Unmissable snackage or filth on a stick?
Related Post: Check out my post Ten of the Best: Hong Kong street food snacks for more moreish goodness.
For some, the coming together of the words street and food is the gourmet equivalent of pairing car with crash, or drive-by with shooting – it shouldn’t happen, it mustn’t happen, but on street corners around the world, for reasons beyond our control, it does happen, and all too often too.
Indeed, the very concept of street food, particularly in Hong Kong, would most likely have such people breaking out in trembles and sweats for fear they were about to be forced to confront the awful realities of a dining experience that, for so long, remained nothing more than a fiction used by parents to frighten children into eating their greens. ‘Eat your broccoli or next time it’ll be octopus on a stick.’ ‘Finish your peas or tomorrow you’ll be having organs.’ Well, in Hong Kong, it seems, that fear isn’t so misplaced.
You see, Hong Kong street food can sometimes seem like a cruel trick played on unwitting contestants in a game of I’m a Picky Eater Get Me Out of Here. There are skewered curly things and bubbling vats of brown liquid in which strange meat is stirred and then served. There are things that are battered and things that are fried. Even the vegetables, so often the epitome of all that is good and healthy in the food world, don’t look particularly edible when lying greased and shriveled on a warm metal grille. But the stalls that sell this stuff are amazingly popular.
Take a walk around Causeway Bay or Mong Kok on any given evening, and you will likely see (if you don’t smell them first) the brightly lit kiosks where all your secret street food desires can be met. There will be a bunch of people crowding round shouting out their orders; another bunch still choosing what to get. Then there will be those others further back, baring their teeth and burning their mouths on the too hot fish balls they’re trying not too delicately to nibble off sticks.
Much of what gets eaten you would never think could amount to anything approaching edible. But pour enough sweet sauce over something, dip it in curry and cover it with ketchup, and you’d be surprised what starts to taste reasonably good. The bright orange intestines and squid tentacles are always big favourites, as are your classic curried fish balls and various other random meats on sticks. There is also deep fried tofu, eggplant and green pepper for the daring vegetarian, as well as the rather delicious egg waffles for the sweeter of tooth. But it’s the boiling organs lucky dip that proves to be the most intriguing thing on offer.
From what I can gather, there is definitely some kind of tripe in the mix, along with some other kind of stomachy thing thrown in for good measure. As for what else is in there, I would neither like to contemplate or get too close to. But cut it up, stick it in a tub, add a few chillies and drown it in gravy, and if you’re one of those of an adventurous persuasion, you’ve got yourself a $15 party in a pot.
Where can I find these strange delights?
If you’re looking for some Hong Kong street food action, the most likely places to find a stall is where there are plenty of people with an appetite but without the time to eat, namely, the busy shopping districts of Causeway Bay and Mong Kok.
There are several stalls in Causeway Bay. The busiest, Ying Heong Yuen, can be found on the corner of Cannon Street and Jaffe Road not far from Sogo. There is also a similar stall opposite Times Square on the corner of Percival Street and Russell Street.
In Mong Kok, try the one at the Dundas Street end of Sai Yeung Choi Street. You will be able to smell it from about half a kilometre away thanks to its famous stinky tofu (臭豆腐). There is also a small stall on Hillier Street in Sheung Wan at the junction with Bonham Strand, one on Lockhart Road at the junction with O’Brien Road in Wan Chai, while there are several in the area around Sham Shui Po MTR station.
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Get Involved: If you’ve got your own favourite Hong Kong street food stall or think there’s anything I’ve missed, let me know in the comments below.