Saturday, April 27, 2013

Procuring Hong Kong Street Snacks Can Be Intimidating: A Guide

Walking around the streets of Kowloon, the mainland part of Hong Kong, is a mouthwatering, yet terrifying experience. If you people-watch for just a few minutes, you'll see scores of people eating; corner stalls full of pork buns or roasted ducks or sticks with weird looking meatballs and sausages on them abound. Then you think about trying to obtain a snack for yourself. "How do I approach that mean looking vendor with the dumplings? Where does the line start? How do I pay? DO I LOOK STUPID?" These phrases will probably haunt you every time you want a tasty morsel, which is like once every five minutes for me. Seems like a huge hassle for a mere cha siu bao. Lucky for me, I have been able to conjure up the courage to get past that shit and make it happen; if it were up to my travel companion, Chuck, I might just starve. Lucky for him too, then, I guess!

This saint of a man provided the meats you see above. Juicy and sweet roasted pork and salty pork belly, served over white rice with a splash of soy sauce and a garnish of chives and garlic, accompanied by a side of broth. This ran us like, USD $5. But you have to be brave enough to try to get it! You can't assume anyone making food on the street speaks English, or wants to put up with trying to make the transaction happen around the language barrier. 
Ahhh. Light and pillowy cha siu bao. The BBQ pork is  so sweet, so addictive. Imagine my delight when I found out they sell these frozen at the foodstore near where I live in Melbourne! Obv not as good as on the streets of Hong Kong, but it will do for  now. These were like 5o cents each.
Egg tarts are like beautiful little servings of custard in a flaky, buttery crust. The white one is egg whites and coconut. Exotic!
And, this is where I almost got conned into buying like 12 dumplings when I wanted 2. See my general guidelines for street-food procurement below! 
What you need to succeed:
1. Confidence: Walk up strongly. Make eye contact. Don't blink. 
2. A good pointer finger: Use that baby to your benefit. Give a good point at what it is you want, and make it happen.
3. Strong use of fingers for numerics: Pointing at dumplings and saying you want 2 can easily leave you with 2 orders of 6. Don't give in to the pressure!
4. A working knowledge of the local currency: Don't cause an embarassing moment for yourself by having to fumble at the point of sale. Practice and memorize what those coins are, people, and guarantee yourself success.
5. A sense of humor and exploration: Please have this. There is the possibility that the morsel you end up with might be effing gross. Maybe you thought it was a chicken ball, but really its a fish ball. (I despise fish balls. I may never like them.) Don't make a scene. You probably spent like 30 cents. If you really can't forge through and finish, quietly make your way to the nearest trash receptacle and pretend it never happened. Be cool! Americans have a bad rap around the world. Probably because of Jersey Shore and stuff. Don't enforce that. It's not a good look.

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