For a lot of locals, Hong Kong delicacies is extra than simply meals for the abdomen — it’s memorabilia of yesteryear that faucets into individuals’s nostalgia of higher days earlier than a worldwide pandemic.
Earlier than Covid-19, Hong Kong was considered one of Korea’s most visited locations, recording some 1.5 million vacationers from 2018 to early 2019, in line with the Hong Kong Tourism Board.
Nonetheless, the quantity has taken a pointy downturn since, resulting from civil unrest and the pandemic.
However wanting on the present restaurant scene in Seoul, Korea actually hasn’t forgotten about Hong Kong.
With a rising epicurean inhabitants in Seoul that’s open to numerous flavors, some genuine Hong Kong eating places within the metropolis are tantalizing locals with uniquely hybrid Canto-European dishes.
“I think much of the popularity for Hong Kong restaurants in Korea stems from the memories that people here have about Hong Kong,” Shin Kum-ho, 42, proprietor of Hong Kong restaurant Wui Tea Home and Restaurant in Yongsan District, central Seoul, instructed the Korea JoongAng Each day.
“Especially for people in their mid-30s to 50s, Hong Kong was a place they visited when they wanted to shop and eat good food […] In some ways, it was a place that people visited during their heydays. Since travel closed down due to Covid, I think people wanted to relive their trips to Hong Kong, and one way of doing that was finding an authentic Hong Kong eatery in Korea.”
For the youthful generations, Shin cited the rise of Netflix and the resurfaced recognition of outdated Hong Kong movies akin to “In the Mood for Love” (2000).
The Hong Kong Tourism Board stated that Hong Kong eating places have proved common over Covid-19 as a result of they “provide vicarious pleasure during a time when travel was restricted, in addition to Instagrammable settings.”
“English used to be considered ‘hip,’ but nowadays with the retro boom, Korean and hanja [otherwise known as Chinese characters] are proving social media-worthy among the younger generation,” added Shin.
Wui Tea Home and Restaurant
In an old-school space in Yongsan District which hasn’t been redeveloped but, Wui Tea Home and Restaurant takes the phrase “Instagrammable” to a different stage.
The dimly lit spacious corridor is crammed with East Asian artwork and antiques.
“One of the locations that the shop is modeled after is an antique vendor street in Hong Kong called Cat Street,” stated Shin. “I wanted to give our customers an immersive dining experience,” he stated.
Throughout dinner, Wui takes the type of an upscale restaurant serving conventional Chinese language dishes and baijiu (clear Chinese language liquor).
However throughout lunch hours, the venue has created an inventory of extra reasonably priced choices, harking back to Hong Kong’s causal diners referred to as cha chaan teng.
Actually translated, cha chaan teng means “tea restaurant.” They’re supposed to serve fast, uncomplicated dishes with tea for individuals seeking to seize a fast chunk in between mealtimes.
Wui serves iconic Hong Kong teas akin to Jasmine Milk Tea (7,000 received or about $5) and Yuenyeung (7,000 received), which mixes espresso with Hong Kong milk tea.
All of the tea is made by one employees member from Hangzhou, China who makes a speciality of brewing tea.
The beverage checklist additionally consists of Pepsi with Preserved Salted Lemon (6,000 received), one other Hong Kong favourite, partly because of the subtropical local weather.
It’s made by mixing soda and lemon juice that has been preserved in salt water for some six months.
Amongst its modest checklist of meals choices, there’s wonton noodles based mostly on a recipe from Cheung Kee Noodle Home (9,500).
Cheung Kee is a wanton noodle venue that has been open for some 60 years in central Hong Kong. It additionally has a retailer in Korea in Jung District, central Seoul.
Wui makes use of the identical substances and follows the very same recipe that Cheung Kee makes use of.
The menu additionally consists of different Hong Kong staples akin to Fried Wonton with Truffle Sauce (10,800 received), Fried Pork with Candy and Bitter Sauce (22,000 received) and Chilly Noodle with Sesame Sauce (10,800 received).
The complete lunch menu was produced along side the Hong Kong Tourism Board earlier this yr in a bid to advertise Hong Kong meals throughout Covid-19.
Fusing England’s tea tradition with an East Asian dish is KamCha, a Hong Kong-style milk tea cafe in Gangnam District, southern Seoul.
As a substitute of cake or pastry, it serves savory dim sum alongside its bittersweet tea.
There are 4 varieties of dim sum together with Shrimp Shomai and Har Gow (3,900 received every).
“It may be an odd combination for those who aren’t from Hong Kong because most people perceive milk tea as a sweet, dessert-like drink,” stated Jung Seung-pil, 30, co-owner of KamCha. “But dim sum is actually most commonly consumed as a simple, quick food in between meals.”
Actually translated from its Chinese language characters, dim sum means to place a dot on one’s coronary heart. That is interpreted as a dish that’s impressionable but not so filling in order that it may be eaten in between meals.
Because of this, Jung operates KamCha with out a lunch or dinner break.
KamCha, which takes its identify from a well known model of milk tea based mostly in Hong Kong, is severe about making the perfect and probably the most genuine milk tea on the town.
Its milk tea (4,000 received) is made with tea leaves from Sri Lanka that are freshly brewed each morning, filtered a number of occasions, then combined with evaporated milk and sugar in quantaties that stay KamCha’s secret. The tip product is wealthy, clean and bittersweet.
As a result of it’s freshly brewed day by day, the cafe solely provides 200 cups per day.
Based on Jung, making milk tea is a really delicate course of.
“The reason why it is so hard to recreate Hong Kong milk tea’s taste all lies in the brewing time, method and ratios of milk,” he stated.
Its recipe is strictly the identical as the unique KamCha cafe in Hong Kong.
The tea is obtainable each scorching or iced.
Hong Kong Fusion
One other eatery that takes its milk tea critically is Hong Kong Fusion.
The fast-casual diner is already well-known amongst these within the find out about genuine Hong Kong meals in Seoul and its Iced Milk Tea (4,900 received) shouldn’t be missed, stated Hong Kong native Ronny Chow, 43, proprietor of Hong Kong Fusion.
“You can’t have a decent restaurant with a subpar milk tea in Hong Kong,” stated Chow.
Chow employed a tea brewing knowledgeable from Hong Kong for the milk tea that’s offered in his eateries.
It’s brewed utilizing tea leaves from Sri Lanka.
“Every second matters when making milk tea,” he stated.
Hong Kong Fusion has 4 shops round Seoul. Its venue in Yeongdeungpo District, western Seoul, will solely open till the tip of October and a brand new venue is about to open in Mapo District, western Seoul, by the tip of the yr.
Chow stated that he determined to open Hong Kong Fusion for his son who was born in Korea final yr.
“When he becomes a little older, I wanted to be able to introduce him to his father’s favorite dishes from his hometown,” Chow stated.
The eatery has an eclectic checklist of Hong Kong dishes akin to Hong Kong Curry Beef Rice (20,000 received), Stir-Fried Rice Noodles with Beef (16,000 received) served with house-made chili sauce and Honey Char Siu (19,000 received).
Its complete kitchen employees is comprised of Hong Kong natives.
It additionally does supply and is listed on the native meals supply app, Baedal Minjok.
Roast In Hong Kong
A queue is assured throughout dinnertime in entrance of Roast In Hong Kong in Yongsan District, central Seoul.
Even on weekdays, the venue is crammed with individuals, grabbing a pint of chilly bear and Hong Kong-styled barbecue after work.
The Hong Kong-style BBQ Platter is priced at 34,000 received or 44,000 received relying on the scale.
The platter has meat cooked in 4 alternative ways: sous vide rooster marinated with curry and ginger and topped with spring onion and ginger dip; fried rooster that has been marinated in soy sauce; baked pork stomach with crispy edges and baked pork stomach braised with honey sauce.
It’s served with skinny, gentle buckwheat wraps.
The rooster is extremely juicy and tender, to the purpose that it’s barely pinkish inside.
“We wanted to recreate the soft texture of sous vide chicken in Hong Kong,” stated head chef Lee Sang-suk of Roast in Hong Kong. “There, the chicken is quite under-cooked, but because people in Korea aren’t used to eating chicken that way, we try our best to cook the chicken just enough so that people here don’t feel uncomfortable.”
One other standout on the platter is the crispy pork stomach.
The crispy edges are made by poking minuscule holes with needles into the pores and skin of the boiled pork which is how the bubbles on the pores and skin type when it’s being baked. It takes some three days to make.
BY LEE JIAN [[email protected]]