29 November 2009

Is the food in Hong Kong as bad as Ihatehongkong makes out?

Dear Chinese Guy,

I read on another blog that food in Hong Kong is universally terrible and virtually inedible as owners of cafes, restaurants and fast food places seek to maximise profits and skimp on ingredients, labour and anything else they can think of. Is it as bad as they make out?.


Dear JC

Food in Hong Kong can be good bad or ugly, in that it depends where you go mostly, Derlei for example makes various observations regarding the food in Hong Kong, taking a rather limited view. For example:

Like stale noodles, beef balls and fish balls and mystery meat balls, beverage syrups …”

Sure that exists, you can get a bowl of noodles, dumplings, some eggs and a piece of Spam as well as a cup of coffee or a 500ml bottle of coke.

Derlei is rather harsh about this in that yes such noodles and dishes do exist and are common in many areas and small cafe or Dai Pai Dong in Hong Kong. Except what he or she omits in his or her rant of the situation is that such food is cheap. VERY VERY cheap. For example in Tai Po complex which is a combined food court, sports centre, library as well as fresh food market. as pictured below.

Here you can get a bowl of noodles, dumplings, some eggs and a piece of Spam as well as a cup of coffee or a 500ml bottle of coke. For $22 Hong Kong. It is possible to get this cheaper outside the Tai Po complex around the corner near the Mo Man temple where it can be had for $19 Or in other currencies (correct as of November 2009) .

  • £1.80 UK
  • $2.83 US
I have never been to the USA, but in the UK £1.80 buys you very little, it may buy you a sandwich or a pastie OR a cup of coffee. In London £1.80 won't buy you either. Pasties may look edible but they are crammed full of transfats, mechanically reclaimed meat and BSE. Such things are labeled as 'meat' with content of the 'meat' being in single figures.

Something half way decent in the UK would be closer to £3 or $36.6 HK say Char Siu rice more examples: here and here. A plate of rice and two sides of vegetable usually Pak Choi and a sausage of some kind maybe Lap chong. Etc, both REAL meat you can see the fibres in the meat with $36.6 you will have $10 change from Cafe De Coral or Maxims along with a medium cup of tea.

But hey if the author chooses to go to the lowest and cheapest places and yet has the gall to complain then that's his or her problem.

19 November 2009

Do Chinese people eat fish alive?

Dear Chinese Guy

I saw this on a news website, is it true that Chinese people eat their fish and animals alive like this? in that it looks pretty gross to me, surely they don't right?

Ken M

Dear Ken M

The answer to this question is NO; the video that is posted on the link you sent to me is actually Taiwanese. Presumably the visitors to this restaurant are Hong Kong or at the outside Guangzhou the laughing isn't a laugh of joy either as in Taiwan they speak a heavily accented version of Mandarin. If you understand Cantonese you can hear that they are rather shocked that the fish is still alive and moving. They are actually quite horrified at this.

If you run through the video:

  • At 0.01 seconds a woman says "Eh its moving"
  • At 0.09 seconds they all go "Whaaaa," which is an expression of shock, as in wow you've dropped a lot of money there Would be "Whaa, lay deet chor kam dor cheen!"
  • At 0.14 a woman says "Its very scary," "(Why) is it like that?"
  • At 0.23 you can hear them say we should order something else.
  • At 0.46 a woman says you are so black (dark) about this.
  • At 0.47 a woman again says its horrible and disgusting. (hung bo).
  • At 0.57 just before the end discuss how this is possible.

Added to the fact that fish eaten like that costs an obscene amount of money it is highly unlikely that this is a common occurrence that people eat fish like that. Yes fish that Chinese people buy from markets is still moving and alive but it is often gutted and killed before it is taken home. You can confirm this by visiting large Chinese supermarkets, such as Wing Yip or Chi Yip in Manchester . The fish is very much alive as this is proof that it is fresh. Compare this to say my local fish market in Manchester that looks a bit like this.

If you have a look at the above photo, you will notice the fish of all kinds is dead, from the scallops to the winkles, even the crab in the background. Crab and lobster are often kept alive to keep them fresh. The crab in this picture has been boiled so that the fishmongers can prevent it from going rotten too soon. This is so they can perhaps sell it as a economy product as the price between live and dead crab is like night and day.

Think about it the fish above can be dead for a VERY long time and those who are unfamiliar with buying fish may well buy something from unscrupulous fishmongers and buy something that is less than fresh. I'm not saying all fishmongers are bad as it varies but un-fresh fish can make you very very sick.

In addition to this people in Hong Kong like to buy fresh, the older generation will go out and buy fresh groceries everyday of the week even Sundays, fridges exist but the eating habits of Chinese and mostly Asians is completely different to that of Westerners. Although we might think this is wasteful in time the fact is that Hong Kong is so packed and crowded that people will invariably pass their local butcher and or fruit and vegetable supplier on a daily basis.

The Chinese Guy.