Sunday, May 19, 2013

Hong Kong Dai Pai Dongs

All the cool kids in Hong Kong eat on the streets. The streets west of Nathan road in Jordan and Yau Ma Tei are lined with rickety tables and stools outside of tiny stalls selling seafood concoctions and clay pot rice dishes. We chose a spot near our room at the Temple Night Market; they all look the same and have mostly Asians eating so in that area I'd say its pretty hard to go wrong. Western tourists don't really get up to the northernmost part of the market.

This was our place. You'll see outside that they all boast fresh seafood. Those crabs cost like USD $20 each so we didn't go for that, but garlicky spicy crab is supposed to be a thing in those parts. I couldn't really partake no matter what, due to my garlic issues.
We went for the oyster omelet, which basically everyone gets. Tiny oysters are fried up in eggy dough into this crispy mess, served with sweet chili sauce on the side. Oily but delicious.
Then we had the clams shown up top, a clay pot with chicken and Chinese sausage, and prawns with cashews. I was trying to order the weird looking mantis shrimp they had but got the wrong thing. These were good anyway, though. The claypot kind of stood out as the winner of the bunch. Even though the sausage was like too weird for either of us, the chicken was delicious and the rice had a nice brown crisp on the bottom where it cooked in the pot. That sausage was rock hard. It was preserved or something. [Edit note: just about one year later and I'm now educated on and obsessed with these Chinese sausages. How quickly the tides can change.]

These eat-on-the-streets types of places are referred to loosely as dai pai dongs, although the true definition of that term is more rigid. There are truly only a few government registered dai pai dongs left in HK, but the term is now used more loosely to include these other casual eating experiences. In this environment, be confident and persistent. Sit where you want, and make a mess like the locals do. Seriously, clam shells, chicken bones are all spit right onto the table. It's kind of fun to embrace. Feels naughty.

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