Both DK and I have considerable personal connections to Hong Kong, in the form of family ties…so naturally we have learnt over the many years of visiting the relatives that while it is extremely difficult to find cheap food that doesn’t taste fantastic. There are definitely some places more worthy of a visit than others, especially if you’re on a tight schedule during your visit…
Crab Congee at Chee Kei
The Chee Kei which I usually go to is inside the swanky Langham Place shopping centre at Mongkok MTR station, on the food court level. But I’ve noticed that there are branches of Chee Kei popping up everywhere in Hong Kong, so you’re sure to spot one while you’re in town. The design of the restaurant is open to the passing indoor pedestrian traffic, while the decor and furniture is clean and functional with hints of metallic bling in the ornamental signs and mirrors on the walls creating an interesting fusion of modern and traditional Chinese furnishings.
Golden crab congee, 62HKD (approx. 8AUD)
Their wonton noodles are pretty decent and come out quickly, but the signature dish of this place is their “golden crab congee”. This is a small bamboo/wooden bucket of steaming hot congee with a whole chopped up baby crab floating around in it and some chopped shallots on top. There are little lumps of golden flavour scattered throughout the congee which I’m assuming is the crab roe and although the congee takes a lot longer than the other dishes to come out from the kitchen – it is well worth the wait.
I have long associated congee with being sick since it is the meal of choice for Asian parents to give to their children when they are ill, so it’s not surprising that I am not a fan of congee in general. However, the Chee Kei congee is so smooth and creamy, especially with those little hits of crab roe flavour that I come back for a fix everytime I am back in Hong Kong because you can’t get congee like this back in Sydney.
A side note on the best way to tackle this huge tub of congee – it is a gigantic serving for just one person, you can get around 5-6 normal bowls out of it, so share it with a friend. Also, fish out the submerged pieces of crab to put on your plate to cool while you drink the congee because otherwise you’ll burn your fingers trying to get to the juicy crabmeat inside the shell. Rather embarrassingly, I received a shallow cut on my thumb from the spikes on the miniature crab while cracking it open so don’t underestimate the defensive systems on the crab and watch out for the spikes!!!
Chee Kei 池記
Shop 10, Level 4, Langham Place 8 Argyle Street, Mong Kok
DIY Okonomiyaki at Bang Bang Pan Pan
Sure, you can get okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) in Sydney at any Japanese restaurant but this is a whole restaurant dedicated to just okonomiyaki, offering a great variety of toppings and the added perk of being able to cook the okonomiyaki yourself. All these factors (along with the interesting restaurant name) are what sets Bang Bang Pan Pan apart from any okonomiyaki experience I’ve had back home. My best friend has been raving about this place since she last visited Hong Kong and this time we made it a date to go try it out together and it definitely lived up to the hyped up expectations I had of it – starting with the adorable stencilled phrases spray painted on the wall which I spotted when we walked in.
For 88HKD (roughly 11AUD), you can choose to have either an original flavoured or curry flavoured pancake as well as toppings up to the value of 6 credits from the menu with which to make your pancake with. The more premium toppings are worth more credits of course, such as the interesting choices of pork belly and scallops (3 and 4 credits each respectively) which we picked for our 2 pancakes. We also added in eringi mushrooms (1 credit) and spring onions (1 credit) to go with the scallop pancake and golden mushrooms (1 credit) and corn (1 credit) for the pork belly pancake. For an added twist, we went with curry flavour pancake for the scallop one and original flavour for the pork belly, so we could get the best of both worlds.
These 2 pancakes were to be shared between 4 of us, but we were feeling hungry so we also ordered sides of teppanyaki beef and mushrooms in a pocket to start us off. The teppanyaki beef was so tasty – very tender and full of savoury juices while the mushrooms were placed in an aluminium foil pocket which allowed them to absorb the garlic juices they had been cooked with and resulted in some seriously delicious nibbles for us.
The pancakes arrived in the form of mid sized bowls with a mountain of shredded cabbage as the base, an egg cracked on top and our chosen toppings sprinkled on top of that or in the case of the pork belly, neatly arranged on a plate next to the bowl.
It was then up to us to use a spoon and slowly mix the egg and toppings into the cabbage – it sounds simple enough but it takes some care not to spill out any cabbage, which was already precariously overflowing from the bowl. With the curry scallop pancake, there was also some curry paste at the bottom of the bowl which needs to be mixed thoroughly into the pancake mix too and after around 10 minutes of slow manoeuvring, we finally got the pancake batter to a state that was deemed acceptable for cooking by our waitress.
There are several more steps after this stage before the final pancake is finished and these instructions are helpfully printed on a laminated colour guide placed on every table.
The next step was to empty the bowl onto the middle of the steel plates sunk into our tables, which were oiled and heated up by our waitress. Using the metal spatulas, you shape the pancake mix into a circle and wait for 4-5 minutes before rotating it using the spatulas again. I think the waitress noticed my cluelessness because she wandered over to help me move it – but she was considerate enough to let me do the honours of flipping the whole pancake after 2-3 minutes. It was a lot of pressure, since I had a feeling the whole thing would break apart and I would have single-handedly ruined dinner, but the pancake stayed together in one piece thanks to the egg holding it together and I got a satisfying sense of successfully cooking my own dinner for once =).
Once the pancake looks golden brown, it’s time to drizzle some sweet brown okonomiyaki sauce on top of it as well as some mayonnaise, bonito flakes and seaweed powder to make it even more authentic. Then voila, you have just made your own okonomiyaki for dinner! Congratulations and dig in to the product of your hard work.
The pancakes are quite easy to slice up into quarters to share using the trusty metal spatulas. We savoured the taste of the mini juicy scallops, which surprisingly went quite nicely with the curry sauce flavour and the hits of spring onion and mushrooms. It was a good idea not to get the curry flavour for the pork belly pancake because the pork belly was only slightly fatty but a bit overwhelmed by the other flavours in the pancake, especially as there were only 4 slices of the pork belly and quite a lot of mushrooms and corn in comparison.
Even if you’re a cooking noob (like yours truly), you can’t go wrong making your own okonomiyaki at Bang Bang Pan Pan – so head over to practice your skills if you’re on Hong Kong island but be sure to book because this place is very popular amongst the locals.
BANG BANG PAN PAN
34 Leighton Rd Causeway Bay Hong Kong
Ph: +852 2203 4009
Oh wow, I really hope I make it to Hong Kong one day!
It’s a foodie heaven! You’ll love it – so much cheap and interesting food, that tastes amazing 😀
Chee Kei is DEF one of HK’s best kept secrets. Seriously, where do you find $62 HKD crab congee at a decent ‘restaurant’ elsewhere? Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to revisit during my recent trip back but will def have to next time.
I wish they would open up a branch here in Sydney! Would be awesome for this cold weather right now right? 🙂