Thursday, August 5, 2010
HK: Wellington Street - Lin Heung Teahouse and Mak's Noodles
After my Sun Tung Lok dim sum breakfast, Gingko House Western lunch and Kau Kee post-lunch bowl of curry beef brisket, I was walking on my own randomly exploring the vicinity. Actually, trying to walk off some of the calories too, when I passed by this huge wall sign that you simply couldn't miss. Hey! Lin Heung Teahouse! Am I at Wellington Street already?
Indeed I am! Oh I was very glad to see this old school yumcha teahouse. Lin Heung (160-164 Wellington Street; Tel: +852 2544-2556) has been around for some 80 years. But it was such a pity that I was way too full to eat any more immediately.
Well, no harm taking a look at least. I ventured upstairs to the airconditioned hall. It's brightly lit and reasonably clean (well, cleaner than I expected). Families were chattering at runaway speed in Cantonese, amidst the constant clink of porcelain. Steaming baskets of dim sum were shuttled briskly to the tables, their aroma filling the air once the lids were lifted. Cups of Chinese tea dotted the crowded tables. I loved the bustling atmosphere! There was not a single seat free, even if I had wanted to eat.
Lin Heung is not just about dim sum. They have popular dishes for dinner too. If I have the chance to come back, I would love to try some of these too.
I love the dark wood stairs and banisters. At the bottom of the stairway near the entrance is the takeaway pastries section.
Lin Heung has a bakery that does traditional Chinese biscuits and pastries. They also started putting out mooncakes already.
I was determined to take away a little piece of Lin Heung with me, so I bought some of the pastries to take back to the hotel. The old-fashioned packaging is so quaint and lovely.
Flaky pastry with salted egg in lotus paste. The flaky skin is more papery than oily. Very dense lotus paste too. The taste is quite rustic and traditional indeed.
This is the first time I've tried a sweetish pastry with a whole century egg embedded within! Gotta say it's an acquired taste.
But back to Wellington Street. I continued my way, taking in the sights. This area is like quintessential old Hong Kong. This side alley may not be a prime example, but it's not difficult to see how Ridley Scott drew some of his inspiration for Blade Runner.
And then we have the commercialisation that's everywhere. There are lots of shops here selling anything and everything. They are often crammed to the brim with goods, some of it even spilling out onto the pavement, mixing with abandoned cartons.
There are also all kinds of eateries here. Look at this one, a single table in a dark shop underneath tungsten lights and the dilapitated carcass of a signboard. I was just wondering if the upper level is abandoned, when I caught the words near the staircase that say there's more seating and air-conditioning upstairs.
I finally reach what I've been looking for. This is the building in which Mak's Noodles is housed. Had not figured it'd be this gaudy.
But there it is - Mak's Noodles, right on the ground floor. This legendary place needs no introduction. Even Anthony Bourdain came here. But oddly, it seemed rather empty.
And right opposite, is a rival selling pretty much the same stuff - wantan noodles, apparently at twice the size and half the price. Tsim Chai Kee had a lot more people in it.
But I chose Mak's anyway. Every other shop else can come later.
I gingerly made my way in, and was immediately served tea. I watched the cook in the steamy kitchen, the place where all the magic happens.
I also watched the two gentlemen at the back of the shop, rolling wantans with practised ease. They didn't take more than two seconds to neatly parcel pork mince and prawn into the skin and fold it.
And soon, my bowl of the signature wantan noodle soup (HK$28) arrived. Mak's is known for its "stingy" portions - notice size of spoon in relation to bowl? That's how small the bowl is. That's why I could still eat this after having had 3 meals.
The small bowl is meant to keep the noodles from going soggy, but that's debatable.
I dug up the wantans from the bottom. I have to say the soup smelled great, and tasted so. Made using powdered dried flounder, dried shrimp roe and pork bones, it was pungently umami and almost perfect. The wantans were excellent - incredibly fresh shrimp and flavourful seasoning.
However, the noodles were less QQ than I had hoped. Maybe I had left them soaking in the hot soup for too long while I admired the dish and took photos. But I checked the timestamp on the photos - it was less than 4 minutes from first photo to last. Still, it must have softened somewhat. I should have had another bowl - no photography allowed.
So I left Mak's slightly underwhelmed but still happy I got to try it. Further down the road was Yung Kee. Been there, done that 10 years ago. Nice but I'm not a big fan of goose.
So ended my short walk on Wellington Street. Enough food for the day, right? Hahaha. Not quite. I hadn't had dessert!
Next up, I meet a couple of old pals who bring me to where the locals go for Hong Kong desserts. Stay tuned.
P.S. This post is also replicated at My Hong Kong Travel Blog 我的香港之旅, where all ten bloggers record their unique perspective of the trip. There's a contest (soon) where you can vote for your favourite blogger and win a trip to Hong Kong as well!
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