Friday, July 06, 2007

Some Dai Pai Dong in Fo Tan, Hong Kong

Chinese Escargot

Dai pai dongs are basically outdoor eating establishments in Hong Kong, and apparently they are quickly becoming a rarity these days, in favor of more sterile air-conditioned venues (it's odd to think that too when you're so used to eating in the many non-aircon places in Singapore and Malaysia...I guess this is basically like a cze cha?). So I'm really glad that we made the very long trek out of the city to Fo Tan, which apparently has a rather famous spot for chicken congee and roasted pigeon. There were three big establishments in this center; we ate at the one on the left called Chun Chun (2697-3835).

Blue Girl BeerThe meal started with the usual wash-your-utensils-in-hot-tea ritual so common in HK. And perhaps a bit more amusingly (not to mention fun) was the subsequent process of dumping the "used" tea on the ground, a nice perk of being outdoors on little stools. Of course we grabbed the pigeon and congee, the former of which tasted like a nice little salty duck, while the latter came in that nice mushy form with nearly indistinguishable grains of rice that I love about the Cantonese version. We also had some kind of local crawdad/shrimp thing. I don't know what these were called (nor did they have much flesh inside after shelling them), but being greasy and salty, they were a perfect accompaniment to some beer (despite what the "Imported Blue Girl Premium Beer" name might lead one to believe, this was a local Chinese beer).

Actually, my favorite of the bunch was probably the so-called Chinese escargot, which naturally featured snails (and even a basket of garlic bread on the side), but in a mildly spicy Chinese sauce. Upon pulling the body out of the shell with a skewer, you find that it is much longer and firmer than what we are used to in the French variety (I presume that these were aquatic snails rather than terrestrial?). The dish had the added bonus of some huge chunks of stewed daikon sitting at the bottom of the pan. We closed off the meal with another surprise: stir-fried vegetables featuring entire cloves of garlic and bacalhau (think: neighboring Portuguese influence of Macau). Anyway, that was a fun meal (yes, I washed my hands of the grease afterwards with the hot tea, pouring it onto the concrete below), and I'm glad that I got to try so many unique things.


Kay said...

Cool, I miss HK food. It's been over 15 yrs since I've had those Dai Pai Dong food.
It's nice that your job allows you to travel all the time. And I sure think Anthony Bourdain has the best job in the world and I aspire to be one.

Tonks said...

Those "snails" look to me like "gong-gong"s. You're right about them being an aquatic version. You can get them at the Singaporean seafood cze char stalls.