I was in Hong Kong for the long week-end and stayed again at my new favourite, the J Plus Hotel in Causeway Bay. This area is worlds removed from the touristy feel of Canton Road in Kowloon where you are jostled by tourists who stand shoulder to shoulder, queuing for signature bags at Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and all the other luxury stores.
Causeway Bay is dotted with lots of small boutiques, cafes, shops and markets, street vendors with cartfuls of knock offs line small alleyways, the lights are bright and people are out and about past midnight and you can find restaurants that serve local meals at very affordable prices.
One small place along Jardine's Bazaar, just a hop and a skip away from the hotel is open 24 hours and just can't be beat for great food at even better value.
I had passed by Shanghai Hong Kong Noodle Shop many times but never quite got the nerve to go in since there are no english signs or menus that are visible.
Besides, it's also always full of diners, no matter what time of the day it is.
But on this fine Sunday afternoon, the many rice rolls packed and all ready to go right at the storefront were just too much for me to resist. English signs be hanged -- I would go in and indulge!
A hungry look is understood anywhere. I was shown to a table that I shared with three other diners. Our table was right by the front so I had a great view of the rice roll lady as she prepped and made all the rice rolls. It was the best seat in the house!
The slightly sticky rice is spread out on a piece of plastic wrap and pickled mustard greens, pork floss and a whole cruller (bicho bicho to us Pinoys) are laid out across it. The whole thing is then rolled up into a neat, tight and compact roll. When you order one, it is neatly snipped right at the middle so you can eat it easily and without much spillage.
Here's how the cross section of the rice roll looks. The rice is slightly sticky and warm, the pork floss is dry and salty, the pickled mustard greens are soft and tart, and the cruller adds a bit of crunch. All the textures combine for a different mouth feel with every bite!
Aside from rice rolls, which seem to be the most popular snack, the picture menu on the wall shows other possibilities. I spy dumplings ... could it be what it looks like it is?
I point it out to the waitress and she says something that I think sounds like xiao long bao ... I repeat the word ... xiao long bao?
Yes, she nods enthusiastically!
Food once again breaks through the language barrier.
I am almost done with my rice roll when my order of soup dumplings (as xiao long bao are also known as) arrive. There are 5 in a small bamboo steamer. They are freshly made and look perfect.
I can't wait to try them.
With a drop of black vinegar and some grated ginger on top, each perfectly sized dumpling was a divine mouthful! I was really sad when I popped the fifth and last dumpling in my mouth and felt that last squirt of "soup".
When I got up to pay, my bill came to just HK $50! It tasted as if it cost three times as much. Amazing value for very good food.