Archives for posts with tag: food

I can’t remember what drew me here first.

The sight – low-hanging awnings; stone steps along a steep slope; light and shadow; older women; plastic chairs; fake wooden tables.  The sound – impatient yelling; raucous laughter; roaring flames; clattering porcelain.  The smell – garlic; oil; scallions; oyster sauce.

“What do you want, kid?”  The woman’s voice is one-half angry, one-third exhausted, one-sixth indifferent.

I smile, pull up a seat, and step into the darkness.  This – whatever it is – is going to be good.

It’s a dai pai dong (大牌檔).  Right in the middle of everything and nothing.  Right in the middle of Sheung Wan (上環).

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Four days – it’s been four days since I last updated this project.  An eternity elsewhere in the world; a blink of the eye here in Hong Kong.  (Maybe that’s what they mean by “time difference?”)

At any rate, I’m sincerely sorry for the delay.  Academics, lethargy, and other responsibilities (not sure if “lethargy” counts as a responsibility) had hindered any attempt to travel, let alone write.

Until yesterday, that is.  So let’s jump in, hop on the East Rail Line, and head to Tai Po.  But let’s take our time, because Tai Po, as we’ll discover (or maybe you’ve consulted a map already?), is huge.

And once again, we’re heading for the markets.

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Breakfast in the student canteen: chow mein (炒麵) with a cup of milk tea (奶茶). Not very memorable.

I wake up.  It’s 8:10 – late, compared to the sleeping schedule I’ve set for myself here (7:30 a.m. for weekdays, 8:00 a.m. for weekends.  You read that correctly).  But the ten minutes make no difference, because I have no classes on Thursdays this semester.

I shower, dress, check that I’ve packed everything, and leave.  Up three elevators, and soon I arrive at the student canteen (there are several on campus, but for this post it makes no difference) and order breakfast.  A plate of fried noodles (炒麵) and a cup of milk tea (奶茶) for 10$HKD.  Not the usual breakfast, and unfortunately today it’s not that good.  But the ten dollars make no difference, because it’s Thursday.

I finish the milk tea and set the mug down.  I’ve finished my homework for this week, and I have nothing to turn in until next Tuesday.  All of my friends have classes at different times – it’s 9 a.m. at this point and the campus is buzzing with students heading to class – so I decide to take care of personal errands.  After fifteen minutes, I make up my mind.

I want to go to Sham Shui Po (深水埗).

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The menu options. How many can you name? (No cheating!)

Wednesday evening

I’ve been staring at the menu on the wall for about five minutes, trying my hardest to translate the options posted.  三餸一麵十八元: Three ‘dishes’ (options which include a variety of meats, seafood, and vegetables) in one noodle soup for 18$HKD.  There’s a mix of familiar and unfamiliar items, some of them ‘replaced’ by their homophones (same pronunciation, different meaning) for the sake of efficiency (e.g. 九才 for 韭菜, or chives).  Melody helps out as well; in the end, we can, between both of us, read 70% of the menu.  Jordan waits.

Finally, we find a table and I order for our little group.  For Jordan: squid (魷魚), sausage (香腸 – “as long as it’s not a hot dog or something like that”), mixed greens (生菜) with thin rice noodles (米粉).  For Melody: pork (豬紅), fish balls (魚旦), and chives with flat rice noodles (河粉).  And for myself: squid, pork, and chives with flat rice noodles.

Five minutes later, our orders arrive.  We sit and stare at what’s been given to us.

I blink.  There’s a mix of familiar and unfamiliar items, to be sure.

But it’s not what I expected to get at all.  Not even in Tuen Mun (屯門), not all the way out here.

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Cheung Sha Wan Road (長沙灣道), Cheung Sha Wan (長沙灣), Kowloon.

Thursday afternoon

Off the MTR, again – this time at Lai Chi Kok (荔枝角) – and I slow my walking pace ever so slightly as I ascend the stairs onto street level.  High-rises everywhere, as per usual; a main thoroughfare on the right, cars rushing past; people walking either past or in front.

For the first time, though, I’m on a set mission: to find an address, in search of lab equipment for school.  (Which reminds me: classes started the day earlier.)  The safety orientation leader informed me that I would need to pick up my own set of lab goggles and a coat.  Now I stand and look around, trying to get even the faintest sense of where I am, let alone where to go.  A nearby street sign, however, tells me that, at the very least, I’m on the right road, and the numbers point me toward the right direction.  I cross.

I pass the building by about a hundred feet – no, thirty meters (metric for distance here) – and turn back before entering.  The vendor’s name is “Kou Hing Hong Scientific Supplies Ltd” (球興儀器行有限公司), although the office itself looks nothing like what I expected it to look like (essentially, a lab).  The secretary at the front desk informs me that the seller is on his lunch break (it’s 1:30 or so) and won’t return until two.  She seems genuinely sorry.  I thank her and leave.

This is Cheung Sha Wan (長沙灣), and despite my ‘mission’ I know, deep down, that I have no reason to be here. But I keep walking.

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