Authentic Chinese food

In England, if you mention Chinese food, people think of sweet and sour chicken, or sweet and sour pork. To a lesser extent, stir-fried beansprouts, broccoli and carrots (the famous Marks and Spencer Chinese food series).

In Hong Kong, I don’t think sweet and sour food enjoys the same status as it does in England. I am certainly not a fan. Sweet and sour doesn’t sound right. It is too much confusion, too cliche, too readymade.

Personal preferences aside, I believe that rice or noodle dishes with chau siu (juicy barbecued pork) is the most embraced Chinese food in Hong Kong. It is so cheap as well. On average, you can have barbecued pork with rice for under three quid. There is a famous local eatery on 265 Hennessy Road, Wanchai called ‘Zhoi Hing’  which offers the best barbecued pork with rice in town. I used to work in that area, and every time I passed by the eatery, there’s always a long queue in front. However with only four or five tables in the eatery, the best thing is to go there during non-peak hours, or to order takeaways.

For me, checking out the Chinese food series in England’s supermarkets is a highly fascinating experience. The package designs and presentations betray many underlying western ideologies.  The oriental clouds that decorate the readymeal lunchboxes are quaint and amusing. I marvel at these elegantly designed lunchboxes in London, and consider how our cuisine is defined and appreciated: roast duck in plum sauce, spring rolls, prawn toasts, chicken in black bean sauce (it always takes me two seconds to recall what ‘black bean sauce’ is, as we call it ‘dou si’ in Hong Kong), Shanghai stir-fry noodles…Every now and then, I am tempted to try it out to see how authentic it is. But of course authenticity is a relative concept. To me, a born Hong Konger, the presentation and names for these dishes can be alien-looking. But to be honest, they are very delicious. In general, I prefer the Chinese takeaway package design at Waitrose to that of Marks and Spencer. It’s hard to explain why, but I think Waitrose’s package designs are slightly more ‘authentic’. Perhaps because of the bright red and white colours.

Sometimes I wish there are more such Chinese-style readymeals in Hong Kong, though I suppose we lack the market for it.