large residential estate, major buildings and landmarks in Hong Kong, which is so useful when you come across a taxi driver who doesn’t speak English! It will give you both the address in characters and a phonetic version (if you’re brave enough to try and pronounce it – although when I’ve tried it seems to work well). It will also give you a ‘taxi card’ which has the address in large characters, filling the screen, so you can just show your phone to the taxi driver!

Ok, onto the non-travel apps…

MyObservatory

HK Observatory app

This app from the Hong Kong Observatory is pretty much a staple. It’ll tell you weather predictions and much more, including a rain radar (so you can see if rain is coming) and storm track (so you can see if a typhoon is heading your way). One of its most useful features is that it tells you all the warnings issued by the Hong Kong Observatory so you can easily find out if a T8 signal has been hoisted and you get to stay home from work! Being Brits, we’re quite amused by the cold weather warning which pops up when the temperature is expected to go below 14degC – no unnecessary journeys, look after the elderly etc! (if that was the case in the UK, nothing would ever happen!)

Open Rice

Open Rice Hong Kong

This app provides information and reviews of a huge number of Hong Kong restaurants. Very useful for planning a meal out! The only downside is that most of the reviews are in Chinese, but there’s usually one or two in English to give you an idea of what other diners think.

Hong Kong Movie

Hong Kong Movie app

Another straightforward app which tells you what’s on where in Hong Kong cinemas. A nice feature is that most of the cinemas have availability information on the app so you can see what seats are free on a particular showing. You can also book tickets to some of the cinemas through the app as well.

Enjoy Hiking

Enjoy Hiking

This app has information on all the official hiking paths in Hong Kong, divided into Family Walks, Nature Trails, Country Trails and Long Trails. You can also search for walks roughly by region. Whilst it’s a really useful app for finding out what walks are where (and also how to get to and from them), the information on each walk is pretty limited and the accompanying maps can be a little hard to read. Another minor annoyance (although not the app’s fault) is that some of the walks start in quite random places so you have to hike for a while just to get to the start of the walk!

Whatsapp

whatsapp

This isn’t technically a Hong Kong app but I hadn’t come across this app until I came to Hong Kong. Everyone uses it here! It’s basically an internet based messaging system, so as long as you have wifi or mobile data you can send text messages for free. The app allows you to send a message to anyone in your contacts who also has Whatsapp on their phone. It’s really useful here because inter-network texts aren’t free (unlike in the UK) and you often don’t know which of your friends are on the same network as you! Being an expat abroad, it’s also useful for sending free messages to friends back home.

Pleco

Pleco app

This Chinese dictionary app is more useful for people with a basic understanding of Chinese characters (i.e. not me, but my husband finds it really useful). You can type in English, pinyin or draw characters and the app will give you possible meanings. It’s mainly for Mandarin speakers but also has Cantonese pronunciations as well as both simplified and traditional characters, making it useful in Hong Kong or mainland China. It also has a flashcard feature to help you to learn Chinese characters if you wish.

So those are my favourite apps to use in Hong Kong. Do you agree? Do you have any other recommendations? I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

My favourite Hong Kong restaurants

Tom and I haven’t exactly eaten extensively in the restaurants of Hong Kong (much to Tom’s disappointment) but we’ve tried quite a few and found some really nice places. Here are some of our favourites, vaguely in order of ascending price (i.e. cheapest first):

Tim Ho Wan

Shop 12A, Hong Kong Station (Podium Level 1, IFC Mall), Central/Shop B, C, & D, G/F, 2-8 Wharf Road, Seaview Building, North Point

This dim sum restaurant was recommended to us by a couple of people and one of the restaurants in this chain has a Michelin star! We had to check it out, and it was as good as we were told! The dim sum is great, and we can eat our fill (and then some) for around HK$120 (approx. £10) between the two of us. Tom in particular is a fan of the enormous glutinous rice dumplings but we also like their take on BBQ pork buns (crisper and sweeter than normal) and BBQ pork rice rolls, amongst others.

The two addresses above are the branches that we’ve been to, but Open Rice suggests there are 5 in total. The IFC branch is usually pretty busy. The first time we went we waited for about an hour to be seated. They do takeaway though so you can get your food and go onto the roof of IFC Mall and eat it there! The North Point restaurant seems to be less busy – we went on a Sunday lunchtime and were seated straight away.

N.B. When we have guests visiting, we usually take them to Maxim’s Palace in City Hall instead of Tim Ho Wan for dim sum. Despite the fact that you also have to wait a long time to be seated, and it is more expensive (and the food isn’t quite as good in my opinion), it has a great atmosphere as it is set in a large ballroom with ladies bringing trolleys around from which you can select the dishes you want. Definitely an experience I’d recommend if you’re visiting Hong Kong!

Crystal Jade

Shop 301, Tai Yau Plaza, 181 Johnston Road, Wan Chai

This place does great xiaolongbao (which I talked about in this post), along with a range of Chinese staples and Shanghainese specialities. I don’t think we’ve ever had anything off the menu that has not been good. The restaurants are nicely decorated and the service has always been excellent. It’s pretty reasonably priced too, most dishes are HK$60 to HK$80 (£5-£7). Again, this is a chain so they are dotted all over Hong Kong but we’ve been most often to the one in Wan Chai.

Sabah

G/F., Shop 4-5., 98-102 Jaffe Road, Wan Chai/Shop D, G/F, 142-146 Queen’s Road Central, Central

This restaurant serves a great selection of Malaysian cuisine. We’ve had great food and good service in both branches. You must try the roti! This is a type of flatbread and it is absolutely delicious, especially when dipped in a curry sauce. The beef rendang is also definitely worth trying. We also like the laksa and satays.

Thai Simple Kitchen

517 Jaffe Road, President Cinema Roof Floor, Causeway Bay

This was another restaurant found on the recommendation of friends and it didn’t disappoint. The setting is lovely, with a large outdoor terrace and the food was great too. I can’t remember what we had but it was all pretty standard Thai food and it was all really nice! The entrance is a little hard to find though, it’s a small doorway on Cannon Street. If you want a nice meal out and you love Thai food, I think this place would be a great bet.

The Chapel Bar

G/F, 27 Yik Yam Street, Happy Valley

Being British, we do love a good Indian curry but we’ve not had much luck finding a great one here in Hong Kong. I know that Chungking Mansions is touted as the place to go, although it’s a bit of a maze (and quite an experience!) and the one restaurant we’ve been to in there was ok but not amazing. But this British bar with an Indian chef seems to do the job just as well, and in a nicer setting. The curries are pretty reliable and we’ve been several times now. It’s not the cheapest, at about HK$100-120 (£8-10) for a curry and rice, but we like it. It’s also a really nice place for a drink and has very friendly staff.

Indonesia Restaurant

1/F-2/F, 66 Granville Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

Tom and I were converted to Indonesian food on our honeymoon in Bali, and so we were keen to try this place and it didn’t disappoint. The menu has a range of standard Indonesian dishes, along with some that we hadn’t heard of. Some of the standard dishes include Nasi Goreng, which is Indonesian-style mixed fried rice, Mie Goreng, which is fried noodles, and Tom’s favourite, Nasi Campur, which comprises rice and a selection of meats. Having said that, both times I’ve been to Indonesia Restaurant, I’ve had the mixed set lunch, which is a selection of 3 smallish dishes and a drink and cost about HK$60 (£5). I didn’t know what all the dishes were but I enjoyed them all! The service is also great here.

La Maison

Shop B, 1/F, Mountain View Mansion, 2 Swatow Street, Wan Chai

We visited this small restaurant for a celebration, and as such it was a treat for us. It cost a bit more than we’d normally spend on dinner (I think the bill came to about HK$1000 (£80) between us), but it was totally worth it! The restaurant is classified as a private kitchen, which means it cannot serve alcohol but they do not charge corkage if you bring your own. It’s situated just off Queens Road East and when you get inside you realise it’s in a residential block! However, the decor is nice, the service was friendly and the food… well, the food… Tom and I are already fans of French food and this restaurant served a very good example of it! The bread was beautiful, we shared a starter platter of meats and pate which were nice, and the mains were also excellent. I’ve forgotten what I had(!) but Tom had the confit de carnard and said it was great. We had a pudding each to finish: Tom’s apple crumble was nice, but my chocolate fondant was gorgeous! A lovely place to come on a date or a special occasion.

And finally…

Aqua Spirit

30/F, One Peking, 1 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

…this one is not a restaurant but a bar, and one that I’d recommend to all visitors to Hong Kong. It’s situated fairly high up in a tower overlooking the harbour with a fantastic view of the skyline on Hong Kong island. It’s a really nice bar (significantly nicer, in my opinion than the one at the top of ICC) but it has a dress code – no singlets, shorts or flip flops! Drinks there are about HK$100+ (£8+) for a beer and HK$120+ (£10+) for a yummy cocktail. Go there for one drink at least. You won’t be disappointed. The view really is that good.

So what do you think? Do you disagree with any of my recommendations? Or do you have some favourites of your own to recommend? I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Hong Kong likes and dislikes – part 1

I’ve been living in Hong Kong for 3 months now and am starting to get to know the place and how it works. There are some things I love about the place, and there are some frustrating little niggles!

I’ll start with the dislikes first. This is a fairly light-hearted look at some of the things which annoy me!

1. Drips

Wherever I go, I seem to get dripped on! I’ve now learned to spot the small wet patches on the pavement and walk round them to try and avoid this. I’m sure that 99% of the time it’s just water leaking from air conditioning systems, but I really don’t want to know what it is the other 1% of the time…

2. Insect bites

This was really bad in summer. If I ever went outside without first covering myself in deet then I got covered in bites! And the worst ones blistered up into huge lumps that were bigger than the sun! Ok, I exaggerate, they were a couple of centimetres across though. Luckily, it’s not so bad at the moment. I like to think that I’m acclimatising but it’s more likely that there are just fewer biting insects around now that it’s cooler.

3. Walking past buses on a hot day

In the middle of summer, it’s sweltering here and just walking for a few minutes makes you sweaty. But just as you’re walking along, thinking about how hot it is and debating popping into the nearest 7Eleven where it’s air-conditioned, a bus stops right next to you and pumps even hotter air onto you! The people inside the bus are lovely and cool and you are stuck next to the air conditioning exhaust. Not fun.

4. Chopsticks

Tom and I love Chinese food, and there are so many varieties of it to try so we are having great fun here eating our way through Hong Kong. But some of the food is really hard to eat with chopsticks! One of Tom’s favourites is pork chop curry, but you are given one or two large pieces of meat in your curry which is really difficult to pick up! Or Gong Bao (Kung Po) chicken, which has peanuts in, is another meal that requires serious effort to eat.

5. Cantonese

I know it’s my fault for coming to a country which doesn’t use English words or even our alphabet (although luckily a lot of people do speak English here), but I really feel like I’m missing out on a certain aspect of Hong Kong life because I can’t speak or read Cantonese. I’m learning, but knowing how to say ‘here is my business card’ is only so useful. There are some adverts and restaurants which have only Chinese characters, so I have very little idea what they are selling! I’d better work a bit harder with my lessons…

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it. If there’s anyone local reading or if you’ve visited/lived here, what are your little niggles about Hong Kong? I’ll post my favourite things about this place next week!