Hong Kong was built as a city where people from different parts of the world could come to exchange goods and money, but over the last two centuries it has become celebrated as a crossroads for ideas and cultures. The British seized the island to establish a base from where they could trade with China, but it was soon populated by people from every part of the British Empire. Parsi traders from Bombay, Gurkha soldiers from Nepal and Sikh policemen from Punjab were as common a sight in early Hong Kong as the English and Scottish merchants who ran the banks and trading companies, or the Chinese businessmen, tradespeople and peasants who were drawn by the opportunities available in the city. This history has made Hong Kong one of the most unique places in the world, an intoxicating swirl of languages, fashions and cuisines that never seems to pause or sleep!
There is much to see and explore in Hong Kong. Kick off your sightseeing with a visit to Victoria Peak. The highest point in Hong Kong island, Victoria Peak is reached by a steep tram ride, culminating in spectacular views of the city and harbour below. A ride on the historic Star ferry is another must and you will be transported to a bygone era, when for about a 100 years, the only way to cross over from Kowloon to Hong Kong island was on this ferry. The views of the skyline alone are worth the mere pennies it is going to cost you for the ticket!
One of the joys of walking around the different neighborhoods of Hong Kong is sampling street food. Food stalls or Dai Pai Dongs as they are known, are always bustling with hungry people looking for a cheap and tasty snack, but it is at night that they truly come to life. Hong Kong's legendary night markets feature not only excellent food stalls but also discounted designer clothing, household goods, toys and souvenirs. We had fun strolling through the famous Temple Street night market just watching the action, inhaling the intoxicating aromas and trying to identify the huge variety of food on offer!
Hong Kong is justly famous for its world class cuisine. But for us, the main reason to go there was the chance to eat authentic dim sum all day long! And we weren't disappointed. Step into any restaurant, even if it looks like a hole in the wall and you will be assured of amazing food. Although there are very few dim sum restaurants left with old fashioned dim sum carts, we managed to find one!
Lin Heung Tea House is the oldest tea house in Hong Kong and dates back to 1926. The food there is good but we had also gone for the experience (of which we had heard a lot!). We had to fight our way through the lunchtime chaos, grab a couple of stools and share a large table with locals. There was no menu, the food carts were mobbed before they even made it out of the kitchen, the conversation around the table was lively (even though we didn't understand much of it) and the people sitting around us were really sweet in helping us choose dishes. All in all, it was an enthralling experience - a taste of a bygone era!
Chinese traders from Hong Kong and Shanghai settled in India a couple of centuries ago and opened restaurants. The food they featured was specially designed to appeal to their new clientele, and combined elements of both Indian and Chinese cuisines. Hakka food, as it came to be known, uses a lot of fresh coriander, mint, ginger, spices and chilies as well as soy, sesame and vinegar to create unique dishes that only an Indian would recognize!
Hakka style dumplings are hugely popular all over India and are sold as street food from pushcarts in crowded bazaars, in food courts of large upscale malls and in Chinese restaurants everywhere. The stuffing in these dumplings can vary from vegetables, leafy greens, noodles, chicken or mutton to paneer and curry!
Chicken dumplings tend to get a bit dry. I find the combination of chicken and lamb to be a good balance in terms of flavour, richness and juiciness. In my recipe, fresh herbs and spices add extra flavour to the dumplings, making them the perfect Indian Chinese fusion. Serve with dipping sauce and a pot of jasmine tea!
Hakka Chicken and Lamb Potsticker Dumplings
1 medium onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic
1-inch piece ginger, halved
2 green chilies, stemmed
1 cup loosely packed fresh coriander leaves and tender stems
½ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1/2 lb each: ground lamb, ground chicken (not breast meat)
1/2 tsp each: garam masala, ground coriander, ground cumin
2 tbsp each: rice vinegar, soy sauce
1 pkg dumpling wrappers
Sesame oil as needed
Process onions, garlic, ginger, green chilies, fresh coriander and mint in food processor until well minced. Transfer to a deep bowl. Add lamb, chicken, spices, vinegar, soy and egg. Mix well until well combined. Refrigerate covered until needed.
Place a wrapper in the palm of your hand; add 1 tbsp meat mixture in center of wrapper. Moisten edges of wrapper with water. Fold over both sides to enclose filling, press tightly or pleat edges to seal completely. Repeat with remaining filling and wrappers.
Warm a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp sesame or vegetable oil. Swirl to coat pan. Place about half the dumplings in a single layer (or as many as pan can hold). Do not over crowd pan. Pour 1/4 cup water around edges of dumplings, cover pan and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium low and cook 10 - 12 minutes or until water has been absorbed and bottoms of dumplings are lightly browned and crisped. Transfer to serving platter. Repeat with remaining dumplings.
Makes about 30 dumplings
Special thanks to Adora Tam for making the dumplings in these pictures!