The best thing about travelling to Asia are some of the amazing food stands selling things you can’t find anywhere else. Whenever I go to a new city I can’t wait to sample all of the snacks from the street vendors. Sometimes these are as good as dinners in restaurants at a much cheaper price, and I can afford to try several different foods at one time.
I start by visiting the Cheung Cheuk island, only thirty minutes by boat from central Hong Kong. In many ways, the densely populated urban centre of Hong Kong is just one side of the region. The many small islands of the archipelago are another side of the bustling city centre of skyscrapers and car fumes.
Because the islands are not too developed, they can be walked around easily and the lack of pollution or road traffic means that they are ideal for a causal stroll without the constant stream of traffic you find in Hong Kong’s streets. Getting off the ferry gets you right to the heart of the island.
It’s time to try the snacks. You can’t miss the typical fish balls – they are everywhere. Pay 10 Hong Kong dollars for two of the balls of compacted fish paste. You can choose from a range of flavours such as plum sauce, bbq or curry. Watch the sauce doesn’t spill everywhere, and be careful not to scald yourself as they are served just below boiling. The taste is not as important as the texture, which has a slightly springy bite to it.
Turn left from the harbour, past the McDonald’s, and you will see a guy with a grill and some dried squid and octopus. Make sure you try these as they are really unique, and go down great with beer. The squid are air-dried whole, then cooked on an open grill and coated with a soy based dip, then sliced into strips. Good as a healthy, low-fat snack.
Turn back to the main square, and you will see several stalls serving the aforementioned fish balls. You can buy ‘sa bing’ which is similar to bubble tea, and you can find a whole load of interesting flavours such as taro and sweet potato, for less than you would pay on Hong Kong Island itself.
Also in the Main Street is a guy deep frying ice-cream. This is something I learned to do at cooking school – as long as you keep the surface of the ice-cream coated, it will stay cold as the batter forms a protective seal around it. Unfortunately they use mass-produced ice cream so the effect is ruined.
Many stalls sell Mochi and this is always one of the best sweets you can buy. Mocho is a Japanese dessert made of sweet rice flour which is stuffed with various fillings and served cool. I’m crazy about the gooey texture of the wrapper and the sweet fillings inside. They are so chewy and soft, and very light tasting, consisting only of flour and sugar.
Another dessert snack is the Chinese steamed red bean cake (see picture). Like a tart but without the pastry, its eaten on a stick like so many of the snacks here.
Other than the snacks of the main square, you can find any seafood restaurants along the harbor. You won’t be able to walk five minutes without being accosted by ladies wielding menus trying to drag you in. It’s not only Chinese restaurants here. You can find several International restaurants, such as Morocco’s.
I still prefer the quiet stalls inside the square. For a more substantial snack, I can recommend the freshly made sushi at Japanese tea house, which are made into temaki rolls with a range of fillings such as crab roe and sausage.
Cheung Chau is easily reached from the central pier, number 5. You don’t need to book a ticket in advance, just turn up and use your Octopus card to go through the turnstiles. There are some hotels and guesthouses but most people tend to visit for the day and head back in the evening.