Sunday, 18 May 2014

Hing Kee in Hong Kong

Hing Kee: Typhoon Shelter Crab
I really think you need local knowledge when looking for places to eat in Asia so I'm here to give you some. Hing Kee in Hong Kong (has quite a ring to it dontcha think?) is one of the best restaurants that you probably don't know about. I'm not a HK local but I tapped into the taste buds of the best there when I had a short stopover en route to Japan on a recent holiday. I came across Hing Kee via a HK-based Instagrammer that I follow (hey Little Meg!) who went there with some friends and had what looked like an incredible meal. I saw some pics of an amazing crab dish that just screamed, "eat me"! It's really my kind of food - hearty Cantonese with big flavours that really leave an impression (and I'm not just talking about the garlic with that crab). Sensing my enthusiasm, Little Meg reserved us a table and even ordered the meal in advance and I'm eternally grateful since Hing Kee is definitely not geared for tourists.

It's on the first floor of a building on Nathan Road with little signage, up a small rickety elevator. From the street, you would easily walk past and never know what you're missing, although you might be diverted by the popular purveyor of HK-style waffles (a perfect dessert!) just outside. Out of the elevator, you're likely to be assaulted (not literally of course) by a throng of people jostling for room in the small vestibule which fronts the restaurant.
King Kee: poached squid (L), roast duck soup with hand cut noodles (R)
I flagged down a waitress and tried to explain that I had a reservation but let's just say that the service is somewhat...curt. There's not a lot of English spoken, but I understood that I should wait with the others even though we had a reservation. It seems like you put your name on a waiting list and hope for the best. We waited half an hour, although I flagged down the woman who looked like she was in charge of the not-seemingly-co-ordinated chaos to make sure we weren't forgotten.
Hing Kee: steamed jumbo razor clams
We weren't and all was forgotten once the food arrived. If you don't have a Chinese speaking friend kind enough to order for you, most of the menu items you probably want to eat are pictured on the walls (sans price though) or on the paper place mat on the table. I also find pointing at other tables a good way of ordering. This is Hong Kong after all, and a bit of looking about to see what's good is expected. I'd suggest agreeing a price for the seafood before you order though, to avoid any nasty surprises when it comes to paying the bill.
Hing Kee: the most delicious clams with fermented black beans
We started with a flurry of small dishes - some poached cuttlefish, which was a little crunchy, along with some stir fried gai lan and a small plate of nuts to pick at. Then came the first stop-in-the-tracks moment with the roast duck soup. The broth was pure and clean, the duck rich and smokey and the hand cut noodles were slippery and delicious. These noodles. Wow. I just wanted a bigger bowl to bathe in the flavours.
Hing Kee: Typhoon Shelter Crab
Two steamed jumbo razor clams followed and were slipped from their shells into our bowls quicker than it took me to photograph them. They were prepared with fried garlic and vermicelli noodles and coated in a slurpable soy dressing. The next dish of sweet, fresh clams stir fried with chilli and fermented black bean sauce was sensational. We basically licked every shell clean, even the empty ones.

Then the highlight of the meal came with the Typhoon Sheltering Crab. The sandy-looking goodness surrounding the crab is primarily a mix of fried garlic and black beans, which were clumpy in texture, but incredibly delicious. As with the clams, there was a pleasant chilli heat to this dish. The crab claws were hiding beneath the mound of fried garlic and black bean. Although the claws were cracked open allowing the flavours to penetrate the sweet meat, the shell on the smaller legs were tender enough to bite through and suck out the meat. This is definitely finger food, so take advantage of the boxes of tissues under the table.

All up, the meal cost HKD983 (which is about £75) for two including the charge for tea. Of course you can eat cheaper than that in HK, but for the quality and freshness of the food, plus the experience, you would be hard pressed to beat it.
The only signage on the street directing you to Hing Kee


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