It was the rugby 7s at the weekend, but instead of downing beers with bearded men in pink tutus and guys dressed as Avatars, gladiators and Red Indians, a few of us passed the time doing what we do best- eating.
My friend MSY aka “JEd lover” organised dinner for 8 of us on Sunday at a seafood dai pai dong called Tung Po Seafood in little explored North Point. JEd lover was especially excited as this place was recommended by the famous Anthony Bourdain on his No Reservations programme, so expectations were running high.
Tung Po is on the 2nd floor of the Cooked Food Center on Java Road and is loved by the locals. For those uninitiated, the Cooked Food Center is similar to the one in Happy Valley (Wong Nai Chung) and houses vegetable, fish and meat markets. In such places, there are usually a few dai pai dongs on the higher floors serving cheap but delicious wholesome food.
Inside Tung Po, the atmosphere is vibrant and the restaurant packed, heaving with customers drinking beer out of bowls (weird but cool) and waiters balancing trays of steaming prawns and crabs. It captures the essence of Hong Kong but what’s different about it is that the food isn’t typically Cantonese. I read with interest that the owner Mr Robbie Cheung has taken dishes that he’s enjoyed from the around the world including China and adapted them to his own taste with a twist of Cantonese!
J and I wound our way through the crowd and around the foldable tables and plastic chairs until we found our group. *Ed lover* had already ordered and *Krispy K* was busy slurping Asahi beer out of her little bowl which was quite comical! We all waited in anticipation for our food and before long, a big earthenware pot of stewed pork and vegetable soup was served. Yummm.
After that heartwarming soup, the pièce de résistance came- squid and noodles cooked in black ink. “Ooohhhhhh!” we all said in unison. JEd lover clapped her hands and yelped “this is the one Anthony Bourdain recommendedddddddddd!!!!!!!!!!” Okay I thought, this better taste good if Mr Bourdain mentioned it on his show, and did it? Oh yes it did, it was excellent. The squid balls were delicious and cooked perfectly so that it wasn’t in the overly chewy stage. The noodles in the creamy black ink sauce gave the whole dish a very Italian/ Amalfi coast taste so it really was quite a novelty to be eating something like that in such a typical looking Hong Kong hawker style restaurant. Downside is that it leaves you with blackened teeth and lips, so not a good dish to order if you’re on a date haha.
Other excellent dishes were the prawns deep fried in salted egg yolk (my favourite!!)- nice and crunchy shells, sweet tasting prawns and the lotus leaf rice with chicken, pork and mushrooms which I was rather addicted to in the end. We also sampled a curious dish of deep fried spare ribs coated in a mayo and sesame seed sauce which was odd to look at but tasty.
We ordered black pepper and garlic fried crab which was served with a flourish and caused a mini sensation in the group. Unfortunately, myself and DY “the Imperial taster” whiffed a strange smell emanating from the crab. Everyone else’s nasal receptors were dead and didn’t detect anything but DY and I were convinced. It was only until “Krispy”, “JEd lover” and DY tasted the crab that we realised that the crab had gone off. Oh dear, this did not bode well for Tung Po’s immaculate reputation. However, all was not lost as we called over a waiter who tasted it and whisked it away. A few minutes later he served us a fresh crab prepared the same way and this time the taste test came out tops. I loved the peppery taste and it was great fun prising the crab claw out of its shell.
Tung Po was a great experience and a pleasant surprise. It’s loud and fun and the food delicious. Don’t be put off by the above mention of the 1st crab, again I doubt it was the fault of the restaurant, I’m sure it’s hard to detect a bad crab when you’re cooking and serving that many! I will definitely be back to have more of those squid ink noodles… I also hear that their deep fried pig trotters are a treat. Sadly I only have 1 stomach so I’ll have to wait till next time. Not that that stopped us from wandering around afterwards in search of dessert. More on that in the next post!
Chopstick rating: 4/5
Tung Po Seafood Restaurant, 2/F Cooked Food Center, 99 Java Road, North Point. Tel: 2880 9339. Opening Times: 5.30pm- 12.30am (Make sure you make a reservation if going on a weekend)