Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cheung Chau: Fish Balls, Seafood and But-jái-gôu

Last week I went with some of my friends to Cheung Chau. I used to go there almost every week-end during my first 3-4 years in Hong Kong. That was before our son was born. We loved the quiet pace of this small island, its beach and fresh seafood.  So this trip was full of nostalgia.

We started our ½ hour journey by ferry by eating snacks brought by Jane, a Taiwanese lady, who treated us with roasted peanuts with purple skin - delicious - and vegetarian mock beef tendons. The jelly like pieces had a subtle Chinese star anise flavour. Quite good!

Upon arrival to the small island we were greeted by one of Florence’s  cousin good friends, who is from Cheung Chau. Lorraine kindly guided us around the island during the day.

She first brought us to Kam Wing Tai Fish Ball Shop {甘永泰鱼蛋 gâm-wíhng-taai yùh-daahn} as some of us wanted to order fish balls to bring home (to be picked up in the afternoon). There we indulged ourselves in piping hot fish balls, meat balls and mixed balls. The squid and pork balls were delicious!

Squid & pork balls, fish cakes and bean curd puffs (front)

Bean curd puffs (dauh-bûk 豆卜) with minced fish skewer (left)

Beef, fish, squid & pork skewer
Then we started our walk around the island. Before reaching the beach we stopped at Sun Chiu Kee Tea Food Snack Shop (新照记茶餐小食店 - sân-jiu-gei chaàh-châan-siú-sihk-dim). This shop sells tea eggs, ping-pong fish balls, steamed white sugar cake (白糖糕 - baahk-tòhng-gôu), salty tea dumplings (咸茶- hàahm-chàah-goû), steamed red bean cake, and many other snacks.

Steamed puddings and other snacks 
I returned to the shop with Christina in the afternoon to buy some red bean cakes to bring home.  Actually my friend Christina bought them for me.  Thanks Christina! The red bean cake is the one you see on the left -  above photo - in a large round tin, with a golden top.
The small ceramic bowls you see on the right are but-jái-gôu (缽子糕, which means: small earthenware bowl or monk’s alms bowl - cake). But-jái-gôu used to be a very popular dessert sold by hawkers. It is made with glutinous rice, sugar, coconut milk and red beans. I had tried it many years ago but did not like it that much. I found it too sticky. I prefer the red bean cake. It is not too sweet and the texture is soft and creamy. The coconut milk-flavoured coating is also delicious. So yummy! I wish I could have some more right now.

The big slice of red bean cake partly eaten ;)

But-jái-gôu is turned out of the bowl and
served on a wooden skewer
We continued our walk. It was just the right time to see the cherry blossoms. Many photographers were taking pictures of the beautiful red tree standing in front of the Kwan Kung Pavilion [gwàan-gùng-jùng-yih-tìnhg - 關公忠義亭].

Cherry blossoms

Then Florence and Rita went ahead and bought live fish and seafood for all of us (2 tables) at the wet market. They chose to have the fresh produce cooked by Hung Lok Seafood restaurant 恒乐海鲜茶馆-hàhng-lohk-hói-sìn-chàah-gún (13B, Pak She Praya Road). We ate on the waterfront promenade, some of us looking at the many boats moored in the bay and the others (those sitting on the other side of the table) the activities of the street.

Boats moored in the bay

Below are the photos of our dishes:

Poached shrimps - baahk-cheuk-hâ 白灼虾

Stir-fried clams in black bean sauce

 Braised bean curd with Shanghai white cabbage
Stir-fried Chinese lettuce

Steamed fish

Water spinach with preserved bean curd

Wok-fried lobster on crispy egg noodles

Sweet and sour pork ribs

Deep-fried fish with peppered salt

The fish was very big and prepared into 2 dishes: the thick fillets were deep fried with pepper and salt, while the remaining part of the fish was steamed with ginger and spring onion.
We also had a soup (soup of the day) but I did not take a photo as its colour was not very attractive.
The whole meal was washed down with cool beers. What a delicious meal!

After this feast some of us wanted to try the famous desserts of Wan Shing Dessert Shop (允升甜品-wáhn-sîng tìhm-bán).  They have an extensive choice of sweets and drinks but the most popular items are certainly their mango sticky rice cakes/mochi (芒果糯米糍 - mòhng-gwó noh-máih-chìh) and mango rice rolls - mòhng-gwó cheùhng-fán – 芒果肠粉 (mango-intestine-noodles). 

Mango mochi

Black sesame mango rice roll / Mango rice roll (white roll)
Sonja bought some mango mochi and mango rice rolls. I tried a little bit of both. I will not give any comments as I don’t really like mango and furthermore I was too full to really appreciate them.

Afterwards we took a short walk in the town centre.  I bought dried silver fish to make one of my favourite dishes: Tai-O style steamed eggplants.

Buns stamped with the 2 red characters 平安 meaning peace (pìnhg-ngòn)

We finally stopped at Kwok Kam Kee Cake Shop (郭锦记饼家- gwok-gám-gei béng-jiâ) which makes traditional cakes and “peace buns”.
There I bought a large bread-like biscuit - 光酥饼- gwòng-sôu-béng (light/bright-crisp pastry-cake) to go with my morning coffee the following day. It was not too sweet and I liked its light texture but the pastry was a bit too gluey and stuck in my teeth.

Before going to the pier we went back to our first stop to pick up the fish balls ordered in the morning.
On the ferry Jeany, who might have thought we were still hungry (hahaha), gave each one of us a "sugar spring onion cookie" (tòhng-chûng-béng - 糖葱餠). This kind of crepe looks like the white part of the spring onion. Its cononut and sesame filling is wrapped in a very thin and crispy rice sheet.  Although I was more than full she insisted and I had to try her kind treat.

Sugar-spring onion-cookie" (tòhng-chûng-béng - 糖葱餠)

This fluffy pancake was good but far too sweet for my liking.

It was a great and enjoyable day.
Good food and good company.
To all my friends: Thank You!
Let’s plan another trip soon!

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